News from the Nursery

Gosh, how the last several weeks have shot by! So full and fast that I missed telling you all about it in the July newsletter.

Actually, some of the content of nursery news doesn’t make for exciting articles, though that doesn’t lessen its importance. Chewing over the ins and outs, the pros and cons of nursery operations and strategies; prioritizing tasks and processes; budgeting for those items that most deserve attention – I am sure that I am not alone in preferring the gentle tasks of potting and tending to plants. Ah, but someone’s gotta knuckle down to the drudgery jobs, right? Thankfully I had good company to help make it happen, with several of our Committee members and staff.

A notable change over recent weeks has been the retirement of our long-standing Nursery Manager, Tony James. We chatted a bit as his last official day drew to a close, of his time here – how he started, just a couple days a week, overseeing nursery and field works. Over the course of his (roughly) ten years, that has changed to a nursery manager 4-5 days a week, a separate field-crew manager and up to half-dozen field crew. Most of that growth has occurred in the last few years. For most of that time too, the nursery has made the best of the limited resources it had on hand. Being no stranger myself to the art of ‘Macguyvering’ (e.g. being able to employ two matchsticks and a paperclip to avert anything from a failing irrigation pump to imminent global nuclear disaster), I can appreciate the efforts that have got the nursery and the Group as a whole to where it is now.

So where exactly is the nursery now? Well, as far as plants go, it’s been somewhat embarrassing – there’s been more plants going out than we have catered for! A bit of creative gameplay seems to have alleviated the threat of an empty nursery in springtime. I’ve quickly made acquaintances in neigbouring community and commercial nurseries to re-stock some of our high-demand species, whilst also layering up our plant production in any warm corner we can find. The propagation tunnel is mid-way through a scrub-and-polish and the neighbouring trees that impeded winter sunlight have been given a ruthless prune (except for the couple with Ringtail Possum dreys). The next creative step is to trial woodchip-composting under the propagation benches, to generate warmth and stimulate seed germination for what is left of winter. If all this comes together, springtime will be very busy at the potting bench indeed, with benchspace in high demand for all the seedlings. Thankfully, the replacement of several old, rusty benches is well under way, giving us improved capacity and workspace in the tubestock growout area.

Another thing underway is preparation for our fast-approaching Landcare Festival. A couple of extra working bees have taken place around the nursery and grounds, giving the gardens some care and attention, whittling down a small mountain of rather old and dusty archive-boxes, painting, potting, scrubbing. The next big task is to turn what was a shed-space for field equipment, into a space for plant sales, information, library resources and such – a much anticipated ‘retail space’. It is taking on the feel of being something akin to those television shows, where at the eleventh hour, a scramble of all hands on deck will just manage to pull the show together. Hopefully though we can still keep plant-growing and renovating marching along together well enough that we can avoid mimicking those hectic ‘reality-TV’ scenes!

So on that note, I’ll stop typing and get back to the nursery. The dust of my transition to full-time nursery manager is settling, so I better make sure it doesn’t settle on the new furnishings.

Shane Litherland | Nursery Manager