Monday, 23 February 2015

Oh yes it's hairy, Oh no it isn't....

Morning all,
A nice bright start to the day here, bit nippy but it is February. I’m afraid the weather looks a bit mixed for the coming week but at least the turbines look like they are going to earn their keep. Nearly the end of the month and we have seen quite a few frosts and the odd snowflake but, touch wood, this winter has been wintery but not bonkers, just about right for us. Last year was far too warm and a touch on the damp side which didn’t do the plants or pest control any favours, they didn’t know if they were coming or going.
I know spring rushing in because we had our visit from our pest predator expert (Dr Neil Helyer from Fargro) to point us in the right direction and get the introduction programme drawn up for the coming season. Each year we do a few modifications to accommodate market developments of new predator combinations and new lines as well as experiences gained from the previous year. It’s great to have a chat through ideas to make these expensive choices work more effectively, I can put forward our Blue Peter style ideas and Neil can pass on his experience from other sites which can help enormously. Over the years we have planted a lot more natural hedging to encourage the wildlife and to act as an overwintering site for some of the predators so that a few can reintroduce themselves the following spring. This planting has recently included a few little islands of hedging plants sited close to some tunnels that are too far from the ‘normal’ hedges. It’s only a small offering but it all helps. This winters idea was to follow the gardeners trend of placing manmade overwintering sites inside the tunnels, keeping the predators even closer to where we want them. We haven’t quite stretched to the quaint little bird box frames filled with short bits of cane but we are getting quite close. We cut back a marauding bamboo plant from next to one of the ponds and have saved the canes for some larger scale bug homes. One concern I had was that we could be harbouring as many pests as helpers so I did check out first that this was a sensible approach and was assured it was a good idea, so, on we go. We can still have our winter tidy up but there is still a home for those little helpers. Not all predators turn out to be commercially viable on our scale. Last year we tried a nematode application for slugs which actually worked ok on most slugs although it was expensive. Unfortunately it had very little if any effect on the snails so didn’t really slow up the leaf hole making. In response we applied ourselves a little more rigorously to applying Ferramol pellets (organically approved) and started getting really effective control. Applying the right rate, which is visibly surprisingly low when you see the number of pellets on the ground, but applying them regularly enough is key, the pellets don’t hang around long.
Missed out this weekend on the village panto. Unfortunately I was washing my hair on all 5 performances. Caroline did manage to go and it lived up to all her expectations! Possible highlight might have been winning 4th prize in the raffle, a box of Liquorice Allsorts (already 1/3 consumed!). Ooops.
Here comes the spring. The cold nip in the air won’t hold it back long. All stock is kept cold and well ventilated so is pretty tough. As the days lengthen the first strong flush of growth comes along quickly, so do keep an eye out to see the range develop and the spring buds appear.. With the ace-conker new look labelling and a bit of half decent weather we are ready to put together a great display to kick off 2015.
The Erysimums are budding up well and looking chunky, Bowles Mauve in particular is always such a favourite and a great long lasting garden performer. Apricot Twist is well budded, with Pastel Patchwork close behind.
The Amemone blanda blue shades are very close to making their big spring show, the odd flower is already showing as the plants thicken up. The white form has yet to show its face but I’ve had a poke and they are not far away.
Pulmonaria varieties are nearly all gone already. I have loads more more coming for 2016 as a bit of confidence begins to return into our plant production. Much bigger quantities and a couple more varieties too.
The Lupins are putting on their first flush of fresh, bushy, early growth, they will make monster plants. We always have to sell this batch fairly smartly as they will outgrow the pot too quickly if left until the warmer weather.
The first few herbs are now available as spring growth begins. It is still early days for mega growth, we want to keep them tough and not too soft to put up with the last of the winter cold.
Have a good one, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

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