Spring review

So, it’s mid June and alot has happened in the garden. I’m going to try and review each section and crop and where Reddy Lane is at. There have been some successes and some failures…..

The herb garden was covered with plastic last Winter, and I’ve put put about 30 kale plants out, and lost about 20 to slugs in the last fortnight’s rain. I’ve sowed about another 600, for this and the brassica bed. I’ve chosen Westland Winter and Cavelo Nero this year, first time with both of these, and optimistic the second and third sowing will be ok.

Wet garlic.
First of many harvests of ‘wet’ garlic trimmed up for Levy Market.

The 5kg of Therador garlic bulbs I bought has done excellently over Winter. And I harvested the first bulbs to sell ‘wet’ at Leve Market and in the veg boxes last weekend. There were loads of slugs under the plastic when I lifted one sheet, so I was able to kill about 100 in 1/2 an hour. A bit gross but the carrots next to it were being demolished.

The broad beans planted early next to the garlic will be ready to harvest next weekend. So, actually planting relatively late compared to some growers has only resulted in a crop about 2 weeks later. I have re – sowed and re – sowed in this bed to get it full of plants. And that was even despite it being covered with plastic for a year, and weed free when sowed. The second broad bean bed has taken I think four sowings to fill. And I’ve weeded it probably the same amount of times.

Where the leeks were, I have direct sowed beetroots, parsnips and carrots. I hand watered the whole area a few times, and hand weeded too.  The beetroot are doing ok, slightly patchy germination. There’s no sign of the parsnips yet. The carrots are patchy, but there, which is exciting for me as I’ve not grown carrots on this scale before. The row next to the garlic under the plastic has been decimated by slugs in all this wet weather. I am going to try and transplant some of the carrots that need thinning into that bed.

Rocket just before harvesting in early June.

An early sowing of rocket came to success at the beginning of the month. All 133m of it survived the snow of May under the fleece. And Organic North bought 35kg, and Unicorn 3kg, and I sold another 15kg at Levy Market and in the veg boxes. It is the best seller definitely this year to date.  But I had to spend a few hours hoeing it, and a few watering it by hand. Also, the last harvest for Organic North had to be done on Saturday night after Levy Market as the temperatures were reaching 25 degrees in the daytime. It had started to bolt and harvesting took hours to select the good leaves. It was too dark to see by the end,  and I’m grateful to George for his help.

The other 133m of this brassica bed was sown with phacelia. I thought it may have gotten killed off in the snow, so was pleased that I hadn’t wasted £20 on organic seed, when I saw the furry little stems reaching up. The whole 260m of it is supposed to be being kale. But so far I’m struggling to get the herb bed full of kale.

In the centre of the garden is a section where the old polytunnel was. It was ploughed, mucked and covered with plastic.  I have planted out 38 of my own courgettes,  and only 3 remain.  I ordered 100 plugs at a cost of £42 to replace them, and have about 10 left. The slugs have feasted in the three weeks of constant and at times torrential rain. It is disappointing 😦 A friend gave me 22 of his to replace and I am nurturing them on in pots and hardening off in dry weather, so fingers crossed for some yield. But definitely disappointing. I think I have learnt that commercial organic growers just need to be the kind of people that suffer a setback, and just carry on hoping that it’ll be better next time.

There are two 20m x 9m beds that we covered in plastic at the start of the season. I planted 1000 leeks in plug trays, and lost almost all to slugs while hardening off. I re – sowed another 1000 leeks, and promptly lost them again during hardening off to slugs and torrential rain.  I am nurturing the remaining 100, and pondering what else to do with the beds. In the middle of these beds is a 20m x 9m section that I direct sowed with rainbow chard and beetroot last week. I sowed it really thickly, mainly because the smaller disk for the sower didn’t seem to be putting any seed out, probably because the earth was sodden amd jamming it. Any that germinate too thickly I intend to put where the garlic is.

I sowed 80m of French beans on the other side of the polytunnel.  It was sodden, so myself and Duncan had to mark out beds, so as not to walk in them. Then stop every couple of metres as the seeder was getting clogged up with mud. I re – sowed a second time in some spaces, but they are looking good at the moment. It took hours to put up the netting. I’d like to get another 80m planted, but it’s too wet to rotavate where last year’s kale was.

Tomato plants.
Tomato plants in their pots just before planting out at the end of May.

The polytunnel has 30 cherry tomato plants in, 15 black cherry and 15 gardener’s delight.  I bought them in, as I don’t have anywhere to germinate them under heat. I also have about 100 marketmore cucumbers, in about 5 sowings. Also, basil, coriander and chives finally went in last week.

Then it’s mange tout, which is another disaster really. I’ve sowed twice and had only a few plants over about 100m.  Then George took over managing pea germination and has been soaking the peas beforehand to get them shooting their roots. This was going well, and we had hundreds sprouting,  but I added extra water and we were greeted by a smell on entering the polytunnel one morning. It smelt like fox scat left in a hot plastic airless bubble but was actually fetid peas in the polytunnel.  George bravely swilled them and chucked them wholesale in a bed, we’ll see if any come up. He took the rest of the seeds home to germinate in the garage where he could keep an eye on them. Hopefully we’ll still get a pea crop this year.

Lettuce leaves being harvested for mixed leaf salad.

To end on a high note, the lettuces have been great. I have four 15m lettuce beds, which is proving manageable. Especially as it is next to the water tank. As in previous years I have had hundreds and can’t keep on top if it. I’ve got lots of Marvel of Four Seasons and a few green Batavia,  and with calendula flowers it’s making a good mixed leaf salad. The slugs have knocked a good bit of value off it though as I am having to discard many outer leaves.

Anyway, this Spring update was brought to you by a poorly Lindsay in bed watching Glastonbury.  May the next few weeks be a little drier.

Spring shoots

And, so it begins. Well quite slowly actually due to all the rain. But it is the end of March and the field has been mucked, ploughed and tilled.


I have only sown parsnips, broad beans, parsley & lettuce. It’s still cold and I lost practically all early seedlings last year. Between pigeons and rabbits last year I lost all broad beans, but with the fence in place, fingers crossed for this year.

Levenshulme Farmer’s Market has been really busy and great so far. Have really enjoyed seeing people and can’t wait to get some of own home grown produce on the table. Have been foraging in the woods for wild garlic (ramsons) though,  so these brighten up the table at this time of year.

Foraged and local wild garlic sustainably harvested from an ancient woodland. 

July’s not so belated post

July has still been very busy in the garden, and characterised by cool weather and rain. Which means crops (and weeds!) are growing slower than usual, and I have only had to irrigate outside once, and have been fine to leave the polytunnel for a day unwatered.

In the garden
The herb garden has finally been rotavated and I’ve had to concede defeat to the couch grass, and laid some black plastic to plant through. George and I laughed wryly at our plastic paradise garden as we surveyed the area. A garden of plastic was not my dream for the herb garden, but I cannot keep on top of the perennial weed couch grass, and keep losing my herbs. I have planted nasturcian, borage and calendula plants through the plastic, and have direct sowed some of the same and some cornflowers. I have also planted out Rosemary and sage plants in the plastic, and have direct sowed some yarrow too.
I have spent six days weeding the beetroot after letting it get totally out of control twice, so have implemented a new weeding regime. I have committed to hoeing all the crops at the beginning of the week, rather than letting the weeds progress and then having to spend much longer on weeding.
Some of the sections have got totally out of control with Fat Hen, but the upside is I have been eating and selling some to Manchester Veg People (MVP) and in the market/veg boxes.
The mange tout are being eaten by rabbits and there is no sign of them growing much, or producing a crop 😦
I still haven’t managed to get the leeks planted out or the kales planted out from the cage.

I am still selling oregano and sage regularly to the Unicorn Grocery and MVP. Unicorn are also20150725_103351[1]buying dill and tarragon plants from me. I have sold some edible calendula, sage, oregano and coriander flowers to MVP, but haven’t been able to provide a consistent supply. The sage were popular at the beginning of the month, and I have lots of oregano at the end of the month, but nobody is very keen on them. Manchester House restaurant said they were “aggressive.”
I am still selling my beetroot, garlic and fat hen at Levenshulme Farmer’s Market and in the veg boxes.

I have been buying the Kindling Trust’s strawberries for Levenshulme Farmer’s Market and the veg boxes, and they have been fantastic. They have symphony and honeoye varieties. But largely other crops from local growers are slow and there hasn’t been as much local organic crops available as usual.

I saw this post about a project growing microgreens in underground tunnels for restaurants in London. Therefore cutting food miles considerably.
I don’t think this would work in Manchester though, as there aren’t enough of those high end restaurants that would be able to use (and pay!) for microgreens.

June’s belated post

So, perhaps not surprisingly, June has been very very busy in the garden. And updating my blog has slipped off the agenda…….

George watering in the hardening off cage we had to build to keep the rabbits from the plants.

In the garden
This month I have laid about 15x9m of black weed suppressant plastic for the squashes and courgettes, and planted them out. The black weed suppressant plastic was laid for the leeks, and it took two of us four hours. The tomatoes are really coming on, and they are supported and pruned. A good half of the cucumbers have been planted out in the polytunnel. The aphids seem to have eventually been knocked back by the soft soap, though not before taking out my lettuces and largely making them unsellable. And I had to build a cage to harden off plants and keep the rabbits off.

In the shops

Really pleased with the garlic harvest. Some of the larger ones got a kiss!
Really pleased with the garlic harvest. Some of the larger ones got a kiss!

I have been regularly selling oregano and sage to the Unicorn Grocery in Chorlton and Manchester Veg People (MVP). I have also been selling strawberry plants and tarragon plants to the Unicorn. I have sold some edible flowers to MVP, but have struggled with my supply due to the weather and the rabbits.
The first of my beetroot and garlic was finally ready, and I was thrilled with both of them. In June was asking £7/kg for the fresh garlic and £1.50 for a bunch of three beetroot.

Selling direct
I’m regularly doing 14-15 veg boxes for people weekly, and I have 19 customers at the moment. I had a spate of new people who took a veg box once and not again, which hasn’t happened before and suggests they didn’t like it or think it was good value. I think this was because the prices were high for the new season crops. It was exciting to finally be able to get hold of new potatoes, cucumbers, spring onions etc, but the prices to buy them were high. Shows that if you can get crops early you can ask a good price for them, as those prices soon dropped rapidly in July as other farmers (like me) caught up.



Aprils update

In between the cold and rain, we did finally manage to plough and cultivate the land. I have been attending Levenshulme Farmer’s Market every Saturday, and have been averaging delivering nine veg boxes weekly. Eating wise I have been selling more of the new Spring crops like cucumbers, radishes, spring onions, spinach etc more than sampling them as the demand has far exceeded supply.

This month I have direct sowed 114m beetroot, 57m of lettuce and 77m mange tout. I have also sown in pots 3800 leeks and 100 kale and 100 purple sprouting broccoli. And yes, I do feel a bit irritated when people ask me if I have an allotment….
I am dealing with aphids in the tunnel, and the couch grass battle rages on……

stall at Levy
This is the first Farmer’s Market of the year at Levenshulme.
Salad of my Winter Purslane leaves (though enhanced by tomatoes and cucumber not grown by me!)
Salad of my Winter Purslane leaves (though enhanced by tomatoes and cucumber not grown by me!)

It’s sad to say that this month has been so busy that preparing delicious meals from the veg has slipped down the agenda.

Channel 4 news did a good report on salad being picked by workers facing modern slavery conditions.

I went to see Severine from Greenhorns speak about Farmstart in America. This was really thought provoking. They have so much land there, and we are so pressed for land at our site. It also seemed a much more radical grassroots organisation. Some of there films are here: