Monday, 22 August 2016

Hairy Heros

Morning All,
Well done to all those Olympic competitors what a great medal tally and across such a wide range of sports. I’ve paid up my next season’s hockey subs so still hope for a Tokyo appearance, just need to keep taking the hormones and the transformation will be complete. What is particularly nice to see is the acknowledgement that all the support teams are getting, it takes a lot more than the individual stars to complete a successful campaign so well done to all those unsung hero’s too. Maybe we can take some inspiration along with us on the nursery harnessing that team effort, attention to detail, hard work and innovative ideas to make an exemplary success of what we do. There’s always hope.
I have to be a bit short this week as I have all the rest of the day and evening to get the nursery computers up and running again. The existing pair have been misbehaving for ages and I had bought a couple of bigger ones months ago but couldn’t face the torture of the setting up so they have sat in their boxes waiting for that big day. Well one computer limped badly this week and before it died completely and left us in the lurch I bit the bullet and started on the new installation on Friday afternoon. So here we are on Sunday with both new ones half going after the usual frustrations of nothing going simply. Email’s are working just at the moment hence getting the lists out now, just hoping that by the end of the day we are operational for the new week. I’m sure it will be fine, they are designed to be plug and play after all. Bearing in mind the above, if you do send in an order this week and don’t hear from us please do chase us up just in case you have disappeared into the ether! I’m sure you will find us full of excitement and joy.
It least it’s a holiday weekend coming up, so loads of rest and relaxation all round I’m sure. Have a good one.
Availability highlights
A few more buds appearing on a few odds and ends of fresh stock as we race towards the autumn..
Plenty of buds are showing on our mini garden Chrysanthemum range. There will be masses to follow of these non-frost hardy stunners. Tight compact plants with very dinky flowers in a great colour range.
We still have Erigeron karvinskianus at the moment, in bud and flower. This one blooms for an age, I’ve got one outside the back door that has been in flower since March and still smiles at me every time I shuffle past.
A widening range of Asters are appearing with more and more bud and colour showing and the rest won’t be long away. We have several new varieties, many mildew free/resistant (ageratoides and frikartii types) and we are working on some techniques for earlier flowering batches for next year.
We have a fresh batch of Persicaria amplex. Taurus with bud showing but not a large number available just yet. Some of the summer potted Achillea are showing bud as they bulk up before their winter rest.
There is also bud appearing on the Anthemis varieties, pretty yellow daisies. Charme is a new compact variety with numerous small flowers which flowers for an age.
Wooden box collections
We will be making a concerted effort to collect up a few wooden trays over the coming weeks before things get too damp and cold so if you have any needing collection just drop us an email and we will add you to the list of destinations. If you are a long way from Winchester it may be easier to stack them on a pallet and we can get a carrier to pick them up, drop us a line and we can let you know the best way. It may take a while to get round everyone as we are a bit short of drivers etc with the holidays etc but we are on the case.
Win some medals, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 15 August 2016

Hairy Nose

Morning all,
Just a very quick update this week as time is getting in short supply. I missed last week’s due to severe man flu and general brain failure. If there was an Olympic event for endurance nose running I’d be among the medallists.
Well done to all the Olympic participants I feel inspired, if a little drowsy. I wasn’t sure I would get into this one with the different time zone but I’m watching all sorts of stuff I wouldn’t normally dream of. The dressage was one step too far for me but the trampoline final was great. I tried it once but my back went into spasm almost instantly which finished a promising career rather early.
Great meteor shower display last night, lots to see and always a wondrous thing to behold. I never manage to be organised for it with a chair or suitable attire, I just step out and stare. The crick in my neck kicks in after a bit and I start seeing my own stars but when the real thing flashes by the childlike excitement surges to the surface. Good job we have no neighbours to hear my own self commentary on the events unfolding before me. Who needs modern Pokemon Go to have a good time.
Bonkers week just passed by, one member of staff gone and three new ones in (well 2 new and one returning), three on holiday and one driver off on another job for a bit. Lots of orders, lots of potting and lots of tunnel clearing. A nice quiet time for me to nurture my incapacity and general bewilderment. Hoping for a quieter week coming up to recharge and get stuck into that potting.
Rushing off to see the Saints opening game, hoping to recognise a few players but I’m not sure quite who is left in the squad. Some good player and manager sales again this summer which should help the clubs bank balance, can’t wait to see if the new crew are up to it. Quality opposition today with visitors Watford so hoping for some goal action. Odds on 0-0.

Availability highlights
I’m afraid there is not a lot of stock in bud/flower this week, good sales and that lull between summer and autumn flowering stock have left us a little short, but there is still some lovely looking stock.
Plenty of buds are showing on our mini garden Chrysanthemum range. There will be masses to follow of these non frost hardy stunners. Tight compact plants with very dinky flowers in a great colour range.
We still have a few Erigeron karvinskianus at the moment, in bud and flower. This one blooms for an age.
A widening range of Asters are appearing with more and more bud and colour showing and the rest won’t be long away. We have several new varieties, many mildew free/resistant (ageratoides and frikartii types) and we are working on some techniques for earlier flowering batches for next year.
We have a fresh batch of Persicaria amplex Taurus with bud showing but not a large number available just yet.
Have a good one, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries


Monday, 1 August 2016

Hairy Display

Morning All,
Busy weekend again with a hectic start on Friday evening. Our annual artistic floral extravaganza of the King Somboune Horticultural Society Show stage display all set up after work on Friday ready for the Saturday show and afternoon dismantling. We have it down to a fine art after so many years. 13 trays of plants, a dozen wooden boxes to create a bit of extra height at the back and cleaning kit to tidy up the mess I make. It’s not something I particularly look forward to, we never have a plan just pick out what we have with some colour and fly by the seat of out pants. It always looks pretty good even if I say so myself and despite a desperate shortage of plants in full flower this year it looks fine, if perhaps a bit pink for my taste. The Erigeron karvinskianus turned out to be a brilliant filler, loads of delicate flower filling in any embarrassing gaps without dominating the display. Rewarded ourselves with a late curry and now bracing myself for the return trip to dismantle it all later. Tonight’s reward will be pub supper with the celebrating and tired show committee; we know how to live it up!
Back to some nice cooler weather now which I much prefer. The summer holidays are here which is lovely for those having one, but quite challenging for those of us left behind. We were a couple down last week, three next and five the following week. I am hopeful that we might have a couple of students in the pipeline to help bolster numbers and get us through the growing list of work to be done before the end of the summer. August on Monday, how did that happen. Caroline’s Saints season ticket has arrived, first game in a couple of weeks. That means I must be getting close to the start of the hockey season, must start my fitness programme. I think I’ll stick to the usual pre-season routine of doing sod all and just suffer for a week or two until the legs remember what they are supposed to do.
Must go and get the herb seed sowing done, I have the weekend to get them done so that should be one job ticked off. I also have the next batch of nematodes to release on any vine weevils still daring to show themselves. One of the highlights of the week was watching the ADHB video of the emergency vine weevil summit held a few weeks ago. It was pretty doom and gloom filled and I came out feeling pretty smug. After a couple years of using Met 52 (bio insecticide in the compost) which should have been controlling the beasties, we built up quite a good population and were getting quite worried. However putting on the nematodes through the irrigation has worked really well especially when we adopted the tactic of little and often. We are now applying at less than half rate every 4 weeks from April to September. We use a mix of different nematodes and apply them over everything rather than just selecting those plants that are most vulnerable. Our theory is that egg laying goes on all summer until the cold weather arrives so why not keep a constant pressure up on the pest population to gradually knock it down and likewise why just target the most vulnerable crops, that leaves other places the pest can breed and repopulate treated crops. We used to see quite a few adults in the summer as we picked up or cleared crops but over the last two years the sightings and tell tale leaf notching have reduced drastically. We’ve seen three this year, one on the nursery, two on a delivery of soft fruit from the farm garden down the road.

Availability highlights
There is a small batch of fresh Coreopsis Sunfire back on the list, short and bushy with plenty of bud coming. This year’s hardy Fuchsia’s are wonderfully bushy plants showing masses of flower and bud. Veronica bonariensis are coming into bud. The long flowering pink Geranium Mavis Simpson is romping away now, not a huge number left but full of vigour and promise. Buds are there on most and some colour showing.
The first of the buds are showing on most of our mini garden Chrysanthemum range. There will be masses to follow of these non frost hardy stunners. Tight compact plants with very dinky flowers in a great colour range. Plenty of Erigeron karvinskianus on stream now and in bud and flower. This one blooms for an age.
A widening range of Asters are appearing, bud and colour on a few and the rest won’t be long away. We have several new varieties, many mildew free/resistant (ageratoides and frikartii types) and we are working on some techniques for earlier flowering batches for next year. Meanwhile we have a fresh batch of strong Aster frikartii Monch which are just lengthening their stems in readiness for flowering.
Have a good one, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 25 July 2016

Hot and Hairy

Morning all,
That was a warm one. Struggled here for a couple of days to keep everyone on their feet. It’s the build up that gets me. It’s nice for a few hours but then everything just gets hotter and hotter. The office portacabin seems to have its own heat generator somewhere and by the end of afternoon is several degrees warmer that outside despite few sun facing window, blinds, and all outlets open. We got to 38C in here on Tuesday, at least there was a breeze outside for the heros picking up and processing the orders. There aren’t many days I wish I was in the micropropagation lab but the air con in there did look very tempting. Still, it’s been a good first week for the harvest team on the farm so they are happy. Yields apparently are not brilliant but ok, probably due to the lack of warmth and sunshine earlier in the season but at least it has come in dry so not much fuel needed to get the grain into good storing condition. Long hours and 7 day weeks for a while for them, might get the odd day off if the weather breaks but hopefully past the peak in 6 weeks or so.
More and more plants arriving here as we hit the peak of incoming plant material. Lots of decisions to make on what to do with it all, how best to keep them growing to produce great plants over a lengthening time scale. One of the pressures at this time is created by the knowledge that the quicker we can move the plants on into a bigger container the easier it is to look after them especially when the heat piles in. On top of this, each year we try out some new ideas with new varieties or differing module sizes and timings, it keeps us on our toes. So far things are looking good for 2017, the new stock is doing well we just need to try and get the tunnels cleared in time for the potters to motor on and refill them. Managed to slip away on Thursday evening to Farnham to see Oli Brown play very loud rock blues. Very talented and a good reminder that life does go on outside nurseries. A few cobwebs blown away for sure.I need to get outside really, so much to do, but it’s looking so hot again, can’t I just stay in and flop about?
Availability highlights
This year’s hardy Fuchsia’s are wonderfully bushy plants showing masses of flower and bud. The first of the summer flowering Crocosmia are producing flower bud as the spikes appear from the amongst the upright foliage. A great colour selection but not huge numbers left. The golden Sunglow was especially popular last year. Veronica bonariensis are coming into bud, they flower quite tall but have good strong stems. We do have a shorter non flowering batch if preferred (let us know). The long flowering pink Geranium Mavis Simpson is romping away now, not a huge number left but full of vigour and promise. Buds are there on most and some colour showing. I have seen the odd flower head opening in the Eucomis. Short stocky pale yellow and exotic flower spikes.First buds and some opening flowers in our crop of white Platycodon Astra. A dwarf Balloon flower, it’s a beauty. The first of the buds are showing on most of our mini garden Chrysanthemum range. There will be masses to follow of these non frost hardy stunners. Tight compact plants with very dinky flowers in a great colour range. Plenty of Erigeron karvinskianus on stream now and in bud and flower. This one blooms for an age. A widening range of Asters are appearing, bud and colour on a few and the rest won’t be long away. We have several new varieties, many mildew free/resistant (ageratoides and frikartii types) and we are working on some techniques for earlier flowering batches for next year. Meanwhile we have a fresh batch of strong Aster frikartii Monch which are just lengthening their stems in readiness for flowering. We have some very strong Anemone japonica varieties already producing signs of flower shoots, they must think it’s summer too. Seranade and September Charm looking particularly good.Bright gold foliage contrasts nicely with the deep blue flowers of Tradescantia Blue and Gold making it a popular choice. We have a few fresh Nepeta Six Hills and Walkers Low in bud, but they won’t hang around long.
Have a good one, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 18 July 2016

Hairy Juggling and Jiggling

Morning all,
Another hectic week around the world, it’s often very difficult to get to grips with it all, it certainly is in my simple head. While the world does its best to cock things up we are still bowling along here. The season moves along and we move from one plant in flower to another. I can’t believe we are already thinking about Asters coming into bud but it won’t be long. Potting is already under way for Autumn and next Spring as we try to keep on top of the flood of plant material coming in, some goes directly into a pot and some into modules of varying sizes depending on the crop and the predicted potting timings. It’s always a bit of a juggle to develop and fine tune the production schedules and introduce new varieties, together with the available time and space on the nursery. At the same time as we are juggling, weeks just slip by, but as each year passes we find new ways to save a bit here and there while improving crop output and hopefully slipping in a
bit of profitability here and there. One day.
We have started the process of ordering a new roof structure to cover the lab this week so with a bit of luck we should get that sorted before too long. Still not sure of the cost yet but I bet it will be cheaper than I expect, just like the van repairs of the last three weeks! Ouch. The other projects I have in mind (new cold-store and media store for the lab, new lights etc ) might have to wait a bit until time frees up a bit, but I can’t wait too long or all the money from the spring sales will have been sucked into more stock before I can fiddle some out. In a few weeks sales will dip and a panic sets in that we might never sell anything again, then the battens are nailed into the descending hatches and that’s it until next year. But then of course next year will be different and we will all make bucket loads of cash. I wonder at what age does that illusion resolve itself?
Availability highlights
This year’s hardy Fuchsia’s are wonderfully bushy plants showing masses of flower and bud.
The first of the summer flowering Crocosmia are producing flower bud as the spikes appear from the amongst the upright foliage. A great colour selection but not huge numbers left. The golden Sunglow was especially popular last year. I have a few Centaurea montana in bud, a new variety to us, Amethyst in Snow. White petals with a contrasting magenta centre. There will be more later now I can see its appeal! Verbascum Primrose Path looks delightful with its strong short stems of pretty pale yellow flowers.
We have some stonking Lobelia Salmon with their buds on show and a splash of pink at the top of their colourful stems. I have seen the odd flower head opening in the Eucomis. Short stocky pale yellow and exotic flower spikes.First buds and some opening flower in our crop of white Platycodon Astra are there. A dwarf Balloon flower, it’s a beauty. The first of the buds are showing on most of our mini garden Chrysanthemum range. There will be masses to follow of these non frost hardy stunners. Tight compact plants with very dinky flowers in a great colour range.
Fresh crops of Phlox are beginning to bud. Flame is a compact series, pretty mildew resistant in a good colour range. We have fresh crops of short and bushy Coreopsis Moonshine and Zagreb and the first buds have now appeared and a hint of colour appearing. Attractive feathery foliage under the small yellow daisy blooms, one of my favourites. Just a few Echinacea Magnus left showing strong upright flower stems.
Strong purple foliage of Oxalis triangularis contrasts fantastically with delicate pale pink flowers, a few Iron Cross left too. Two of our most popular lines this season are on stream and in bud. Erigeron karvinskianus are bushy and showing colour and Salvia Hot Lips are there with bud and the odd flash of puckering lips.
Coming shortly will be a widening range of Asters, bud and colour won’t be long away, we have several new varieties many mildew free/resistant and we are working on some earlier flowering batches for next year. Meanwhile we have a fresh batch of strong Aster frikartii Monch which are just lengthening their stem length in readiness for flowering. The Gaillardia varieties are producing masses of bud now, a blaze of colour to come.We have some very strong Anemone japonica varieties already producing signs of flower shoots, they must think it’s summer too. Seranade and September Charm looking particularly good. Bright gold foliage contrasts nicely with the deep blue flowers of Tradescantia Blue and Gold  making it a popular choice. Bushy and flowering the scrambler Campanula posharskyana looks bustin’! The compact Nepeta Junior Walker is proving popular, a much shorter form than other varieties but still loads of flower.
Have a good one, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 11 July 2016

The futures hairy in more ways than one!

Morning all,
A very pleasant day on the nursery, not too hot, not too cold, dry enough to get things done and breezy enough to get the turbines earning their keep. Still not enough hours in the day but you can’t have it all.
Although sales are slightly less rampant than earlier in the year, the other jobs are starting to mount up, plants and weeds grow so fast, new plants arrive for next year’s output and we try and clear up remaining old stock in the tunnels to clean up and start again. Then there is all the planning for improvements for next year, we need to keep pushing the productivity boundaries to offset the big wage increases we are paying and those still to come.
We have had a couple of fortuitous visitations in the last couple of weeks both offering by-products that they wanted to find a home for and that we might be able to use. One was graded out (too small) dried wood chip and bark from a biomass fuel company and freshly chipped tree surgeon output (of the green and woody variety). We are testing the bark for some specific jobs we have and are looking to use the fresh chippings as a mulch over some of our un-cropped outside areas. We try to minimise the weeds around our site to reduce encroachment into the crops and this helps keep expensive hand weeding to a minimum. We already use old coir pots as a mulch in the more sheltered spots but the chips give us another tool to reduce weed spraying and hopefully save on cost.
The microprop lab has been on a bit of a knife edge recently because of big wages increases (70+% of costs) and foreign competition keeping prices down. But we are feeling a bit more confident now after negotiating enough of a price rise to at least keep pace with the wage rise. Production may slip back over time depending on how well the foreign labs perform and if sales of our customers suffer due to the higher prices. It seems a shame that premium products selling at high prices to the consumer may all be propagated abroad for the want of 10-20p. Unfortunately that’s the world we live in and we do have a choice as to what we do about it. Anyway the choice has been made to do a bit more investment into it, the growth room roof leaks, the cold store has sagged to the ground and won’t stand up to another winter and we still haven’t completed the change from florescent tubes to LED’s on the growth room shelves. We are going to make the investments convertible each having an alternative use so if the lab slips away we can use them for instead for nursery output. Just the LED’s have a specific growth room use and they could pay for themselves very quickly, so the sooner they are in the better. Now then where did I see that credit card application form.

Availability highlights
This year’s hardy Fuchsia’s are wonderfully bushy plants and showing their first of masses of flower buds. The first of the summer flowering Crocosmia are producing flower bud as the spikes appear from the amongst the upright foliage. A great colour selection but not huge numbers left. The golden Sunglow was especially popular last year. It must be summer, the Hemerocallis varieties are now producing their flower shoots. We have some stonking Lobelia Salmon with their buds beginning to form at the top of their colourful stems. I have seen the odd flower head forming in the Eucomis. Short stocky pale yellow and exotic flower spikes. First buds and some opening flower in our crop of white Platycodon Astra are there. A dwarf Balloon flower, it’s a beauty. The first of the buds are showing on most of our mini garden Chrysanthemum range. There will be masses to follow of these non frost hardy stunners. Tight compact plants with very dinky flowers in a great colour range. Fresh crops of Phlox are beginning to bud. Flame is a compact series, pretty mildew resistant in a good colour range. We have a fresh crop of short and bushy Coreopsis Moonshine and Zagreb and the first buds have now appeared. Attractive feathery foliage under the small yellow daisy blooms, one of my favourites. Many of the Echinacea varieties are starting to produce their upright flower stem. Strong purple foliage of Oxalis triangularis contrasts fantastically with delicate pale pink flowers.
Two of our most popular lines this season are on stream and in bud. Erigeron karvinskianus are bushy and showing colour and Salvia Hot Lips are there with bud and the odd flash of puckering lips. The Gaillardia varieties are producing masses of bud now, a blaze of colour to come. We have some very strong Anemone japonica varieties already producing signs of flower shoots, they must think it’s summer too. Seranade and September Charm looking particularly good. Bright gold foliage contrasts nicely with the deep blue flowers of Tradescantia Blue and Gold making it a popular choice.
Have a good one, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Hairy week

Morning all,

I thought a week on the nursery was a long time, but in politics this week they’ve really stirred things up. Hopefully it won’t create too much uncertainty when purses and wallets can get more difficult to prize open. What would be very useful would be a run of nice weather just to lighten the mood and restart the social life outside and especially in the garden. Very moved here by Fridays events, especially the touching and sobering remembrances of the start of the Battle of the Somme. The brilliant idea of the chaps dressed up in WW1 uniforms walking around towns and cities, not speaking but handing out cards of each soldier who had died that they represented, was very effective, How they kept that a secret until the day I’ll never know. Then at the other end of the scale the joy of watching Wales take on and beat Belgium took me rather by surprise. I hadn’t realised how much having a Welsh grandmother had affected me!
Back on the nursery we are busy sending out more orders despite the damp and dealing with all the young plant material arriving on site for next year’s output. It’s scary how quickly it all turns around. AHDB workshop on weed control last Thursday, a few reminders of sensible things to do and some interesting costings on hand weeding regimes all help. I managed to drop off through the post lunch herbicide listings before a good walk around the Hillier container unit revived me. Now I’m full of good intentions just need to find the time to get it all done, good job there is nothing else to do.

Availability highlights
We have some stonking Lobelia Salmon with their buds beginning to form at the top of their colourful stems. I have seen the odd flower head forming in the Eucomis. Short stocky pale yellow and exotic flower spikes.
We have very few Leucanthemum varieties left other than a lovely crop of the pale yellow compact Banana Creme but they won’t hang around long. Our Dianthus are now all in bud with first flowers opening, looking neat, a great range of these garden pinks to pick from. The first buds in our crop of white Platycodon Astra are there. A dwarf Balloon flower, it’s a beauty. Veronica Inspire Blue has produced a lovely flush of flower spikes. There are the first of the flower buds showing on many of the mini garden Chrysanthemum range. There will be masses to follow of these non frost hardy stunner. Tight compact plants in a good colour range. The odd weather has brought out flowers early on our Cyclamen hederifoliums. Fresh batches of Phlox are beginning to bud. Flame is a compact series of varieties, pretty mildew resistant in a good colour range. Crimson red flower spikes on the Persicaria Inverleith are appearing now, Nice short plants full of vim.
The dwarf Eryngium Blue Hobbit now has its short strong thistly flower heads appearing. The variegated varifolium is close behind, the flower stem is a bit spiky but dramatic. This year’s hardy Fuchsia’s are wonderfully bushy plants and showing their first of masses of flower buds. The super compact Monarda Balmy Purple are budding up and about to do their thing. Lovely plants but just a few left. We have a fresh crop of short and bushy Coreopsis Moonshine and Zagreb and the first buds have now appeared. Attractive feathery foliage under the small yellow daisy blooms, one of my favourites. Golden orange flowers just beginning to open in a fresh batch of chunky Bupthalmum now looking very summery Many of the Echinacea varieties are starting to produce their upright flower stem, no colour yet but it won’t be long. Strong purple foliage of Oxalis triangularis contrasts fantastically with delicate pale pink flowers which are just beginning to appear. Iron Cross with its dramatic darkly marked green leaves are now showing their first of many deep pink blooms. Strong and striking Delpinium Delfix Blue is now in bud and showing colour.
Two of our most popular lines this season are back on stream and in bud. Erigeron karvinskianus are bushy and showing colour and Salvia Hot Lips are there with bud and the odd flash of puckering lips. The Gaillardia varieties are producing masses of bud now, a blaze of colour to come. It must be summer, the Hemerocallis varieties are now producing their flower shoots. We have some very strong Anemone japonica varieties already producing signs of flower shoots, they must think it’s summer too. Seranade and September Charm looking particularly good. Bright gold foliage contrasts nicely with the deep blue flowers of Tradescantia Blue and Gold making it a popular choice.

Have a good one, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries