2020’s growing season (oh and Covid and Brexit!)

So, this was an epic year for us, and thank you our wonderful veg box customers for your support. If you would like to join our veg box scheme in Spring, there’s details at the bottom of the page.

Our beetroot and broad beans are harvested hours before your delivery.

When the first lock down was announced in March, the markets we traded at in Levenshulme and Altrincham closed, and we had a £10k grant for community sessions retracted, so it was an incredibly stressful time. We’d spent the entire year planning the year out, and everything changed. Lindsay worked a record breaking 245 hours in March trying to work out what to do.

But at the same time everyone in the country was worrying about where they were going to get their food from. We were bombarded with 100 emails a day with people trying to join the organic veg box scheme. We had to put an out- of-office reply on my email, and eventually the inbox became so full that the emails just bounced back. Due to the demand we were able to double the veg box scheme from 30 to 60 people. We ran a waiting list all last year.   

Covid and Brexit have shown how fragile our food supply is, and how local growers are essential to ensuring the food supplied is climate-friendly, healthy and accessible. Data collected during April 2020 found that box schemes country-wide had doubled their numbers. The Organic Growers Alliance (OGA) published research from surveying of 101 veg box schemes, and found the 101 veg box schemes had delivered 0.7 million veg boxes in six weeks, but they could provide more, as 82% had waiting lists.

Our chard is harvested just hours before delivery.

The box schemes were asked what could be done to support veg box schemes to add these customers. And the top answer was investment. The government knows that food costs more to produce than producers are paid. So, historically DEFRA subsidised (as part of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy) landowners which are larger than 5 hectares simply for owning land (and some of these landowners produced food on their land). Market gardens exist to produce food but will be on a much smaller acreage, so they have never received any of this funding. This is despite the fact that fruit and vegetables are the only food group the government recommends we eat more of.

 The second answer was a national and long-term vison for a sustainable food and farming system. Under the new post- Brexit agriculture policy, with a move away from CAP payments due to land ownership to payments based on delivery of public goods, it was hoped that those who run veg box schemes might experience a more level playing field. But MPs voted down amendments to the Agricultural Bill, and the 10 Point Plan for Green Recovery makes no mention of food and farming, so we have been left out in the cold. We are relying on new and regular customers to support us long-term so that we are there to supply pesticide free fresh produce to our local communities in years to come.

This year Reddy Lane grew 1.38 tonnes of local organic veg, which went in the veg boxes we delivered locally. This is up from 1.15 tonnes last year. Interestingly, by focusing on high value crops, the extra 17% of crop weight grown brought in an overall 41% extra of total income.

Reddy Lane’s own crops made up just under 30% of the total value of the veg in the veg boxes. Lindsay single-handedly packed and delivered 1774 veg boxes! And she still thinks we can do much better on the amount of veg we can grow, and have been working with experienced market gardeners to crop plan for higher income and yields.

Kale and Purple sprouting broccoli at Reddy Lane

Top crops (in kgs)
Courgette & Marrow 217kg
French beans 194kg
Leeks 185kg
Kale 125kg
Chard 105kg

Reddy Lane’s French bean yield was 194kg

Top crops ( in ££s)
Salad £1900
Kale £1235
French beans £927
Leeks £639
Chard £610

And while we’re not dropping any of these crops, a more interesting analysis is value for space ratio, and how to work quick and profitable crops around these maincrops. For example, Rocket makes £12 a metre, and takes 4-5 weeks til harvest.    

If you would like to support local food growers and join the veg box scheme in Spring, please email us. There is info on the scheme here, and where we deliver to. Send us your postcode and we can check you are in the delivery area.

If you aren’t in the delivery area, and would just like to join our mailing list, send us your email and say mailing list.

What a season!

We continued into Winter building the tunnel. We built the door frames, we hung the ventilation netting, we covered it with plastic and got it drum tight. This is achieved by dropping the mid rail by 7cm on each side, and George achieved this in his usual style. By hitting it really hard with a hammer!


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Trimming off the excess plastic after skinning the tunnel.

We also laid the foundations and built the shed. Pretty hard to make the shed look inspiring, but it was a really important job to get ticked off before Winter.

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Then we planted the 15kg of organic garlic, which is the final job of the season, and we always do garlic as there is alot of leeway as to when you can get it down. As long as it’s in before Xmas, then we have still had good yields. The image on the left shows George using a flame weeder to burn the holes into the ground fabric, and the one on the right is 15kg laid down.


Then just in time for Xmas we had some great news, that we have been awarded £10k grant to deliver our community growing sessions. This covers volunteer travel, lunch, tools and waterproof clothing. If you are interested in getting involved in 2019, please drop us a line on contact [at] reddylane.com

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The tunnel

1It feels a long time after the crowdfund, but we have finally begun construction on our 100 foot polytunnel.

Polyunnels on this scale are really expensive, and it costs the same again to have it constructed for you. So, after a lot of ummming and aaahhhing we decided to use all the crowdfund money for the raw materials, and construct it ourselves. This meant we got a larger polytunnel and a very daunting task for October. It has been keeping us all very busy, and we’ve definately had some tension in the group, but it does look rather wonderful already. We have learnt alot!2

It is quite a task to construct, and there are many stages. One of the first tasks is taking delivery of it all, and trying to work out what it all is. It seemed so much timber and packets of ironmongery.

Then you need to very accurately measure it out, and dig 32 holes for the 16 hoops. The base plates then sit inside this, and are anchored on to tubes, and then backfilled. Measuring and levelling them took forever. Personally I nearly cried this day….

But then you can really quickly construct the hoops and something rather wonderful begins to take shape.

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Bureaucratic wins

We have been told by the planners we can build Reddy Lane Market Garden to the specifications that we want to, and we have had our organic licenses issued by the Soil Association.

Planning permission
Reddy Lane Market Garden has finally been granted full approval to build its  27.43 x 5.49m (90x 18 feet) polytunnel, and storage shed with packing area. It took alot of phone calls, a meeting, then complicated to-scale maps and done at home technical drawings. Oh, and a £90 fee! But we were finally told we could proceed without needing full planning permission, which felt like a major step forward, so now we can finally begin to build the site.

We were only allowed to proceed because the field we are in is many hectares, and therefore the landlowners have permitted development rights to farm their land. The landowners also kindly submitted the application in their names. There is no way we would have been granted permission on the original site that fell through in Strines, as the landowners only owned 8 acres, and that is not enough land. Dealing with some of the staff at the planning office was frustrating, and highlighted how far there is to go before we can even contemplate good availability for locally produced pesticide free food. The entire planning system for farm “development” would need to be re-hauled. Also, it would help if they could envisage that women under 40 years old might be capable of running farms.

Compost loo
The easiest building task to begin with was the compost loo, which we think is pretty important to ensure volunteers can feel comfortable helping out. It is being put together by building a frame and attaching fence panels to it. The floor is paving slabs and the ceiling is corrugated plastic. We are hoping this will come together at two fifths of the cost of buying one as a bundle, which can be eye-wateringly expensive for what is a small garden shed with a box and a loo seat in.

Organic license
Reddy Lane Market Garden is already part of a much larger organically certified farm called Abbey Leys Farm. It has already been through it’s three year conversion period, so the license for our market garden just had to transfer to our name, but this included a three hour inspection on crop rotation, organic seeds and inputs, and  fertility building. We will be audited another 2x in the first year to make sure we are compliant. We wrote a short why buy organic page here.

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