Monday, 8 December 2014

Hairy Overload

Good morning all.

Critical week for Christmas tree sales I’m sure. The weather here has just perked up and yesterday was fine, the colder snap and early retail consumer activity seems to have got Christmas sales moving. Hopefully not everyone has run out of money yet and those Christmas specials all get sold. I must admit we manage to avoid the annual tree costs by redecorating my own homemade tree. The current model knocked up out of a bit of 2x2 and an old wooden venetian blind is still going strong and always attracts plenty of attention, despite it coming last in the village show craft section! I’m not bitter. I always like a bit of creative thought to go into Christmas, you can’t buy it all off the shelf. Paper chains are one of my favourites, memories of sticking gummed paper strips together as a kid were revisited when I made some new ones a few years ago. This time I upgraded to a more subtle version by cutting the strips into 4, 8 and even 16. The smallest size made little loops just big enough to go round my little-finger tip, it was a bit fiddly and took forever to make any length but the overall effect was very dinky and looks great on the tree. They have kept for years by storing in a biscuit tin, just watch out if you try it yourself, you will need the strips with gum/glue all over the back not just the ends. Get the kids on it , should keep them quiet for hours. I must get out more.
No time for decorating this week, Nearly all Tuesday disappeared with a trip to get a vehicle recall issue sorted on the big van and a visit from the new bank manager to sort out the overdraft for the next year. Bit stressful as the years figures are vastly improved over the previous two disastrous seasons but still not a pretty sight. Luckily he could see the positive side and assuming he can get it all approved by his bosses we should be able to squeeze through another winter until the cash starts appearing again.
Wednesday was a very educational day with a trip to Lowaters nursery for an IPPS workshop on compost tea, biological controls and the latest pesticide updates. The sheer volume of info was slightly mind numbing by the end of the day but life on the growing side of things looks like getting increasingly challenging as more chemicals are lost (usually because growers don’t buy enough) and we try and maintain quality by nurturing more of natures assets to combat the weeds, pests and diseases. We are certainly going to have a go ourselves at extending our natural armoury to get a better balance and reduce even further our use of the occasional pesticide. It is an area with a rather ‘muck & magic’ feel but hearing from different grower experiences and advisors at the workshop has pushed me over the edge. It appears not to be a magic bullet to cure everything but it more of a general protectorant and tonic with combined benefits of higher disease and pest resistance and lower nutritional demand from artificial fertilisers. The large variety of ‘good biology’ growing in the tea which we brew up on site for a day or two before applying to the crops, gives it the broad spectrum of benefits. We already have a lot of the infrastructure in place to accommodate this new development so hopefully we can get it going quite easily. Thursday was another mind blower, having to proof read again 355 colour label designs. Then Friday was a rodent control seminar where I learnt some scary stuff. Brown rats can deform their skulls to enable them to get through a 13mm yes that’s not a typo, 13mm, hole, and mice 6mm! Mice are inquisitive but rats are neophobic (afraid of new things). So snappy traps are good for mice who will investigate them but with rats it is best to leave any traps unsprung for a week until they get used to them and then set them. Rats can breed at just 3 months old, 9 per litter, mice 3 weeks and 6 per litter. Rats can jump 1 metre vertically and drop 15m unharmed. Poor sight but excellent smell, touch and hearing. They will get used to deterrents like sonic devices so only use then intermittently to keep up the strangeness factor. That’s me done brain full.

Erysimum varieties are coming on stream already, beautifully bushy with the shades of crimson red on Red Jep already showing really well and even a flush of bud and a hint of colour on the very long flowering and hugely popular Bowles Mauve.
Hellebourus are just starting to come ready with a few new additions to the range. We are trying a new H. orientalis selection called Crown Dark Purple which is reported to flower after its first winter, it is certainly coming on nicely at the moment.
There are three great new H. viridus varieties which are looking very smart and distinctly different from each other. ‘Silver and Rose’ has attractive solidly silvered foliage, ‘White Green’ has deep green leaves with strong cream veining, and ‘Rose Green’ has a more glaucous green leaf with pretty flush of pink in the stems and some leaf veining. Nice short varieties looking enthusiastic in their pots. Euphorbia’s and Ajuga’s looking smart, nice pot full’s of foliage.
Have a good one, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

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