Dispensing some veg box wisdom

We do have a few veg box slots available if you are interested, see this page.

Seven years as a market trader means I’ve heard a lot of observations about organic seasonal veg over the years, and wanted to share some my tips with you.

Firstly, It tastes better, so your cooking will be instantly next level too, I promise 😊

Andrea Bemis who’s books and blog I really recommend

Books
If you’re anything like me, you own a lot of cookery books, but maybe have only cooked a handful of recipes from them. Seasonal veg will make you try some of the new recipes.

Some good ones for seasonal UK veg are Anna Jones and Ottolenghi. I also really like Meera Sodha (Indian vegetarian) and Sabrina Ghayour (Middle Eastern and meat focused). For blogs I like Thug Kitchen, Green Kitchen Stories and Digging up the Dirt. The latter is written by Andrea Bemis who farms in Oregon, and her original recipes showcase the less sexy vegetables.

Food variety in a year, not a week
A seasonal veg box can feel abit like you are eating one crop until it’s coming out of your ears. Just when you are beginning to think not again, it will disappear again to be replaced by something else that feels refreshingly “new.” Asparagus, new potatoes, corn on the cob, beans and courgettes to name a few seasonal stars.
If something really is coming out of your ears I find batch cooking huge meals at a time works for me, and my two freezers testify to this. Great when you come home starving and freezing from a hard day on the farm.

Hungry gap
There is a ‘hungry gap’ in the UK from late April to early June where the stored Winter crops have finished and the new season crops are only just starting to appear. It’s a challenge to source organic UK veg at this time, and the prices reflect that. Hold your nerve, summer goodness is coming, and prices will drop again. 

Veggie tips
Cauliflowers, leafy cabbages, corn on the cobs and calabrese broccoli are sold per unit, and the price is the same whether it’s a good season or a poor season ie. whether they are big or small. As the farmer has done exactly the same work whether they are big or small. Just like farming, you may score a whopper or you may feel abit like you’ve been had.

Red/white cabbages, squash and celeriac are sold by weight, and some of them are huge. For cabbages, if you are feeling intimidated (and I used to), learn how to make sauerkraut, and you’ll never look back.

Making saurkraut with enormous red cabbages

For squash: soup, curry and adding to the Sunday roast are my go to’s. For soup- I add coconut and chilli. For curry- I add chickpeas and spinach/chard. For Sunday dinner, just roast along with your other roast veg, and snack on leftovers through the week.

For celeriac: I make soup and freeze.

If you are not sure what to do with a root vegetable, roast it, and make a quick dipping sauce for it. Great for packed lunches through the week, with a grain &/or salad.

Salads and greens

The veg is unwashed- we don’t have the washing facilities and it’s a whole next level of audit with Environmental Health to sell washed crops. But if you are finding the greens abit gritty, particularly the salad, I do recommend a salad spinner. Ours was just a couple of quid from Ikea (other retailers are available).
We grow alot of salad, it makes everything else viable. Make a simple salad dressing by adding 3 parts oil to one part acid (lemon or vinegar). Add garlic, salt and pepper, and drizzle over your salad. Add things like yogurt, tahini, capers, herbs, blended onion to make more interesting.
There can be a lot of greens like kale and chard, and a good way to get more into you, is to steam then stir fry as they will reduce down. Start stems first as they take longer to cook, then add leaves. Great with soy sauce/ garlic/ lemon juice/ butter.

How to store
Our greens are picked just hours before they are delivered to you. But if they are not in plastic, they will wilt very quickly. If we deliver crops like kale, herbs or chard in a bunch with an elastic band round it, then put it in plastic yourself, and put it in the fridge. They should last for up to 1 week.
If you don’t have a suitable plastic bag, put it in water, like a bunch of flowers.
DON’T just put it loose in the fridge, as it will wilt very quickly.

How long does it last?

Greens in plastic should last up to 1 week.
Dirty root veg should last months, as long as you do not let it dry out. In Spring time though, they will start to try and grow roots.
Garlic, squashes and onions will last for 1 year if stored well (dark, cool, not damp).
White and red cabbages should last a few weeks though the outer layer may start to age abit. This can just be peeled off.
Chillies and herbs can be dried or frozen.

Share your kitchen triumphs

If you do anything cool with one of our veggies, send me the recipe and a photo and I’ll post it with a credit to you. (The photo needs to look good though, and natural light is the best way to achieve this.)
 
Happy eating,

Lindsay 🙂

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.

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.

sa_organic_black

Best season ever!

So, Reddy Lane Market Garden is having its best season ever. The dry Spring meant we could crack on with planting, and the coolish Summer with intermittent rain, has provided us with a field full of crops. It is the first year when we have used all of our 1/2 acre. And already this year we have grown and sold locally 650kgs of organic veg.

broad bean cropThe only crops that have finished for the year is the broad beans and the shallots. We harvested and sold 80kg of broad beans, up from 55kg last year. Shallots were a new crops for us, but I am happy with selling 138 bunches, from 2.5kg sets. We have lifted all the garlic, and have sold 21kgs so far, but there is lots left.

We are still harvesting beetroot, though we’ve sold 117kg already. Our total beetroot sales for last year were 106kg. We are still harvesting kale, though we’ve sold 77kg already. Our total kale sales were 37kg last year.  We are still harvesting purple sprouting broccoli, though we’ve sold 14kg already this year. We are still harvesting tomatoes, though we’ve sold 28kgs already. We have some catching up on last years yield though, which was 78kgs total. We are still harvesting cucumbers, though we’ve sold 62 already. We still have some way to go to catch last years yield of 138.

toms crop

If you were wondering how yields relate to income, kale is the winner so far, with twice as much income as the second best crop. In second place its broad beans, and third is garlic, though there’s plenty more to be sold.

cuc plants crop
Our cucumbers flowering just before fruiting.

The French beans, maincrop onions, runner beans and carrots are nearly ready for harvest. The leeks are some way off yet.

The only outside sowings left to do are the Rainbow Chard and the brassica salads, but it has been too wet for the last few weeks to get the rotavator on the soil. It’s not too late in the season though. The Winter salads go in the polytunnel when the tomatoes and cucumbers have finished.

Summertime

Summer is here 🙂 And I am tentatively optimistic about the season so far. The first garlic-cropmaincrop of the season, the garlic, has been harvested. And its a whopper, definately the best yield we’ve had from our 5kg plantings yet. We’ve sold 10kg ‘wet’ so far, and there must be at least another 50kgs drying in the polytunnel.

broccoli for web
Purple sprouting broccoli.

We’ve had some seriously hot weather and droughts though, which resulted in the 60m of brassica salads bolting 😦  But the hundreds of kale and broccoli’s have survived, and we have been selling them. They are slightly drowning in Phacelia flowers, but I am also selling the flowers too.

The 40m of carrots are coming along well. But sowing 8 rows in a 1m bed has not worked. This is Joy Larkcom’s ‘How to Grow Vegetables’ advice, as the dense planting is supposed to crowd out weeds. Well, days and days of finger weeding, say this doesn’t work on our soil. Weeds flourish and there’s no space for my hoe. If (and I mean if) I grow carrots again I will revert to four rows, with twine down them so you can see where you sowed, and space to hoe.

I started selling from the first 60m sowing of beetroots. The seeds used to fill in the gaps in germination have germinated too, so there should be a good succession too. They look and taste fantastic. Last week I sowed another 60m of purple beetroot and 60m of chioggia (pink/white) too.

The broad beans are almost ready, and we’ll be harvesting at the weekend. Not even had a taste yet myself.

The first shallots were harvested last weekend for the veg boxes. They are delicious, and should easily cover the high cost (£24) of the sets.

The 100 white onion plantlets and 100 Red Baron plantlets are doing ok. There has probably been a 30% loss, with the trauma of being posted (see early crops), then planted, but this is within acceptable parameters.

frenchbeans
French bean seedlings

The French beans are germinating and all their netting is up ready. There are some Fat hen weeds coming close to them too, so if it is nice tomorrow, we will be hoeing them. The Mange touts did not germinate well, so I have ordered some Runner beans to sow instead.

The 40 tomato plants are doing ok. I tasted the first tomato a few days ago, so hopefully many more will follow. The yellow cherry ‘Mil de Fluer‘ variety is living up to its name, with more flowers on a vine than I have ever seen. I have had to use crates to keep the low ones off the floor, so should probably have nipped this first vine out.

The cucumbers are all planted out in the polytunnel, and the first gorgeous yellow flowers are appearing. I have tied up some of them, and pruned out their side shoots. But due to the heat this has been tricky. Rain is due tomorrow, so will get on with sorting supports for the remaining cucumbers.

The squash and courgettes have been planted out through the plastic. Some were lost to slugs, but most have survived. I have a few more still to go out. I may also sow more, which I may just about get away with, while its raining tomorrow.

I have ordered 144 leek and 144 lettuce transplants for planting out, as my sowings with these crops were not very successful. Well, you can’t win them all. Hopefully we find time and breaks in the rain to get these planted out when they arrive.

 

Where did Autumn go?

Wow, where did Autumn (and Winter) go? I’ve been meaning to write a blog entry about how the maincrops did for months now. Well, I guess it’s probably to be expected in terms of the demands of a market garden. The torrential rain of early Spring finally subsided, it got very busy, and we finally began to harvest some decent qualities of crops.

The herb garden
This section was covered with plastic last Winter, as perennial herbs weren’t proving viable afterall,  and had 30 kale plants put in. 20 were lost early in the season to slugs, and the final 10 succombed to Diamond Moth which is ravaging brassicas around the country. So, far this has been the most unsuccessful part of the garden over the four years, and nothing has changed this year.

Roots
The 5kg of Therador garlic bulbs I bought has done excellently over Winter. And I managed to sell lots ‘wet’ and then dry the rest for the veg boxes. They have stored well, and have been very popular with customers.

The beetroots, parsnips and carrots were all direct sowed using the seeder on the 27th May were variable. The carrots were my clear favourite, as I’ve not grown them on this scale before and they were good, I definately want to scale this up next year. The beetroots were ok but approx one half of the crop was taken out between mice and slug bites. The mice damage was worse here than it has been in other parts of our site. I put some dog hair down to deter them, and this actually did seem to reduce damage.

I did a sowing of beetroot in June, direct sown from the seeder, and these did really well. Normally I use a setting smaller than the suggested setting when sowing with the multiway seeder. But these were sown on the actual beetroot setting, and far too many seeds do fall out, but this does work ok for beetroot. You can select your biggest ones to sell as baby beets, and the others grow into the spaces.

The module tray parsnips were unsellable. They were so forked and disfigured, that I don’t even think Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall could have sold them. The direct sowed parsnips were delicious, but germination was so poor and the price is so low for them, that I wouldn’t bother with them again.

I filled the gaps in with chard transplanted from another bed which had been sown too thickly. They looked like they weren’t going to make it, and had to be hand watered a few times, but did fine and cropped well. They looked very pretty mixed in with the carrot fronds, beetroot stems and parsnip tops. But it’s a market garden not an allotment, and having odd plants dotted about randomly, wasn’t a time or cost effective way of

george-brassicas
George hoeing the rocket.

harvesting.

Brassica family
Inevitably our fantastic rocket started to bolt, and we rotovated, and planted out Westmorland kale and Cavelo Nero (Black kale). The other half stayed as phacelia and self seeded itself. As the kales were taking off, it became late summer, and on I direct sowed 100s of metres of Rocket, Mizuna and Purple Frills (formerly called Red Mizuna). These did crop well, and were successful for us, but were planted a little too late.

Curcurbitae

courgette
Courgettes planted through plastic.

After a disappointing start with the courgettes, over 100 lost to slugs, the remaining 22 did ok. They are always popular on the stall, so will try to get more through to fruition next year. The uchiki kuri squash planted out later did much better, and we had the right amount for the stall and the veg boxes.

Beets and chard
I also planted two rows of chard and three of beetroot in late June. The chard did well, producing 70kg, and I’d like to increase this for next year. The beetroot did well too, and this was the best sowing date, of the three sowings. They also seemed to succomb to mouse and slug damage less despite being closest to the mice nests. On the whole though, we didn’t do as well with beetroot as last year, but that suited me as I had over-eaten them previously.

Legumes and lettuces
The broad beans planted in March did well, but the second sowing on 25th May was disappointing, and I wouldn’t try and sow this late again. We only got one harvest of any mention from them. And when we were clearing them there were lots of nitrogen fixing nodules on the roots, which it was a shame to be pulling up.

We had 160m of French beans, and they did reasonable, but nowhere near as good as they might have done. The first sowing was sowed in very wet ground, and I think they developed a fungus disease due to this which meant many beans had a brown discolouration on. The second sowing was far too late and barely cropped at all.

The third sowing of mange tout finally came good, and we had a good sized cropping well into October. This crop was large enough to wholesale some too. It took a long time to harvest though, and whilst £5/kg wholesale price seems good, actually I’m not sure that this is a viable crop. Or not at our speed of harvesting anyway.

The spring lettuces over 60m were great, as the damp and cool weather gave them a good start. I was unable to maintain this as the temperatures and other demands of the garden increased though. Despite sowing successionally through the summer, nothing else notable came from these beds. From late summer I had also done module sowings, so had a good amount to go into the tunnel.

In the polytunnel
The polytunnel had 30 cherry tomato plants in.

summer-tunnel
Full size Cherry tomato plants on the right.

cucs
Marketmore cucumbers just starting to flower.

Despite a poor start in the cool spring, which was resulting in squishy skins and insipid flavour, they did perk up in summer. Yields and flavour were good eventually, and 30 plants gave us 78kg to sell. Just 30 plants in 1/4 of the tunnel still represents our second best crop income wise.

I grow my own cucumbers from seed, but these didn’t perform anywhere near as well as the tomatoes. Over half were sown far too late, in mid May to early June, and these barely yielded at all. Those sown earlier did far better, and cropped heavily, and were popular. But the value of them is much less than the tomatoes.

winter-lettuces
Module lettuces being ‘cut & come again’ in the polytunnel.

The whole tunnel was planted up with winter lettuces from modules when the tomatoes and cucumbers came out. These did really well as they were really well established plugs when they went in. Then brassica salads were also direct sown, and these were great for the last few weeks of the veg boxes when outside brassica salads and indoor lettuces had finished.

End of the season
As ever I ended the season in December burnt out and exhausted. I was very much looking forward to resting, spending weekends relaxing catching up with friends and jobs around the house. Farmers must be the only people who look forward to the Winter. It is the only time they can actually take a real holiday, which is what I am doing later this week.

Rocket.

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.
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.

Lettuces.
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.

image

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.

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

Reviewing the year

I took a long time over the Winter to mull over the year, and think about the future. It was difficult sometimes, but absolutely crucial to Reddy Lane growing. I am engaging in  negotiations about the future with my landlords, I have spreadsheet after spreadsheet on sales figures & projections, a spreadsheet showing me when to weed/sow/harvest each section of the field, and I am trying to make getting my own piece of land a reality.

20150910_182333
Space saving solutions via string and wood in the polytunnel

Visiting Sagar Lane Market Garden
I went to visit a market garden in Hebden Bridge called Sagar Lane, and took some inspiration. There are two sites, and they started 3 years ago, just like Reddy Lane. Unlike Reddy Lane they sell all their own veg in a box scheme, they do not buy in any veg from elsewhere. They have started small in their fields and cultivated more land as their business has grown. They also do not have organic certification, and therefore save themselves alot of money and paperwork, by simply informing their customers that they do not use pesticides. I also liked that one of the sites is a 20 minute (uphill!) walk from their house. And that their situation is relaxed enough that they have built a bender at the bottom of the garden with a wood burner in for woofers and friends to stay in. Also, a fantastic space saving invention in the polytunnel is hanging wooden shelves up with string. Their page is facebook.com/sagarlanemarketarden

Dishing up the dirt
I came across http://www.dishingupthedirt.com last year, and I love it. Andrea Bemis is farming 6 acres organically in Oregon with her husband, and her blog has recipes and fantastic photos of her meals and her farm. Being a woman and being a farmer can feel like you are a little out on a limb. Peer support is somewhat lacking. So, this excellent blog helps and some of the recipes I’ve followed have been great. I very much aspire to including information on what to eat with seasonal and local produce on this website. Following it on Instagram also signposted me to other organic farms in the US that were posting about their own veg and cooking. Ones I really like are: jbgorganic, high mowing organic seeds, revolution farm, pitchforkandcrow, evenpullfarm, sassafras creek farm, quarter branch farm, happy acre farm, jeffsorganicproduce, icecaporganics and transition farm robin.

andrea bemis
Andrea Bemis shows off her lettuces at her six acre farm in Oregon.

 

August’s preamble

Well, the garden must be slowing down a tad, as I’ve got time to write a mid August update. But there is also lovely veg to blog and post up too….. finally!

In the garden
The great news is that the landlords have installed a rabbit fence at the site, so hopefully the maincrops planted out now will not go the same way as the earlies. It has been very disheartening to see crop after crop being eaten by rabbits. I’ve lost all lettuces and spinach that was sown & planted out, and the mange tout are pitiful due to nibbling. No mange tout harvested yet after three sowings. I would expect to be harvesting approx 20kg a week, so this has majorly affected finances.

I finally cleared the Fat Hen and sowed lettuces and brassica salads for the Autumn/Winter. I have also planted out 21 Westphalian Kales from the cage, but there’s still a good 100 to go. And about 15 purple sprouting broccoli to go.

My reckoning is that I have five big jobs to go for the season: planting out the kales and broccoli and netting them, planting out the leeks, clearing and planting salads in the polytunnel, rotavating and planting green manure, consolidating the mange tout that may still crop and re-sowing with another crop where they have failed. I hope that I can do this in the next 2-3 weeks, and then hopefully get some reprieve in my workload. Still have to keep on top of the weeding though….

Selling
I am selling my own cherry tomatoes, courgettes, broad beans, beetroot and garlic on the stall and in the veg boxes. And they are great, I am very pleased with them. I have had such an excess of beetroot, that I have also been selling some to Manchester Veg People (MVP) and Abbey Ley’s Farm Shop, which is great. I am also still selling sage and oregano to the Unicorn and MVP, though the oregano is in full flower so is taking quite a while to process. The Unicorn are also taking dill plants and hopefully soon chamomile ones.
I am buying in kale, cucumbers, mange tout and potatoes from other organic growers in Cheshire and from Abbey Leys Farm Shop. So, I have the best, freshest, localest, tastiest organic veg to sell and everyone is on holiday. My takings at Leve Market and my veg boxes have all dropped off by almost half as it is the schools Summer holidays.