Friday, August 4, 2023

Methods for Representing Field Hydraulic Conductivity with the Ksat


Intern Project:

Methods for Representing Field Hydraulic Conductivity with the Ksat

Ks = Saturated Hydraulic Conductivity of soils saturated in the lab. These values represent bottom up saturation that does not occur in the field. Meter’s Ksat provides hydraulic conductivity constants in this form.

Kfs = Saturated Hydraulic Conductivity of soils saturated in the field. These values represent top down saturation that occurs in the field. Meter’s Saturo provides hydraulic conductivity constants in this form.



Despite the multitude of instruments available for determining the Ks of a soil, it can be difficult to provide precise and accurate field values for hydraulic conductivity. Meter’s “Ksat” makes evaluation of hydraulic conductivity efficient, but issues of accuracy and precison commonly arise during sampling. While laboratory analysis of Ks values will always differ slightly from field values (Kfs), with the right technique it is possible to minimize artificial macropores, control compaction, and ensure proper saturation in order to minimize the difference between Ks and Kfs as determined by the Ksat and Saturo respectively.

Its firstly important to run the Ksat using the proper technique. When using the falling head method, I found the optional addition of the overflow tube to be essential. By starting the run at a higher pressure head, there is more time to begin a manual start in the case that the autostart fails. Additionally, it measures more data points for a more accurate curve. The standard 5cm run is not inaccurate, and works well in many scenarios, but when working with soils of extremely low or high permeability, I found the overflow tube to be essential and thus decided to use it for nearly every run.

Ultimately weather or not to use the overflow tube is a minor difference compared to your choice of sampling method. When gathering a soil sample, it is important to monitor two things: macropores and compaction. Because both of these qualities have a large influence on water movement, artificial introduction of either attribute will alter Ks values significantly. It is also essential to monitor the level of saturation in a soil before sampling as excess water will influence the presence of macropores and compaction.



It is best practice to never remove twigs, bark, or other organics buried in a sample. Sometimes, small pieces of mulch or other organics will stick out of the top of the ring and prevent the cap from closing the sample. Even though it is natural to want to remove the obtrusion, doing so will artificially open up a macropore and increase the measured Ks from its “true” value. Therefore, it is best to avoid problematic organics beforehand by inserting the core in a location where organics will not be obtrusive. It is also possible to cut off the excess material without removing the obtrusion altogether.

It is important to note that this can occur in the field as well as with bagged mix. In the field, a mulch layer sometimes makes macropore control more difficult to manage due to large organics hindering the sampling procedure. Since extremely large organics will not fit into the ring sampler at all, it is an important distinction that Ks values will not represent water movement around areas with any kind of oversized consolidated material where Kfs measured by field instruments such as the Saturo may be able to.

A similar source of error occurs when the ring sampler is not filled in completely. The Ksat provides values with an understanding that the sample size is equal to the exact size of the ring sampler. This means that a sample that is not filled in entirely will inaccurately interpret quick water movement through empty areas as an incredibly well draining soil. In reality, that soil may have low permeability, but has large open areas and thus reports an artificially high Ks. While sampling from a bagged mix, it is easy to ensure a complete sample. However, a field core often does not gather a completely filled ring, so it is important to fill in the ring with excess material from the bottom of the sample hole in this scenario. In my study, the average Ks value of field cores that had either filled properly during the initial cut, or were filled in with excess material, differed from the Kfs value by only 4.11%. On the other side, cores with remaining unnatural empty space, averaged a Ks that differed from Kfs by 150.47%. Therefore, it can be seen that this is an adequate solution in some cases, however it is important to acknowledge that this many not hold up in other soils, such as heavy clays with few large openings, and this method of filling in a core should only be used as a last option. It is always best to achieve a full core during the initial cut.



On the other hand, empty space should actually be preserved in the form of natural pores. It is important to avoid compaction that will destroy micropores and prevent water movement resulting in an artificially low hydraulic conductivity value. In a field core, this is easy to achieve. Simply insert the ring sampler and avoid pressing down on the area inside the ring. Once the core is taken, it is unlikely the sample will be compacted inside the ring, where it will remain for the whole of the Ksat run. However, when sampling a bagged or bulk soil, that is not yet a part of any field system, compaction can be tricky to manage. Compaction should not occur artificially, but at the same time, a bagged soil may be looser than it would be in the field which will also induce inaccurate values.

My method for precise control of compaction was to take a “field” core in the lab. Bagged sample was poured into a 2” x 6” x 9” aluminum tray and a half cup of water was added to the soil. Since the tray was equal height to that of the ring sampler, enough sample was added to line up with the top of the tray so that a core could be taken within this system that would fill the ring entirely. The wetted sample was then tossed gently to ensure a good mixture and even wetting before taking the core. Afterwards the core was inspected to check that it was filled completely on both sides. The success of this sampling method was due to its consistency which led to values that were precise and accurate. Because the same tray was used every time and filled to the same height, each sample would be filled with the same amount of soil at the same level of compaction. If the ring sampler was to be filled by pouring loose sample into the ring, levels of compaction would vary depending on how much material was stuffed into the ring. This would be especially true if different people were filling the ring each time, as one person may apply more pressure than another person would. When creating a standard operating procedure, it was important to be sure that many different people could complete this routine and receive similar results.

Performing this method without the aluminum tray also failed. This is because without the aluminum tray, an excess of water and compaction was needed in order to form a sample pile that was tall enough to fill a core. Therefore, Ks values came out to be significantly smaller (<1 in/hr) and every sample, regardless of the type of soil, came out similar. This was great for precision, but too inaccurate to be a worth while method. This issue did not arise with the aluminum tray since it could be filled completely and be at the correct height without excess water or compaction.



              This benefit of water control, as seen in the aluminum tray core method, is another essential factor for obtaining precise and accurate Ks values from the Ksat. While the structure of a soil is of course dependent on its components, water is necessary to allow those components to begin forming aggregates. Too much water however will destroy structure altogether, especially as the amount of water begins to surpass the amount of soil. When the sample is given time to sit in water for saturation, it will absorb water and theoretically be saturated at the end of the allotted time. If the sample reaches saturation significantly before the end of the time, such as the case for a sample which had too much water added beforehand, the structure will begin to deteriorate in the present of excess water.

              This is evident in field cores taken before and after rain. Field cores of a location that was being watered regularly, but had not had rain, had an average Ks of 9.84 inches per hour. After the rain, when the soil was excessively wet, a field core reported a Ks of 1.47 inches per hour. All samples were saturated during standard operating procedure of the Ksat, however the core taken after the rain was likely already saturated before being saturated in the lab. The same phenomena occurred with bagged sample, where wet soil put into a bag had lower Ks values than its dry counterpart.

Shifting values due to excess watering can be avoided if water content is controlled from the start. Alternatively, samples can be saturated for varying amounts of time dependent on when they become saturated (indicated by a glistening surface). While attempting to put together an SOP, I decided to make each sample saturate for the same amount of time, which in retrospect is not successful for obtaining precise and accurate values. Instead, it is important that excess water is not added which will destroy the structure developed during saturation.



Without recreating field conditions entirely, it is very difficult to determine Ks values that accurately reflect field values. However, by avoiding opening up artificial macropores, monitoring compaction, and controlling moisture, it is possible to generate values close to Kfs in the lab. The Ksat is an incredible tool when sampling methods are streamlined and attention is put into sampling such that the soil core retains the same properties as it would have in the field. So as long as the details are right, saturated hydraulic conductivity can be measured precisely and with ease.

Nathan Orlyk 

CHSTR Intern 2023

Monday, January 25, 2021

The Importance of Quality Control

When thinking of quality control, most people think of jobs associated with pharmaceuticals or the food industry. In reality, quality control can be found in any industry, including the green industry! Quality control is a process that strives to maintain standards and specifications of products. These standards are utilized by managing the inputs used in production, the overall production of goods, and by testing the finished products to ensure adequate performance.  Quality control is important for so many reasons. By establishing a quality control program, companies can take the guess work and uncertainty out of product performance.

Quality control programs create consistent and predictable outcomes by meeting and maintaining certain product specifications, functionality and overall performance. Additionally, by implementing quality control standards, consumers are able to put their trust in their vendors.  Knowing that products are continually analyzed and inspected allows consumers to rest assured that the finished goods are up to not only the  the consumer’s standards, but the industry standards. Quality control holds company’s accountable for these standards, which results in functional products and finished goods.

 At Midwest Trading we source the highest quality substrates for our mixes. We conduct daily raw material testing and hold our products to the highest of standards. We conduct research and focus on understanding product performance in all aspects; whether it be the greenhouse, the nursery, or in a functional landscape. We believe  that if you are start with quality inputs, you are going to receive quality finished goods. Growers can rest assured that at Midwest Trading you are receiving the quality that not only your plants deserve, but that YOU deserve. If you would like to know more about the quality control program please contact us! 

*Midwest Trading's "Committed to Quality" video is linked below.*

"Committed to Quality"

 - Alexis

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Understanding Physical and Chemical Characteristics of Substrates

Understanding the characteristics of substrates often informs the design and functionality of growing media. There are two main characteristics to focus on when it comes to substrates - physical characteristics and chemical characteristics. Physical characteristics include the soil texture, particle size distribution, and porosity. There are characteristics that cannot be changed. Chemical characteristics of substrates include potential of hydrogen (pH), and electrical conductivity (EC). The chemical characteristics are quite dynamic and are easy to change- whether naturally or through means of the grower. 

Physical Characteristics:


Once the percent of sand, silt, and clay of a soil has been determined, you can classify the texture of the soil. This can be done using the soil texture triangle. It is very simple to use- all it entails is taking the percentages of sand, silt, and clay, and then lining them up appropriately on the triangle. For example, if a mineralized soil contains 65% sand, 20% silt, and 15% clay, this soil will be classified as a Sandy Loam. It should be noted that this only works with mineralized soils. In most horticultural applications, growers tend to use what is referred to as “soilless media”, meaning  the growing media lacks mineralized top soil. This particular type of growing media is made with other naturally occurring substrates, such as pine bark, Canadian sphagnum peat moss, sand, expanded clay aggregate, etc. 

Whether a grower is using soil media or soilless media, particle size distribution is perhaps the most important physical characteristic of substrates and growing media. Particle size distribution is the measurement of the gradation of specific sized particles, ranging from largest to smallest. For example, we know that ½” pine bark is larger in size, therefore we expect a higher amount of large aggregates in the overall particle size distribution of the substrates; whereas Canadian sphagnum peat moss is smaller in size, resulting in particle size distribution on the smaller size. The size of these substrates will influence the functionality of growing media, which in turn will affect the growth and overall health of crops. Particle size distribution of substrates and growing media is crucial because it directly impacts porosity. When dealing with particle size distribution and porosity, it is crucial to find the perfect ratio of large particles to small particles.


Porosity is representative of the amount of pore space within a given volume. If you have substrates that are large in size you will have larger spaces, which results in high porosity; inversely, if you have substrates that are smaller, you will have smaller spaces, which results in low porosity. Once the media is established in containers or the landscape, these pores fill with either air or water. Finding in the happy medium between high porosity and low porosity is crucial for plant health.


If you have a growing media that has too large of particles or too high of porosity, it will complicate air and water exchange. The excess of large pores allows for intense drainage, which will affect the moisture retention of the crop. If there is not enough small pores present, water will not be able to fill in any of these pore spaces, ultimately resulting in loss of moisture retention. Additionally, if there are too many large pores present, it will affect the crop’s ability to root; making it more challenging for the crop to anchor on to anything substantial. On the other end, if the growing media has too low of porosity, or too many small pores, this too will complicate air and water exchange in the growing media profile. If the pore spaces are too small, they will be too compact. The compaction of the growing media will result in improper drainage, leaving the crops water logged. Compaction will also complicate air exchange in the growing profile. Without enough air exchange, roots will become “choked off”. Too little of porosity can lead to necrosis for the crops. 


Chemical Characteristics:


Potential of Hydrogen (pH) is the measurement of how acidic (1-6), neutral (7), of alkaline (8-14) a solution is. Different substrates used in the horticulture industry have varying pH measurements. For instance, typically pine and  Canadian sphagnum peat moss have lower, more acidic pHs, whereas sand and composts typically have higher, more alkaline pHs. When dealing with overall plant health, pH is the most important, and often most overlooked chemical characteristic. If the pH of the growing media is not in the ideal range for the crops being grown, the crops may start to show signs and symptoms of distress. This is because certain nutrients are only able to be absorbed at very specific pH ranges; usually between 6.0-7.5.  If plants are showing any symptoms of distress, it is best to check pH fi as the first step in a successful plant management strategy. If you’d like more information on how pH and plant health are related, please check out the blog post pertaining to pH.


Electrical Conductivity (EC) is the measurement of soluable in a solution, such as fertilizers. EC is related to the fertility of crops and is often a good way to gauge a fertilizer regiment for plant health management. EC levels will vary depending on the crops being grown- but have no fear, EC can, and will often change. It is important to understand what the ideal EC range is for your crops- if the EC levels are too low, it may affect the nutritional value of the crops; whereas if the salt levels in crops are too high, they will ultimately “choke” out the plant, leading to death.  If EC level are too low, fertilizer may be added to the crops to create the targeted EC range; whereas if the EC levels are too high, leaching can be done. It is important that growers not only understand their EC levels, but regularly monitor them throughout growing cycles.


By understanding the physical and chemical characteristics of substrates and growing media, growers are able to make more informed decisions. This knowledge can assure any and all growers that their growing operations and their corps are a sure success! If you have any more question or would like more information on physical and chemical characteristics, please feel free to contact us! 

- Alexis

Picture Sources:

Van Es, Harold. “Soil Health Manual Series.” Cornell University, Dec. 2016,

Friedl, Sarah. “Permeability & Porosity: Definition & Impacts on Soil & Rocks.”, 2020,

P., & N. (2015, October 18). Acids, Alkalis, and the pH Scale. Retrieved November, 2020, from



Mycorrhizae: The Most Helpful Fungus Around!

Mycorrhizae is a beneficial fungus that creates a symbiotic (or mutually beneficial) relationship with the root systems of plants. So how does it work? Mycorrhizae colonizes in the root zone of the plant. From there, the mycorrhizae will form what is referred to as “mycelium”. The mycelium is essentially a colonization of long, white, fibrous filaments that function as a secondary, extended root system for the plant. The mycelium grows outwards in all directions, increasing the overall surface area of the root zone. Essentially, the mycorrhizae acts as an extension of the root system and aides in the absorption of water and nutrient. especially during times of high environmental stress; such as droughts. The beauty of mycorrhizae is that it's a naturally occurring fungus that is essentially an insurance package for your plants! 

Left: Soil containing mycorrhizae- The web-like appearance seen is mycelium. Vs. Right: Soil that does not contain mycorrhizae.

Believe it or not, but certain crops require certain types of Mycorrhizae. Studies have found that certain crops are better at utilizing one kind of mycorrhizae over another. By choosing the correct type of mycorrhizae, your crop will be able to utilize the mycorrhizae to the best of its ability, ultimately creating stronger, beneficial relationships with one type of mycorrhizae versus another. There are various types of Mycorrhizae but I would like to discuss the two most common types; Endomycorrhizal (Endo) and Ectomycorrhizal (Ecto). The Endomycorrhizae and the Ectomycorrhizae have the same basic functionality, but differ in two major ways. The first way in which they differ is based on what crops they are compatible with. 
The second way in which the Endomycorhizzae and Ectomycorrhizae differ is in how they interact with crop's root systems. 

The Endomycorrhizae is the most commonly used type of mycorrhizae. This is because endomycorrhizae forms relationships with approximately 90% of plant species. Endomycorrhizae works by “penetrating into the root cortex and forming nutrient exchange structures within the root cells”.  Endomycorrhizae is commonly used for most leafy and/or fruiting bodies. 


In comparison, the Ectomycorrhizae forms relationships with approximately 10% of plant species, mainly hardwoods and conifers. Ectomycorrhizae differs quite drastically in its relationship to the root system, meaning it “does not penetrate into the root cell walls, but forms a sheath around the root”. Although the structuring of the mycorrhizae differs, the functionality is still there! 


No matter what crop you grow, there is a mycorrhizae out there for you! This fungus is not only interesting, but it is hard working! Due to the nature of the symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship it forms with plants, the mycorrhizae cannot live unless your plant lives; in other words, it is the mycorrhizae’s job to keep your plant alive, so in turn, the mycorrhizae can survive. Whether your plant is facing environmental stress such as drought or nutritional stress, such as increased salt levels, mycorhizzae will work to protect not only your plant, but your livelihood as a grower! I encourage you to research more about mycorrhizae and further educate yourself on just how cool this fungus really is!

- Alexis

Picture Sources:

VanSomeren, Lindsay. “How Do Mycorrhizae Work? Explained Simply.” Untamed Science, July 2016,

“WHAT ARE MYCORRHIZAE?” All about Mycorrhizae, Its Benefits, Application and Research and Development,

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Seasonal Display Bed Amendment Trial- Conclusions

Our company’s philosophy is to always “meet” our customer’s expectations. From a product performance standpoint, the results indicate that most of the products end up “exceeding” our customer’s expectations; With that being said, I recognize that this makes it harder to observe the true potential of specialty products, such as One Step or All Purpose Potting Soil. After observing the three month trial period, these are the results I have concluded based on overall physical appearance and plant growth patterns.

Based on the growth patterns over the last few months, I would recommend the following:

One Step *when used in previously existing beds

One Step is a product that is the most conducive for a functional landscape and the needs of landscapers. Based on the results, I can confidently say that One Step does not require till in order to get exceptional results. Additionally, One Step offers more labor savings for landscapers. These labor savings come in various forms; from added benefits of One Step’s ingredients, mulching aspects, and overall product performance.

The largest factor contributing to the success of One Step is the addition of Mycorrhizae in the amendment. One Step contains the organism known as Mycorrhizae. Mycorrhizae is a beneficial organism that creates a symbiotic (or mutually beneficial) relationship with the root system of plants.  Mycorrhizae acts as a root extension to aide in the absorption of water and nutrients, specifically in stressful environmental conditions, such as drought. The months of July and August we saw increasingly more stressful plant conditions caused by extreme heat and lack of rain. It is my opinion that we saw such drastic, observable changes from July to August due to the presence of mycorrhizae in One Step. The success of the aforementioned symbiotic relationship allowed One Step to thrive in these stressful conditions which in turn, minimizes risk for landscapers who use this amendment.

In addition to Mycorrhizae, One Step’s inclusion of bark is a crucial component to its success. The bark comes into play throughout various parts of the growing season. As the One Step begins to settles throughout the season, the bark creates a mulch overlay throughout the beds- creating an aesthetically pleasing appearance that gives off the look of “mulch”. This allows the beds to appear more “maintained” throughout the summer months; eliminating the need for additional amendments or touchups.

Additionally, the layer of mulch left at the end of the growing season aides as a “dormant mulch” throughout the winter months. This results in increased moisture retention, weed suppression, and a maintained aesthetic for homeowners. As the following spring season arrives, the residual One Step can be amended into the previously existing bed. This will increase porosity, which aides in increased air and water exchange for the plants.  Based on this information, we can conclude that application of One Step as a top dress in the spring will lead to residual, positive results for numerous growing seasons to come. It is the one amendment that can withstand any environmental condition and various seasons while consistently improving the landscape. More importantly, use of One Step will save labor, time, and money for landscapers and homeowners alike. 

One Step Performance in Trial Beds.

All Purpose Potting Soil

Unlike One Step, All Purpose Potting Soil can be used in both the landscape and containers. The consistency of the mix is “light and fluffy” in comparison to the heavier One Step option, making it a more conducive option for landscapers who are looking for a “one stop shop” option.  All Purpose Potting Soil is a high-quality product that offers outstanding benefits due to the components in the mix.

All Purpose Potting Soil Performance in Trial Beds.

All Purpose Potting Soil contains peat moss and coir. Peat moss is typically known for its water retention properties, as well as its increased air porosity properties. Coir is known for its water retention abilities. Due to the raw inputs used, we know there will be optimal moisture retention, allowing for less time spent creating and maintaining an irrigation regiment. Furthermore, All Purpose Potting Soil contains Control Release Fertilizer, which provides consistent, predictable nutritional output throughout the season. With the constant, controlled feed there is no need to adapt a fertilizer regiment- ultimately eliminating the need for proper training on mixing and application rates of nutrients out in the field. Having a product that provides optimal water retention and nutritional feed allows for savings in regards to labor, time, and money.

 Additional Notes/Observations:

      Overall, the results stayed the same from observation phase two (July- August) to observation phase three (August-September). When conducting future trials, our best bet is to analyze the growth from initial planting through the month of August. This time frame will give us the best insight on how amendments perform under stressful environmental conditions. I believe this is when plants will endure the most stress throughout the growing season so our results when observing them in a landscape will be the most accurate in regards to overall growth, performance, and maintenance (including adding additional amendment to make the beds appear more appealing, fertilizer regiments, and watering regiments).

     For future trials, I think it is best to focus on physical aspects that are easily gauged by the naked eye; such as growth patterns, growth density, overall appearance, etc. It’s great to be informed on the composition of mixes, the nutritional value of mixes, etc.; but at the end of the day, most people just want to see how the product looks in the landscape and how successful these products are in regards to overall plant appearance.

- Alexis

Seasonal Display Bed Amendment Trial- Summary of Monthly Observations

Month One Observation Period: Initial establishment of plantings (mid June) to July 27th 2020.

     Some plantings needed to be moved around, thus needing to be re-established into the beds. The observations were taken from the day of re-establishing some of these treatments (June 18th) to the first observation periods, known as Phase One.

    During this first initial observation period, most of the plants “Met Homeowner’s Expectations”. It should be noted that there was not a lot of growth that took place during this initial observation period. At this point, the plants were still trying to establish themselves in the landscape.

    Although most plants did not stand out in regards to growth patterns- three treatments did have some observable changes. There was observable growth in treatment 3 sunpatiens (APPS amended and tilled), both the Angelonia and Sunpatiens in treatment 7 (mushroom compost amended and tilled), and treatment 10 landscape compost amended and tilled).

All Purpose Potting Soil Amended and Tilled:

    It is my opinion that the initial success of APPS was based on the moisture retention properties of the raw inputs used in the mix. The components of the peat moss and coir present in the APPS have higher water retention properties. Due to the increased water retention properties, this allowed the plants to establish themselves quicker in the landscape; which ultimately lead to the success of APPS throughout the entire trial. Additionally, I think the watering regiment was very crucial in the success of this amendment because it allowed the water retention properties of the peat moss and coir to really be utilized to their full potential.

Mushroom Compost Amended and Tilled:

    I believe the mushroom compost was so successful in the first month due to the nutritional value that the compost offers. Since the mushroom compost was amended, those nutrients were worked directly into the bed, allowing for the plants to absorb all the nutrients and aide in the overall establishment of the plants. As we know, establishing plants in a pre-existing bed may not always be the easiest task, especially in the Midwest when we have very clay heavy soils. Due to the immediate and readily available nutrients, I believe this is what lead to successful plant establishment and ultimately gave the mushroom compost an advantage throughout the entirety of the trial. 

Landscape Compost Amended and Tilled:

    Similar to the mushroom compost, I think the nutritional value of the landscape compost helped these plants to thrive during initial establishment. We know from a historic perspective that this is traditionally what landscapers will use. Aside from it being a cheap input, it is also in great supply locally for landscapers. I believe landscape compost is a tried and true amendment, which is why we had so much success with this amendment from June to July. 

Alexis Taking the First Measurements of the Trial Bed During Month 1 Observation Period.

Trial Bed During Month 1 Observation Period- Some Growth was Present.

Month Two Observation Period: July 27th 2020 to August 31st 2020.

    During this second observation period is when the most growth occurred. Both species looked absolutely stunning; although it should be noted that growth in the Sunpatiens was easier to observe and identify.

    There were very obvious growth difference in the right bed versus the left bed. The right bed had some plants that thrived, but most were underwhelming in comparison to the growth that occurred in the left bed. I believe this was due to a few variables:

o   The location of the Hawthorn tree may have unintentionally skewed some of our results. I think this could be due to potential competition for water and nutritional resources, as well as more or less shade being present throughout the day.

o   Water runoff-  I believe some of the plots closest to the curb faced issues of heat, but more importantly had issues with run-off. The plots located in the right bed on the curb had a more substantial curve they followed, allowing for more water to run-off of the plots in comparisons to the curb plots located in the left side bed.

o   Additionally, soil differences and differences in site history (specifically with amendments) could potentially have affected the growth of the right bed.

    The top contender for phase two observation were One Step- both the amended and tilled as well as the 1" top dress.  The One Step was classified as “Exceeds Homeowner’s Expectations” As of now, I would say One Step with Top dress would be ranked as the true "number one". In second place would be the All Purpose Potting Soil- botht he amended and tilled as well as the 1" top dress. These treatments also “Exceeds Homeowners Expectations”.

    Honorable mentions would include the Landscape Compost (both amended and tilled as well as no till with 1" top dress), Blended Compost (amended and tilled), and Mushroom Compost (amended and tilled) as these treatments were also classified as “Exceeds Homeowner’s Expectations”.

One Step- Amended and Tilled AND No Till with 1” Top Dress:

    I believe One Step was so successful due to the inputs used in the product. One Step contains Mycorrhizae which creates a mutually beneficial (or symbiotic) relationship with the plant host- meaning that the mycorrhizae help the plant to stay alive so the mycorrhizae itself can stay alive.

    We know that in the Midwest we are often faced with drought or drought like conditions, especially in July and August. Due to this high stress environment, the mycorrhizae were really able to perform to the best of its ability and allowed such incredible and dense growth. 

    It should be noted that the success of the One Step was similar in both the amended and tilled treatment versus the top dress treatment. Due to the success of both treatments, I do NOT believe that amended and tilling the bed is necessary to get ideal results; meaning landscapers will be saving both time and money when choosing the One Step product. 

All Purpose Potting Soil- Amended and Tilled AND No Till with 1” Top Dress:

    For All Purpose Potting Soil I would argue that you do not need to till and could just top dress, considering both treatments look so similar. This is great news though from a labor savings aspect- you can achieve beautiful results without having to till- saving landscapers both time and money.

    I think the water retention properties are the key as to why APPS performed so wonderfully and so consistently throughout the trials. The water retention properties of the inputs in the APPS make it the product more consistent when establishing a watering regiment throughout the growing season.

    Additionally, the control release fertilizer continually feeds nutrients to the plants, which is ideal when conditions become stressful. It also eliminated the need of a fertilizer regiment for landscapers throughout the growing season

Blended Compost Amended and Tilled:  

    Similar to Mushroom and Landscape Compost, I think the blended compost was so successful due to the nutrients that were available to the plants, especially during stressful conditions such as a drought. It was able to continue to feed the plants and provide a constant flow of nutrients throughout the growing season. 

Trial Bed During Month 2 Observation Period- This is When Most of The Growth Occurred. 

Trial Bed During Month 2 Observation Period.

Month Three Observation Period:
August 31st 2020 to September 28th  2020 

    During this second observation period is when the most growth occurred. During the last month of the trial the growth tended to be consistent, predictable, and less overwhelming.

    The right bed looked significantly better in this last coming month. Although it is great to see positive change (especially in treatment 8- One Step amended and tilled and treatment 10 landscape compost amended and tilled) this is not conducive to a homeowner. Homeowners and landscapers want plants to look presentable for the entire growing season, not at the end of the growing season.

    Overall, the results stayed the same as the observational phase two period. I believe when conducting future trials our best bet is to analyze the growth from initial planting through the month of August. I believe this is when plants will endure the most stress throughout the growing season; so our results will be more accurate in regards to overall growth, performance, environmental stressors, and maintenance (including adding additional amendment to make the beds appear more appealing, fertilizer regiments, and watering regiments).

Trial Bed During Month 3 Observation Period.

Alexis Taking the Final Measurements of the Trial Bed During Month 3 Observation Period.

- Alexis

Monday, June 8, 2020

Seasonal Display Bed Amendment Trial

The Landscaper's Pro line was created to offer diverse and solution based products for landscapers. The idea behind this line is to offer bagged (or bulk) products that can be used in a landscape setting that will allow for easy touch ups, minimized risk, and most importantly; increased efficiency, in turn saving labor and time.

In order to better understand products within the Landscaper's Pro line, Alexis and Joe have created a Seasonal Display Bed Amendment Trial.This trial will track 11 different soil treatments, using two plant species- Raspberry Archangel Angelonia and Sunpatiens Compact Purple. The trial site consists of two beds, each containing 22 plots (44 in total). There are four specific plots assigned to each treatment number. (treatment one has four plots, treatment two has four plots, etc). Within these four plots, there are 2 plots which contain the Angelonia and the Sunpatiens. The treatments are as follows:
  1. Control Bed (no amendments added) No Till
  2. Control Bed (no amendments added) with Till
  3. All Purpose Potting Soil Amended and Tilled
  4. All Purpose Potting Soil No Till with 1” Top Dress
  5. Blended Compost Amended and Tilled
  6. Blended Compost No Till with 1” Top Dress
  7. Mushroom Compost with Till
  8. One Step with Till
  9. One Step with 1” Top Dress No Till
  10. Landscape Compost with Till
  11. Landscape Compost with 1’ Top Dress No Till
* Please note that the "tilled" areas were 6" deep with a shovel.

The trial will focus on chemical and physical characteristics associated with these soil treatments as well as overall performance regarding ease of usability and the potential for labor savings throughout the season. Additionally, we will focus on quality and overall appearance of plants, as well as emphasizing an understanding of  water retention properties. 

For more information on the Landscaper's Pro Products please visit the "Educational Videos" link on the Midwest Trading Website. If you'd like to know more about the Seasonal Display Bed Amendment Trials, you can contact Alexis at

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