Kevin Clarke - Nursery Manager Ottery St Mary - Otter Garden Centres
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Kevin Clarke – Nursery Manager Ottery St Mary

Outdoor life in the blood for nursery manager Kevin

Nursery Manager Kevin ClarkeEducation

GCSEs in English literature, maths, geography, double science, physical education, art and design.

Day release Bicton College City & Guilds general horticulture / intensive crop production (level 2).

Day release Dartington College City & Guilds intensive crop production (level 3).

My career background

I’m very much a local lad; I’m from Plymtree, went to school in Cullompton and now live in Ottery St Mary. My parents have a farm in Plymtree so I was brought up working outdoors.

I’ve been at Otter for twenty-five years! While I was at school, I did my work experience here working in the garden centre. I applied in the hope that there was a job, and was fortunate enough to get offered a position.

I started in propagation, working with small shrubs. Then bedding was added to my responsibilities. I attended day release at Bicton College for a couple of years, taking a City & Guilds which turned into an NVQ in basic horticulture.

As time went on, I was put in charge of one department, then a second, then a third and so on. It was a natural progression and in 2016 I officially became nursery manager.

We have five or six acres of covered growing areas here, and three or more acres of outside growing space, and we grow millions of plants every year.

A typical day

First thing each morning I go around and check all departments to check they are all ok. I check that any orders from the branches are all being picked with only the best quality plants being sent.

During the day, I walk the growing areas to see if there’s anything coming into flower which will need sending to retail, and make a list of any jobs which need to be done.

Each week I make a list to send to each of our branches of any new varieties of plants that are now ready for retail and which ones are looking their best so they can place an order.

Throughout the day, I answer phone calls from our branches asking what stock we have, or ensure that an urgent customer order gets out.

During the year, I order all the pots, compost fertiliser and other equipment we need to grow our plants. We currently have over 10 specific compost mixes that we use for all the different crops that we grow.

I keep an eye on what new varieties of plants are coming onto the market that we can grow and I with the planning of numbers and varieties of these. This is all often planned more than a year ahead of when we be selling them.

What I like best about my job

I love working outdoors with plants. I enjoy being outdoors and I really like working with the nursery team. I’m a big fan of shrubs – I have a lot in my own garden; they don’t need so much looking after!

It’s good that we use biological pest controls as much as we can. Many horticultural jobs get you into contact with pesticides; here we use parasitic wasps that sting or eat the pests. Much better for the environment, and for us.

Advice I would give to someone hoping to work in horticulture

Horticulture is a great career which I would recommend. My personal opinion is that there’s a lot to be said for coming straight into a job and learning as you go. You can learn more by doing the job rather than taking a course.

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