Land search update

We are spending a couple of months casting the net as widely as we can for suitable land, so this continues. The link for the video is here, so please share it if you haven’t. A couple of offers have come in through Facebook, so it is really worth spreading it about on social media.

In the real world I am in the process of sending out lots of letters to farms in the right areas. I am in touch with the local National Farmers’ Union and an organisation that matches farmer’s with entrepreneurs. I have a list of people to call that I am plodding through. I have spoken to some landowners, but would definately like to speak to some more. The list of areas we are interested in is at the bottom of this post.

planters_crop
Basil planters

Whilst doing that, I’m also running the farm, and the market stall and the veg box scheme. We spent all of last week weeding the chard and the brassica salads, and now the last job of the season is to take down the tomatoes in the polytunnel and plant out the Winter lettuces. I’m also potting up some lovely Basil planters to sell on the market as gifts in the run up to Xmas.

veg_crop
Heritage tomatoes, French beans and a Red Oak lettuce

But some off the cuff are: 1.2 tonnes of organic veg grown and sold already this year. This was last years total for the year. This is made up of 184 cucumbers, 200kg of beetroot, 103kg kale, 28kg of purple sprouting broccoli, 116 lettuces, 78kg of French beans, 65kg of tomatoes and 89kg of courgettes. Some of these are still cropping too!

So, please do what you can to ensure we find a farm. We are looking in: Heald Green, Timperley, Altrincham, Bramhall, Woodford, Adlington, Styal, Wilmslow and Handforth. And further out into the Lymm area of East Cheshire. Sale, Didsbury and Cheadle are possible too. Also, the Marple, Romiley, Middlewood, High Lane, Hazel Grove, Poynton areas of Stockport. And Strines and New Mills are of interest too.

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Early crops

This is one of the easier weather starts to the season that we’ve seen in the last few years. We have 40m of rocket and 20m of red mizuna planted. It is ready for harvesting now, and will be on the stall at Levy Market and in the veg boxes this Sunday.

We have planted out 200 kale and 200 purple sprouting broccoli. They are protected from pigeons by mesh, fleece or netting. They seem to be doing well.

We have two 1x20m beds of carrots, and they have just germinated. We have had to spend  many hours finger weeding the weeds, as they are very susceptible to weed competition at this early stage. We have sown 8 rows in each bed, so are hoping once they are bigger, they will crowd out the weeds. More established market gardens would use a flame weeder.  20170524_180338

The 60m of early beetroots have germinated, and are looking healthy now. I went down the rows, and sowed extra seeds in the gaps yesterday, as it is quite patchy germination.

The broad beans have germinated, and we have taken down the bird netting and old CDs that were protecting them. We use this because birds pull them out thinking the little shoot is a worm. Myself and George have spent a good amount of time digging out couch between the plants, so this isn’t exactly a crop success, they would have been better in a section with better control of couch. But weirdly we have found this digging quite satisfying.

I have done a trial of shallots, and bought 2.5kg in sets, at a staggering £24 (they have to be organically certified). It felt quite futile, and a waste of money, but they seem to be doing ok now. They have about 10 shoots coming off each one, so should produce 10 small shallots. I did check Joy Larkcom’s bible ‘Grow Your Own Vegetables,’ and apparently if you want larger shallots you should thin to 6 shoots. But I think I have left it too late for this, so small ones we will have.

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Bare rooted onion plantlets

We have also planted out 100 white onion plantlets and 100 Red Baron plantlets. I ordered these bare rooted from Tamar in the Winter, and they arrive beginning of May. When they arrive there is a million other things to do in the garden, and they arrive live, wrapped in wet newspaper and will promptly die if you don’t get them planted asap. I did trench them in some pots of compost to buy myself a few days, and then got them planted out in there permanent beds as thankfully a very large group of volunteers had been scheduled in that week. They are still alive weeks later, and hopefully will start growing vigorously soon.

The 40 tomatoes are planted out in the tunnel. They were not growing so much in April and early May. But in the last couple of weeks, as the temperature has increased and the days have lengthened, they have shot on.

Most of the cucumbers have germinated, and some that have their first true leaves, were 20170524_180237planted out yesterday in the tunnel. The rest will be planted out, when we get round to rotavating in the muck in the rest of the tunnel (which will be soon!) We have traditionally lost alot of these sowing to mice who eat the seeds before they germinate. But we have trialed placing crates with there handle holes taped over, on top of the seeds. When the seed germinates it is then moved from under the crate where it is darker than in the rest of the tunnel. It has had a 100% success rate, and is nicer than using mouse traps, which we have tried in past years.

The courgettes and squashes have all been sowed, and in the same way placed under the crates. The ones that have germinated are being kept outside now, as its very hot in the tunnel, and nighttime temperatures aren’t going to be below freezing now. Next big jobs are getting the beds ready for french bean sowing, and sowing more carrots and beetroots.

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.

Selling
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.

Buying
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.

Musings
I saw this post about a project growing microgreens in underground tunnels for restaurants in London. Therefore cutting food miles considerably.
http://thefreethoughtproject.com/worlds-urban-underground-farm-opens-business-londons-wwii-tunnels/
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…….

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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.