Friday 25 November 2011

Over Wintering

Inside the tunnel
One might expect this to be the quiet season on a nursery but the mild weather (the mildest on record apparently) means that things are still growing and I've taken the executive decision of continuing to pot things on here and there. Autumn can be a time of prodigious root development in many species in a normal year so it's not as mad as it sounds. They've usually stopped by mid November though so this year is undoubtedly odd. I already have all sorts of seedlings up that I normally wouldn't expect to see until spring and I'll have to keep them cool and well-ventilated through the dark months if they're to survive.
Anything remotely tender of course should be left well alone now. It's important not to damage the roots in case they rot, or prune the tops too much in case they try to make new growth. The damp mild weather produces a lot of moulds and aphids so it's touch and go.
Plants from Mediterranean climates (Chile, California, western South Africa) are the exception. It's worth knowing which ones these are because Autumn to Spring (being mild and damp) is their main growing season in the wild so it's a good time to think about potting them on, or even pricking out seedlings. I have some pots of Chilean Lobelia excelsa and polyphylla seedlings which look very eager to get on with life. I'm not sure they'll look so happy if I wait until March but moving them now might be worse. It's a learning curve, as they say.

The other thing of course is getting the nursery itself set up to receive customers in the Spring. At the moment, apart from the polytunnel and the shed, it's something of a blank slate. At some point soon I'll be buying in a lot of timber to make display beds, and there'll be a shade house and an area with a pond liner for wetland plants. At the moment it's just a basketball pitch sized area covered in Mypex. I'm hoping for some inspiration for the design - something eye-catching but practical.
For now though I'm working on the shed, for which I've been making window frames - something the like of which I've never attempted before. Getting the corners square and strong has been something of a challenge, given that the shed itself isn't exactly square, but they do actually have glass in them now. I'm not planning on becoming a carpenter any time soon but it's been very satisfying.
Next I need to get some gates for the entrance, and a properly installed electricity supply (not just an extension lead strung across). Insurance too - that's a big one.

This is also the time of year for checking out the new catalogues. I shan't reveal my sources of course but going through the lists of the various seed merchants is always exciting and I always end up with longer wish-lists than I can possibly pay for or find space for (assuming they come up). Each year I buy in a few stock plants of things that are particularly uncommon from other UK nurseries but this is my first year importing plants from abroad, in this case from Japan. It's not cheap, what with all the official hoops they have to jump through (quite rightly) getting the certification, and a bit of a gamble, but if seed is not available it's the only way to get hold of some particularly special things. I shan't say any more for now but I must say I'm very excited about the package that should arrive in the post sometime in the next week or two.

I've been putting together my listing for the new Plantfinder. I've just checked and am very pleased to discover that I have no less than 186 new items to add to the existing 102, all but eleven available at less than twenty other nurseries (often a lot less) and nineteen previously unlisted in the Plantfinder. Many of these are still in 3in pots so I'd better stop faffing about and get on, hadn't I.

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