Wet Wet Wet

Well we have had some nice sunny weather in May & June, so I can’t really complain; although we do seem to have an establishes pattern now of hot and dry early summer, followed by cooler and wetter late summers. This is all fine if you can get all your irrigation sorted for the first part of the season, and have all the ground prepared for when you can’t get on it later on. However, it’s rather a pain when it comes to clearing early summer crops and trying to put early autumn produce in: also for getting on top of the weeds, as the buggers keep rerooting and reseeding, and if we spend too long weeding in the wet, we’ll trash the ground. Hey ho, and hurrah for polytunnels…

Meanwhile the crops are actually doing very well; as well as some lovely sunflowers, zinnias, gypsophilia and cornflowers, we’re now picking salads, fennel, courgettes, chard, spinach, kales and perennial herbs outside, as well as tomatoes, climbing beans, basils (check out our gorgeous Thai basil photo!), coriander, chillies, peppers and cucumbers inside. The cucumbers were almost a disaster following the destruction of the first lot by woodlice, but fortunately we’d sown a back-up second lot, and then quickly sowed a third lot too, so they are just a bit behind but catching up now.

At least the rain means time for catching up on paperwork, and blog posts!

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Making the Hot Bed

20170210_133033Yes it’s that time of year again, when I make up a hot bed (or homemade ‘hot box’), ready to help propagate heat-loving seedlings such as tomatoes and peppers. We put the frame back in the Little Tunnel a week or so ago so the wood could dry out after standing out in the cold for months; and then today I filled it up with barrow-loads of fresh horse manure, soiled straw and wood shavings from the nextdoor horse stables. I added a bit of water as I went, just to ensure that the straw wasn’t too dry for all that lovely biological activity to happen. Then I turbo-screwed in the ply-wood front, filled the frame up to the top with more manure and straw/shavings, and finally placed the old recycled door on top which acts as a lid/bench top for the module trays to stand on. Hopefully in a few days the heap temperature will have crept up to around 60-70C, then started to drop down again; to leave us with a nice warm 10-20C continuous heat for sowing the seedlings next week!20170210_14412720170210_143712

Spring Hot Hot Bed

IMG_20160210_133918 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.

IMG_20160210_134706IMG_20160210_140743So 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.

IMG_20160210_143325I’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.