I think it’s classed as relaxing? Poppped the sunflowers in, which you can just about make out in the foreground (the two big’uns are self-seeders from last year, transplanted to where they should be rather than where the voles/mice/birds abandoned them. And time to sit down to burn the stems from last year’s dried out sunflowers.
Over the last few years I think we’ve perfected the art of growing brassicas. You can see from these photographs the only way we’ve found of keeping nearly all their pests at bay, though not all. First on the ground, is a black woven weed fabric, with planting holes cut out at spacings that suit the types of brassica we grow. This speeds up the planting process as no marking out is needed. This fabric also prevents weeds growing up around the various plants. Then over that we hang scaffold netting, to keep the butterflies and pigeons off. Initially we used to have a complex triangular framework of bamboo sticks to suspend the netting over, and weighted it to the ground with pebbles. This took so long to create, and was a pain to crawl through to pick stuff, last year we used vertical sticks with cane toppers. This worked until a local fox decided to jump all over the netting whilst trying to chase what we can only assume was a vole. This year we’re using our large amount of metal fence spikes (used for temporary chicken mesh fencing), and hopefully they’ll do the job. The only real pests we can get now are slugs and white fly. I learned one year in particularly heavy rain, that white fly can be hosed off, to keep their numbers down. With this system we can hose through the netting to try and get some off, but we end up suffering the odd fly here and there for the sake of no chemicals. Slugs we can combat either by dropping a handful of sand around the base of each brassica, and/or the new organic slug pellets using ferric sulphite.
We’ve left planting spaces on the left for spring cabbage which we’ll plant out later in the year, and winter cauliflowers, which are about to be sown in pots, also to be planted out later in the year.
May is great – especially since we’ve nobbled the spring hoeing-blues 🙂 When it comes to our squash patch, here’s a picture of ‘before’ – the black fabric has been there since last year, and the ground should now be lovely and warm to plant our squash seeds. This year we’re planting Custard White and Nero do Milano corgettes, two stations (why do they call them stations?!) of Berrettina Placetina winter squash, two stations of Tonda Padana winter squash and two stations of Rugosa butternut squash. We tend to store all of our squash, it’s one of our winter foods that since it keeps well and we have so much ‘summer only’ veg, we may as well save it. The sweetcorn will also be planted out to the far side of this vegetable bed, but they won’t go in until later in May.
This photograph shows the same patch from the other direction once the seeds have gone in (three seeds per station as we like to err on the side of caution). We only have three cloches so the corgettes got spoiled – ideally I’d like one for each of the stations. In the background Suz is watering the fruit not-cage (fixing it is still on the to-do list), and you can just make out the lovely blossom on the fruit trees in the distance. The good old oak tree, no doubt harbouring every pigeon for miles around, is looking gorgeous in leaf now.
Coming up to mid-May and it’s time to get those legume seed in the ground! This is the first year we’ve covered the entire patch with black woven fabric, and it’s such a time saver! Last autumn we spread the manure over the patch (except where the carrots are going to go), and cover with weed fabric. The worms then spend the winter months taking it down into the soil – it seriously works so well! No digging it in, your worm minions do it all for you. All you need to do is lift the fabric once you’re ready to plant and/or sow. The weeds are nowhere to be seen, so you’ve no early hoeing or double digging either – I can’t think of a reason not to do it. The only We do rotovate the onion bed to make set planting easier, and we hand cultivate the small seed beds (root veg, peas and beans) where needed, using that cracking Wolf Garten Soil Miller – a great tool which rotovates and hoes at the same time, with hand power rather than petrol. It’s proven great between the onion rows too.
So off came the black fabric for the legume patch, and in went two rows of early peas (nice for freezing) Kelvedon Wonder, one row of main crop marrowfat peas Onward, three rows of Masterpiece Green Longpod broadbeans, two wigwams of Sultana climbing beans and two wigwams of Enorma runner beans. All but the broadbeans need protecting from the various pests – for us it’s slugs and pigeons, partners in crime! The peas we sow under netting, with a frugal sprinkle of ferric sulphate slug pellets. The beans we sow under half an old milk carton, with a couple of pellets dropped through the open neck! This way the plant is protected until it’s around 6-8″ high from pigeons, and it has its own little greenhouse to start off in. It’s our first year trying this out after I came up with the idea, it’ll be interesting to see if it works! As you can see – we need more milk bottles!
Here’s also a quick picture of the onion patch in full swing – my favourites 🙂
But this is a post I promised we’d pop up here on behalf of a nice lady at the BBC, who contacted us to ask if we wouldn’t mind publicizing a new TV programme. Auntie (as some fondly call the BBC) are bringing back BBC’s Home Away From Home, and they’re looking for people who want to try out a home swap holiday in the UK!
They’re on the hunt for people who live in a home they’d be happy to swap with someone elsewhere in the UK, for a short break.
Apparently you’d get the chance to have a new experience and discover local cuisine, sight-seeing that goes beyond the guide book, and it would be an ‘authentic’ place to stay.
This time around they’re particularly interested in featuring people with smallholdings! I can see it now – the frantic animal house clean-out the day before, and packing your own eggs as someone else’s just won’t be the same 🙂 It would be a grand way to see how other smallholders do things though!
They’re looking for couples (partners, friends, family members) from across the UK to swap homes over the course of three days – the thrust of the programme is to provide a warm-hearted series that celebrates the beauty of our homes and localities in the UK.
The filming is scheduled to start at the end of May, running through to the end of August, so time is of the essence!
Their website is here: Home Away From Home
The Be on a Show page is here: Be on a Show
Or you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or telephone them on 0208 008 1468.
There you have it! If you fancy letting someone else open your various pens at the crack of dawn, you now have the chance 😉