Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Hairy Equinox

Morning all,
Autumn panic all round as we try and get all the potting finished. Just a few of the more vigorous types to go and the spring bulbs which are due in any minute. Still clearing up from the summer production and sales in advance of the potters. This is always a satisfying job, regaining control, tidiness and order from apparent chaos. Holidays are being taken left right and centre after the school hols are over and prices fall, which is great and well earned by those taking it but adds an extra layer of pressure on those left trying to get on top of things. Luckily only another couple of weeks of production pressure on the nursery and then we can relax into the quiet of the autumn and winter (see below).
The lab work meanwhile is beginning to gear up as they get started on another big production year. In an effort to reduce the impact of the living wage increases (11% this year) we are trying to spread the lab production peak over a longer period which seems to be working ok, the only downside being that there is little let up in work to draw breath, relax and take stock. The lab output starts much earlier in the year than the nursery and is now finishing later so no pressure there! I now drawn up a monster list of all the projects that we ideally need to complete over next few ‘quiet’ months.
  • We have a new roof to go over the lab and growth room to stop the rot (literally). 
  • We are looking to replace the remaining 120 fluorescent lights in the lab growth room with LEDs which means remaking shelves, rewiring and mounting. 
  • The cold store has dissolved in damp and decay over the last few years so it needs replacing (new super insulated shed with a small internal cold store on the wish list).
  • New drainage channels for the nursery for flood prevention and water collection/recycling.
  • Install a small acid bulk tank to treat our hard water, replacing the more hazardous multiple drums currently used. 
  • Ground cover to install to further reduce herbicide use.
  • The list goes on.....
Luckily the bank manager wrote last week saying how he would like to lend more. Let’s hope he means it.

Availability highlights
The little hardy Cyclamen coum are just getting started now, with a few flowers open and loads of bud to come. This range flowers from now until April, a real winter star. The Hellebores coming on well and a few are ready to roll. We have a great new range of orientalis with several colours and forms (singles, doubles and spotted). They should be flowering from their first winter so hopeful of some good sales there, They are certainly looking strong at the moment. We still have Erigeron karvinskianus  in bud and flower. Prettily scrambling away it flowers for ever. We have a late flush of bud on many of the Anemone japonica varieties.
We cut back and potted a few more Echinacea a while ago and we now have a nice bonus crop of a couple of varieties producing a flush of bud and colour. Lovely plants but they won’t hang around long. A wide range of Asters are appearing with more and more bud and colour showing. We have several new varieties, many mildew free/resistant (ageratoides and frikartii types).
There is a very pretty fresh crop of Tiarella in flower at the moment, should look good for a few weeks yet. We have a few pink Erodiums in flower which are looking nice and should keep going until the frosts. Some of the summer potted Achillea are showing bud as they bulk up before their winter rest. There is also flower on the Anthemis Charme which is a bright new compact variety with numerous pretty small yellow daisies which flower for an age.
I’ll just whisper it quietly that we have a few Schizostylis (Hesperatha) in bud and showing the odd bit of colour. They are quite early this season and not many left I’m afraid so don’t tell everyone. We will try and grow extra of all varieties, but especially our red form next year. I have a couple of the red left which are just opening and they are spectacular, great colour and big flowers. It’s a specially selected form which we propagate in our microprop lab so it comes true to type, the only issue really is the crop timing, it usually tends to be a bit late flowering for most but it is well worth waiting for.

Wooden box collections
We have been making a concerted effort to collect up lots of wooden trays in recent 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. Lots collected and cleaned up already but always room for more.
Have a good week from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Hairy sustainability at an old age

Morning all,

 Now the house martins have gone too and suddenly after a sweltering week, today feels much more autumnal. A relief in some ways but a shock to have to find more clothes to put on. Good weather for hockey and after a resounding 11-2 victory last weekend we have a tougher match to look forward to tomorrow, just hoping that this time we won’t get so wet. I think that was my first win for over a year, last year was not one to remember too fondly, only won once and I wasn’t playing that week, then broke my finger towards the seasons end just to cap it off. Fed up big time and an end to any hopes of a successful hand modelling career.
Very busy finishing off the bulk of the summer and early autumn potting after the delayed compost delivery eventually arrived on Monday evening. A few more days to go now but we will need to dip into the next container of pots that docked on Friday which must indicate good news on the sales front for the summer but has meant an extra pre-winter purchase which always dents the cash-flow somewhat. We always start getting a bit twitchy at this time of year as the overdraft starts to edge upwards again and the likelihood of any late sales surge fade into the afternoon sunset. Suddenly every purchase gets looked at a bit harder and thoughts turn to ever more efficiencies to build into next year’s production. At least now we have a few minutes to think about it rather than leaping from one urgent job to another.
Part of our ongoing development involved a meeting last week of the local Sustainable Business Partnership at Sparsholt College to see a few presentations on all the latest environmental news. We have taken part in quite a few local initiatives over the years, PLATO Sustain was a very good one and we learnt a lot in that group, 10:10 was a national campaign to highlight carbon reduction but only really concentrating on the achievements made around 2010, and Carbon Smart Winchester was a locally funded audit scheme which sought to recognise carbon reduction achievements in the area. Both the 10:10 and Carbon Smart schemes were nice to be a part of and it was great to be able to show a gold certificate recognising our achievements but they were a bit too focussed on carbon reduction which is only a part of the sustainability agenda and neither were very proactive once you got to the top, on inspiring greater things. Both schemes have fizzled out now, in this area anyway, so it was great to see the NUS (yes the National Union of Students) promoting a Winchester version of their Green Impact Scheme which has a much broader sustainability scope and what appears to be a more proactive involvement in spreading ideas and inspiration among the participants. Apparently students were asked what they wanted the NUS to put their efforts into and this was a big concern. There is quite a bit of student training and involvement in the auditing and knowledge transfer which is great experience for them and keeps costs for the scheme admin low. It will be interesting to see how it goes and get some youthful input, we’ll certainly have a go at it.

Availability highlights
We still have Erigeron karvinskianus  in bud and flower. Prettily scrambling away it flowers for ever. We cut back and potted a few more Echinacea a while ago and we now have a nice bonus crop of a couple of varieties producing a flush of bud and colour. Lovely plants but they won’t hang around long.
A wide range of Asters are appearing with more and more bud and colour showing. We have several new varieties, many mildew free/resistant (ageratoides and frikartii types).
There is a very pretty fresh crop of Tiarella in flower at the moment, should look good for a few weeks yet. We have a few pink Erodiums in flower which are looking nice and should keep going until the frosts. 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. Charme is a bright new compact variety with numerous pretty little yellow daisies which flowers for an age.
The little hardy Cyclamen coum are just getting started now, with a few flowers open and loads of bud to come. This range flowers from now until April, a real winter star.
The Hellebores are coming on well and a few are ready to roll. We have a great new range of orientalis with several colours and forms (singles, doubles and spotted). They should be flowering from their first winter so hopeful of some good sales there, They are certainly looking strong at the moment.

Wooden box collections
We are 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.
from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 12 September 2016

Hairy holidays

Morning all,
Summer slipping away now. Second brood of Swallows have fledged and gone. Still seeing the odd flock passing over  and heading south and a few House Martins are hanging on roosting around the house and making the most of the warm humid weather. All the plans to get the log store filled and dry evaporated with the pressure of nursery life so need to spend a few weekends catching up on that, it’s all go.
Hectic week of potting done, although a slight hold up with the Calais problems holding up our special peat free compost delivery which has been put off until next week. The last batch has just run out so it’s a bit frustrating when every day counts at this time of year to get enough growth on the stock before the cold and dark sets in. Luckily the tactic of growing on our young plants in a big module prior to potting has paid dividends so we are potting a much chunkier beast to start with anyway so all should be fine. The extra process adds a bit to the production cost but we gain so much in flexibility and quality it easily makes up the extra hours. Material wise it doesn’t cost any more as we are using solid reusable plug trays that must be 15+ years old already, and potting compost, which simply means we use less at potting due to the bigger module size. A useful reduction in waste also helps with most plant health issues being graded out at an earlier stage so only healthy chunky stock gets as far as the pot and its compost. Sometimes a plan works out ok!
I have been a bit quiet on the news front over the last couple of weeks due to taking a couple of summer holidays. On the bank holiday Sunday we took our first whole day off since March to go on a group day trip to the Isle of Wight which was brilliant. Ok it did rain on and off which was a bit of a bind as we were on the beach all day but the cricket and ice creams were excellent. Then last weekend was Mums 80th so we squeezed in a surprise weekend (to Mum) in the Cotswolds with the rest of the family which was very entertaining for all. I was led astray by my brother in law into having a little too much rehydration after a long walk with everyone and I suffered for a while after that! You know it’s been fun when your sides are sore from the laughter. Teetotal this week to make up and prepare for the new hockey season which starts in a few hours. Nearly retired this summer, but with Mum still playing the pressure is on to keep going.

Availability highlights
We still have Erigeron karvinskianus  in bud and flower. Prettily scrambling away it flowers for ever.
We cut back and potted a few more Echinacea a while ago and we now have a nice bonus crop of a couple of varieties producing a flush of bud and colour. Lovely plants but they won’t hang around long.
A wide range of Asters are appearing with more and more bud and colour showing. 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.
There is a very pretty fresh crop of Tiarella in flower at the moment, should look good for a few weeks yet. We have a few pink Erodiums in flower which are looking nice and should keep going until the frosts. 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. Charme is a bright new compact variety with numerous pretty little yellow daisies which flowers for an age. The little hardy Cyclamen coum are just getting started now, with a few flowers and loads of bud to come. This range flowers from now until April, a real winter star.
The Hellebores are close to being ready to roll. We have a great new range of orientalis just around the corner with several colours and forms (singles, doubles and spotted). They should be flowering from their first winter so hopeful of some good sales there, They are certainly looking strong at the moment.
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.
Win some more medals, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Quick and Hairy

Morning all,
A very quick one this morning as it looks like I am getting another trip to see the Saints this afternoon, the rain has held off so far and so harvest motors on and Richard can’t make it. I’ve had a lovely Saturday morning doing one of my favourite jobs of decanting the last of the acid (for the water treatment) in the drums into one and cleaning them all out in readiness for a fresh delivery on Tuesday. At least the sun was in so only lost a couple of pounds fiddling about in all the protective kit. I always think of the Bond movie when the girl dies after being painted all over in gold, it feels like no part of me is exposed, which is the point of the kit after all!
Holiday mode has set in already, put out the recycling this morning and loaded the car with the grocery bags only to find on arrival at the supermarket that there on the back seat was the recycling. Shoot me now.
It can only get better, might have a day off tomorrow with a day trip on offer, just got to get the chores done this end first. Nursery looks organised and it doesn’t look like being too hot so should be ok for a few hours.
Hope you all have a good one if you get the chance..

Availability highlights
A few more buds appearing on a few odds and ends of fresh stock as we race towards the autumn.
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.
We cut back and potted a few more Echinacea a while ago and we now have a nice bonus crop of a couple of varieties producing a flush of bud and colour. Lovely plants but they won’t hang around long.
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 bright 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.
from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

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