The Semi Occasional Rantings of a Gonzo Nurseryperson

Propped up: The Semi Occasional Rantings of a Gonzo Nurseryperson

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Like much of the rest of my career my nursery knowledge has been both picked up and made up as I’ve gone along, I’ve managed a couple of small nurseries and designed a couple as well. I’ve made plenty of mistakes but I’ve picked up a few things in my time too, so in this column, I’ll talk about not only how to grow plants (though I’m still hopeless at cuttings) but also some hints on nursery design and management suitable for smaller nurseries.

The first thing you want to think about is location. Plants, particularly natives, need light and warmth to grow, in summer it’s not so much an issue but growing in winter (particularly here in the Upper Hunter) it’s pretty crucial, especially if you’re potting up! You’ll want somewhere with a northerly aspect with good accessibility, morning light is probably more crucial than the afternoon. 

If you’re going to be bringing plants in it might be an idea to have a small quarantine area a few metres away from the rest of your nursery to prevent weeds and other contaminants.

Once you’ve found a spot you might want to think about building or otherwise acquiring some benches. Benches will mean less bending over to move plants around and also means your plant roots will be air pruned for better root systems, and a good height bench is much easier to work on.

My general rule of thumb for ideal bench height is to stand up with your arms out at about 45 degrees and hands flat, which gives a good height to work at without having to bend forward (and it’s better to go a bit higher than a bit lower). The tray on the back of my ute is pretty much spot on for propagation. A solid top is a good idea for a potting up bench but a mesh top for growing on allows air circulation which aids root pruning.

The Semi Occasional Rantings of a Gonzo Nurseryperson

Next month we tackle the bane of every nursery person, watering systems. 

Our nursery work wouldn’t be possible without the assistance of Hunter Local Land Services and the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife.

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