Mid June

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The hungry gap is now well and truly over and there is now plenty to nibble on out in the garden. The beetroot in the tunnel is swelling nicely and the larger ones starting to be lifted and used. The tops can also be used in salads.

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The ducks are producing 21 eggs a week so we are supplying family with eggs as well  as finding creative ways to use them up in omlettes and baking. Thankfully Laura is into baking.

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The first of the Goldrush courgettes have been cut in the past week or so. They are still quite small as there are many small female flowers and fruit but as yet not so many male flowers to polinate them. Cut and use up the first lot while small as this will encourage more.This will change as the season progresses with more male flowers being produced. The male flower does,nt have a swelling     (courgette) below the flower head. Last year I used a small paint brush kept in the soil becide the plant to hand pollinate by gently touching the brush against the anthers of the male flowers and transfering the pollen to the stigmas of the female flowers. It had a dramatic effect with much large courgettes so would recommend doing this if it’s on a small scale for home use.This should be done in the morning for best effect. Keep the plant tidy by remove any rotten flowerheads and leaves regularly. The flower heads can be eaten in salads or deep fried in batter.  A generous deep watering also helps. At the moment I am watering inside and out every second day as the garden is well mulched with compost etc.

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Also on the menu this week are rasberries (Rubus idaeus)

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The strawberry bed is producing well every day now with about a punnet a day. I keep removing all the runners and ripe fruit every 2 or 3 days to encourage continued fruiting as well as watering and feeding with nettle teas etc.. Place a little straw beneath the plants to keep the fruit clean

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In the little tunnel the cucumber marketmore is starting to climb well and is being trained up a string. I made a mistake using natural cord this year and the fibers rotted away at ground level needing replacing with canes and other types of cordage. Perhaps bamboo canes or hazel rods are better if one is tyring to avoid using synthetic materials. I would,nt bother with strawberries in smaller pots again, too much watering for little return. They are doing far better outside.

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I have been hard pruning the grape vine just allowing 4 or 5 bunches of grapes to develope cutting two leaves beyond the bunch and only allowing the main stem from which side branching is encouraged to advance along the roof of the tunnel.

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Tomatoes ,sideshooting is essential.

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A bed of mix brassicas with some tasty rocket , pak choi, Kale etc.

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Some pears developing

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Inside the tunnel. The nantes salad carrots are now being eaten. Some nice coriander, Marjoram, basil and mix leaves for eating. I suppose the main harvest will be the tomatoes and squash later in the summer/autumn.

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This borage is getting a bit out of hand but wonderful also. It’s planted in a bed with Oca, tomatoes , and a courgette.

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The first earlies outdoors are now ready for eating and the broadbeans have given way to the peas.

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The ducks doing their bit eating slugs.

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The rear of the garden is a battle for light and bindweed control from the neighbouring gardens.

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Some cress pea and alfalfa sprouts. Successional sowing continues generally.

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Nasturtiams are very tasty in salads

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We had some friends visit with their 5 year old daughter yesterday. It was lovely to see the excitement at pulling up a carrot or an onion and just generally walking about tasting stuff. The rocket was a big hit.

 

Tomatoes, Felling, College, Hiking and Tasting

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This past week I start clearing out the tunnel to make way for the summer crops. The peas were suffering from Mildew so I rescued what I could and removed the rest. I think in future I would space the over wintering a little further apart perhaps 3 or 4 inches instead of 2 inches. This way there should be more airflow. It’s probably better to have access on both sides of the row when picking but in a tunnel like this your a bit limited in how you can grow peas.

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The tomato /squash beds were given a dressing of well rotted 2 year old F.Y.M. and topped with enrich compost. Very reluctant to dig through as there is an abundance of mycelium. I’m planting the tomatoes about 500mm apart using the string method tyng around the rootball and attaching to overhead support. This is one of the Brandywine tomatoes with its distintive leaf shape.

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The other varieties in the tunnel include Blackcherry and Moneymaker , 2 of each with spares just incase. I,m limiting the space given over to tomato growing inside for rotational reasons and will be planting into the garden other varieties such as , Amish, Aurora, Tumbler, Mexican Midge about mid May weather permitting. These varieties can be hardened off and grown outside in a sunny sheltered possition in Ireland provided of course that we get a half decent summer.

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Regular sideshooting (removal of growth between stem and leaf)once a week minimum will ensure good air movement and concentrate growth into the trusses that will bear the fruit.

In work we are using a slightly different method of preparing the beds. Here we are digging tenches on either side of a 4 foot raised bed. Into the trenches we are adding well rotted F.Y.M. and a little compost and then raking the soil back over the top. The beds are then well watered prior to planting.

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The first of the Brandywine tomatoes going into the ground using the string method again a double row at 500mm spacings. The over heads wires have been fixed at corresponding spacings since feburary as it can be unbearably bright and hot trying to fix wires over head in a tunnel in almost May.

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Between the tomatoes we have sunk some pots to help insure water gets to the roots. Used this method last year and it helped with the watering which is done with a hose and lance connection.

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Leaving a bank of Chrysanthemums  (chop suey greens) that have flowered  on the end of a bed for the pollinators and us.

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Planted up a ridge of Kale  Nero di Toscana at 2 foot spacings. These have been hardened off over a few days. Probably wont use any plant collars or enviromesh on these as they are a little hardier than cabbage or Calabrese which will hopefully be going in soon. The location is at least 2 weeks earlier than most sites in terms of planting times.

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Lining out the mixed chilli plants at 500mm centres.

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Sowing 2 rows of carrots and beetroot in the roots section of the rotation ( carrots). I inch spacings on the beetroot clusters and a few seeds every inch or sow on the carrots. A barrier will have to be put in place to about 18 inches to prevent carrot rootfly laying eggs.

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We felled a dead tree during the week cutting a notch in the direction of fall and cutting through from the back.

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Removal of lower limps and use of a rope to direct the fall.

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Saturday was spent at the Organic College in Drumcolligher. On this occasion we looked at soil testing for N.P.K. and other nutrients, planting a hedgerow , soil profiling, sowing seeds and the importance of flowers heads used in plant identification. Looking forward to getting a copy of Webbs Irish flora.

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At the college pit trying to identify the E-horizon

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Peas growing against the polythene.

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While down home for the weekend , headed out for a wander in the demesne and came accross Arum maculatum Lords and ladies or coockoos pint

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Honeysuckle Lonicera spp

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Garlic Mustard Alliaria petiolata which is edible 

Garlic Mustard

On monday back in work the group went on a hike from the Guinness gates to Lough Dan. The weather was dry but overcast and a very pleasant day was had. This is one of my favourite spots in Wicklow expecially by lough Dan where the lack of carparking and access keeps the valley free from the crowds that Glendalough gets. We spotted some tree and wildflowers along the way.

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The larch!

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We were very fortunate to see a badger out in daylight. He eventually just hid behind a clump of grass and did’nt seem too bothered by our presence.

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Our biodiverity id included:

Larch Larix spp, Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris , Hairy bitter cress Cardamine hirsuta which we have plent of in pots , Oak, Quercus spp, Foxflove Digitalis purpurea, Gorse Ulex europaeus, Heather Calluna vulgaris , Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus , Blackthorn Prunus spinosa , Whitethorn Crataegus monogyna Wood sorrel Oxalis acetosella , Willow ( goat Salix caprea)  Sheeps sorrel Rumex acetosella, Polypody, Wall rue Asplenium ruta-muraria, and sedums including stonecrop.

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Navelwort Umbilicus rupestris

Our tasting session included Sorrels sheep and wood, Stinging nettles Urtica dioica and how to pick without getting stung from the underside of the leaf and roll between fingers and a nibble on the coconut smelling Gorse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to go for a walk

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It’s one of those morning when you cannot stay in bed. The window had been opened in the bedroom last night and I was woken by the dawn chorus. The entertainment ended about 6.15 when the ducks started quaking, they seemed to wait their turn to have their say. It’s easy forget you live in suburbia sometimes. The drone of cars in the distance has yet to begin and the dew, stillness and clear red sky promise a very fine day ahead.

As we approach mid April the pace of growth is quickening buds bursting everywhere and little plants needing re-potting.

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The 8 or so varietys of tomato plants are looking quite health and now in need of repotting before planting in May. Again we repotted in slightly larger containers to concentrate the moisture where it’s needed at the roots.  I saw some tomatoes for sale in the shops the other day. They were re potted sideshoots from forced plants and looked rather gangly. Who know where they came from or what conditions they were grown in. It’s still much too early to be buying tomatoe plants for planting.

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When re-potting the tomato plants we planted with the first leaves just above soil level and filled with potting on compost leaving space for watering.It’s really important not to wet the leaves. The fresh compost will feed the plants for 4 to 6 weeks but in any case they will be moved on probably into the ground by then. These tomatoes are more developed that those sown at home under plastic as the glass has much better light transmission.

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Some of these will be for sale in the garden centre.

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To help with rotations and keeping records we have started numbering all the raised bed. Bits of slate and undercoat are handy for this.

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Some temporary protection for the onions while they root ready to be removed after about 2 to 3 weeks.

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Recently sown pea hurst greenshaft with rocket and beetroot.

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The bed of homeguard first earlies all poked through in the past few days. The bed has just been handweeded and watered and calendula , borage, planted along the edges.

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Some of the onions doing well.

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We got this years potatoes in yesterday to join the earlies. Half bed of Maris Piper, bed of Sarpo Mira, bed of Records and a bed of Roosters. This takes up 1/4 of the large rotation areas using the B.A.S.L. system. The beds were rotavated prior to planting so the soil is quite easy to work.

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Planting some borage and nasturtiams on the ends of the rhubarb bed.

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The benches are filling up with seedings for potting or planting.

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This years legume area weeded and covered untill direct sown in May.

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West facing hot wall with topfuit and soft fruit.

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Mulching around the tunnel and Espaliers is going to make the job of “weeding” much simpler.

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Comfrey awaiting planting into raised bed. We are sheet mulching using  well lapped wet cardboard and putting compost soil mix atop to plant into. This is located beside the compost pile and can be used as an activator and for high potasium liquid feed good for fruiting crops.

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Reminder signage.

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We finally got round to hanging some 6 bird boxes around the site. The opening ideally facing between North and East shaded and at least 10 feet off ground using a variety of ope diameters from 24mm upward. Must make up a little bird feeder soon.

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Onion and Broadbeans going well.

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This part of the gardens has its own little microclimate sheltered from the South with glasshouses and protected from the North with a stone wall. The growth in this area is noticably earlier than in other parts of the garden. There was once lean too glasshouses along this South facing wall.

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The carrots sown with radish are now ready for thinning and the radishes big enough to eat.

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Strawberry alley is coming along nicely. The old leaves have been removed as they are replaced with new growth. Looking into Organic liquid feeds suitable for these.

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Been going around looking at the flowers on the Ornamental Cherries and Apple trees in the garden. If the blossom has 5 styles (thats the shaft that the stigma sits on) then its Malus ( Apple family)or if one style its Prunus which includes Plum, peach ,Almond ,Cherry. Below a Shinseki Pear.

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At Home:

Slowly harvesting the chives cutting back to about an inch above soil. Will let these flower once cut.

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Signs that the maturing compost might be ready for sieving and use include the germination of seeds. Probably tomatoes

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Greenshaft pea have germinated

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Potatoes Sante and Oca Chitted ready for planting now.

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Chitted Oca

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Chitted Sante potatoes

 

 

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Garlic

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Flowers on Broadbeans

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spring cabbage ready

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flowers forming on strawberries

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perpetual spinach

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Leek

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buds on vine

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sunflowers

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bleeding heart

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Yacon starting to grow

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Early potatoes

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Carrot

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Dwarf Broadbeans

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Lolla Rosa lettuce

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mustard lettuce

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spring onion

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spring cabbage

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Red Basil

That last section was basically plants bursting into life or coming to maturity. This past week has seen much change. The earlies are up in the tunnel. The red basil ready for potting on, buds bursting everywhere one looks. Tis but a joy to witness.

Went for a wander this morning with my father along the Dodder. His latest thing is hoverflies. Below are some images of what we found on our wanderings. His advise was to walk a local route  at least once a month looking at a particular habitat in this case a river side.Note down what you see there throughout the year and use something like the collins field guides to find what you cannot identify. It’s a bit of work but a good active way to learn about the flora and fauna. It’s also relevant to your day to day enjoyment of local walks.

Winter Heliotrope

Winter Heliotrope

Willow herb

Willow herb

Wild Cabbage

Wild Cabbage

Whitebeam

Whitebeam

Wall Rue

Wall Rue

Plantago Lancelota

Plantago Lancelota

Spear Thistle

Spear Thistle

Red Valerian 2

Red Valerian

Polypody

Polypody from Limerick

Perrywinkle (vinca)

Perrywinkle (vinca)

lime bud

lime bud

Lesser Celandine

Lesser Celandine

Ivy Leafed Toadflax

Ivy Leafed Toadflax

Hoverfly

Hoverfly to be identified

Ground elder ( to be checked again )

Horse Chestnut candle

Horse Chestnut candle

Hazel

Hazel

Germander Speedwell

Germander Speedwell

Fumitory

Fumitory

Forget me not

Forget me not

Dad shooting hoverfly

Dad shooting hoverfly

Cow Parsley

Cow Parsley

Butterbur

Butterbur

Bluebell

Bluebell

Broadleaf Dock

Broadleaf Dock

Alder

Alder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter

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The long dark nights of winter are the perfect opportunity to dream about the summer ahead. While there is still loads to do outside I,ve been busy ordering all the seeds and supplies needed for 2014. Seed potatoes are ordered and packages from Brown Envelope seeds, Fruithill Farm, The Organic Centre, Seedsavers and Seedaholic have arrived in recent days. It’s very important to support these businesses to ensure their survival. The inner child could,nt resist spreading them out all over the floor and sorting through all the old packs.

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Since I had the seeds out I taught lets get the books out too and put some order on things.Image

There is so much inspiration and energy to be had from a few books and some seed, all that remains is to make some of it happen ( the fun bit) .This summer I am fortunate enough to have the garden here at the house and also access to larger growing spaces through work in Park House. We are planning on starting a very small Box scheme and linking our communications module with the vegetable module selling locally.

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We had a christmas plant sale in Park House which included homegrown vegetables and handmade birdboxes , xmas logs , dibbers and a selection of seasonal flowers.

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We took a trip to National Agro and eye opener into the world of chemical based agriculture. We had a very informative talk with an emphasis on the move toward ” Integrated pest managment” and biological control methods.

All is well in the large polytunnel.

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Claytonia or winter purslane growing happily flanked by chick weed which we harvest for the chickens. They love chickweed and its really good for them and us.

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The garlic is pushing through now ,its Vallelado from Fruithill farm. Hand weeding is essential.

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The Landsberger green manure mix is doing well. We have a few test beds inside and out to demo this method of fixing Nitrogen.

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Chop suey greens ( Chrysanthemum coronarium) which is very tasty indeed. It’s a bit like rock samphire. Would grow this again! Its had 2 cuts now but I hope to let some go to flower.

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The peas reached the top of their supports and I had to stop them before they start falling over and breaking.

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The spring cabbage will need thinning soon as they fill out.

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We took delivery of ducks and some more chickens today and so recently installed this make shift pond from a plastic water tank. It’s impossible to get a plastic shell sand pit anywhere in January.

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A new pecking order is being established and its quite violent.

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Inside the fruit cage with the rainwater harvesting tank , chicken coop and soft fruits.  I would include the composting within this space if re-designed and get the chickens to help out with the compost breakdown.

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The as yet incompleted chicken/ duck house. The idea being the ducks nest at ground level below the chickens.Image

In recent weeks we have been moving large volumes of compost from the corner heap around the grounds. Here we have used some to top up the raised beds and cover with Mypex for a few months rest. The onions have had a good hand weeding also. The paths need mulching soon.

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We have collected samples from 2 locations around the site to do a soil ” shake test” were we will find out more about the soil type.

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On the to do list is this years rotation plans for the home garden . Tomorrow I,m expecting a delivery of envirogrind which will be used in the next few weeks to top up the beds here.