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Category Archives: cultivation
We’ve just begun the “hungry gap”, the traditional time when veg was scarce in the UK because the winter veg had run our and the early summer veg hadn’t got started. I had been pretty worried about this time when we set up our Community Supported Agriculture scheme. Eating with the seasons is great in August, and not bad in December, but April and May can be a real challenge.
After this week, we will run out of leeks and carrots, but I am glad to say that we do still have quite a few crops that are doing well outside, despite the dry weather, and our polytunnels are serving us very well, yielding spinach, salad leaves and radishes. Indeed our first box of the hungry gap is testament to the hard work of everyone in the CSA – well done all!
We have a new attachment for the tractor, a potato lifter to get the potatoes to the surface where they can be bagged ready for storage.
Harvesting the potatoes was great teamwork -
Frans found this fine toad which we moved from the path into the grass out of the way
On Saturday a group of enthusiastic volunteers, including members of Transition Ipswich and the local SGI Buddhist Group, planted the first trees of The Oak Tree Forest Garden. It was a lovely day, and great fun thanks to the good humour and hard work of everyone involved. Thank you all!
An interesting article from Rose Prince that sums up the issues surrounding the current interest in potash in agriculture.
I like her writing, she knows how to connect the big issues with the food we actually eat, and hopefully enjoy.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about where to obtain the macro nutrients N (nitrogen), P (phosphorus) and K (potassium or potash) for The Oak Tree Low Carbon Farm. I’m “growing without the use of artificial pesticides or fertilizers” (I don’t pay the relevant certifying bodies, so I can’t use the “O” word). so buying chemical fertilizers is out. They are bad for the biodiversity of the soil and bad for plants anyway, so it isn’t a big dilemma for me.
But the question remains – I am exporting veg from the site, so where do I get N, P and K from to grow the next round of veg? And when I start exporting fruit and eggs from the site? What about the pigeons that get shot and eaten.
It is great to see that Rose Prince highlighted the human waste recycling question. This was the solution used in traditional Chinese agriculture, as described in the classic tome Farmers of Forty Centuries, and no doubt in countless other systems of agriculture, including the traditional back garden privy here in the UK. A neighbour at The Oak Tree recalls digging the night soil into the animal manure heap as a boy, leaving a marker to indicate where so the next lad with that particular responsibility could choose a different spot.
But back to The Oak Tree. The question of recycling human waste isn’t one I can tackle wholesale on my own. It wouldn’t be a great marketing move to request that customers drop off their night soil when they buy their veg Now (and don’t be shocked, please, it is quite hygienic) I do pee into a glorified bucket on the farm and then use it on the comfrey bed. I use hand sanitiser and clean everything scrupulously from time to time.
Comfrey is deep rooted and needs a great deal of potassium, and pee provides it. I don’t eat my comfrey, but I will use it as a mulch around plants, but only with a very long delay between applying pee and harvesting the leaves. And even then I won’t let the leaves touch anything I am planning to harvest, they will be spread around the plants, on the ground.
But this is just me, unless kind visitors are willing to donate some potash (and some have been According to Iain Tolhurst, co-author of Growing Green, a book I refer to a lot for The Oak Tree, much of the potassium needed for veg is simply locked up in soils with any clay content, and these can be released from the top and sub soil with microbial activity. I was astonished to read this, but Tolhurst Organics market garden is living proof that it can work. So for the moment, I am trying these techniques and I’ll keep testing the soil…
I wonder whether the weather is finally about to turn for the better? I need a soil temperature of 5°C to plant my clover/grass fertility building green manure mix that will cover most of the field. We’re not there yet, but the forecast does look promising next week. Meanwhile, about four fifths of the field has been ploughed by what looked to me like an enormous tractor, but the friendly contractor Paul assured me it was one of their smaller ones.
Not very low carbon, getting a tractor in, I know. But I hope it will be a one off, and it is a pragmatic way to getting the bulk of the field not only under control, but also improving in soil quality, that is once the clover and grass is established.
As for the remaining fifth, I am cultivating it with my two wheeled tractor, and transporting muck onto it with my hand cart from the next door stable yard. I think I am going to be brave and finally plant some seeds today. There is a mix of rain and warmer weather forecast for the next few days, so I’ll take a chance on it. The old hands on the next door allotment field reckon we are three weeks behind in weather here, and I think they are about right.