I’ve just heard that I’ve won Grower of the Year again, at the Bath Good Food Awards 2015! Thanks so much to everyone who nominated me, and to the judges too: let’s hear it for local, sustainable and delicious food!
It’s that time of year again, huzzah! After being blown to bits on Monday (thanks Imogen), yesterday’s calm and sunshine was very welcome, and just the right incentive to rebuild the hot bed which I trialled last year. The idea behind this hot bed is to provide some much-needed heat for sowing seeds that need it, ie peppers, chillies and tomatoes, in order to get them going early and make the most of the growing season.
So I pulled the hot bed three-sided frame back into the Little Tunnel, and started off with a layer of semi-rotted manure from the outdoor piles of horse manure, full of lovely earthworms, in order to boost activity in the tunnel as a whole, and provide what feels like a good base of beneficial organisms for the hot bed. Then I layered on three wheelbarrow-loads of fresh stable manure (a combination of straw, shavings, hay, horse poo and pee) at a time, before drenching it in rainwater, and then layering on another three barrow-loads and watering again – up to a total of 12 barrow-loads, which brought it right up to the top of the approx 1m x 1.5m x 1m frame. I’ve turbo-screwed in the thin front for the time being, which will be easy enough to take out and turn or jiggle the heap to kickstart some more heat in a week or so; and also to take out the frame at the end of the spring and spread the remaining composted manure around the tunnels.
I’m using an old salvaged door as the top, and will wait until the initial high temperatures of 70C+ drop down in a day or two (this type of ‘hot’ aerobic composting reaches high temperatures quickly and kills pathogens, producing composted manure in just a few weeks if done right); before sowing & putting the seed trays on top. The manure pile temperature started off at 10C, but was starting to rise when I left yesterday, so will be well on the way to a toasty tunnel now! This trapped warmth should also help the beetroot get going that I’ve recently drilled in the other part of the tunnel.
It seems like ages ago, but Bath & Bristol Organic Growers (BABOG) met up at Kensons Farm near Salisbury only a few weeks ago, on Saturday 23rd January, kindly hosted by Hugh Collins. A good turnout, we all met at the Veg Shed shop, well stocked even in January, then moved onto the propagation area and polytunnels. Hugh grows most crops for several local weekly markets, but also does some wholesale – especially potatoes, onions and asparagus. We checked out his new system for aerating the stored onions to prevent rotting, and also the benenfits of dig vs no-dig beds in the polytunnels.
Hugh is also taking on another Future Growers trainee this season, and we swapped experiences and recommendations on volunteers vs waged labour. After admiring his many brassicas standing well in the field, and checking out the leeks and new asparagus beds, it was time to head to another barn for a look at Hugh’s extensive machinery collection.
After checking out his root lifters and other tractor-mounted tools, we headed inside for a welcome hot cuppa and homemade cake; along with chats on the merits of the Biodynamic seed sowing calendar, best varieties of crops, the weather and green manures. Thanks to Hugh for a very informative meeting; any volunteers for the next BABOG in spring please get in touch!