Monday, 30 April 2012

It is another special day today with another big game for Southampton and it’s on the telly later, let’s hope it all goes our way and West Ham don’t sneak in at the last moment. Caroline is already on the way to the game and will hopefully return in high spirits in a few hours time otherwise our wedding anniversary may pass by under a cloud of doom! At the moment any distraction from the ongoing cruddy weather and slowdown in sales is a welcome relief for all of us. I have been hearing from retailers and growers this last week about the rather long lull in sales we are all seeing during this damp spell. If it’s any consolation we are all in it together and you are not alone. We can only do our best with what we are dealt on the weather front and hope that the purses fall open with gay abandon when the sunshine returns.

Anyway back to the distractions. We have had a really good week this week focusing on improving things in as many ways as we can. We have been doing a bit more tidying, spacing and potting (ever the optimist) and trying to overcome a few of the long-term niggles that hamper our production efforts. We took delivery of another trial batch of peat-free compost this week as we strive to find a mix that suits our production system and the coir pots. I know we have a few people champing at the bit for us to get this sorted so that they can get well and truly stuck into a bit of hairy retailing. I also tried out a couple of different dressings to cover the surface of our module trays we use in the propagation houses. We have always had a battle on to control moss and liverwort growth at this early stage of the production and have now come across a couple of potential solutions. One is fine granules of cork which spread very thinly on the module, flow nicely around the plantlet, if it is vertical enough in its growth habit, stay dry and block the light from getting to the compost surface so stopping the moss and liverworts. It looks great but being cork is very easily dislodged by movement or wind. The second trial is a product developed by Tref called GO M6 for the seedling producing companies. It seeks to overcome all the issues involved in module coverings, it flows easily, spreads thinly, stops moss and liverwort, sticks to the module surface but without forming a solid layer, shows the dry/wet state of the compost below it and makes the tea. It is a mixture of 5 or 6 ingredients whose physical properties combine to achieve all this, so hopefully we save lots of labour tidying stock later in the process. Let’s hope it works.

Our phone system was repaired on Monday so we are now back on wireless phones again should you need to get hold of us. I’m not saying we will answer the phone but perhaps if the sun comes out we may feel up to it!

The fillinable Word version of the availability list seems to be working well now judging by the number of people now using it. Let me know if you have any issues with it and I will tweak when I get a moment. Spring is springing and things are looking yummy.

Eco News

They say one swallow doesn’t make a summer, well the second has arrived and nesting discussions a re proceeding in the donkey shed. Now we are looking out for the house martins which tend to be two or three weeks later.

Another big improvement on the nursery this week was the discovery of how to adjust the pressure regulators on the overhead sprinkler lines we put in a while ago. I always blamed our poor water pressure for the slightly disappointing spray pattern which created too many little regular dry spots, but after the new pumps were set up in the winter I had hoped this would resolve itself. Naturally it didn’t and this week I found time to investigate further. The irrigation company kindly se nt me a pressure gauge to fit on the spray lines to check we were getting what we needed. The good news was that all the tunnels were working at very similar pressures despite the rather varied range of pipe sizes that have been installed over the years.

The bad news was that the pressure was just a little too low. At this point the penny dropped that the pressure regulators might not be set at the right pressure. Having never used these before I had assumed they were preset and I couldn’t alter them, however after dismantling one I found out how to readjust it and I was away. With the pressure bumped up they now look to be working brilliantly and my faith in the new system is restored. Although the pressure is greater we will now be using less water as we don’t have to overwater to keep the old dry spots damp enough.

If you need a fax list please let us know, pick it up from the website or alternately send an email address.

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 23 April 2012

April showers rule. Nice bit of turbine production this week although there is a long way to go to catch up on the lack of wind over the last couple of months. The turbines made the local paper this week as an arty shot of one of them at sunset sent in by a reader. Fame at last.

Big day today with Southampton in with a chance of securing promotion to the Premiership, it’s a shame in a way it’s on the telly as I’ve yet to see them do themselves justice on the box. I might listen on the radio instead.

I’ve had an uplifting week on two fronts, summer is close as the swallows have returned and the office sprang a leak. I came in after coffee on Thursday to find a puddle of water on my desk, if it had been underneath I might have put it down to stress or the cat but this was coming through the light fitting. Luckily after checking out the roof condition we were able to sort it by resealing the gutter feed and lifting one corner of the office which has developed a sag after many years service (I know the feeling). I am now sat about two inches higher than last week and feeling much more level headed.

The phone system is still a bit dodgy at the moment after the breakdown last week, please select option 1 i f you call in which does at least ring the desk phones. Our hand-held phones are not working yet so we may not pick up your call if we are out and about, so please leave a message and we will get back to you ASAP. The email and fax are working fine.

A bit busier this last week on orders, which is good after the post-Easter lull. Good news that retail sales are supposed to be recovering, hopefully that will filter down to the plant trade as the weather picks up.

Off out again this week to see our favourite boogie-woogie pianist Ben Waters at The Railway pub in Winchester. Last time we saw him he was playing with Charlie Watts (Rolling Stones) but this time it is just him banging away on the pub piano, should be good, might even do a bit more dad dancing. Also have a couple of other concerts booked for later in the year, one which sold out ages ago is Elvis Costello and another is Adam Ant! That should bring back some memories. I have seen both before, Elvis in 1981 and Adam Ant in 1980 and 1982. Adam Ant was ace in 80, a great rock concert whereas in 82 the audience had turned into screaming young teenagers and their mums. Dressing for this one could be fun, trouble is the last time I tried struggled into my PVC trousers (circa 1979) they had perished and they had got even snugger fitting than before. Perhaps something with an elasticated waistband would be more appropriate?

Eco News

A birdy week with the swallows return and a white baby blackbird spotted. Red Kite seen overhead.

As the temperatures climb a bit there are plenty of frogs and toads active in the tunnels and with another good hatching of tadpoles we should have loads by the end of the summer. We have suppressed the urge to put a fish or two in the ponds to give the insects and amphibians for of a chance to successfully breed in high numbers.

The turbine open day for prospective buyers went well. There were plenty of visitors and the weather was nice and breezy so they got a good impression of the reality of living close to these turbines. I didn’t have much to do with the visitors, that was all handled by the reps for the turbine company. I did offer my services but I obviously made such an impression on the reps early in the day that I wasn’t required! I did put up the latest graphs of output and an example of our new super complicated electricity invoice. Apparently the main reaction was surprise at how quiet they were even up close and how much this model produced in relatively quiet conditions compared with other makes. They hope to have picked up a couple of sales although you never can tell with these things on the day.

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 16 April 2012

Bit nippy and damp today but at least the turbines are going round. A nice bit of rain should quell the worries of water restrictions for a bit and suppress the urge to buy frost sensitive bedding weeks before the frost risk passes. Those heady days of 20C+ seem a long way off now but I’m sure they will return eventually, probably in October.
We have had another very hectic week, although not particularly on orders after Sunday closing and Bank holiday Monday’s rain. The new air heater in the propagation tunnel was fitted and is running well, removing the need for the electric fire collection which had been put in as temporary frost protection. We have tidied up a few tunnels making some more space for the potting team which they have refilled with lovely fresh stock.

Feeling a bit jaded this morning after a full social schedule this week. On Monday I did a delivery to Cornwall leaving here after lunch listening to 8hrs of football on Radio 5Live getting back just after the Chelsea game finished at 10.30, missed dinner. We finished our skittles season in style losing 3-0 on Tuesday, naturally the chef was off so no dinner that night. Thursday saw a trip to Wimborne Dorset to see Marcus Bonfanti in concert. Left in plenty of time with dinner booked in at a friend’s nearby. Major crash at Ringwood which was announced on the radio as we came to a standstill, 1.5 hours later we moved off and headed straight to the theatre missing dinner again. We missed the support act but caught the main show which was brilliant, shame there weren’t more there to see it, a fantastic singing, guitar playing and writing talent, entertaining and loud! He is something between, Jimmy Page and Seasick Steve, a great blues entertainer, check him out if you get the chance . Last night saw a double event, Caroline went to see Saints lose to Reading in a top of the table clash and I went to the hockey club black tie dinner. Luckily I managed to find a substitute partner to go with and I think I had the better night, dad dancing until the early hours. Not a pretty sight.

It’s always when you are a bit tired that things conspire against you. Late on Thursday we had a spectacular thunderstorm and over the next 24 hours kept finding things that had been knocked out by it. One turbine tripped out, the irrigation pumps went down, the boilers went off, part of the phone system won’t work and the software got upset on our special handheld computer we use for updating stock info. We have put right everything but the phones, so well done us. Then on Friday Phil our main driver phoned in to say the warning lights had come on again in the new van and he was on his way to the garage, we had only had it back on the road 3 days. Luckily it turned out to be nothing major and it was put right in an instant. It’s such fun running your own nursery, it’s so relaxing working with nature and the seasons, anyone will tell you that. Luckily there are lots of things about that can improve my mood. I always take great heart from the many occasions when my tea bag goes straight in my mug when thrown from the other side of the table.

Eco News

I’ve been feeding and watering my beetle breeding bucket and there are signs on life in there so hopefully they will do their job consuming all our root nibblers in the propagation tunnels. I had to build them a little shelter this week to keep them from getting to hot in the sun, I hope they appreciate it.

We have a group of prospective turbine buyers coming round this week to see our installation. They are hoping to see a warts and all real life scheme rather than just buying from a brochure, which is very sensible. I hope I get time to go up with them to temper the enthusiasm of the salesman with a bit of realism. I am still very keen on ours but there have been more problems with keeping them going than I expected. Last time I spoke to the chief mending man I said ‘is it just me?’ and he said ‘yes’. So that’s official, they’ve all got it in for me.

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

07 April 2012

Got my woolly hat on in the office, it must be Easter Bank Holiday. I am wearing a lot more than just the woolly hat just in case your mind was wandering already. Lots of good news this week with hosepipe restrictions in some areas and snow ravaging the north of the country after all that balmy weather. We got off quite lightly with some cold but not too bad overall, mind you the electric consumption went up a bit with the overnight heating in the propagation house needed to cover for the loss of our oil fired hot air heater. Should have a new heater in place in a week or two, just as the weather warms up again. Naturally the week before Easter is usually very busy shipping out all those orders ready for the holiday rush to the nurseries and garden centres and this past week was no exception. Thanks to everyone for their prompt ordering this week which helped a lot in getting things organised so quickly, if only everything went so smoothly when the pressure is on. We had one tyre repair last Saturday, followed by another on a different van on Tuesday, then our brand new big van threw a wobbly on Wednesday, half way round the deliveries. Lights and warning sirens went off while driving along near Gatwi ck and the garage was summoned. They attended fairly promptly and plugged in the computer to find all systems ok, it must have been an electrical hiccup and all should be fine. 15 minutes later on the M25, off they go again and the gears stop changing but Phil got it on the hard shoulder ok. To be fair the garage where brilliant, organising a tow back to Ferndown and getting a hire van there to transfer the load and driver on to. So, sorry to those who missed out on Wednesday and thanks for allowing us to reschedule for Friday morning, that was a great help. They have narrowed the fault gown to a control box and we should be back to normal on Wednesday, so we will have to manage with the rather sad hire van until then.
We had our first delivery of biological control predators come in this week, a bottle of 5,000 flying aphid predators, a couple
of bags of predatory mites (500,042 mites, approx) that lunch on thrips and other soft bodied pests, a small number of
whitefly predator cards and a bucket of BYO (breed your own) beetles which feed on small compost based pests like sciarid fly larvae which can be a problem in warm moist places like our propagation tunnels. The bucket breeding system maintains a multiplying population of beetles of which a proportion will climb out of the bucket and spread around the tunnel hunting for food. I have to remember to water and feed the bucket population with special beetle food to keep it going and we should get regular beetle output for 10 weeks or so. We can move the bucket about to populate three tunnels with the predator which should make it pretty good value. The other predators and a few different ones will continue to be introduced through the spring and summer to maintain viable populations so we should only need to spray the odd area if a pest gets out of control or if we get outbreaks of the large American Lupin Aphid which has no commercially available UK predator. All the predators released do occur naturally in the UK so there is no risk of introducing a bigger imported alien problem at a later date.
Big game later today with Southampton playing local rivals Portsmouth, Caroline has already left to get her place at the fron t of the pie queue as it is a sell-out crowd. It is all getting a bit tense with West Ham and Reading both pressing Saints hard for the two automatic promotion places and Portsmouth trying to avoid the drop. Hopefully it won’t get to heated, it is only a game after all and as long as everyone has a nice time and tries hard, what does it really mat ter.
Even more important than the point we one from the top skittles team this week, was seeing our star player Roger return to support us after his heart problem. He was on top form, jolly, positive, as down to earth as ever and inspired several stick -ups on his arrival. It was great to see him back and have a hug. Well done all his friends and family and the NHS for seeing him through a tricky time.
Lots of spring growth coming on, loads of lovely stuff. It all looks so good I can’t think of anything I can highlight! Buy lots. Eco News
Turbine menders here again this week. The same problem as before, Jackdaws trying to build nests under all 3 generator covers, despite the netting put in last week. They pulled out a sensor wire which registered as a fault on one and got a bit of twig caught in the turbine which made it click on another. They have all been rewired and hopefully that will do the trick, although they did see two Jackdaws hanging upside down from the netting flapping their wings and bouncing about trying to dislodge it! Gosh, cheeky blighters.
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If you need a fax list please let us know, pick it up from the website or alternately send an email address.
Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries