|A bird on his head and a bee in his bonnet
The emphasis is the word ‘commercial’; some of the best growers I know are actually amateur gardeners.
My theme today is that we are gardeners in one of its myriad of forms. Don’t let us pretend that we are anything else.
Yet we all garden in individual ways.
|A rum bunch
Horticulture is huge and varied. It includes such as growing under glass and plastic in many different guises with diversity magnified by the variation between individual ‘specialist’ crops - carnations to tomatoes, or perhaps orchids to lettuce or herbs?
|Still high standards at Harrogate Parks Dept
|Raised and bred to look good on a Dutch tray
Let me go further. We can learn much from agriculture and as in all the above cases scientific research done in all sectors. Modern farmers can learn from ecologists and soil scientists and dare I say gardeners?
(I once knew a farmer who used modern efficient and effective fertilisers in his fields but used rubbish bonemeal in his garden. How’s that for being blind to transferable facts?)
|Very dodgy character
|Growers' composts grow great plants - but...
|I have been playing with my soil/char compost again
Growers strive for uniformity. They wish to automate and want to treat huge batches of plants in precisely the same way. They often want to harvest these batches all at the same time. So very different to what we gardeners need at home.
|Gardeners can enjoy grower quality and prices at Mole seeds
Don’t get me wrong, it is sometimes appropriate for amateurs to enjoy the disease resistance and vigour bred into F1 hybrids. I would not dream of sowing old open pollinated tomatoes!
|F1 Shirley is an old growers' variety excellent for the amateur
|This machine can pot more than a thousand identical pots in an hour
My plants in my own greenhouse are extremely variable. Over the year hundreds of plants all different in variety and size. It would be culturally decadent to water them all at the same time. Maybe in really hot weather they all need watering on single occasion and I get out my hosepipe. In other conditions I squirt differentially and in Winter rely on my can. If I had the wealth of Croesus it would just be the same. For some gardeners fancy systems might have a place.
We used to teach our students extreme horticultural hygiene and the amateur gardening press says the same thing. If you are tidy minded or obsessively always cleaning and squirting all manner of concoctions at home you will be horrified at my own lack of gardening ‘cleanliness’.
I will leave on one side my previous offerings of the merit of leaving decaying organic matter lying around in the garden!
It is necessary for commercial growers to sustain extreme control of pest and diseases. In large monocultures if pest and disease get out of hand it is fatal. Growers use all manner of chemicals to prevent it. Sometimes fungal disease might be latent and are suppressed by regular fungicide application - woe betide the gardener who innocently buys such plants and they later go under.
Hygiene is all very well as long as you maintain it and we preach for example all that rigmarole of cleanly precautions against damping off on our seedlings. Unfortunately what happens is that if one element of your control inevitably breaks down such diseases thrive where there is no natural fungal or bacterial competition. Grow your seed in good light, desist from excessive Winter artificial heating, ventilate freely, water correctly and avoid excessive humidity with glass and plastic and you will almost never encounter this scourge. I have not suffered damping off for many years now (or perhaps I have just not noticed)
I do practice one kind of hygiene. That is refusing to introduce into my garden new plants with brown scale, mealy bug, vine weevil, red spider mite and whitefly. If I fail I ruthlessly dump them. We do have a minor problem of scale insect on the orchids but otherwise none of these pests. (I was caught out with some primulas a friend gave me in a peat compost but eventually spotted the vine weevil larvae and crushed them. Fortunately vine weevils do not like my soil based compost)
To be fair to garden centres although I am often critical of soft plants' survival, when it comes to absence of pests they have a good record.
I do not necessarily recommend it but I routinely do all these dreadful things
1. Fail to clean used pots and containers
2. Recycle almost all my old soil/char compost where necessary freshening it up with more fertiliser and for certain plants dolomitic lime dust (dolodust).
3.When repotting scrape any pearlwort, liverwort or algae into the bottom of any new pot. NOT the oxalis!
|You will have to wait to find out what I am up to here
Influenced by snake oilers amateurs tend to do the same buying a huge range of small bags. ‘Special’ amateur fertilisers rarely do what they claim on the packet, many are rubbish and in small bags are hugely expensive. I perhaps go to the extreme of using just ONE fertiliser for all my gardening needs (save iron sulphate for my lawn but can claim that as a moss killer). Conditions apply.
|You might sensibly prefer to liquid feed rather than top dress
Out of season production
Ever admired the beautiful winter turf at Arsenal or the winter greens on the golf course? Should our lawns be treated the same?
Commercial growers strive to fill any market for such things as plants, flowers and (inevitably) tasteless tomatoes. They have automated greenhouses with much better and precise heating, superior light transmission and ventilation.
I cringe when amateurs start up their plants far too early. No wonder they succumb to all that pest and disease.
I do draw out my tomato season but for commercial sale by December my scruffy (and still delicious) tomatoes would not pass muster. This is another difference to growers. Much of our produce would never sell but it is nutritious and tasty.
|You will never find delicious sprout sprouts in the shop
More details on my suggestion that a single compound fertiliser will satisfy most of your requirements
More about dirty pots and damping off