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July 2021

The Secret Life of Plants - Going to Pot

If you’ve read the previous articles in this series entitled ‘The Secret Life of Plants’ you’ll have seen that we covered taking cuttings from Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote', which were then propagated and later transferred to a weaning area to be prepared or ‘hardened up’ for potting.

At this point the team usually transfer the young plants from a tray of 150 small plugs of compost into a tray of 24 much larger plugs, which gives the roots room to develop.

With root growth constantly monitored the plants, (now known as plugs) will when ready be loaded in their hundreds onto Danish trolleys and moved to the potting shed, almost half a kilometre away.

 

Like many of the production processes at Palmstead, our potting operations have seen continuous evolution over the years; the key components of the planting medium are now controlled by computer, with various elements adjusted according to the ‘recipe’ for the type of plants.

Plants that are likely to be in stock for longer periods – for example those potted on to 5 or 10-litre pots - would have a different compost mix to a 2-litre pot, which is likely to be spend less time on the nursery once potted.

 

Hoppers add specific quantities of organic matter, grit, mineral elements and controlled release fertilizer - in mixes tailored to the type of plant - to a series of conveyor belts which lead to automated pot feeders.

The fall height of compost from the conveyors has been reduced to assist with the aeration of the planting material, which in turn encourages root development.

The potting shed team take the plugs and add them to the pots on a type of carousel, which in turn feeds the newly planted pots through a machine which tops the compost with pine bark.

This forms a permeable layer which reduces weed growth, retains moisture, assists with packing and increases the attractiveness and saleability of the plants.

 

The freshly potted plants then continue on a further network of conveyor belts before being automatically loaded onto trailers which are taken to their next destination, which may be one of a series of polytunnels, gently sloping beds, or in the case of these Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote' our 1 hectare glasshouse.

In the next instalment of The Secret Life of Plants we look at the sales process, and how a customer’s enquiry is processed.