Monday, 27 February 2017

Time for Hairy Alliums

Morning all,
A bit of a grey weekend but definitely signs of spring in the air. I hope Doris didn’t cause too many problems for you, the turbines certainly liked seeing a bit of wind, we nearly caught up with this month’s running average. It’s been a disappointingly settled winter so far down here, so we are not going to get any financial bonus from the turbines this time, it’s a good job consumption is lower so we can keep on the export side of breakeven. We had a very busy week rushing around with orders trying not to get blown off the road. After the forecast on Thursday we delayed our little comedy van deliveries as it rolls about a bit already even before you add the wind. A wise choice in the end I think. To top off the wind worries I had an NBIS meeting with our local nursery group to discuss the latest figures and industry issues and made the mistake of opting for leek and spring onion tart with a side of onion rings. A few too many alliums I fear. Well worth it, the meeting was really productive, a few good ideas to bring home and an upbeat feel to things despite costs for everyone beginning to escalate with the exchange rate changes since Brexit. This is often a good one, there is plenty of potential to come in the season and few disappointments yet!
With delivery demand beginning to take off we are running around trying to finish off the winter jobs before we run out of time. The spring potting started this week once the orders were done, which was exciting, except the potting machine refused to play ball. One of the drive chains jumped a cog or two on starting up and the drill ended up drilling between the pots instead of in them. A mild panic ensued to stop it before any damage was done and then a dismantling operation to uncover the chain, reposition and re-tension it. Naturally the chain tensioner was at its maximum setting so we made do for the moment and ordered a new chain to fit later. We ran on for a few minutes before the hydraulic take-off arm, which pulls the pots off the machine onto the conveyor belt, went on a go slow. It’s been a long time since this happened but I vaguely remembered repositioning a mount before for the hydraulic rocker cover that controls the air going to the arm and sure enough a movement of about 1 mm overcame the slight wear on the rocker. Frustrating stops to the production but the successful repairs were very satisfying.

2017 Catalogue
Links for the 2017 flipbook catalogue (and a pdf version should you need to print it out) with lots of pictures of most of the perennials we grow are;
Flipbook http://online.1stflip.com/dpyl/367v/    (Best viewed on desktop or laptop but not currently on mobile phones)
Pdf   https://www.dropbox.com/s/nasnx3xy8r1nfdy/Catalogue%202017%20complete.pdf?dl=0    (This is a big file due to the large numbers of images in it. We would encourage you to use the flipbook instead saving more of the worlds resources)

Availability highlights
If it is still a bit early but you fancy a smaller order to get going, then we can offer a lower minimum delivery volume until the end of February. Ideally a 15 tray minimum is best but we could stretch to 12 trays if you are fairly local or we are passing by.
The ever popular Erysimum Bowles Mauve are already showing bud and the odd splash of colour. Bud also appearing on Apricot Twist, Fragrant Sunshine, Pastel Patchwork and the lovely Red Jep.
Pulsatilla have shot up in the last couple of weeks with masses of bud now showing, a bundle of colour in the making.. Brunnera mac Variegata are fattening up quickly and looking cracking, there are more buds appearing now, with a few on the green form too, always popular early in the year with those delightful forget-me-not blue flowers. Dicentra spectabalis have burst through, their flower buds already in evidence. The white form won’t be far behind.
The Pulmonaria are coming one well with bud and the odd open flower on the Blue Ensign which is the most forward and the variegated Opal and Mageste are both looking smart with bud showing. Polemonium Heavenly Scent are looking great, really chunky and bushy, attractive burnished foliage and with the first flower shoots showing. Both colour forms of Campanula persicifolia Takion are already throwing up flowering stems. A compact and early flowering selection, it will flower on into the summer if old shoots are removed. Vibrant green and lush foliage of Doronicum is bursting forth and the buds of the yellow flowers will be following shortly.

Have a good week from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 20 February 2017

Proud to be hairy

Morning all,

Joy of joy I finished the LED light installation on Monday, I can’t quite believe it is all done it feels like I have been living in there for weeks. It’s quite a relief to everyone else as well, because we were then able to have a real tidy up, clearing despatch and the label print room where piles of fittings, tools and cable had amassed. It took another two days on and off to clear up all the debris, sorting out the different piles of recycling and reusable stuff but it’s all more or less clear now. Just the recycling man to arrange to pick up all the electric bits and all those fluorescent tubes. Thankfully the electric use has dropped off with quite a step, using another 20% less overall for this week, although the overall saving is more because some lights have been in for a few weeks already.
We have been invited to apply for the Winchester Business awards which we did win a few years ago. It’s a lovely event but we didn’t qualify in recent years due to the lack of dosh left at the end of the year! Now we are rejuvenated in our finances and our sustainable endeavour (having signed up for Green Impact) we thought we might put in a bid for this year’s event in the Green Business of the Year section. It’s never easy working out quite what to put down on the entry form, it’s not a very British thing to do, blowing your own trumpet, but we’ve had a go. It has ended up being quite a positive experience so far, it’s quite rewarding to actually put pen to paper and list some of your achievements over the years, it is surprising how they mount up. Almost proud.
A little bit of pre-season tension is creeping in, are we going to finish the winter jobs before it all kicks off? Will it kick off? Is it going to rain all year or will there be a drought? Have I spent too much overwinter and are we running short of cash? (I already know the answer to that one) When is the new van going to turn up? Will we need more bodies on site? Where is the next batch of labels, boxes, plants, cakes? Can we please have an extra day in the week? Ok now I need a lie down. Just a few days of milder weather and the plants suddenly look really saleable with a nice bit of spring growth appearing on many lines and more and more bud threatening to show. It’s all go, just need a nice run of sensible weather please.

2017 Catalogue
Links for the 2017 flipbook catalogue (and a pdf version should you need to print it out) with lots of pictures of most of the perennials we grow are;

Flipbook http://online.1stflip.com/dpyl/367v/    (Best viewed on desktop or laptop but not currently on mobile phones)
Pdf   https://www.dropbox.com/s/nasnx3xy8r1nfdy/Catalogue%202017%20complete.pdf?dl=0    (This is a big file due to the large numbers of images in it. We would encourage you to use the flipbook instead saving more of the worlds resources)

Availability highlights
If it is still a bit early but you fancy a smaller order to get going, then we can offer a lower minimum delivery volume until the end of February. Ideally a 15 tray minimum is best but we could stretch to 12 trays if you are fairly local or we are passing by. The ever popular Erysimum Bowles Mauve are already showing bud and the odd splash of colour. Bud also appearing on Apricot Twist, Fragrant Sunshine, Pastel Patchwork and the lovely Red Jep.
Brunnera mac Variegata are fattening up quickly and looking cracking, there is the very occasional bud showing but too few to guarantee bud at the moment. The green version is close behind, always popular early in the year with those delightful forget- me-not blue flowers. The Pulmonaria are coming one well with bud and the odd open flower on the Blue Ensign which is the most forward and the variegated Opal and Mageste are both looking smart. Polemonium Heavenly Scent are looking great, really chunky and bushy, great foliage bronzing and with the first flower shoots coming.
Both colour forms of Campanula persicifolia Takion are already throwing up flowering stems. A compact and early flowering selection, it will flower on into the summer if old shoots are removed.
Vibrant green and lush foliage of Doronicum is bursting forth and the buds of the yellow flowers will be following shortly. We have a small number of new bulbs we are trying out this year and a couple are in bud already, Scilla are opening prettily and the Muscari have healthy fattening buds. Get them while you can.
Have a good week from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Brr Hairy Pots

Morning all,
Nice to see a bit of winter weather, nothing too serious just feels really cold. Hopefully it will knock a few bugs back although judging by the number of colds hanging around it hasn’t helped the humans. The longer cold spells really seem to suck the heat out of the house after a few days especially when the cold breeze picks up and we have had to resort to the central heating as the log burner has been unable to keep up. Still I shouldn’t beat myself up I suppose, we are at least trying our best. The cold is holding up growth on many plants although it is always surprising how many lines are already showing signs of spring excitement and how life enhancing a display can look. Not much colour just yet but I suspect it won’t be long. With signs of spring in the air I am panicking slightly with the number of winter projects still to get finished before we get really busy. I always picture the winter as a long period to invest some time, and this year a little money, in making lots of improvements around the nursery. But time always seems to get the better of us, by the time we have got Christmas out of the way, many staff are on shorter hours and the weather plays its part, it is all over too soon. I have to rush back into the lab growth room in a minute to finish mounting the new LED lights and plugging the last few in, it will be a great job done but would have been a lot easier in an empty room rather than a room full of plants. The new lab store is finished and packed full of stuff again which means we have nearly got Despatch back to normal, just a final clearout and reorganise to do there. I can’t quite believe how much of the old lab cold-store we reused, recycled, or used for fuel. The longest life story goes to the aluminium shelving that originally came out of one of our first delivery vans, which was first recycled as the old cold-store shelving for plants and has now been remade as racking for storing the lab media. I will put this story to an extra use by recycling it through the NUS Green Impact scheme we are now enrolled on, should go down a storm, although the much of our earlier recycling goes down to being a really tight nurseryman!
Looking back I think we will be pleased with the winter changes, lower energy use, more efficient lab facilities, a new roof cover over the lab has stopped the weather making its way in, more ground cover to reduce herbicide use, the installation of a new drainage system to reduce the open ditches and flooding and eventually enable us to collect more water for the irrigation. It’s all go.
Keep up the good work out there in the cold, it’ll be warmer soon.



2017 Catalogue

Links for the 2017 flipbook catalogue (and a pdf version should you need to print it out) with lots of pictures of most of the perennials we grow are;

Flipbook http://online.1stflip.com/dpyl/367v/    (Best viewed on desktop or laptop but not currently on mobile phones)

Pdf   https://www.dropbox.com/s/nasnx3xy8r1nfdy/Catalogue%202017%20complete.pdf?dl=0    (This is a big file due to the large numbers of images in it. We would encourage you to use the flipbook instead saving more of the worlds resources)

Availability highlights
If it is still a bit early but you fancy a smaller order to get going, then we can offer a lower minimum delivery volume until the end of February. Ideally a 15 tray minimum is best but we could stretch to 12 trays if you are fairly local or we are passing by.
The ever popular Erysimum Bowles Mauve are already in bud, it will be a while before much colour shows but the plants are strong, hardy and bushy. Also now bud appearing on Apricot Twist and the lovely Red Jep. The Pulmonaria are coming one well with bud and the odd open flower on the Blue Ensign which is the most forward and the variegated Opal and Mageste are both looking smart.  Although some plants may look sad for a while after a hard frost, they soon perk up again if left to recover in their own time. Ideally they benefit from a bit of protection from the harshest conditions to keep up the good looks, but try to avoid too much warmth.
Have a good week from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Lighting up my life

Morning all,
Nursery ramblings should be back next week, I have to shut myself away for the rest of
the weekend (again) in the lab growth room fitting LED lights, ooh it must be
such a fab lifestyle working on  nursery!

Just a quick reminder of the catalogue link below.
I have added a pdf version below it as I have been asked for a printable version of
the file and this is easier to print from than the flipbook.

The 2017 flipbook catalogue link is;

http://online.1stflip.com/dpyl/367v/
(This onscreen version is best viewed on desktop, laptop and most tablets but not on mobile phones)

The 2017 pdf catalogue link is;

https://www.dropbox.com/s/nasnx3xy8r1nfdy/Catalogue%202017%20complete.pdf?dl=0 (This pdf version is best viewed used if you desperately need to print off a version of
the catalogue. It is a very big file due to the large numbers of images in it.
We would encourage you to use the flipbook version instead which saves more of
the worlds resources)

Keep warm,
Derek

Monday, 16 January 2017

Chilled and Hairy

Morning all,

Nice day down here on Saturday, had a very pleasant run around taking a 7-0 thrashing from Chichester, sun was out and not too cold. But today is not so nice, very damp and chilly out there so no outdoor heroics from me that’s for sure. Just contemplating an afternoon’s shelf construction in the new lab store, which is at long last, now nearing completion. The heating works in there so I should get a nice, long and cosy, undisturbed run at it and perhaps tomorrow clear out all the lab stock which is cluttering up despatch. Very pleased with the reuse of materials in the new store, we managed to construct a big new racking system for micro-prop media storage and a couple of shelving units out of the old materials we dismantled in the old cold store. It might look a bit second hand and took a bit of adjusting and constructing but it does the job. The cold room is now complete with the replaced chiller unit running well and helping to heat up the rest of the store too. As the chiller cools it removes heat from the cold room it would normally vent the excess heat outside, but we have vented it to stay inside to reduce the heat demand in the main store. As we only use the chiller in the winter there is no real issue with producing too much heat in there at other times of the year when it could get too warm. We have also set up the cold room to be able to run in the summer at 21C, so converting it into a growth room and getting more use out of the unit and hopefully more return from our investment. We only need a couple more log cabins and we could also double up as a winter wonderland attraction at Christmas.

2017 Catalogue and prices
By now I would normally have sent out our 2017 catalogue and price list but I have to apologise for a slight delay. It’s all my fault, I may have got a bit over ambitious with a few catalogue changes for the coming season. Rather than sending out a simple paper version I have opted to produce an online flipbook into which I can put images of almost all the plants we produce so you can see how the plants eventually flower etc. In theory this would save a lot of time setting out the paper version and printing it off as well as being more sustainable by using fewer materials. Needless to say this hasn’t gone perhaps quite as smoothly as hoped, such are my skills as the company IT manager, but we are now very close to finishing and you should be able to see something very soon.
We have started sending out a few 2017 orders already so you will need to bear in mind that our prices have all increased by 5p a pot to help cover the myriad of increasing costs following the Living Wage changes, oil price rises and exchange rate fall out.

Availability highlights
We have a few winter performers on offer and if anyone would like to make up a smaller order we will do our best to get it to you asap. Ideally a 15 tray minimum is best but we could stretch to 12 trays if you are fairly local or we are passing by. The Hellebores are coming on well and a few are ready to roll. Helleborus niger Advent Star is a very early flowering form and has plenty of flower and bud showing already, so don’t miss out on that one. We have a great new range of orientalis with several colours and forms (singles, doubles and spotted). We have already spotted the occasional bud, so hopeful of some good sales to come there, They are certainly looking strong at the moment.
The ever popular Erysimum Bowles Mauve are already in bud, it will be a while before the colour shows but the plants are strong, hardy and bushy. The other varieties look good too, but it should be a few weeks before bud appears on those. The Pulmonaria are coming one well with a little bud beginning to appear on a few. Blue Ensign is the most forward and the variegated Opal is looking smart. Our own saved seed of local wild primrose from the farm wood are looking chunky and not far off flowering, the odd bud has opened already.
Ajuga have attractive evergreen foliage and look good through the cooler months, we have a good range ready now. The other varieties we have listed are looking green and full of promise, many staying evergreen despite the cold. Although some plants may look sad for a while after a hard frost, they soon perk up again if left to recover in their own time. Ideally they benefit from a bit of protection from the harshest conditions to keep up the good looks, but try to avoid too much warmth.

Wooden box collections
We have been collected up lots of wooden trays in recent weeks, so if you have any needing collection just drop us an email and we will add you to the list of destinations.

Have a good year and week from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Small and Hairy

Morning all,
Nearly back into the swing of things after a nice break. It was a bit of a nippy week for the return to work and staff numbers were a bit low with a combination of extended breaks, cold weather days off, winter bugs and jury service but we still seemed to get through lots of bits and pieces, including a few small but highly valued orders.
The new lab store and cold room are soaking up the hours at the moment as we try and get it fully operational. The cock up (not mine this time!) of fitting a freezer unit (-15 to -25C) rather than a chiller (+6C to -10C) to the cold room was rectified on Friday although it still isn’t actually running yet. It should get commissioned on Monday with luck and then we are off, all guns blazing. I have already completed the shelving and LED installation in the cold room and quite a bit of plant stock has been moved in. Next is the racking for the 56 crates of media storage to assemble. (The media is agar jelly poured into the little grow tubs and kept for a few days to check no contaminants are growing in it), It is just 120 pieces of metal angle salvaged from the old dismantled store which I’m hoping will naturally all fit nicely together. After that there are just the other storage fittings to go and we can move in all the other dry stock which is stacked in the growth room and despatch. At this point we should then have enough space for a week or two to fit the remaining new LED lights in the growth room and clear despatch ready to sell some plants. Then there is just the drainage system to develop, acid store to upgrade, track- ways to resurface, gravel weed suppressant to lay and, oh yes nearly forgot, all the plants to cut back and tidy ready for the Spring sales. I always look forward to the quiet winter period to recover from the pressures of a long sales season!
Our little 3.5t van has now clocked up over 270,000 miles and is need of a little rest so we are shortly to put it into semi- retirement and get a new version. I have been researching all the new models which is really tricky as many of the manufacturers share chassis’s and engines making picking out the best for what we need, a real challenge. Happily I can say that it appears that they are all improving their performance as each year passes and after seeing a report on diesel cars earlier in the week the reason this is so is that they are governed by more stringent rules than their domestic equivalents. It’s something to do with the way emissions are tested and it turns out that commercial vehicles have to be much cleaner burning than the cars by a huge amount, as they are tested in real world conditions rather than in a lab. We have a small diesel car ourselves and I now feel total misled into making what we thought at the time was an environmentally responsible purchase, but there you go, so much for believing the big boys.
Availability highlights
We have a few winter performers on offer and if anyone would like to make up a smaller order we will do our best to get it to you asap. Ideally a 15 tray minimum is best but we could stretch to 12 trays if you are fairly local or we are passing by. The Hellebores are coming on well and a few are ready to roll. Helleborus niger Advent Star is a very early flowering form and has plenty of flower and bud showing already, so don’t miss out on that one. We have a great new range of orientalis with several colours and forms (singles, doubles and spotted). We have already spotted the occasional bud, so hopeful of some good sales to come there, They are certainly looking strong at the moment.
The ever popular Erysimum Bowles Mauve are already in bud, it will be a while before the colour shows but the plants are strong, hardy and bushy. The other varieties look good too, but it should be a few weeks before bud appears on those. The Pulmonaria are coming one well with a little bud beginning to appear on a few. Blue Ensign is the most forward and the variegated Opal is looking smart.
Our own saved seed of local wild primrose from the farm wood are looking chunky and not far off flowering, the odd bud has opened already. Ajuga have attractive evergreen foliage and look good through the cooler months, we have a good range ready now. The other varieties we have listed are looking green and full of promise, many staying evergreen despite the cold. Although some plants may look sad for a while after a hard frost, they soon perk up again if left to recover in their own time. Ideally they benefit from a bit of protection from the harshest conditions to keep up the good looks, but try to avoid too much warmth.
Wooden box collections
We have been collected up lots of wooden trays in recent weeks, so if you have any needing collection just drop us an email and we will add you to the list of destinations.
Have a good year and week from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Hairy New Year to all

Morning all,
Happy New Year to you all. I hope you all had a brilliant Christmas break, fully refreshed and ready to roll in 2017.
I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear we had a great time, the usual huge Turkey (and nut roast) lunch with lots of family down on the farm and plenty of games to follow. Also squeezed in the annual friends and family hockey day (15 a side) a couple of days later, then all back for lunch and more games. Luckily a only simple chilli and baked potatoes to cater for. Nearly all the leftovers are gone now other than the vastly over portioned veg chilli which we have been eating up over the last three days, that’s a lot of beans! The last of it is now in the freezer for emergency use later when the wind eases off.
Managed to slip down to the nursery several times to press on with the new wooden insulated lab store. The cold room in, it was fitted on the Tuesday before Christmas but unfortunately they mistakenly installed a freezer unit rather than a chiller (-15C rather than +4C) so they are back in the new year to swap over. Meanwhile I have managed to refit most of the shelving and LED lights in it ready for the plants and even part filled it with stock to make some space in the growth room. Very pleased with the result so far. Quite excited that not only is the new store far more energy efficient, but more versatile too. When it is not in use as a cold-room in the winter months we can adjust the heating/cooling to use it as an extra growth room in the summer. In the winter the chiller unit deposits its waste heat into the rest of the store to save a little on the heating input. The rest of the store is temperature controlled so we can store a lot more of the agar media ready for micro- propagation which saves room in the main growth room and gives us the chance to weed out any contaminated agar should any contaminants start to grow in it before it is planted up.
We got the first phase of the new nursery drainage network laid before the break which should mean less tunnel flooding and a safer work environment now that the previous open ditch arrangements are all filled in. A slightly frustrating job as it was really hard work to put in and then we buried it all so not much to show for all that toil!
The new structure we erected over the lab work and growth room has worked a treat, no more leak complaints and everything is looking nice and dry. Another big job but at least we can see it, even if it doesn’t contribute a huge amount to the margins, something that just had to be done.
Managed to fit in the Christmas decoration installation late on Christmas eve. I’m afraid we don’t add much to the coffers of the local decor sellers, my homemade chains have been going for years and still plenty of life in them yet. Started on the beer a little too early, should have decorated first. In my rush climbing on and off the chair I dismounted slightly off balance and stepped onto the paper chain pile causing some major flattening of the decorative family heirloom, still it could have been worse I could have crushed me baubles.
Availability highlights
We have a few winter performers on offer and if anyone would like to make up a smaller order we will do our best to get it to you asap. Ideally a 15 tray minimum is best but we could stretch to 12 trays if you are fairly local or we are passing by. The Hellebores are coming on well and a few are ready to roll. Helleborus niger Advent Star is a very early flowering form and has plenty of flower and bud showing already, so don’t miss out on that one. We have a great new range of orientalis with several colours and forms (singles, doubles and spotted). We have already spotted the occasional bud, so hopeful of some good sales to come there, They are certainly looking strong at the moment.
The ever popular Erysimum Bowles Mauve are already in bud, it will be a while before the colour shows but the plants are strong, hardy and bushy. The other varieties look good too, but it should be a few weeks before bud appears on those. The Pulmonaria are coming one well with a little bud beginning to appear on a few. Blue Ensign is the most forward and the variegated Opal is looking smart.
Our own saved seed of local wild primrose from the farm wood are looking chunky and not far off flowering, the odd bud has opened already. Ajuga have attractive evergreen foliage and look good through the cooler months, we have a good range ready now. The other varieties we have listed are looking green and full of promise, many staying evergreen despite the cold. Although they may look sad for a while after a hard frost, they perk up again if left to recover in their own time. Ideally they benefit from a bit of protection from the harshest conditions to keep up the good looks, but try to avoid too much warmth. Wooden box collections
We have been collected up lots of wooden trays in recent weeks, so if you have any needing collection just drop us an email and we will add you to the list of destinations.
Have a good year and week from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries.