Article by Josh Long and Erin Parra
Plants need support for various reasons. Some crops require support due to high yields of fruit or flowers. Some crops are staked to spread them out for maximum light exposure. In horticulture, the leader of a young plant is staked and supported to establish a straight trunk. No matter the motive, the reality is that most commercial crops are staked at some point in their life cycle.
As a kid growing up on a commercial nursery that raised high volumes of various landscape crops, one of my first jobs was staking plants. At the time, there were two main methods that most nurseries used—practices that continue to this day. There was a mechanical method using spools of stretch tying tape.
A machine looped the tape around a branch and a stake, then stapled the loop together. There were many brands of these machines. Right out of the box, they worked all right.
However, over time, they were very frustrating. Jamming was frequent and reloading the consumables could be difficult when working in harsh outdoor environments. Anything sticky, such a sap, or dirt really slowed down the productivity. The staples also often pulled through the plastic, leaving you with unsupported plants that you would have to rework.
Later in my career when I was managing large crews, I began to loath these machines. Between the purchase costs, downtime, reworking, and repairs, I figured there had to be a better way.
The other most common method was, and still is, hand tying using a type of expandable tape. This method was effective, but labor intensive and extremely slow. In fact, we measured that hand tying was over 60 per cent slower than machine looping. The only good thing was that you never had to go back the fix failed ties when you did it by hand the first time. Again, if only we could combine the benefits of both, I thought.
When I began to look into the retail plant fastener market a few years back, I was also astonished that most of the products didn’t expand to accommodate plant growth. This ends up girdling the plant and, eventually, kill it. Speed and efficiency may not be on the minds of a home gardener, but I was certain they don’t want to girdle their plants.
Well, like a lot of things, something new was developed out of all these necessities. After several years of prototypes and patent work, the Stretch-Tie was born. Stretch-Tie fastens just like a twist tie, but the embedded metal wire has a gap and the plastic surrounding it expands.
This allows the whole Stretch-Tie to expand as the plant grows. It’s very simple, but very effective. Even fast-growing softwood plants are safe using Stretch-Tie. We are excited to offer the home gardener a fastening option that is actually good for their plants.
Using Stretch-Tie is also, on average, over 60 per cent faster than traditional hand tying—about the same speed as a brand-new machine. Unlike a machine ties, however, you don’t have to spend time reworking failed attempts with our product. Also, Stretch-Tie saves money because there is no machine to replace or fix.
We wanted to provide high-quality plant fasteners that offer a value to our customers. That’s why we decided to produce in the US and use materials that can degrade over time. We used an additive from Eco-Pure that accelerates the biodegradation process of plastic products and packaging in a biologically active landfill.
After various time trials and multi-year tests, we finally had a product to bring to market. We launched Stretch-Tie in 2008… great timing, with home construction spiraling downward and commercial nursery production right behind it.
Despite the regrettable timing, we have increased sales every year. Thanks to our grassroots marketing of demos and word-of-mouth, we currently sell over 10 million units annually.
Of course, having developed this product for horticultural applications, we are strongest in that industry; however, we have customers using Stretch-Tie for viticulture, citrus, tomatoes, cannabis, nut orchards, vines, and hanging Christmas lights, among other things.
The company is growing by 25 per cent annually, and the goal is to have a significant market share in the plant fastener market globally in the next 10 years. The Stretch-Tie design is patented in the US and has international patents pending, meaning you won’t find a similar product anywhere.
The company has also expanded its lineup since the beginning. We started with just one size and color, we now offer three sizes (10x1, 10x0.5, and 6x0.5 inch) in three colors (tan, clear, and green). The 6x0.5-inch green tie is by far most popular size and color.
Stretch-Tie products are available in commercial volumes direct or through the distributors listed at on our website (stretchtie.com). Smaller retail—that is, consumer-size—packages are available direct, on Amazon, and in a growing number of garden centers and other retailers.
We also have some new and exciting things in the R&D stage, but those are still a secret… watch this space in the future to find out more!