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Our Soil

Spread across 220 acres and 11 fields is our distinct Herefordshire soil - the foundation for all of the plants we grow. Our area was once famous for its iron, and our soil extends that heritage: rich red in colour, a fine and sandy loam, and chock full of nutrients - just ask our local potato farmers (our area is famous for that, too).

Unlike some UK soils, ours is free draining. Thanks to the soil’s fine texture, water drains freely, rather than causing clumping like in a typical clay soil. Our soil dries to the perfect moisture content quicker than others, too – any heavy snow or rain drains away quickly, so our plants are much less likely to be damaged or waterlogged by the harsh weather while they’re growing.

Because our soil doesn’t clump, we can lift our plants quickly and accurately, and get them into your garden sooner and with stronger, more intact roots. You also end up with a nice clean plant, so there’s less mess to sort out.

Green compost

Since our soil is so good, we want to keep it that way. Whereas other nurseries will use chemical fertilisers on their plants to make them grow quicker, we prefer safer, more natural methods. Chemical fertilisers work as a quick fix, but besides the many downsides, the biggest reason we don’t use them is because it causes long term damage to our soil and the land.

Our preferred alternative to these nasty chemical fertilisers is to use green compost – a mixture of household food and plant waste.  Not only is green compost super rich in nutrients, it helps reduce the amount of household waste produced in our local area. 

And by local, we mean local. Other nurseries get their chemical fertilisers manufactured in massive factories and transported thousands of miles, generating a huge amount of CO2 in the process. We get our green compost from less than 5 miles away.

Soil Quality

To make sure our soil isn’t degrading, we take multiple samples from all of our fields for regular monitoring and testing. Nutrient levels are monitored and compared, to keep all our fields consistent and identify anywhere that needs special treatment. We keep track of levels over time to make sure our green compost is applied in the right way, in the best areas, and in ways that minimise risk to the environment.

We work with top industry professionals and pedologists to help fund and progress research into horticultural studies and better practices for improved environmental standards. Not only do we want our plants to grow as best as possible, we want to ensure that future growers benefit too.

Maintenance

Most nurseries will try to maximise their yield by growing across the field and planting as densely as possible, with a smaller headland. We keep our headland large so that we minimise the risk of run off soil that may arise from particularly wet seasons.

If our land is really wet, we won’t go and lift our plants. Instead, we will wait for the best time to lift so that our soil doesn’t suffer. If we go out when it’s too wet, the soil gets compacted easily and the oxygen gets squeezed out. This means that, in the future, any plants in that soil don’t grow as well. Too much growing in depleted soil will make it harder for wild plants to reclaim the land long after we’re gone.

Our Seed

Collection

In order for us to grow great plants, we use the highest quality seeds taken from the best sources we can find. Unlike nurseries that buy their seed from multiple localities at the cheapest price, we collect ours from the best provenances available at the time, for each individual species – each seed we plant is fully traceable and certified.

We try to keep things local as well - if any super strong trees in our area catch our eye, we’ll collect seeds from them.  Our sweet chestnut comes from just down the road.

We lay down ground sheets to collect seeds that fall naturally or go and pick fallen seed by hand and collect in buckets for smaller batches. For times when we need to collect directly off the trees, like with our conifers, we send our trusty tree surgeons to remove them. We try to minimise the effect we have on the environment, so we like to use our hands whenever we can.

Storage and quality

Once we’ve got our seeds, we extract and clean them ready for cold storage. Our storage unit is kept between 2°C and 5°C, creating an artificial winter to keep the seeds dormant. Every two weeks, we turn the seeds to improve the air flow and allow each seed to get some fresh air. We also do regular quality inspections to make sure the seed lives up to our standards, and any bad seeds are removed – as soon as we see any small signs of seeds turning, we get rid of them so they can’t affect the rest of the batch. We don’t just plant and hope for the best – we make sure all our seeds are equally good before they get anywhere near the soil.

Sowing

So we’ve got great seeds that live up to our standards, and they’re ready to go in the ground. Do we just plant them and walk away?

Of course we don’t!

We know how much the final product can be affected by what time the seed is sown, so we always sow at the best time to encourage strong initial growth. Weather, moisture content, temperature - it’s all taken into account before anyone gets their hands dirty. If we don’t think the seeds are ready or the conditions aren’t ideal, we wait. The more time we spend caring for our seeds at the beginning, the better our plants grow in your garden years down the line.

Cuttings

Not all of our plants are grown from seeds. Our vast stock bed of our very own mother plants has been here for over twenty years, and we plant cuttings from them to supplement our seed grown plants. Plenty of nurseries import their cuttings alongside their seed, usually supplied by the lowest bidder. They’ve never seen the plants the cuttings come from, and a single batch could have cuttings from several different countries, each with their own native pests and diseases.

With imported cuttings, you won’t know if you’ve ended up with a sick or weak plant until they’re in your garden. They might appear fine for a short time, but it’s all too common for problems to arise come Spring. If one of our mother plants is ever sick, we don’t grow from its cuttings.

Since we’ve cared for our mother plants for so long, we know exactly how strong and healthy they are. The great thing is that, since cuttings produce a genetically identical plant, they’re going to grow just as strong in your garden, too.


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