The Nursery Year
Winter work leads to ........
........ summer success!
The year begins with a tidy up of the nursery after the business of Christmas. Preparations for seed sowing begin with first seeds being sown in late January. Division of plants and some propagation for the spring and summer plant sales start, as does the continuing round of maintenance jobs on the buildings and greenhouses.
By now repotting, potting-on and dividing stock plants is in full swing. Seeds are being sown ready for the spring bedding plant sales. Much potting compost is needed! Having decided several years ago to go “peat free”, we now compost our own green waste. This produces a sandy soil to which we add a peat free growing medium, to improve the water holding properties, plus some fertilisers, to improve the fertility.
The plug plants arrive and need tender care to ensure that they flourish. Also, our supporters often bring clumps of plants from their own gardens for further propagation. We hold our first open day sale at the end of the month and this is a popular time for people to buy shrubs and perennial plants. Open days also include several non-horticultural stalls, such as books and bric-a-brac, to help with fund raising. Not surprisingly, growing plants requires a lot of water so we harvest rain water from the greenhouse roofs and pipe it back to a large storage tank for use as irrigation water.
A very busy time! Seedlings are pricked out into their growing containers and hanging baskets and a range of planters are manufactured. Short Saturday sales begin, which continue every week until early July, and there is also a popular open day this month.
Time to sell everything! Bedding plants are ready by the first week of May and so we hold many sales at this time of the year. There is still much to do, meaning lots of potting and pricking out. The open day this month is our biggest and we find people want to come and sit and chat, drink tea and coffee, and eat cake, so we provide for this with a refreshment stall.
Sales continue and late sowings of seeds are still being pricked out for next year’s perennial plants. More potting takes place. There is another well supported open day sale at the end of the month.
Early in the month we hold our last summer open day to sell the remaining bedding plants, helped by a popular offer of “buy one get one free”.
We draw breath as many people are on holiday, with just routine activities being maintained
Now is the time to plant hyacinths and other bulbs to ensure that they will flower by Christmas. Propagation of shrubs and perennials begins in earnest and the nursery begins preparations for winter. This month we take part in the National Heritage Open Day by running an open day with story tellers around the site to tell the nursey history. This usually coincides with a railway event run by our narrow gauge railway team.
We move everything tender into the shelter of the greenhouses for protection from frosts, and also start preparing Christmas decorations. Although, composting of our green waste goes on throughout the year, there is much more to add at this time of the year. We use the resulting compost to make our potting medium which is sterilised to remove weed seeds and then made back into potting soil. There is an autumn open day event as well this month.
Christmas products are now the focus this month and hyacinths have to be lifted from the plunge beds and put into bowls. Wreath making begins. We hold a Christmas open day towards the end of the month.
Wreath making is the primary activity but we also take some time to celebrate the season before the nursery closes for its two week Christmas break.
During the year we have a craft group that meets a couple of times a week to make some amazing items from materials that have been donated to the nursery. These include candles, button crafts, nightlight holders in decorated jars, knitted items, bags, cards, jewellery and woodwork items.
We also have a woodwork workshop which is currently making bird boxes and bird tables. In future we will be adding some wood turning items for the garden and for decoration.
So, with our own compost, water harvesting and non-chemical approach to growing our plants, we have quite good green credentials!
Some of our members are asked by various local organisations to give talks about the nursery’s eighty year history. This is very useful way of raising our profile as well as giving some useful additional income. We also have gardening groups and other organisations who like to visit the nursery for a guided tour. Sometimes they combine their visit with a workshop e.g making hanging baskets.