An autumn reflection on the summer that wasn’t…

Hi there,

Hope this finds you well out in the world. It’s officially the first week of autumn, but the garden looks like its finally hitting its summer stride…hmmm.

unnamed-5-5I’m very aware that I’m very green (young) in this business of growing food on a productive scale in order to feed the community that surrounds our ‘patch’. And this odd season has definitely got me thinking about it all, again, in a slightly different way. Reflecting this morning on the moment that made me truly wanna do this, I remembered that the feeling of not being able to control the elements was something that I relished. I loved that we had to work with it all, if you fought and resisted it or even worse tried to control it, you would be waging war with something that would never work.

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Ultimately, I still hold this value deep down, but I do have to laugh at myself looking at the moment now. It’s easy to soak up all the extremes when you don’t have to pay rent with tomatoes that were meant to come on 7 weeks ago. I’ve struggled this crazy season, and if people have asked I’ve told them, “It’s a slow season, I want summer to arrive!” I shocked myself by feeling a tiny bit of anger towards the joy people were having towards the mild summer. No, I thought! You don’t understand! We need it to be hot! (I’m not asking for a drought, please don’t misunderstand me!!) Another reaction people had was to look at me as if I was dumb…”Well, that’s farming, isn’t it?” and then they’d walk on their way. I was left standing there wanting to keep talking, but we did everything right, we were on time, we spent a lot of money on the good inputs, the good mulch, the irrigation, the seedlings, dedicated more time to be at the patch…

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Another part of the moment I mentioned before that solidified my desire to keep growing (pun intended) my knowledge, resilience and skills around productively growing food WITH the land is that I cannot deny how much it teaches us about ourselves. Seriously, this whole weather thing has made me look, once again, at how I deal with expectations, control, disappointment, bouncing back, coping techniques, taking a breath (lots actually) and being content with my true place in the world.  It teaches me so much.

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I’m at peace now with the season that was, and kinda wasn’t, and have accepted that these extremes, I think, will just become more and more commonplace. Unfortunately. My job is to learn how to produce food within that reality.

So, happy autumn, and may you listen to the natures around you.

Mel.

Gearing up for summer…

We grow things in long straight rows at the patch. It makes sense for efficiency but there is nothing particularly straight and orderly about Mel or I. So, to keep things interesting for us and the insects we plant interesting varieties of things that paint a colourful picture down each row. That’s why tomato time is so exciting! Wowee there are so many varieties of heirloom tomatoes out there, hundreds in fact. Far more than the three varieties you’ll find at the super market.

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This year our lovely friends down at CERES propagation are growing up our tomato and eggplant seedlings and we have been busily preparing the beds and planting out our first succession the past 2 weeks. The seedlings are gorgeous and strong and look very cosy in their new homes. This year we’ve planted black, yellow, stripy, green and red varieties of cherry tomatoes and we can’t wait to pick them and sell them all mixed up together as a rainbow mix! We’re also planting six different varieties of the larger types of tomatoes. Yum.

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Our snow peas and shelling peas are going nuts at the moment and despite the trellising it’s a total wrestle to poke yourself and a bucket through the 2-meter-tall aisles to pick them. This year we got our grubby little hands on a packet of purple podded snow peas. We planted them and they are absolutely gorgeous, dark purple pods. Instead of picking them this year we are saving the lot for seed so that next year we can plant out a row of them rather than just one little corner of a row.

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In amongst each crop at the patch, we usually plant companion plants. Companion plants help in lots of different ways. They can confuse or repel pest insects, attract beneficial insects, act as a living mulch to cover bare soil, help feed the soil biota and they increase the productivity of the row by growing more than one crop. Not to mention they make the rows far more interesting and pretty to look at! In amongst our tomatoes this year there will be an understorey of basil, nasturtiums and chives, oh and  probably a few stray lettuce, rocket, chamomile, calendula and hearts ease plants that have self-seeded in the row too!

Well, the sun is shining, the soil is drying and its time to fix the leaky pipes in preparation for the season of irrigation and colour! Have a great weekend.

Sas and Mel

Rotation, Rotation, Rotation!

The glorious blue-sky days, frozen puddles, blooming daffodils and sparkling frosty grass of this week all suggest a change around the corner. Spring isn’t far off and we’re busily getting ready for it now! Preparing our beds, adding the beautiful biodynamic compost we made last spring, weeding, weeding, weeding…and planning.

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Come spring, each garden bed in its turn will transform from what it now holds into something completely different and that takes planning. Lots of it! Looking forward at what we want to grow for summer in what kinds of quantities, and looking back at what we have already grown in each bed to make sure we don’t plant crops from the same family in too close succession.

Last year’s tomato beds now have green manures and broad been crops in them, but this spring will be too soon to plant tomatoes in them again or we risk harbouring pests and diseases that could wipe out our crop. So….maybe we’ll plant salad in those rows instead!? We now have almost 55 rows in our market garden to plant out and planning the successions is really quite a juggle! We make sure we have 20% of our space growing a green manure at any one time to ensure we are feeding the soil, not just taking nutrients from it all the time. Then we have to work out what we can grow, what we like to grow and what people will want to eat! Lots to consider.

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Once we’ve worked all that out, Mel crunches the numbers to work out how many seedlings of each different crop we need to grow in the hot house and then we set about scheduling days according to the moon cycles, to sow successions of those crops to ensure they aren’t all ripe and ready at the same time! Yikes!

We’ve got 2 weeks left on our crowd funding and if it is successful we will be able to purchase some much-needed propagation infrastructure to make sure that we can actually grow the seedling in the numbers that we need them. The community hot house we use at the moment is great but much too small for our expanding garden, as we found out in autumn!

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You can check out our crowd funding campaign here if you’re interested in finding out more about what we’re up to and why:

https://www.chuffed.org/project/gung-hoe-growers-double-or-nothin#

And in the meantime, may the daffodils be blooming in your garden and stars bright above your head at night!

Grow well

Sas and Mel