One Month In

My first month as Greenslate Grower has ended and I have really enjoyed it. The team working on the farm have been very welcoming and have given me a free hand to get the crop growing operation started.

What’s happening on the farm is inspirational, I feel that this small scale community growing project has come of age and is making a huge difference in many peoples lives.

Let’s face it, there is lots of worrying stuff going on in the world at the moment that can leave you feeling helpless, cast adrift on a stormy sea of uncertainty. Well there is one thing that we all can do, reach out to our community and make sure that our own part of the world hasn’t forgotten what humanity is all about.

The Long Term Plan

I see my mission at Greenslate to be very much in line with its ‘Transitional’ roots of providing local food to the local community and bringing money into the local economy rather than spreading it to national and international corporations; ambitious plans indeed.

For me, success in the first year will be to get the café and farm shop stocked with fresh produce grown on site. Forget food miles, think food yards (or metres if you prefer).

On a practical level, much of the work so far has been planning the creation of a one acre market garden. It is an exciting process and I feel incredibly lucky to be given this opportunity. At the same time, it feels a little scary as there is so much to be done.

Roger Buckner trialled some growing on the farm last year with some success and we will build on that this season.

The soil is much sandier here that I would have thought but it seems to have a good balance between sand, silt and clay. The samples that I have looked at seem low in organic matter but this can be worked on. A pH of 6.5 is also a good place to be starting for growing the wide range of crops that we need.

At the moment we are sowing onions and we will soon be starting our tomatoes.

If you want to get updates about the growing on Greenslate Farm you can subscribe to our blog and hear the latest news as soon as it hits the web site. Just leave your email address in the panel on the right and click the subscribe button.

First Seeds Germinating

This is a bit of a ‘moment’ for me, the first germinating seeds for this season at Greenslate. We are trying onions in seed blocks and they are bobbing their heads up a week after sowing.

Have you done a jam jar soil test?The soil at Greenslate contains more sand than I expected with nearly 50% content in this sample that I took from the market garden area.

Onion Sowing

First seasons sowing at Greenslate Farm. Roger sowing Onions into soil blocks then putting them into a Garden Sensation Vitopod to get them germinating. (A big thank you to Mellow Yellow in Mawdesley for giving us a good deal).

Meanwhile Reg has been busy adding panels to fill in gaps of the poly tunnel which will help things warm up a bit sooner, hopefully.

Friday Update

Quite a productive day in the end. Rhiannon helped me finish off emptying the poly tunnel hotbed, then some of the building crew helped me assemble a new work bench with the remains of the hotbed. Some of the Care Farm students helped move the seed compost into place. Finally Chris and Dan put a temporary electricity feed into the greenhouse so we can get propagating some seeds.

A great day for teamwork on the growing side of the farm.

Early next week we can start sowing seeds in earnest and get some of this Greenslate produce under way.

It has also been a day of ‘Permafrost’ up here on Billinge Hill and no mud pies were made in the Mud Pie Kitchen; it was all frozen over.



Clearing The Hotbed

The first job of the day will be to finish off clearing out this old hotbed. I was hoping to find it full of lush well rotted compost but it has all dried out and become ‘mummified’ instead. It should at least get me warmed up on this bitterly cold morning.

Compost Delivery

The compost has arrived, so as soon as we have our seeding area sorted we can get on with sowing some of this years crops.

Moorland Gold is an Organic approved compost that I have been using for a few years now. It is made from peat washed off the Pennine Moors into local rivers so doesn’t have the negative environmental impact that ‘extracted’ compost does.


The Greenslate Market Garden site in January 2017

Welcome to the Greenslate Grower blog, a web site that will record the growth (literally) of the Greenslate Community Farm Market Garden starting in January 2017. It’s cold and damp outside at the moment and there is lots of planning and designing to do if we are to fill the shop and cafe with lots of fresh fruit and veg this season.

Please subscribe to this page if you want to follow our progress. There will be frequent updates as the seeds are sown, the land is worked and the crops are harvested. So if you want to follow our progress please subscribe to our site and you will get updates emailed to you as they occur.

Neil Hickson, the Greenslate Grower