2020 update

2020 what a year of change….

The pandemic lock down called for more local food, pity it began during the hungry gap, in March. Loads more people suddenly wanting to know how to grow for themselves, perfect time to start sowing seeds. So a busy spring getting mass production going early, teaching online zoom courses and mentoring land-owners who wanted to plough an acre for the first time to grow crops.

Late frosts, scorching hot weather with 3 months drought, followed by a period of cold nights and then hot tropical storms, gave us a challenging, up and down growing season. No trainee students to work the land with us and more direct sales then ever, meant hours of admin on top of long hours working the land. All of our 5 acres are now in horticultural production, but it’s not all about stuff to sell. We have developed space to enjoy, to contemplate, to walk barefoot, to feed your soul and spirit. We lunched the first of our Work and Well-being days to combat the aftermath of mental trauma following the Covid lock-down.

Now, in August, we are in glut season, harvesting 4 days a week, in larger quantities than ever before. Without the hoards of volunteers we are usually feeding 3 times a day, we actually have a lot more to sell. This year we also have virtually no pheasants on the land, a welcome change to the normal 50-100 roaming across our veg patch eating all our harvest. We can only presume because of the lock down, that no shoots have been going on and thus no pheasants released.

Our son Joe has been coming to the field most weeks to photograph the flower harvest. The aim to build up a week by week gallery of what is in season throughout the year. Watch this space.

We have more wildlife on the land than ever. For the first time we have barn owls, 5 babies this year. It has been a real treat to see and hear them on the land, keeping vole numbers under control. Also lots of baby blackbirds, they did demolish our currents, but they are also controlling the cabbage white caterpillars. Hedgehogs are seen nightly, snuffuling around in the search of slugs.

Here is a selection of some of my photos through this summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Success with Tomatoes

A lot of people get to this time of year and ask me what to do about their over grown rampant tomatoes, and why do they never get ripe toms. So I hope this post helps.

There are 2 types of tomatoes

•Cordon or indeterminate
•Bush or determinate
These require different training and support. Bush varieties are best grown in pots or hanging baskets and allowed to spread and hang their fruit trusses.
On the other hand cordon varieties need a bit of regular maintenance. The aim is to have one central stem trained up to 2m (7ft). So they need some support. Tie to canes or twist around string.
Canes
•Push or hammer 2m (7ft) wood or metal stakes at least 45cm (18″) into the ground
•Plant 5-7cm (2-3″) from each stake.
•Loosely tie the main stem of each plant to the stake with a short length of twine.
String
Fix the string to the ceiling and plant under the plant or tie loosely to the stem. Then as the plant grows gently twist it around the string. Quick and simple support.
Once the support is sorted the next thing is side shooting. This is where people loss confidence, but if not done plants put their energy into growing too much foliage which blocks the light and reduces air flow, stopping your fruit ripening.
Watch this video and learn how.
Flowers
Flower trusses grow out of the main vertical stem, not out of the elbows of the vertical and leaf stems. Allow 5 trusses, then pinch out the growing point at the required height to divert energy into ripening fruit.
Watering
Regular watering is needed. For pot plants once a day or more in hot weather. For plants in the ground it is best to give lots every few days, rather than a little everyday. This encourages roots to grow down to search for water, and keep the surface the the soil dry reducing evaporation that creates a humid environment (see blight below).
Removing leaves
Once the plants start developing fruit and perhaps the first ones are ripening, this is the time to remove the lower leaves up to the first truss of fruit. This