Walking into a poly tunnel stuffed with fantastic crops that we started from seed lifts your heart first thing in the morning. Knowing it has been done without nasty chemicals makes it all the better.
Let’s start off with a little thing. Hoping around the poly tunnel yesterday was one of amphibious friends. It has found its own way there because it knows the climate is right and it will find a source of food in the form of slugs and other things that we don’t like in our poly tunnel. Little one, you are very welcome, we will always have a place for you.
Moving up the scale, twin lambs arrived. Both boys, they are doing well and this picture was taken twenty minutes after they were born.
There is a time when you need to bring in the big boys if you want to make things happen fast and that is the position that I have found myself in. I want to use the minimum of carbon in my growing, but I also need to get some results from our growing now, this season.
The crazy economics of the world and the way we have to live our lives means that time costs and we cannot always take the time we would like to when making an area fertile for growing food. Loosing all our brand new tractor equipment in the fire last week has also had its impact.
I had to bring in a contractor and in less than an hour we had a lot of ground opened up for growing. Once opened up and turned into growing beds, the small two wheel tractor will be all we need for future growing. Using only a small tank of fuel is needed to run it all day, this will have a much smaller carbon footprint. Using permanent growing beds will also mean that much of the work in the future can be done with hand tools.
There is still going to be lots of work needed to get the plots up and growing but at least we now have a fighting chance.
Turning the rough ploughed land into nice beds fit for sowing and planting will still take lots of work. By the time I finished on Wednesday night, three quarters of it had been rotavated in and we now have a decent amount of growing area to be working with for this season.
Six hours behind a bucking and bronking two wheel tractor will take its toll and I know I will be stiff by tomorrow but it will all have been worth it. Let’s hope the weather holds so we can get it all finished on Friday.
On the left of this image is the freshly ploughed land and on the right, the smooth rotavated soil in which we will form new growing beds.
I have been asked a few times now about my approach to pest control. I must admit, it was a big worry of mine when I started to grow on a relatively big scale. I am probably tempting fate to deal me a bad hand this year, but so far things have usually worked out well.
However, as an organic grower, my biggest crop problems have had nothing to do with insects, birds or rodents, it is competition from weeds. This subject alone will probably turn into a set of articles, but I mention it here because weeds are the things that keep me awake in the early hours, not aphids, caterpillars or even the dreaded slug. That is not to say that I don’t have any problems from pests, just not as many as you would imagine.
Why a re weeds such a problem to the organic grower? Because they are everywhere, they grow vigorously and they put up a good fight. If you are a new veg grower don’t underestimate the battle to come, weeds are vicious.
When I first started growing field scale crops, I managed to clear the soil to a brilliant weed free tilth, sowed my seeds and watched in dismay as the soil was swamped by thousands of tiny seedlings. I didn’t even see my carrots emerge from the ground, direct seed sowing will punish the naive.
Weeds are not much kinder when you are planting transplants. You do have a time window whilst your lovely plants sit in a sea of beautiful clean soil, but don’t expect things to stay this way. If you lift your attention you will pay with hours on your hands and knees trying to put things right. You need to hoe and cultivate the soil constantly if you want to stay ahead of the game. Running a hoe down a line of veg takes only a few minutes, pulling them out by hand will take hours and your crop will have already have been badly retarded if it survives at all.
It’s gets worse though. Even if you stay on top of the hoeing, some weeds still put up a good fight. Couch grass is a horticultural terrorist that grows around, under and even through crops. Its pointed roots will pierce through potato tubers and emerge through the other side; try to hoe that my friend.
There are methods to beat all these weed problems and I will tell you how I have dealt with them over the coming weeks.
A few pictures of what has been happening on the farm last week.
Radish (variety Saxa) are now ready for the shop.
Mixed salad leaves should now be available in the shop on a regular basis. These are lettuce (Lollo Rossa and Lollo Blond), Rocket, Mizuna, Spinach and Red Russian Kale.
Pricing is a trial offer, perhaps this will change in the future.
Roger and Reg sowing our first batch of outdoor carrots. We have some in the poly tunnel which are through already.
The first arrivals from our Hebredian Ewes was a pair of twins. One of them was on the small side and needed suplimenting with a bottle.