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!

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

Changing Seasons

20160902_094137Ahh September: the time of lingering summer, chillier nights, and also when you get a bit of a chance to keep on top of all the veg. The courgettes and cucumbers are now starting to slow down; and while they are still producing well, they are giving us a sensible amount of food rather than the crazy gluts of August. The tomatoes however have now taken off instead, and we’re picking around 15-20kg three times a week just to stay on top of them. The peppers and chillies are starting to turn red; and perhaps most excitingly of all, the pumpkins and squashes in the field are turning orange, woohoo! Soon we’ll be having a Pumpkin Picking Party to help bring the harvest in – if you fancy a few hours of picking and moving these beasts to the safety of the snug polytunnels, in return for some tasty lunch and a pumpkin to take home, let us know – more details to follow shortly…

20160902_094639Lettuces and spinach that have done so well are starting to go to seed and are being cut down; they will provide some kind of ground cover over the winter, while mowing ensures the weeds don’t take too much hold. Successional sowing and planting has been key to continued supply of salads and spinach over the summer; and while we had the odd mishap due to slugs hoovering off trays of seedlings at a time, or deer having a good old munch, we’ve done this pretty well this year. The last lot of outdoor spinach and salads went in last week; after that we’ll be relying on tunnel plantings.

20160831_143235Meanwhile Marmalade tunnel’s green manure of Persian clover has done very well (and smelt amazing – also beloved by hundreds of bees), and has now been strimmed and mown down, ready for incorporation into the soil, to give the next lot of salads a great start to life. Sowing winter salads in August and September is always a bit bitter-sweet: it means the craziness of the summer is coming to an end; but the tastiness of mustards and winter salads is on the horizon…