Here's a summary of the busy season, when the majority of seed is purchased. That's between July and October every year.
See if you can guess the seed variety that brought about the most enquiries this year?
Soybean or Edamame! After being in stock for a couple of seasons, supply of this seed totally dried up. Due to import regulations, it needs to be sourced from growers who can meet MPI pre-importation testing requirements. This is almost impossible but Gerard attended a conference this year and is following up a lead for a supplier who may be able to meet those import regulations. Keep your fingers and toes crossed! Ours certainly are.....
The crazy time actually starts in June, preparing for the increase in orders once the catalogue goes out. There are lids to be made, selection packs to be packed up, courier packs and bubble bags to be prepared, website updates for new and deleted varieties. The staff have to familiarise themselves with the new varieties and spring staff are taught how to process orders.
Just as you do, the new catalogue is awaited with much anticipation around here. In most instances you, the customer, receive your copy before the balance of thousands of copies have even arrived at the warehouse.
It is literally sent hot off the printer....
As soon as the first mail-out of the annual catalogue is dispatched in July, the "mail" starts to pile up, the phone and fax ring constantly, emails are non-stop and orders increase to around 1000 a week. Over the years, processes have been refined to ensure all orders continue to be sent out to home gardeners and commercial growers within a 24 hour period (the exception to this are the weekend orders which means super crazy Mondays). This turn-around requires a very focused team and usually an extra 3 or 4 temporary staff who work over the spring period.
This year, Adrien from France, Sonya from Athenree and Lynne from Katikati were the newbies. They joined our raucous team and contributed to all the calamity and hilarity.
As mentioned before, the busiest day of the week is Monday when it's "all hands to the pump" to pick orders. Then the admin team pack your orders as fast as they can while the production team is busy filling packets to restock shelves and bulk packs for all the orders - both home-gardener and commercial. The other very busy day is once a month when the newsletter goes out. All the specials and giveaways encourage an influx of orders.
The heat pads come into their own in the plastic house around September. Seed is sown at different times, for germination tests and also to start seedlings intended for both display and staff gardens . An interesting place to visit with so many different seedlings including many unusual varieties being trialled for the first time. The staff love it when Gerard brings all the seedlings down for taking home - just like new babies. A sign that spring is truly here - just need to find the time to get those seedlings in the ground.
At the end of October, the busy season is slowing down and tapering off. Time to clean-up and catch-up on the smaller tasks that can't be completed during the spring months. The spring staff finish up but all look forward to catching up again at the Christmas party.
At this stage, if you're a gardener who grows from seed, you'll be reaping the benefits of germinating your own seed, nursing your seedlings and transplanting them out into your garden to wait for the bounty of food and flowers. Be assured you have saved yourself a heap of money. One plant tends to be the price of a packet of seeds so it's definitely worth the effort but you already know that!
Give yourself a well-earned pat on the back.