This past week I started lifting the Epicurian First early potatoes planted outdoor at home on Tuesday the 25th of March. First earlies are ready from about 12 weeks after planting outddoors so are now in weeks 13 /14.I was quite pleased with the yield. The plan is to lift as needed as they are best stored in the ground. Good eating in these, best to boil the bejasus out of them.
Before planting these I topped up the bed with homemade compost from the waste of a local Organic veg shop and pet shop with added coffee grounds and seaweed dust. When the bed is cleared of potatoes another crop will be transplanted. At no time are any beds left with bare soil for weeds to take hold.
While the space is available I’m placing little piles of compost in many of the beds. Doing this allows the soil life to start incorporating the material into the bed and helps increase surface area breaking it down even further. .
This bed is beneath a tree and at this time of year gets little direct light during the day. The overwintering onions grew well from a shallower sun angle in the winter and spring before the foliage created deep shade so at this stage are not going to get much bigger. Traditionally the time for lifting onions is from june/july but it really depends on variety time of planting and what the weather has been doing so every situation is different. Some of the onions have sent up a flower spike which will draw on the bulb so should be used first once a bulge is seen.These will then be followed by the rest and be used up by the time the storage onions are ready. The garlic is still in the ground for now but will have to be checked regularly so that the bulb does,nt split. Lifting should be done in July at the latest.
Again the bed gets a generous top up with compost etc and will be planted with Brassicas whose larger leaves will tollerate some shading and as they mature benefit from a shallower sun angle and loss of tree foliage in the autumn.. By no means is this an ideal situation for growing but its intersting to try and satisfactory results can be achieved making the effort worth while. I don’t dig the beds as it’s unnecessary work and over time ruins soils structure. Digging is something I do very little with reluctance and not through lazyness (though I aspire to this) and it really only gets a turning when the potatoes are being removed to ensure nothing remains that can regrow in the follow on crop. It might be a good enough reason not to grow potatoes in the future. The soil here is 65 % sand so any digging will just encourage leeching and reduce fertility. Instead the plan is to develope an increased stable humic content in the soil which has the effect of retaining moisture and nutients and increasing the CEC. This is a slow process and will continue to improve for many years. The worms and soil life draw down bits of material creating pathways where air and moisture can travel and so they do the digging. Also any mycorrhizal fungi and networks that may be in the soil are destroyed by digging. This is especially true in the tunnel where there is always lots of mycelium evident . The fungi are helping to break down the compost which becomes plant available and like arbuscular mycorrhizal ( with trees) Paul Stamets has shown some to work symbiotically with vegetables ( Fungi Perfecti http://www.fungi.com/). The fungi are already there they just need to be looked after.
By comparison some of the onions we harvested today at work are much larger. They enjoy a sunny position with no trees competing for root space and shading. They were planted in the autumn and will be used first before those planted in March.
Some are nearly too big for a single meal.
We moved them into the polytunnel to dry along with some garlic. The beds can now start to be prepared for Autumn / Winter Brassicas.
This is Gus harvesting some broadbeans. These will soon be cleared.
The pumpkins in the tunnel are growing well. There are several varieties including Uchiki Kuri. The size of the pumpkin is based on the number allowed to mature and the fetility etc. Once 4 to 6 have set per plant we will bury the growing tips and manage the side shoots more carefully to direct the energies to the pumkins. There are many many schools of taught on growing pumpkins and so as this is my first experience with actually growing them I’m more interested in having a bit of fun watching what happens. As yet the male flowers have not opened but when they do we will hand pollinate. Like cucumbers the plant produces a side shoot, leaf, tendril and male/flower flowers. I will bury the plant at a few nodes to increase the root system. A piece of string or cane is useful to help know where to focus the watering.
This small swelling behind the female flower is a developing pumpkin. The plant can be carefully handled to allow space for this to develope in this location by placing a piece of board, tile or slate to keep it up of the soil. Doing this may bring problems of slugs so monitoring is key.
This is one of the growing tips making its way into the neighbouring bed of salads. Will let this keep going and root it in a few places. I’ve heard of pumpkins growing for up to 65 feet. The soil fertility is evidently quite good where these are planted. We will start feeding these with a strong nettle tea weekly.
This courgette was starting to get a bit big before it was removed. Note the pointed tip.
Courgettes should be checked regularly every 2 days minimum and picked when 6 to 8 inches long.
Checking a pumpkin male flower for pollen.
The maran chickens having a dust bath in the tunnel. Its proving very difficult to keep the tunnel moist especially around the tomatoes. Will have to try thin applications of grass clipings after heavy watering to try minimise evaporative losses. In an ideal world the beds would be on drip irrigation in a North South Orientation as this is a large tunnel at 60 feet to be watering by hand. I,m about reducing work load through good design as there are many other more interesting tasks to be done rather than spending hours watering.
Here Ben is Multi sowing a tray of salads using the folded paper method. The seeds are placed within the fold and then pushed to the edge using a pencil or similar. Modular sowing is a good way to reduce waste and avoids thining as seed is expensive.
This sowing run included Perpetual Spinach, Lolla Rossa lettuce, Bulb Fennel (Di Firenze), Swede (Best of all), Rocket, Leaf beet. The trays must be watered lightly every day perhaps even twice a day if very warm. They are outside to the North of the polytunnel and benefit for shading. This is essential for germination at this time of year as the compost dries out very quickly.
A sowing run at home recently 14/06/14 included the following:
1. Kale Nero Di Toscana 2x 6 in 3 inch pots
2. Brussel Sprouts Groninger 2×6 in six pack
3. Purple Sprouting 2x 6 in six pack
4. Ragged jack kale 2x 4 in 3 inch pots ( saved seed)
5. Leaf Beet five colours 1×10 module
6. Coriander 5/6 seeds in 4 inch pots,4 no.
7. Red Basil 2X6 in modules
8. Green Basil 1×12 in modules.
9 Borage 1×7 in 3 inch pots
10. Lovage 2 x4 in 3 inch pots
11. WIld Evening Primrose multi in 3 inch pots
12. Parsley Multi sown in 3 inch pots.
13. Calendula 1×6 in 3 inch pots
14. Scorzonera Russian Giant 1×24
15. 1×24 tray of swede western perfection.
16. Alfalfa Sprouts 1 tray
17. Cress sprouts 1 tray
18. Pea sprouts 1 tray
Some of these will be potted on and uses as living gifts for a mates wedding guests in August.
Below are some buckets of weeds that are being rotted under water for a few weeks before being adding to the compost heap. I do this for Bindweed ,small potatoes, mint etc that might re grow in the heap. The resultant black gunk is a bit smelly but can be safely added to the heap.
On the right a bucket of nettles under water makes a great liquid feed in about 2 weeks. This can be used neat on heavy feeders or diluted 10:1 (water: mix)
Sadly the ducks at home were all killed a few days ago when the fox got into the dome over night. The chicken wire worked ok for about 18 months but they managed to force their way in two places. Would use a heavy guage of wire in future.
Spot the deer near glendo hiking on the weekend.
A healthy dose of Perspective.