Productivity Survey

IMG_20140530_110949 copyIf you’ve not seen it already, there is an excellent survey doing the rounds for small-scale growers, farmers and smallholders, looking at how productive your land it. The idea is to collect some really valuable and useful data – it’s hard to push for small-scale producers’ interests, when we can’t accurately describe how productive we are, and only use anedotal evidence. Most of us small-scale growers, gardeners and smallholders believe that smaller spaces can be much more productive than some larger scale agri-businesses (usually down to more labour input, which isn’t a bad thing if it means more jobs and greater sustainability); so now we need the hard data and facts to prove it. Fill in this survey before the end of April and get your voice heard.

This is something I felt strongly about when writing Gardening For Profit 18 months ago – that commercial growers, no matter how small, should be aware fo what it is that keep their business afloat. After some calculations detailed in the book, my (surprising) top 3 crops in terms of creating turnover were chard, leeks and kale – although expensive crops such as salad bags and tomatoes also brought in a decent return, but with greater overheads. I can’t wait to look at the data from the survey, it will be amazing useful – and more so if most people take the time to fill it in, so get typing for the greater good!

Lean On Me (Shed)

IMG_20150328_135318Phase 1 of the lean-to extension is complete! Round the side of my shipping container (aka packing shed & tool shed), I’ve been wanting a shelter for ages to help keep things tidy and dry. We (by which I mean most of the work was done by a couple of willing friends, while I looked on & fetched the tea) put up a brilliant round-wood lean-to a few years ago, with clear corrugated roofing, to keep the worst of the rain off while going in & out of the shipping container; and keep some equipment like my wheelhoe slightly protected underneath. The idea now is to build this small extension in the same way round the side of the container; and then at some point join the tops up with more roofing, or slab wood, to make a nice big sheltered area to keep tools, randoms and people dry.

IMG_20150328_152653 IMG_20150328_150059So the chaps went to work yesterday, buzzing up some more local larch round-wood poles, and bracing with some 2 x 4 pine; and in just 4 hours I had the framework for the lean-to extension! It was so windy and rainy though that we decided it would be more sensible to wait until the gales had subsided before trying to fix the roofing (which shouldn’t take too long to screw in). Oli (in the hat) decided to make the structure even more stable by building in a work bench for me, yippee! This will just need a piece of slab-wood on top; we measured it to fit my most-used 150-cell module trays too, so this will also work as a potting bench. So I will have a cosy lean-to-cum-potting-shed, hurrah!

Turning Up The Heat

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Removing the front panel shows how the manure has started to break down already

The hot bed temperature had dropped down to a steady 15-18C, so today I took off the top pallet & seedlings, and pulled away the front panel in order to turn the heap. It was amazing to see how much the heap had sunk in just a few weeks: and so much nice white fungal growth in there, breaking down the organic matter. A good stir-up and turn-over with a fork later and the heap had increased in size again since there was more air back in the mix, and the moisture is spread out more amongst the drier strawy ingredients; so hopefully we’ll see another small spike in temperature over the next few days, no doubt to the delight of the tomato and pepper seedlings on top. The top pallet went back on again, with the seedling trays on top – almost level with the top of the hot bed frame again, so a few inches higher than it had been over the last few days. I’ve put the fleece back over the whole lot again, since the night forecast is pretty low for the next week…

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Once turned, the manure level is higher; pallet back on top with seedlings