Pop-Up Beds

Bottom layer of cardboard

It’s that time of year again – when I make raised beds! There is a huge stack of pallets accumulating on the farm (I think they multiply overnight when no-one if looking), so we’ve pried off the good planks and nails, and then turned them into a lovely large and sturdy raised bed. I’ve placed it on the old green waste compost footprint (now very couch grassy), and placed a layer of cardboard on the bottom to keep the perennial weeds from bursting through. Then I shovelled a load of the (rather weedy) green waste compost into the bed, until it was about half-full, then laid another load of cardboard on top. This was then weighed down with scrap wood to stop it blowing away; I’m hoping this layer will keep the couch at bay so it will die off before the cardboard breaks down at the end of the year. I’m going to order some new (and therefore weed-free) green waste compost in next month, which I’ll use to finish off the top layer of the bed, and then plant nasturtiums in it in the spring.

Second layer of cardboard, on top of compost

I might make another one or two of these beds – they are so easy (and cheap) to make – and after the nasturtiums, I’m hoping to use them for asparagus beds, once I’ve raised enough plants from seed this year.


Rabbit De-Fences

IMG_20150119_151300The sun was out all day today yippee, so despite the cold, the perfect day to have a crack at mending my mangled rabbit fencing round the field. One side had got caught up in a passing tractor/mower the summer before last, and I just haven’t had the time (well, inclination really), to mend it. However, this autumn the rabbits really have made themselves at home, and truly taken the Mickey – grazing of all the carrots I was hoping to save seed from this year, as well as having a go at the parsley too (and who knows what else). So we patched up that bad side with some new rabbit fencing: a right old pain, attaching the new fencing to the strips of buried old fencing remaining (there’s no way I’m redigging those trenches when there’s perfectly buried fencing to hand on to). We also banged in some loose posts (one good thing about sliding about in the mud, at least the posts went in easily) and tightened the straining wire; so all I need to do later in the week is carry on patch up the smaller holes and tears with hog ring pliers (my joint-favourite tool at the moment, along with fencing pliers. Just pliers generally).

The cows up in the big barns at Hartley Farm found it intriguing to watch me trundle past them to borrow the large post hammer and wheel it down to the field; then back again as the sun went down. There’s really nothing like the unflinching gaze of a cow to make you doubt yourself, is there?

The Big Fight: Beetroot vs Pumpkin

IMG_20150115_150922So which would you grow more of? My first batch of seed orders this season has arrived (YIPPEE!!!!) which is so exciting, I want to go and sow them all right now. However, looking at the coooold weather forecast fir the next week, I can’t see even my most optimistic scheduled sowings under cover coming to much any time soon (I’m looking at you, rocket & radish seeds; you’re going in by the end of the month whether you like it or not). However, looking at the enticing crisp clean packets, I’m now wondering whether I should order some more of certain crops. 100g of a variety beetroot seed sounds a lot, but once you’ve drilled it in the ground, it doesn’t go very far (not to mention slugs and the rest that fancy nibbling seedlings). One issue is space of course: although I’m planning on taking on more land this year, there will still be a finite amount of ground available – and I still need to bear in mind my rotation, so can’t for example simply grow 10 x more brassicas than last year and nothing else. So it’s a continuing juggling act, working out which crops to sow more of: which will germinate well; grow well despite hot/cold/wet/dry weather; survive pest attacks best; sell best and fetch a good enough price to cover costs? Ah, the million-farmer question. I’ve got a good idea of the brassica section (salads, kale & PSB), umbellifers (parsnips, carrots, fennel, parsely), and legume & allium (broad beans, leeks, spring onions). Stage 4 of my 5-year rotation is the curcubit & beet patch (followed by undersown green manures); so these crops tend to fight it out as to who gets more space. In the end though, I tend to hedge my bets (as do most growers): so maybe I will just grow more of both, and keep my fingers crossed. If something fails terribly, I can always whack in some extra lettuce modules in its space after all…