Monday, 30 January 2012

Looks like a bit of cool weather this week which is just fine with us. Better to get winter out of the way in January than deal with it in April. Hopefully it won’t be too bad as I know it can get a bit stressful for some, no matter how much the kids love it. Hopefully it will knock out a few more pests which have had it too easy so far this season.

Unfortunately, but not entirely surprisingly, the cooler weather is timed perfectly with the start of the microprop lab pricking out work, so the boilers are on and the lights programmed to get them off to a healthy start. At this time of year we can get big problems with humidity in the heated tunnel and associated problems with disease which have been tricky to deal with. The temptation in the cold is to seal everything up to prevent the expensive heat escaping, so we have a double skin on the tunnel and all the draughts reduced to keep it cosy, now I understand more about water content held in air after attending a seminar on a house plant nursery, we can manage the resulting humidity much more efficiently. The key is that cold air holds on to far less water than warm air, so the warmed air in the tunnel gathers lots of moisture which condenses on any cooler surfaces giving rise to the disease growth and transfer issues, but by occasionally flushing out the warm moist air with cold dry air (because the cold air can’t hold onto the moisture) you remove the water laden air. Then it is just getting the balance right between the occasional flush of cold dry air and keeping the heat loss to a minimum. We use the lights to extend the day length so that the plants are active enough to grow away in their new tough nursery environment after years in 21C and 14 hrs a day under lights in the lab.

Lots of whittling got done this week as we completed one of our winter jobs of repairing all the broken wooden trays that were returned through last year. It looked and sounded like a scene from Santa’s workshop with our own busy pixies and their little hammers tapping away. We have spares for any unrepairable tray sides so very few are beyond putting right, we also remake the inserts up from bits of the broken one’s and we have a few spares for those too. So don’t be embarrassed about sending the odd casualty back we can always do something with it and please bear in mind that careful/tidy stacking the empty trays does help reduce damage. The repairs didn’t take too long and we now have another couple of pallets of strong reusable trays to use again. The wooden tray return idea is working nicely for us, it may be less convenient than the throw away trays of the past with having to collect, clean, dry and repair them, but after the initial painful investment they are now beginning to save us money too. The reduction in waste we have to deal with now is a bonus and hopefully you will have noticed how much less material ends up in landfill from our deliveries compared with some others.

I widened my retail experience this week with my first trip to IKEA in Southampton on Thursday night (only opened 3 years ago). No I don’t get out much. It was a bit overwhelming for such a quick visit. The scariest bit was the multi-storey car park and especially the spiral ramps which had obviously been constructed on the same flat pack principle as all of the furniture. As we drove home we started to recognise IKEA show rooms through people’s windows, so it must be as popular as it was rumoured to be. Naturally the one item we went for was out of stock. We will go back for a proper look round one day. The meat balls looked good.

Eco News

We used our first borehole water this week to apply a bit of irrigation. It worked really well, the new pump set produced a very consistent pressure even when we turned on multiple lines, so this summer looks like a less stressful one for all those trying to water in the potting. The key to this was a more energy efficient pump selection. The two variable speed pumps adjust output to the demand so there isn’t the constant on/off scenario with big pressure vessels etc as we used to have. Not only is the supply more reliable but the pumps use 30-50% less energy which should quickly pay back the extra cost. By controlling our water use we are able to keep daily consumption below 20 cubic meters for most of the year which we can take from the borehole and we are looking to top this up with some harvested rainwater in the future. The neighbours will now benefit from a higher pressure supply, as we will only be using a fraction of our previous mains usage and the water company will no longer be wasting treated pressurised drinking water on plant production.

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 23 January 2012

Just a quick one today as I can’t sit still too long this morning. I over did it a bit this week and my over-eating and lack of exercise has caught up with me. After collecting, moving and splitting a load of logs last weekend ready for next winter I felt a bit stiff. Rather than holding back I tried to keep up with a couple of youngsters on the nursery during the week, helping shift and spreading tonnes of soil and a bit of road-stone as we finished off tidying up the turbine sites. Naturally I still attempted a game of hockey yesterday and although I didn’t play a whole game as I was substituted quite quickly when it became obvious I could do little else but imitate a slow moving pregnant goose. I am now dosed up on muscle relaxant and need to move gently about on a regular basis to prevent complete seizure. Oh to be 30 again.

I am hoping to attach a couple of images to this note of the new tray insert we have been working on to make the watering of our hairy pots quicker and easier. The shallow tray provides a slow draining pool of water allowing the compost more time to absorb the irrigation overspill. The tray corners are open so the water does get away after a few minutes preventing the pots from sitting in a permanent puddle.

There is also an image of the new collection of POS boards we have had made. They each explain a little more detail about the whole hairy pot thing to give more depth to the whole hairy story. It has taken us a while to identify the right style of POS to use to create a complimentary, informative and good value effect and we feel we have pulled it off with these free boards. They simply fold into one of our display boxes which effectively act’s as a picture frame. You can simply lean it on or close to your display, or insert a hook or two and hang the box in an appropriate position.

Eco News

It has now been six months since the turbine were plugged in and as expected we fell just short of anticipated output. The wind forecast was about right but the one turbine with the sensor problem meant that we fell short by just under 2,000 units. At this time of year that is about 6 days wind, so not bad. Mind you will are still waiting for the first FIT payment so payback hasn’t really started yet.

Having tidied up each of the three turbine sites this week by topping the levels back up to ground level, I can see that they should look nicely established by the summer. The hedge plants we cut back to get the foundations in are already showing signs of rejuvenating so they will quickly grow back towards the towers and I’ve got a nice chalk wildflower seed mix to re-sow around the rest of the foundation area.

The water system is up and ready to go, the borehole pump is now running the right way, the leaks are sealed and all the time-clocks and heat protection are all more or less in place. Now we need to save a lot of water to pay for all the new equipment and work done to install it. If only horticulture paid as well as electricians.

We planted some more native hedge plants this week in small clumps around parts of the nursery that are a bit far from other natural habitats. We are hoping that we might get more overwintering of natural predators nearer the tunnels.

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries