Monday, 30 October 2017

Seeing the hairy light

Morning all,
A great productive week has passed by, lots of plants got mulched to keep the liverwort at bay over the winter and the summer debris and chaos are gradually coming back under control. We managed to clear the deep layers of leaves after the last ones dropped from the poplar windbreak. A small mountain has been added to the compost heap where buggy loads have been tipped. The plants in the tunnel entrances that had been partly smothered by them are now breathing a sigh of relief as they are freed to grab that last bit of growing light to prepare for winter. All the areas between the tunnels, by the tunnel openings and down the track around the trees are clear, so there should only be minimum encroachment from now on, a great job done and a tidier looking site too, very satisfying. It is always nice to regain a little order even if only for a short while.
The micropropagation lab is really busy as orders are increasing, possibly helped by the post-Brexit exchange rate changes of the past year or so and of course our fantastic quality output!. It puts us under quite a bit of extra pressure on time and facilities but with two extra trained staff on board and the investment last winter in LED lights and replacement cold-store (now also used as extra growth room area when needed), it is beginning to pay off. As with many improvements it can just move the production bottleneck further down the line and we had been panicking a bit about a lack of weaning space on the nursery. Luckily after a bit of lateral thinking and research we have put together a super cheap expansion in this area. The grow-lights we use to supplement low winter and spring light levels had been put up many years ago. They did their job well so didn’t really attract much attention before. The installation was originally designed by a light engineer to provide the perceived requirement at that time, but we now believe this to a bit over the top for the small low level size of plant material that we wean so we could perhaps spread them out a bit and still achieve good results. That was the theory, the practice turned out to be a bit more work than I envisaged but we got there in the end. I took down all the lights from the double row down the tunnel and rehung them as a single row in the middle but mounted right up in the roof to increase the light spread. This doubled the area in one hit and looks great, a very neat job with all the kit hung up well out of harm’s way. All that thinking about maximising winter light levels made us look more closely at the whole tunnel, so we have tidied out all the unneeded hanging bits and bobs of rubbish that accumulate over years of use and cleaned all the inside surfaces including the rather slimy green internal poly-tunnel sheeting. It is a double skinned tunnel which helps hugely with heat retention but it does cut out a bit more light, so to have the surfaces inside and outside cleaned makes an enormous difference in the low light periods. It was a big messy job but I needed to work off my over indulgent Tresco weekend and killed two birds with one stone, successfully transferring the slimy green mess from the tunnel sheet to my clothes and hair. The results are fantastic I can hear the plants growing in there now they are so happy. The new light set up is timed to use up cheap night time electricity plus a bit more to supplement the early morning light levels so shouldn’t cost too much more than last year. They are lit for a bit longer now to compensate for the bigger area covered and we will have to monitor the plant response to make sure they are happy, but it looks good to me.

Winter delivery minimum orders
Ok I know it’s not quite winter yet, but for the rest of the autumn and until sometime in February we are able to drop the minimum order quantity generally to 15 trays and possibly, at a push, to 12 trays if you are very local to Winchester. The range available will obviously slip away as most lines go into dormancy but we have a few lines to provide a bit of winter interest and colour, should you be looking for some hairy input.

Availability highlights
Autumn and winter flowering Cyclamen are looking good. The Cyclamen coum Cyberia series flower from now until April, showing short and dainty flowers and bud. I can see some bud still coming on the remaining autumn flowering hederifolium types but too. The Helleborus range is gradually increasing as winter approaches, no bud yet but nice plants.  Another evergreen spring flowerer currently looking smart are the Bergenias. The Erodium Bishops Form is making the most of the late warmth and flowering nicely. We have a few very nice bushy Erysimum Bowles Mauve budding nicely and showing a little colour. We have a lovely crop of Ajuga in a range of leaf colours just bursting to get into the garden. Tiarella are having a last minute flush of foamy flowers. Bright variegated leaves of the short tufted grass Carex Evergold are looking very neat and smart.

Wooden box returns
We have collected the majority of our wooden boxes up now but please do drop us a line if you would like us to pop in and collect any more up. We aren’t about quite as much now but you will be in our thoughts and on the list. Thanks.
Have a good week from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries.

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