From the nursery

Container-grown crops: Keeping the correct level of ventilation on tunnel crops is one of the hardest things to do in this part of the season. Maintaining a balance between keeping good air movements in a tunnel and preventing large temperature differences is a skill worth mastering and will reduce the risk of Botrytis.

New Zealand flatworm: Keep an eye out for this pest, which is still notifiable. Check under capillary matting and on the underside of pots that have been stood down for several months; encourage staff to note any incidence of the pest when the pots are lifted. Some people have found the mucus covering the worm to be an irritant, so instruct staff not to touch them. There is a code of practice obtainable from the Plant Health section on the Defra website (

COSHH assessments: The assessments you carried out in the past do not automatically last forever. If you have replaced your sprayer, changed your chemical store or added an acid injection unit, these aspects all mean that a new assessment needs to be carried out. Your health and safety policy should also be up-to-date. If you have removed hazards or built new buildings that may have created new ones, the statement should be amended accordingly. Risk assessment in respect of the workplace and equipment both in the office and on the nursery should all be up-to-date. Use the winter months to review those points that are covered by legislation.

Conifers: Consider applying Croptex Spraying Oil to any conifer plants or hedges that suffered aphid damage earlier this year. Do not apply if frost is present or forecast and make sure the product penetrates into the centre of the plant for good effect. If you have conifer hedges alongside the roadway that are always damaged by salt, spray them at least monthly through the winter with Orosorb or Wiltpruf S600 to put a coating over the susceptible needles.

Land preparations: These will make major differences to the ease of planting and lifting, and contribute greatly to the growth of the plants. Know your land and its capabilities. Plough at the right time, cultivate to achieve ideal planting conditions and destroy perennial weeds before ploughing. Keep tractor movements to a minimum to avoid compaction. Maintain levels of humus in mineral soils by introducing green manure crops into a crop rotation.

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