Sunday, 16 May 2010

Asparagus and coddled eggs

roots (4)

Cate, Malcolm and Sarah met up today to get Cate's early nantes carrots in. We dug a third roots bed, limed, raked and drilled.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

roots roots roots

David, Nenya and Sarah planned to spend Saturday afternoon at the farm drinking tea, eating cake and doing a bit of sowing. Haha. So here's what actually happened:

Nenya dug up a patch for courgettes and herbs, previously covered by paving slabs. Three toads had to be re-housed in the process!

David prepared two more beds for roots and spread lime. 

Sarah raked it in.

We sowed pronto, detroit and golden beetroot, round, autumn king and early nantes carrot, white and pink rabano, radishes, parsnips, spring onions as well as red and while seed onions. It's really starting to look like we're growing stuff now!

The art of liming

David and I decided to get lime, stakes and insect netting to prepare for planting out broccoli and the like. But where to get it from? The usual suspects Homebase, B&Q and Dobbies did not appeal at all - to busy, to expensive, to comercial - and then David remembered a previous visit to the harware store on Portobello High Street - a little independent place that stocks everything from paint to plants. The gardening section is brilliant, and includes open sacks and buckets of fertilisers, seeds and bird food, sold by the kilo. And sure enough, 5kg of garden lime, 15m of netting, 26 bamboo stakes and a few pounds later, we were a; stocked up and ready to fend against acidic soil, moths and caterpillars.

Apparently adding manure at the same time kills the neutralising action of lime and releases ammonia. This is one reason for crop rotations, where you lime and manure plots in different years: manure generously and grow potatoes (1), then lime for legumes (2), lime again for brassicas (3) and then grow onions and roots (4) before manuring and growing potatoes again (1). Since we're starting on a clean slate, in very acidic soil, we've manured the potatoes and are liming for brassicas, legumes as well as roots. We'll be putting the beans into isolated rotted manure trenches, which hopefully won't react with the limed soil.

So, how much lime to add? One book says 120g per square metre, per pH point to be raised. Another 50-100g each year. A little internet research  reveals quotes between 100g and 1700g for all sorts of reasons and pH intervals. Clearly an exact science... The gist though is that lime effectiveness is soil dependent - sand requires much less addition than loam, and clay needs lots more. Consensus seems to lie around the values of 100g to 700g per square metre, depending on soil type and starting pH. We borrowed a pH metre gauge, which gave us readings between pH3.5 and pH6, very variable, but really very acidic. We decide on 300g per square metre, which should raise loam soil at pH4.5 to pH6.5.

Hope this works as vegetables, including roots, brassicas and peas/beans don't do well in anything below pH6, as they can't absorb nutrients in acidic soil.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

peas peas peas

The peas are freed! After a couple of months and straining at root-bound little pots, they're finally planted out. The reason for the delay you ask? Plant cruelty. No. Rabbit fencing, volume 17. I wasn't going to put anything out before it's safe, but with having finished the gate fencing on Sunday, it's high time. Or so I thought, until, walking up to our new gate, I saw a big fat rabbit hopping along behind it. As in INSIDE.  Bugger.
So I prototyped an igloo out of water pipe, stakes and untangled old netting to keep rabbits and birds off the seedlings. Convinced it was going to hold together, I raked a bed, stapled two of Nenya's old fence boards to chicken wire as a trelace, and filled two trenches with with manure. Three hours later, peas, swiss chard roots and lettuces were all planted up. The farm is starting to look like it's growing!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Little Blog Awards

We've been deemed greeny/healthy enough to be nominated for a little blog award. Which means that if you like the blog, follow the links, and vote for us, we may win a crate of muesli. Which would be great, because we haven't sown oats but like to eat them. And the quinoa hasn't germinated. So please vote, and it'll be (won) muesli with (homegrown) strawberries on us!

Dorset Cereals little awards

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Our neighbours

The face of a (semi)orphan. A little black chick, hatched by a white dove after the chicken mother died. Its 14 siblings didn't make it - dove bottoms are too small. The dove freaked out when it hatched - bet it was expecting a cute wee white thing. Well, not this one. And my it's loud. Tweetweetweetweetweetweetweetweetweetweetweet. Tweet.

Another noisy farmyard ambience creator. Is it the daddy?

The prides and joys of the western riding club. Oh, and David fencing away in the background. Just to the right of the middle horse's ear. 

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Final fencing chapters

A month after we started what we thought would take a couple of days, we're on the last section of rabbit fence. That is Cate and David. Putting up wire strainers between the posts that we've erected.

Cold frame eulogy

Here's a galery of our "garden furniture". Straight off a bonfire skip pile. Now full of rocket and lettuce.

First co-op produce!

Sarah's been ill this week and I've been out of the city, at college, so not much has been done on the allotment, but today Cate and I made some progress with the rabbit fence, so the last section is now ready for the rabbit mesh, after which it'll be a case of filling in the gaps (such as the gap under the gate and so on).
Sarah joined us, but was a little short of energy and so didn't do any fencing. However, she did manage to pick our first produce, which was a mixture of salad leaves that needed thinning and planting out into cold frames. Cos and red lettuce, spinach and rocket, a handful of which is in the picture. We've broken even this week! She also picked some nettle crowns that she has converted into some seriously lovely nettle soup (the recipe is the next post).

We took some seedlings home from the greenhouse for potting on, including the two trays of peas below, one of which contains organic compost from B&Q, while the other contains high grade recycled compost, previously used for lab experiments at the university. Can you tell which is which? ;)

I should get these repotted tonight. With a little luck, the weather will hold enough for us to finish off the fencing tomorrow and we'll actually be able to start growing things without fear of the rabbits nicking all our produce.

Nettle soup recipe

This is a bright-green and hence quite unexpectedly delicious soup. Truly foraged, nettle-only. Did I say unexpectedly delicious? Of course you can add potatoes and onions to thicken it up once they too are in season. But for the moment, the seed onions are in a bag in the hallway, and the first early potato plant only just poked out the ground today. So nettle-only it is.

Ingredients (highly approximate!):
  • 400g (half a plastic bag) of freshly foraged nettle leaves (uncompressed). Pick only the four to six leaves at the top of the plant, as these are tender.
  • 1-2 cups of water
  • 4-6 teaspoons of Swiss vegetable bouillon powder
  • 2 teaspoons of minced / crushed garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Put the water in a pan and put on the heat.
  2. Wash the nettles. Carefully! (reminds me of the joke: how to hedgehogs make love? - carefully!)
  3. Once the water is boiled, add the nettles. Don't be shocked if it looks like there are far too many for the amount of water, as they'll reduce down a treat.
  4. Boil until the nettle leaves are nice and soft, then blend using a hand blender.
  5. Add the bouillon, garlic and salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve and enjoy!
Oh, and here's a picture of the current state of our kitchen table...