Can’t find it – grow it!

It’s the same the world over. If people cannot find the produce they want in supermarkets they are growing it. This article is about a woman in Singapore who could not find Okra in her local supermarket so started gardening again. “We rely on other (countries) for our food, if they don’t sell to us we have nothing to eat…”

Things like lettuce and other salad greens are easy to grow and can mature in as little as 5-6 weeks. And you don’t always need a garden. We are about to start a trial of a very simple system made from recycled parts that can be used to grow salad crops. More coming soon.

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Frost warning!

The Met Office is forecasting frosts in the next few days with temperatures here predicted to fall to 1C in the early hours of Monday 11 May and Tuesday 12 May and 3C on Wednesday 13 May and Thursday 14 May. The wind  will also be back to N or ENE so it will feel very much colder.

Use fleece to cover any tender plants. Note: fleece is not a blanket, it will not keep plants warm but it will stop ice crystals forming on the foliage which does the damage.

Our Sarpo Mira have just broken the surface, they will need covering

If you have potato tops through then cover them with soil, straw or something similar to stop them turning black and rotting – see pic below.

Frost damaged potato tops

News from the garden – a day off!

It’s a bank holiday in the UK which means we have an excuse for a day off. New garden chairs arrived this week so it seems like the obvious time to install them under the old apple tree and try them out. We both agree that they need more testing!

The blossom is just amazing this year and so full of bees today. Here is a some ‘slow sound’ of the birds and the bees recorded in the garden this mourning. It’s all very peaceful and sleep inducing! Best heard using headphones, put your feet up and enjoy.

Keeping pests away

Organic gardeners do not use sprays to control pests, instead they get very sneaky and use plants as a deterrent. The best known of these is French Marigolds, Tagetes minuta
which have a very strong and distinctive smell.

We are just about to sow seed in the greenhouse. The plants will be used around brassicas and in the greenhouse around the tomatoes.

This is sometimes called companion planting but it is also older gardening knowledge that has been handed down though generations. It seem to work but we have not done any specific trials.

There is some more information here from the Thompson and Morgan web site.

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Frosts in May!

It was beautiful start to the day, sunny but cool. A quick inspection of the garden at around 7AM showed frost on the lawn. It was the real stuff, white and frozen.

It was not totally unexpected especially when the wind is from the east. As the garden is near 300m ASL it is cold which makes the growing season shorter with maybe only three frost free months, June, July and August.

If you are new to growing you need to get to know your garden. Never rely on the information on the back of seed packets telling you when to sow or when to plant out. Also, popular TV garden programmes will tell you it is time to do this or plant out that. Beware, most are filmed a lot further south and your local climate may be very different.

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Where do lawn pesticides end up?

What happens to the pesticides used on your lawn? First they soak into the ground then move into streams and rivers and finally the sea. They do NOT just disappear or get neutralised by the soil – that’s just PR hype to make you feel better about using them. The same is true for chemical fertilizers – they get washed out of the soil very easily and pollute rivers on the way to the sea where they are responsible for large algae blooms.

See this PDF for more information. Also see Our lawns are killing us

What we should have learned from the last few weeks is that the food supply in the UK is at best precarious and that it does not take long for a food scare to empty supermarkets shelves. With news about shortages of wheat in the UK due to the very wet winter and with an uncontrolled BREXIT on the horizon, it has never been a better or more urgent time to dig up the lawn and grow food – without the use of pesticides!

If you don’t have a lawn you can still grow food in even very small spaces – ask us, we’ve done it.

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UK government and food supply chain during Covid 19 emergency

This is an audio file on BBC Sounds, it is the Farming Today radio broadcast from 28 April 2020. The interesting bit is where Prof Tim Land is interviewed about the way the UK government has handled the food supply during the Covid 19 national emergency. It starts at around 09:21 – towards the end of the piece.

Listen Here the link connects to the BBC site

Tim Lang has been saying that the food supply in the UK is precarious for over 10 years yet nobody has listened. We need a hell of a lot more diversification in the supply chain – more market gardens, more local markets more independent retailers and more organic growing! As he says, to put the whole food supply chain in the hands of 9 big companies is daft. I would say that it is more like criminal negligence.

Drainage and digging

We have been making a new raised bed on the lawn for soft fruit bushes. The lawn been there for many decades so is very compacted. During the heavy rain earlier the year the area flooded and we did not want fruit bushes sitting in water.

The first stage was to remove the turf followed by a gentle forking over of the soil. I know we are no-dig gardeners but looking at the soil under the grass convinced us it needed loosening.

The videos below show a simple drainage test. The first is on the compacted soil just after the turf was removed. The water puddles and takes a few seconds to drain away. The second video shows the improved drainage after forking, the water disappears almost immediately the flow is stopped.