Yes indeed: Gardening For Profit: From Home Plot to Market Garden (Green Books, £9.99) is the perfect Christmas present for anyone thinking about starting their own market garden business! As well as detailed chapters on how to get started and find land and funding, plus what kind of business to consider (private, co-operative, CSA etc), the book is also crammed full with up-to-date info and tips on doing all the paperwork, legal options and tax, plus guides on how to invoice, start marketing, what to specialise in, what to grow – and when; and also an extensive Resources section with all the contacts you’ll need to get going and growing! Perfect for all food or gardening enthusiasts, as well as anyone thinking about starting up any small business – in fact, perfect for anyone who can read. Buy it now!
A quick post in praise of these brave souls: they are gamely growing (albeit it very slowly now) in the propagation tunnel, despite these freezing and blustery conditions. The brassicas such as mustards, red cabbage sprouts and mizuna are struggling on, but the mibuna looks the most cross and seems to feel the cold and wet. The leaf celery (at the front of picture, light green) is the slowest growing, but is probably the hardiest, and will simply sit there all winter, growing only incrementally until the days start to lengthen again, and we get a few more sunny days. However the forecast for tomorrow is for full sun (but therefore very cold nights), so they may grow another mm or two. Keep going brave babies!
Come along and enjoy the sunshine, 10am-4pm! The forecast is clear and sunny, but chilly: so I might well spend the whole time by the mulled wine… When I can tear myself away (or get gently escorted away), I’ll also be showcasing my lovely veg (parsnips, carrots, cabbage, mixed kales, celery, beetroot, rainbow chard, leeks), offering tangy salad leaf tasters (try with the range of sample salad dressings and sauces at the stall next door), and hopefully providing a range of interesting veggie recipe ideas for you to try with the veg at home. Oh, and there’ll also be some other people at the market too: such as Alice the hula hoop lady (give it a try!), and Ollie the green-woodworking craftsman, using his handmade bowl-turning lathe to produce lovely rustic bowls right before your eyes!
Plus: Face Painting
Willy Good Ales
Hobbs House Bakery
Marshfield Ice Cream
Bradford On Avon Fudge
Honey & Daughter Cider
In a Pickle
Seven Hills Chocolate
Elements for Life
Ivy House Farm Cream
Box Candle Company
See you there for!
…in the polytunnels. No, not because they are covered in fake snow, tinsel and holly (although maybe ask me again in a week); but because some of the mustards are turning hot red in the chillier weather, and because the beautiful radicchio and rossa treviso chicories are radiating rich red colours. And these deep red and green colours simply say ‘Christmas’ to me! Surely the best Christmas Day starter is a crumbly local blue cheese, pears, sweet parma ham or spicy chorizo from The Bath Pig, and fresh salad leaves drizzled with a little balsamic: plenty of festive green and red shades from mustards, mixed lettuce, endive, bulls blood beetroot, claytonia, red Russian kale, mizuna and mibuna, chicory, shungiko chrysanthemum and chard. Totally tasty, fresh and pretty healthy too; leaving lots of room for the main event!
Well I think we have already established that I have a very immature sense of humour at times, and still find certain carrots and parsnips hilarious when unearthed. I thought I’d celebrate the news that the Fast Show is returning with a picture of this little beauty, something that the two salacious tailors would enjoy: Gary the chef at Hartley’s café also found it amusing, before turning into a delicious Sunday roast.
Talking of parsnips, I started digging them up last week; although they are not enormous (hooh!), they aren’t a bad size considering the dry spell in the summer (I didn’t irrigate the carrots or parsnips at all, and relied on pulled weeds to mulch the ground) – and they taste goregous, especially simply scrubbed and roasted whole or halved. Hopefully I’ll have enough to last until just after Christmas; although some dire predictions have been flying round about how this winter is going to be the hardest in 60 years, with snow from now until February – so maybe it will be good to pull them all sooner rather than later. There will be plenty for the Hartley Farm Christmas Market next weekend anyway!
Just a quickie about the Soil Association’s Soil Symposium, which took place in the lovely @Bristol Science Centre yesterday and day. I love these events, mostly because it’s a great reminder about why we do what we do: when you see horrific consequences of soil degradation and loss (and we’re not talking Amazonian rainforest or American dustbowl here, we’re talking pre dessertification of prime UK agricultural land which is being washed away by bad management, a lack of organic matter being returned to the soil, and poor understanding of the most basic soil science by some farmers), then it helps keep your moral up when spreading compost (pictured) or manure on your own holding. You can feel like you’re doing your bit to lock up carbon, provide nutrients and moisture-retentive mulches for your plants, not to mention breeding grounds for beneficial soil fauna and flora, and generally make the world that bit better. Everything starts with the soil, and as Rob Richmond pointed out today, farmers’ main role is to turn sunlight into food for us all. This can only happen with healthy soil – and that is what the real meaning of Organic is.
I have officially discovered that the sandy silty light soil in my field is excellent for carrots. I had an inkling of this two years ago, when I first moved here; but wasn’t sure whether that was just a nice patch that they were growing on. Last year the slugs ate all three sowings, so I couldn’t check whether they would grow as well on the next patch in the rotation. However, this year they’ve been really good again in their new spot, despite the dry spell in July – I didn’t irrigate them at all (although I did leave pulled weeds in the rows as a moisture-retaining mulch). So hurrah for my light soil (although it does mean I’m going to need to continue adding organic matter and manures for brassicas and squashes). These coloured carrots I’ve tried out look fabulous when given a quick wash: the White Satin and Yellowstone in particular are often huge; but the Rainbow Bunching shades of oranges, pinks and yellow also get large; although Purple Satin are usually sadly smaller (but still stunning). The good news is that these whoppers are as sweet as the smaller carrots; no hint of parsnip-like woodyness here, plus they’re easy to peel and prepare. Definitely varieties to try again next year…