James, who won a Student Scholarship of £1,000, while studying for a Foundation Degree in Horticulture at the Greenmount Campus of CAFRE [College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise] in County Antrim, shares his news since receiving the scholarship..
“Achieving a David Colegrave Foundation Scholarship has put me one step closer to achieving my dreams. In my greenhouse, I have been able to develop and adapt it to assist in my learning at home.
The scholarship meant that I could develop my learning by buying a mist propagation unit, which gives me first-hand experience of growing from seed and from cuttings. I have also been able to attempt germinating my own tomato plants, and grafting rootstock and scion varieties. The heated soil provides the warmth for the plant and the plants are kept constantly moist by an electronic leaf, meaning they cannot dry out. It was also very interesting assembling the propagation unit as it helped me understand the technology used. The techniques I have used up until now were only theory, now I have been able to put it into practice and able to monitor the plants every day.
Having now had the propagation unit for a few months I have learned from some mistakes and I am quickly learning how to use it to get the right environment for different types of plants.
Many of the additional items I purchased with my scholarship may seem small and insignificant but they are vital to my learning and help me to produce high quality plants at home. I purchased 84 cell and 180 cell plug trays, which have helped me to grow plugs at home, and this is one of my main areas of interest. I have also been able to purchase labels and a pen, which are a necessity.
Many of the additional items I have been able to purchase to assist in my learning include rock wool cubes, so I can learn about growing without soil. I also now have a very useful soil thermometer a compost sieve.
The mist propagation unit along with allowing me to grow plug plants, allowed me to grow and germinate other plants such as vegetables, giving them a good head start. This has helped broaden my knowledge of a wider range of crops and helped further develop my interest in horticulture and knowledge of plants.
Future plans I have include continuing to produce plants from seed and cuttings. At some point in the future I would also like to invest in another mist propagation unit to increase the area for producing plug plants.
Another aspiration is to construct my first polytunnel. Using a polytunnel to propagate plug plants would be effective as conditions can be controlled in the polytunnel by irrigation and heat. I want to continue to produce plug plants of all sorts e.g. vegetables, nursery stock and bedding plants to potentially sell to local suppliers in the industry. Achieving the scholarship has helped me start to produce plants, and I think it will greatly assist me in developing my interest and develop a business in a horticultural production environment.
I am grateful to the David Colegrave Foundation for giving me the opportunity to obtain equipment and get experience that would otherwise have not been possible for me. It has given me an insight into the propagation industry and developed my understanding of the principles, practices and challenges that I would face if embarking on plant production on a commercial scale. It has taught me the importance of planning, hygiene, plant health, nutrition, irrigation and selecting suitable varieties in order to make commercial success. A big thank you to the David Colegrave Foundation.”