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…….

IMAG0832
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.

 

 

a cool, damp May

Wow, this May has been cool and damp. And the garden reflects this, as have my spirits at times. Everything is behind, much hasn’t germinated, and flowers are battered. I am also injured, I put my back out digging couch grass in the herb garden, and it made me realise how much lifting and bending I do. I have been prescribed codeine and ‘light duties’ for a week or two and I should be fine. Fingers crossed.

The first tiny little tomato appears
The first tiny little tomato appears

Growing
The polytunnel looks totally different this month, with the tomatoes planted out, and the gaps filled with green batavia lettuces. In the end I bought 25 tomato plants from Glebelands, as
mine were so far behind with the cold weather.

This little blob is a Ladybird larvae turning into a Ladybird.
This little blob is a Ladybird larvae turning into a Ladybird.

I have treated the aphids twice with soft soap, and had to use a Soil Association approved supplier, which £17 for 1ltr! The ladybird larvae are chomping them too.

The 114m of beetroot are finally germinating and growing, though very slowly. It is being nibbled too, possibly by rabbits.
The 77m of mange tout are yet to germinate, which is very concerning, but I’m hoping its just because we haven’t had high enough temperatures. The 57m of lettuce has been lost, as it was under fleece to protect from very low night time temperatures, and created a haven for slugs. I re-sowed 19m and left the fleece off.
I don’t think all 3800 leeks have germinated, but lots have, and any gaps I will probably fill with onion sets.
I put out my 100 purple sprouting broccoli to harden off, and a bird must’ve gotten in and ate the lot. I re-sowed 40. The Westphalian kales are hardening off under a more robust system (hopefully!).
I have also sowed 18 dunja courgettes, 10 passandra cucumbers, 68 marketmore cucumbers, 100 buttercup squash, and 15 uchuri kuri squash. And the mice have been nibbling and moving seeds around, so I am replanting and re-locating ones I find in other parts of the polytunnel.

New Spring crops finally coming through. And my lovely blackboard....
New Spring crops finally coming through. And my lovely blackboard….

Selling
I’ve increased the veg box customers, and even did 14 one week, though 11 is about the average. Levenshulme Farmer’s Market every Saturday is going well. I have been selling my cut herbs, though the cold weather meant there was a three week gap in supply of salad as the polytunnel leaves finished and the mizuna under the enviromesh wasn’t ready.

Herbs being bagged and tagged for Unicorn.
Herbs being bagged and tagged for Unicorn.

I have sold potted herbs and strawberries, which have gone really well. I am trialing the Strawberry plants in Unicorn Grocery this week, and they are taking my cut fennel, oregano and sage too.

Musings
I went to visit Alan from Growing with Grace on the Fylde coast, which is an organic market garden. They run a box scheme, farm shop and sell some wholesale crops. It was a really useful experience, and Alan certainly crammed alot of talking into the afternoon! They grow on 3 acres. He buys from all the other great organic growers on the Fylde,  and they co-ordinate on crop planning etc. His polytunnel was humbling, it was so productive, his peas as tall as me, and a carpet of Little Gem lettuces.
I found it a useful pep talk in what can feel like an unrewarding environment, financially and otherwise. He reckoned I was doing the right thing, building up my own customers,and in some ways swimming against the prevailing tide 🙂

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.

Growing
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!)

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

Musings
Channel 4 news did a good report on salad being picked by workers facing modern slavery conditions.
http://www.channel4.com/news/salad-supermarkets-cost-migrant-exploitation-pay-pesticide

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: http://www.thegreenhorns.net/videos/