Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Hairy potting joy

Morning all,

The weather is a tad disappointing although at least the gardens will be benefiting. More changeable stuff around next week too which is better for my sanity although frustrating for the farm who are desperate to get stuck into harvest for more than a few hours at a time.
Last week’s village flower show went well despite the showers, and takings were better than expected, other than the ice cream stand and bouncy castle which did understandingly suffer in the prevailing conditions. The new stands set up this year seemed to be a real hit, a BBQ offering and a beer tent were able to warm the insides and drown the sorrows without depressing trade in the tea room, so happy stallholders in both sweet and savoury camps.
We had another poor group suffer a tour of the nursery this week, a gang of mostly ex fruit growers from Sussex who were great fun to show round. There is nothing quite like the coming together of a group of long suffering growers, from whatever sector, to make the most of an afternoons walk and talk. They seemed pleased with their afternoon out and for me it’s always nice to entertain another understanding and sympathetic audience.
The strong nursery sales have kept us really busy and the list of potting to get done has got longer, so slight panic beginning to set in on the production front. Luckily Friday was all clear of distractions and at 8.00 we tucked into our first full day on the machine for months. At 8.30 the dreaded call came over the radio, ‘Derek can you come and take a look at the potting machine?’ Not a fault we had seen before, motors running but all motion stopped. What fun. After two hours clearing out the compost and inspecting all obvious seizure points we came to a decision all we ‘masters of the hammer’ dread, we would have to call someone who actually knows what they are doing for some help. After lengthy discussion with said person we were instructed to take off the main motor and the ‘variater’ (controls the speed) so we could check that the gearshaft would manually turn without crunching and hopefully illuminate the most expensive repair option. With renewed motivation we went back to the machine only to find several of the bolts we would need to undo completely unreachable as they were so close to the machine body. Ace. Despite the expert advice not to take the ‘variater’ apart because we would need 15 hands to get it back together again, we went for it. With some trepidation I undid the cover and pulled it off, expecting all hell to break loose as it fell apart, but our expert had remembered a different variater than the one we had and no pile of cogs descended, just a lot of dirt and debris. It turned out to be a fairly simple belt driven unit with an adjustable pulley that changed the speed. Off came the bottom pulley and belt so we could test the gearbox and thankfully all was smooth and crunchless. We noticed the top adjustable pulley was stuck in one position and the belt quite worn, could this be the answer. A little judicial gentle persuasion got the pulley sliding on its shaft again and we put it all back together hoping for the best. Great rejoicing when everything moved again if only for about 10 seconds when it seized up again. This time we knew instantly the problem, we had loosened the lift conveyer earlier to free things up and it had jumped the cogs on the drive. An easy, if not embarrassing, mistake and a doddle to put right. Just 5 hours after apparent disaster we were up and running, immensely satisfying, but now even more to pot. A new belt has been ordered and next week’s potting target has been raised. Onward and upward.

Availability highlights
Despite the damp in the air, signs of high summer are here with most of the Crocosmia now in bud. The gold of George Davidson is always popular, as is the lovely red/orange big bloomed Babylon. Star of the East actually has the biggest individual orange flowers of all the ones I’ve seen, a stunner and we have just a few of the striking bicolour Harlequin. We have a great range of mini garden Chrysanthemums in bud. Naturally very bushy (no pinching required), they will produce masses of flower from now until the frosts (these are not fully hardy plants so will not always survive a winter outside).
Several of the Asters are busting a gut to get into bud, Flora’s Delight is the first to actually show colour, the others are not far behind. Best crop ever so don’t miss out. Lady in Blue and Starlight looking very smart with loads of bud developing. We have a fantastic crop of Ajuga in range of leaf colours just bursting to get into the garden. A small fresh batch of the pink Armeria are now producing plenty of bud, neat and pretty. A fresh batch of the lovely Anthemis Sauce Hollandaise is short and bushy with bud showing. Just a few left. Buds and flowers are in abundance on the very popular Sage Hot Lips. Dinky Erodium varieties are back again, low growing and flowering for ages.
Flower stems and bud are appearing on many of the Japanese Anemones already. The ever popular Dianthus are in bud and flower. Just a few varieties left. Strong and bushy, the hardy Fuchsia range is doing its thing. Loads of colour. There are fresh batches of Achillea Terracotta in bud and flower with some fresh stock of Red Velvet looking very strong.
Have a good week from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries.

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