Monday, 30 July 2012

A few pics from July 2012

The courgettes and sweetcorn have been enjoying the end of July heat-wave

Another month to fill out and these cobs will be ready to harvest, come on sun!

But only a few days for this courgette to be ready!

Good to see some weed free crops at last, (although I don't get to see my husband and weed-free crops, it's one or the other!)
the wet spring/summer has meant lots of weeding this year

And rainbow chard looking lovely too!

Looks like a lovely patch of wild flowers full of bees and other wildlife,
 but it's actually 2 beds of carrots that didn't get weeded (can't win them all)

Brassicas in 'Prescott' field
 (these fields used to be part of Wye College farm, and 3 of the fields are named after former principals,
as well as John, there's also  'Holmes' and 'Lucas')
These plants survived the wireworm, sadly many of the squash plants didn't.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

July 2012, news and pics

We’ve had some promising glimpses of Summer during June, but not as many as we would like! The onions and garlic have grown very well this season, the second early potatoes were a bit slow but ready to harvest now and all our leafy greens are available again now (chards, spinach and kales). The courgette and sweetcorn plants are looking good and have enjoyed this last week of warmth and we finally started planting our squash plants last week, once we got a few consecutive dry days and most of them are in the ground now hoping for a sunny summer, (aren’t we all!).
Potatoes in flower, the real thing is beautiful, not done justice by my photography!

Potato flowers

Looking down over Wye, our early transplanted leeks growing in very chalky soils,
a lot less weeds here than in many of our crops this year

Onions that have been weeded lots!!
Al least some of the weeds are pretty.

Red onions

Weeds, weeds, weeds - We’ve been thinking back to last year’s exceptionally dry/hot spring and remembering how little hand weeding we had to do - reverse that this year, Martin does the bulk of the weeding himself using a tractor mounted steerage hoe, finger-weeder, and ridger as well as some pre-emergence and inter-row flame weeding. But any weeds that escape all that have to be hoed or hand-pulled, and there have been a lot of them this season. You get to know your weeds when you’re on your hands and knees in a bed of carrot or spinach, and categorise them as you go along, there’s the ‘good’ weeds such as fat-hen (pulls out easily, as long as it doesn’t get too big), fumitory (looks pretty), red dead-nettle (the bees love it) and then there are the ’nasties’ – nettles and thistles, for obvious reasons. There’s no going out in the fields in shorts and sandals on an organic farm!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Wye Brownies grow and pack their own salad bags

As part of the 2nd Wye Food Festival the Wye Brownies grew their own lettuce in unusual containers, such as an old welly boot and a bird house. Then, they had a salad sandwich tasting and salad bag making session.

The girls got to taste red cos lettuce, crisp salanova lettuce, green oakleaf lettuce and oriental salad leaves, rocket, mizuna and green wave mustard. As you may know 'green wave mustard' leaf is a fiery one and a few of the girls needed a glass of water after trying that one!
The brownies also all made their own mixed leaf salad bags after a quick demonstration from Sarah Mackey, aiming to make their handful of leaves look like a bunch of flowers, and whilst all of this was going on some of the girls were taking photos for the food festival photography competition.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Hungry No More - May 2012

It's the end of May, and we're getting towards the end of the 'Hungry Gap'.

Spring onions, spring garlic, annual spinach, new season's salad leaves and lettuces are all ready now, new potatoes this week, new season's chard and kales and spring cabbage won't be long......
Our first early potatoes

spring onions in the field

new season's annual spinach looking pretty amongst the red dead nettle
(the annual nettles are not so pretty though when we're harvesting the spinach!)

new season's rainbow chard, nearly ready for harvesting

red lettuce in a polytunnel

a few early carrots in a polytunnel

and an outdoor sowing of carrots (our main weeding project at the moment)

beds of runner and french beans inside the walled garden

newly planted rows of courgettes and sweetcorn

trays of leeks and brassicas hardening off before planting

looking down at our rows of main-crop potatoes
 (shame I didn't get my camera out fast enough to photo the hare that was running down between the ridges)

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Green Garlic

A.K.A spring garlic or wet garlic, the young green garlic looks like a small leek in disguise,
eat it all, as you would a spring onion.
The taste is milder than dry garlic, and it sweetens as it cooks, delicious!

As the season progresses, the bottom 'bulbs' out to give a more recognisable shape.
 Even at this stage, you can eat it all, as the cloves have only just began to seperate.

Some of our garlic back in February.

And more, taken in May last year

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The drought, the rain and growing vegetables

This time last year we were struggling with an 'un-official drought' , hardly any rain from the middle of March until June.

This year, we have an official drought, and we're struggling with the amount of rain we've had through April and so far in May. The drought is a long term problem though, affecting all of us, with resorvoir levels in the South East below average and groundwater sources at moderate or severely low levels.

Hopefully, the very wet conditions prove to be a short term problem for us growers, we are forecast 3 consecutive (mostly) dry days from tomorrow at least!
After getting ahead on our planting when we had a couple of dry and sunny weeks at the end of March, we are behind now, we have lots of transplants ready to go out in the field, its almost impossile to do any weed control, and the slug and snail populations are getting fat on carrot seedlings!
Bring on the sun.

And whilst I'm on the subject of water, we now have a 'treebog' compost loo at Ripple Farm, no water needed to flush (and no emptying needed, the willows planted round the site feed on the 'compost').

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

April on Ripple Farm (part 2)

Part 2 of whats happening at Ripple in April.......
Early spuds grown under perforated plastic to bring the harvest forward (is it better environmentally to grow a small amount this way or import them from Egypt for a week or two (or keep eating wrinkly old ones a bit longer))?

And looking through the hedge at ridges of our main crop potatoes in Olantigh Field,
 our chalky soil is almost white here as it rises up towards the downs.

Spring onions off to a good start

Rows of mini craters where there should be rows of broad beans, wireworm (the larvae of click beetle) are attacking
from underneath, and rooks are pulling up the small plants to eat the wireworm!

So we're sowing broad beans in seed trays to transplant, we wil not be beaten!

I spent a peaceful Saturday afternoon planting strawberry plants in the shelter of the walled garden, we grow them through these 'mypex' sheets to help with weed control, as the plants will be in the ground for a few years. It also to help conserve the moisture in the soil and keeps the berries cleaner than if they were grown in bare earth.
In the gender specific world of plant breeding, the varieties I planted are 'Alice', 'Christine', 'Florence' and 'Honeyeye'
Compare those to a few brassica varieties - 'Samson', 'Ironman' , 'Supervoy and 'Duncan' !!

We'd love to have patchwork fields of many colours (and sometimes we do) but here we have patchworks of crop covers to protect our new plantings, as there are plenty of pests out there ready to take more than their fair share of our crops.
There are some baby kale plants under there, but there will be a gap in availability before these are ready to harvest
 (we're coming up to the 'Hungry Gap' time of year for UK vegetable growers)

It doesn't look much yet, but here's one of our 'bee food' phacelia strips, which has self seeded
and will soon be in flower again.

And finally, one of the damson trees in our hedges in flower.

April at Ripple

April is a very busy month on the farm, we're still harvesting lots of over-wintered crops as well as sowing and planting the new season's ones. Although the South East, like many other areas, is officially in drought, we have had enough rain (but not too much) during March and April to enable us to get our potatoes planted, as well as most of our onions and garlic. We've sown spinach and salad direct, and transplanted early cabbages, kales, chard and others.

It's that time of year when our over-wintered greens just want to spread their seed, so they head skywards, looking very pretty as they flower, and very tasty in our stir fry bags. First to go are the brassicas:-

Majestic Red Russian Kale in flower

Red curly kale growing skywards (and dancing, or just a windy day)

'Green-in-snow' mustard leaf, going to seed but we already have
 new sowings of salad leaves ready to harvest from a polytunnel

Salad rocket in flower (the flowers are very tasty in a salad)
The over-wintered spinach and chard will go to seed soon too but we have
some time to harvest the new spring regrowth first

Lettuce transplanted in a polytunnel, and rows of newly sown salad leaves
New Season's Pak Choi ready to harvest.

(I'm having a few problems uploading photos to this post, so part 2 of April goings on to follow soon!)

Monday, 27 February 2012

Feb 2012, Ripple in Pictures

February 2012

Winter finally arrived in February with 4-6 inches of snow and 2 weeks of freezing temperatures. The vegetables didn’t mind the snow too much (although they were a bit harder to find than usual!) but the freezing temperatures damaged the less hardy greens such as spinach, chard and some of the salad leaves so there will be less of those through March.

And the end of February has given us some relatively mild and dry weather, so we've been busy spreading muck and cultivating, and even planted a few early potatoes today (27 Feb).

The South East is officially in drought because ground water levels are low due to less than average rainfall and increasing water usage. There is no immediate effect on us as growers, our fields are holding plenty of water at the moment, but we will be happy to have plenty of nice gentle rain over the next growing season, both to replenish the groundwater sources (for every-one's benefit) and to establish our vegetable crops.
 We are learning to adapt to relatively dry springs, for example, trying to cultivate newly rotated ground in the autumn, so we are not losing important moisture at planting time and working on a 2 year glass&clover/one year vegetable rotation, enabling more organic matter to build up in the soil, which helps to hold water. We will also be collecting rainwater on a small scale for irrigation, but as we are only tenant farmers, we would struggle to make the investment in a reservoir for large scale water collection/storage.

Claytonia salad leaves growing in a polytunnel. Claytonia is the cultivated variety of the wild plant
 'Spring Beauty' and adds some balance to our spicy winter salad bags.

Autumn sown garlic, growing inside our rented Victorian walled garden.

'Olantigh' Field, late sown leeks to the left, some of this year's veg ground to the right and the North Downs Way'
public footpath going across the field.

...and Olantigh Field again, looking down towards Wye.

Newly ploughed ground outside the walled garden.
Orchard Field, rows of kales to the right, and more of this year's veg ground to the left.

Polytunnel cultivated, ready for sowings of early salad greens and spinach

First batch of seed potatoes, some of which were sown today, March 27.
Rinbow chard seedlings, showing their beauty already.