Still more competition; and a new top quality liquid fertilizer!

Announced just on June 6, but rumoured for several weeks--in fact for years--the retail garden sector just gained another fierce competitor when U.S.-based Lowe’s home improvements announced it would open its first Canadian store in Toronto in 2007. In fact its plans call for six to ten new stores in the Toronto area by 2007. Already a Canadian president has been announced in the person of Doug Robinson. If anything, this expansion likely was brought about by the brilliant showing Home Depot has had in Canada in the last decade, under the leadership of Annette Verschuren, president. HD has tried out many new ideas here in Canada--some not yet fully implemented in the U.S.

In reading through all the press reports, both here in Canada, and in the U.S. I found no reference to what brought about the announcement at this time, except as I noted above.

I chatted with Nick Cowling, PR director for Home Depot in Toronto who said that Annette and her top managers had talked about little more on both June 6 and 7. Nick said the decision to move north may well have resulted from shareholder pressure on top management to expand beyond the company’s 1,100 U.S. stores. He pointed out that while press reports were speculating that a group of real estate advisers had already selected a large number of potential sites, it may well be difficult for Lowe’s locate good sites for new stores. “After all, if the site is that good, we would be there now,” said Nick. We also discussed some of the ‘fiascos’ that both Home Depot and other big box stores have faced in trying to open a store. In Home Depot’s case, one in Toronto at the eastern lake-shore and one in Vancouver’s Kitsilano community come to mind!

The other major question is will Lowe’s make their presence known in Canada much more quickly by acquiring either part or all of the Rona chain (530 stores of varying sizes)? Rona has basically gained its present second position in the category by acquiring its competitors and could now face that fate itself. Sources in the U.S. indicate Lowe’s would not likely want anything other than the largest box stores.

Meanwhile in Scarborough’s Home Depot head office, they are hard at work with 18 new store openings this year. And, they now have a third version. In the last two years they have opened a smaller store version, using just 80,000 square feet and now plan a 60,000 square feet version.

A significant factor is that the Canadian market is significantly different than that in the U.S. Down there they do not have anything like the national chain of Canadian Tire stores, nor anything like the national chain of independently-owned Home Hardware stores.

The one thing I predict is much greater competition for garden centres--if in doubt just ask Ron MacLean who was president of White Rose Crafts & Nursery Sales Ltd. when things started going bad; and one prime reason was the infiltration of the big box stores. And now there will be another one!

Occasionally in this column I like to bring the trade’s attention to new products I think are worthy of their handling in their garden centres. That is the case with a new liquid fertilizer, Liquid Growth, from a company called BioTLC.

Liquid Growth is a premium liquid lawn fertilizer and plant food system with a proprietary blend of organic components and chelated trace minerals. Technically, Liquid Growth products are created as a hot mix, which means heat is produced by the mixing of the ingredients. The heat then binds all the elements together so each and every drop is the same. Other liquid and soluble fertilizers are manufactured using low quality cold mixes that tend to separate out, causing variations in quality.

This development was made possible by the newly patented carbon molecule that holds four times its weight in water.

In addition to that superior manufacturing process, Liquid Growth products are made from food grade ingredients, rather than fertilizer grade. This simply means no heavy metals, contaminants or salts are present. In order to understand fully, the advantages of this new system, it is necessary to take a look at a bit history.

The development of these Liquid Growth fertilizers is the culmination of 15 years of research into biological/ecological methods of sustainable agriculture. This would not have been possible without the outstanding world renowned research done by Wm. Albrecht, PhD and Carey Reams, PhD. Both of these eminent scientists considered calcium to be the king of nutrients in the soil. They declared all other minerals must be balanced to calcium, irrespective of pH.

The myths surrounding pH as it applies to soil calcium levels still abound today. Further research into calcium's role in plant health, disease prevention and weed control would not have evolved without the work of Albrecht and Reams. Today's scientists Arden Anderson, PhD and Elaine Ingham, PhD continue the studies of balanced soil mineral profiles. Their newest work examines the role of the soils’ microbiological activity and soil nutrient avail-ability to plants. Liquid Growth’s Premium Release Lawn Fertilizer along with their Liquid Calcium Lawn Food were developed to stimulate the beneficial microbial life forms in soils and the subsequent release of nutrients from the organic matter and soluble minerals. Healthy soils = healthy plants = great lawns that are competitive to weeds and resistant to disease.

The Liquid Growth System (fertilizer/calcium combination) has numerous advantages over dry (salt) fertilizers and common liquid fertilizers. For example: 1) less Premium Release Lawn Fertilizer is required because it is al-ready in a soluble form ready for use by the lawn grasses;

2) the Premium Release phosphorus source is orthophosphate, which is available to the plants even when the soil temperatures are below 18o C. (65o F.); this is especially important first thing in the spring for getting a lawn off to a quick start; 3) Premium Release moves down through the soil better, because its organic components encourage grass to develop deep roots; 4) under normal weather conditions there is no fertilizer runoff when using BioTLC liquid products on a lawn 5) Liquid Growth's lower nitrogen content and organic component encourages the nitrogen fixation bacteria that exist in the soil to perform their natural function; excess nitrogen use has been scientifically proven in university trials to be the cause of most lawn diseases; 6) the top quality phosphorus content sup-plied in Premium Release lawn fertilizer provides the nutrition needed for photosynthesis; increased photosynthesis provides valuable plant sugars needed by the beneficial soil microbes to proliferate, thereby overwhelming non-beneficial microbes so diseases are controlled naturally; 7) Liquid Growth's organic component stimulates deep root growth and therefore a natural thatch control; and finally 8) Premium Release lawn fertilizer combined with Liquid Calcium Lawn Food will grow more grass which is the natural way to control weeds.

BioTLC currently offers eight specific formulae including four for grass (spring, summer, fall, and a package for the year) and four others for flowers, vegetables, shrubs and trees and an indoor mist.

Dealers are currently being signed and already well-known garden centres such as Harpers in Ancaster, Woodhill in Thornhill and Agram in Oakville are on board.

If you wish more information, get in touch with Brian Costello at bcostello@biotlc.com or check out their Web-site at www.liquidgrowth.com.