On Wednesday I headed for Bandon and join some fellow D.L. students from the Organic College. The weather was perfect and there was plenty of interest with three very different approaches to growing vegetables and lifestyle choices. Our First stop was Thyme cottage http://www.thymecottage.ie a small enterprise on 1.2 acres developed by Stan Pasley over the past 35 years or so. This is a must see place for what can be done in a relatively small back garden sized space.
The site is a long retangular strip running east west with 2 large tunnels and stretch limo style raised beds orientatated in this direction. To the rear of the cottage the image below shows a small but wonderfully organised lean too glass house where seeds are sown. Every detail of this operation has been carefully considered. Below garlic can be seen drying upside down in slatted rows. In the foreground compost is stored in a shallow box with lid preventing drying out. Seeds are placed in a woodturned bowl with heavy base to prevent them spilling and when transplanting dibbers have been made to match the exact size of the modules being used. Stan carefully waters the soil then literally pops the transplant straight in the perfectly sized hole.
These are the dibbers used for transplanting, beautifully made objects with brass handles.
The view below shows approx the first 1/3 of the garden planted with fruit and nut trees (Hazel cob nuts). The apple tree varieties include Ardcurran Russet, Katie, Beauty of Bath and ashes from the wood stove are used to promote fruiting.
Beyond the apple trees moving away from the house there are a number of homemade fruit cages. This one had some redcurrants and cultivated blackberries. The gound is covered with the blue lined mypex(.twice the thickness of the green stuff). Pyrethrum is used to to help against sawfly. Liquid seaweed is used when berries are starting. The cage is made from tubular steel and the netting is sized slightly bigger on top as birds don’t tend to dive bomb , this allows snow through. The side netting is smaller to prevents birds getting in.
Here we are looking at a row maker tool. Stan sows carrot varieties resistafly, Flyaway and Laguna at 15cm stations, two seeds per station by hand and does,nt use netting inside for carrot root fly. To sow carrots he makes the drill then smooths with a metal bar. Next a fine rose watering with added seaweed sloution, sowing and raking over. The overhead sprinklers are used untill the carrots have establised and then the drip feed is used.
The tunnel follows a B.A.S.L. rotation plan with 4 main beds of 1.2 metres. These run the lenth of the tunnel 22.5 metres. Paths are about 13 or 14 inches and marked out with baler twine. The slightly narrower side beds are on rotation with the side beds from the second tunnel. Below lower growing chillies are in the Solanacea part of the rotation around the edges. The attention to detail in the planning of all this is quite something.
Some singularly sown lettuce with drip feed irrigation. The bed marking string can be seen along the edge of the path. Ideally stan recommends a third run of leaky pipe for a 1.2 metre bed width. At the moment the overhead is helping out a little. The tunnel is 22.5x 9 metres and uses a clip rail system. Electric has been installed from the main house. Each 22.5x 1.2 bed has been estimated at producing about 300 of veg and 600 euro if cropped twice in a year.
This year stan is growing about 50 tomato plants (Red Cherry ans Shirley) in a double row. He uses a light misting with water to help polination. Generally he cuts out all second leaders and sideshoots and uses twine overhead to support any heavily laiden limbs that may break judgeing the support point to balance the weight. Well rotted manure is added to the soil in the B and S parts of the rotation using a tiller.
Stan talked about the low humidity recently and how he stops his french beans when they get too close to the polythene. This prevents condensation driping and potential grey mould. The soil here is a heavy clay. Below we walk past a bed of onions grown from seed varieties include Sturon, Golden Bear and Ailsa craig (very large ) The spring onion variety growing is ramrod sown sucessionally. A euro is charged for 8 stems.
The cucumber varieties include Bella Cumlaude (Garden Organic) and Sticks (Suffolk Herbs).When planting the cucumbers he makes little monds such that the roots are level with the surrounding soil surface. He also recommends growing celeriac and parsnips inside.
Stan grows Parthenon courgettes which are F1 and are self fertile meaning they do not rely on insects to polinate them.
Watering is fully automated in the tunnels with the ability for drip and overhead. At the moment the timer allows for 9 minutes drip feed 4 times a day. Both ends of the tunnel completely open as well as a slit that can be opened on the tunnel roof.
Fans have been installed should additional airflow be required. Humidity is monitored closely.
Outside all vegetables are grown in long raised beds a sort of stretch limo style. Weeding is done by hand to prevent root disturbance. This is an example of a very carefully planned system of growing and you gotta take your hat off to what has been realised here. The system is not reliant on wooofers and when fully running can produce a good part time income.
Our next stop was Agnes Organic Farm run by Brenda and Eugene Walsh. The style of growing is in complete contrast to stans. Here again crops are grown using the B.A.S.L. rotation. This is interpreted in years rather than one crop following another meaning that leeks could be followed by onion for example while potatoes would only need a few months of their year. The 4 main families are grown in separate fields in long beds with wide spacing to accomadate a tractor moving between them.They look like this.
A typical field with veg
A bed within the field
This system of growing has been done here for about 7 years and simply involves cutting grass from nearby fields which includes ‘weeds’ and mulching a strip of ground such that the grass undeneat is killed of and in about 4 weeks can be scratched back and transplanted into. Once the crops are in, the grass is then placed around them to act as a mulch retaining moisture breaking down and feeding the beds. Below Eugene is dealing with a Dock by Crimping it. This is a very interesting idea indeed where the weed is,nt pulled out but instead folded over a little and injured with a punch. The idea is that the roots try to repair the plant in vain but continue to pump up moisture. Not cutting or pulling means new weed growth is not encouraged and makes a lot of sense. This system is both no dig and does,nt require outside imputs like F.Y.M. etc.
Slugs can be a problem and as Eugene says “they are in there” Potatoes are planted near the surface and mulched to prevent light greening the tubers. Throught the growing season more grass is applied. Much of the work involved with this system is in the cutting and spreading of the mulch around the plants and Eugene says there never seems to be enough material to spread. Interestingly the profile of the beds seems to have a concave profile even though material is being added. I wonder if this is due to the removal of dry material (harvesting) The ground here is good and fertility tests have shown the indeces have been improved dramatically using this method so it’s not the case that it’s the land alone without the mulch !
What’s really good about this is the simplicity of the method that could be used on any farm. It’s a slow process where one literally teams up with microbes just like in the book Teaming with Microbes. The weeds especially those with tap roots are the dynamic accumulators bring up the nutrients. One of the things that struck me with this method was the large amount of land needed for grass cutting verses the amount planted with veg and yet there was never enough grass available and I wonder if perhaps alley croping and incorporating trees, shrubs and elements of agro foresty / permaculture design with all those different layers might remove even more work from the method and need for moving nutrients about manually. By no means is this a lazy mans system of growing its just that the work to be done is different.
Here we lifted a garlic which is a good size for market and will fetch a euro.
The last stop after luch was to the Hollies community where Selvi Iyilikci gave us a tour of the gardens and site. I have wanted to visit for a long time but never made it. Inside one of the polytunnels with a jungle feel. The teaching/market gardens are near the entrance on what was stony marginal land. The soil was improved by mulching with cardboard and covering with F.Y.M.
Inside the tunnel are figs, vines, peaches and nectarines as well as annual vegetable. Below runner beans are doing well with calendula planted near the doors.
The garden is layed out with access paths and curving beds and is looking really beautiful
Alliums interplanted with oakleaf lettuce
The sauna near the wildlife and bathing pond
A cob structure
The surrounding countryside
This is indeed a beautiful place and a living example of what can be achieved when we work together.. As yet I have not experience what it is like to live and work within a community like this but I look forward to this when we travel later in the year. I think there is a real skill in learning to live and work with others that is lost in todays world. A great day out!