Welcome to Kirton Farm Nurseries Ltd the home of

The Hairy Pot Plant Company

Green Stuff

Building affordable sustainability into hairy pot production
There is plenty of focus on carbon footprints as an indicator of environmental impact, but there is much more to it than that. The overall effect of carbon being released into the atmosphere is being seen, quite rightly, as important, however there are many other factors that also come into play when looking at sustainability.
We look across the whole business to minimise the impact we have on the worlds resources and environment while keeping in balance the need to keep our products affordable and the business afloat. As well as trying to get our products sympathetic to our aims, we also make every effort to get the production methods and inputs in line too.

Here are a few areas where we endeavour to get it right and where we continually try to improve;

Water use.
After a major refit we introduced more thrifty and versatile application methods. This included our Evaposensor kit installed in 2013, so we can measure water loss and adjust the volume of water applied more accurately. We pump borehole water to cover a large proportion of our needs and plan to harvest more rainfall, drastically reducing our dependency on the mains supply.
We have also installed an acid dosing system to adjust the alkalinity of our very hard irrigation water. This improves foliage and root quality, reduces fertiliser use and helps keep the spray lines clear.

Pest, disease and weed control.
Our weed control depends less now on chemicals as we hand-weed all our crops and introduce more cultural controls like bark and coir mulches to reduce weed contamination from elsewhere.
Pest control through the summer is now largely dependant on predators, either artificially introduced by ourselves, or migrating in from the large volume of natural hedging we have planted around the site and our scattering of ponds. We still spot-spray areas where a pest gets established and the predators need a little help. Even the sprays are developing as we move to more biopesticides and biofungicides when they become available. After disappointing results using bacterial spores in the compost to give long term vine weevil control, we turned in 2014 to applying a range of nematodes to regain control. Multiple applications applied through the irrigation system in the spring and autumn have been far more effective and we will be extending their use through coming seasons to control other pests too.

Waste management.
The amount and type of waste produced is another focal point. The sustainable and reusable packaging systems we use, virtually eliminate any packaging waste that our customers need to dispose of. On the purchasing side we are minimising waste levels of materials and products bought onto our site through tighter planning and buying. The waste we do produce is either reused, recycled, composted or used as fuel. There is only a very small volume going to the local incineration and power generation station with no waste knowingly going to landfill.

Energy developments on the nursery
Carbon footprint reduction is still an important part our overall sustainability effort. Our initial target has always been to lower energy consumption by using new technology, closely monitoring our usage, adjusting our heating and lighting programmes, fitting extra insulation and improving staff awareness. This has resulted in reductions in our electricity use by over 30% since 2008 and 30% in heating oil.
Solutions can be as technically diverse as fitting specialist LED lighting in the lab growth room or installing variable speed pumps, to constructing a waste wood store from old pallets.
Generating our own power has proved very beneficial after the installation in July 2011 of our three 11kW wind turbines above the nursery. If the weather is with us, we now generate as much electricity as we use which helps save on costs and provides useful income through feed-in-tariffs paid for renewable energy generation and any excess power we export.

Help and support
We are very grateful for all the practical help and inspiration given to us on our long drive towards sustainability. That support has come from many sources, being members of PLATO Sustain, participants in the 10:10 campaign, Sustainable Business Network and the Carbon Smart accreditation scheme from which we received their top Gold Award. This has helped us reinforce our commitment to our sustainable approach to how we run our lives and our business.