Overall, 2016 has been a solid year of production. With a warm winter, followed by a bright cool spring, the crops were slow getting away and produced a heavy first set. The British summer weather came late for us, but we’re happy to say, all was well as we entered August and September with perfect ripening conditions and continuous production.
You may recall, last December our plants appeared on the BBC’s Royal Institution Christmas Lectures - ‘How to Survive in Space’. With Chichester astronaut Tim Peake then in orbit, the show discussed whether we can sustain human life in space, growing hydroponic crops for food.
Just as light is important for growing in space, it’s equally important on Earth. For the second-year running, we’ve trialed LED lighting at the nursery, as we know this will help us to produce crops more sustainably (our ‘mission’ is to produce food as sustainably as possible, treading lightly on the planet). Tomato growers are now using LED technology extensively but it’s still early days in pepper production. We’ve already seen positive results from our trials and we’ll tell you more about these and the varieties we’ve planned for 2017, next time…!).
This was the first year with three new onsite Combined Heat and Power (CHP) engines. We’re pleased to say the system has worked very well with lots of electricity supplied to the grid, heat and CO2 for our plants, allowing us to make the most of our energy inputs.
In our new role as a LEAF Demonstration Farm it’s been a busy year with visitors, some even returning for a second or third visit to see for themselves the different growing stages - from a flower to a fruit. We’ve really enjoyed our exchanges with the RHS Plant Trials team, Head Gardener Sarah Wain and her team from West Dean Gardens and Y3 pupils from Windlesham House School to explain all the processes involved more fully.
It's a big thank you to all who supported our Open Farm Sunday event in June. We were thrilled to welcome nearly 1,200 visitors for our second year of opening! It’s a great opportunity to share what we are doing here, what’s needed to maintain plant growth and the importance of healthy food. Thanks to those of you who took to our social media to tell us you enjoyed the day – you can see the film we made here.
Now as we prepare to plant next year’s crop, we’d like to say thank you to everyone at the nursery for their great efforts and we look forward to a productive 2017. Until next time, may we thank you again for your continued support and all good wishes for a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!