Monday, 26 February 2007

Comparisons

Over the season I'll be keeping you updated about how my site compares with my neighbours, highly mechanised, "conventional" farm. I've nothing against his field, it's just the closest example of industrial agriculture.
As I said before, the turning circle for the gleaming beasts(giant tractors) is a wee bit smaller than my entire plot.
The cauliflowers are gone and it's time for potatoes. The obligatory plastic (to heat up the soil) has been stretched out using special equipment. Neat rows march across the landscape.


As you can see here:


It's a big area of heavily compacted earth, nothing will grow here for months. So far this year there has been Cauliflower, then potatoes. If he's lucky he will get one more crop in this year, bringing the total to 3. THink about all the gaps here. Even if each crop can produce for 2 months, that's still only 6 months a year of produce. Compare that with an established garden and polytunnel. we eat fresh kiwis every morning. we've been eating them since December and will continue to until April.

Imagine this field(about 20 Acres) Covered in fruit trees and the odd polytunnel, there would be food available all year round, minimum wastage and a massive increase in Biodiversity. Instead of a cold empty field you would hear birdsong, see spring emerge into the landscape..

I'll keep harping on about this for some time yet, so have a good think about it!

Back to the project and things are coming along, the next warm day we get that skin is going up on the tunnel, here's an overhead shot taken from a precarious position on top of a trailer:


The first woodchips have been put on top of the heating pipes:


All I need to do is add lots and lots of water to start the process and tropical conditions should follow..(frantically crossing fingers and toes)

I met 2 new visitors by the potato bed today: Pesky magpies, guzzling down some choice "romano" spuds! They soon got the boot, but it's left me wondering how to prevent riff raff like these from feasting on the produce...

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Men of Action

Well today was such a lovely day that I just had to get out there and get something done!. With the help of my mate Pete, We got loads of cardboard from Penzance for more potato beds, and went hunting for the black stuff (horse manure)
here's pete knee-deep in the stuff


We then went to "Land's end trekking centre" where they have mountains of well rotted manure. It's about 8 miles away, but worth it for the quality of the manure. They also use very small amounts of antibiotics, if at all so it's really good stuff.

Back at the land you can see the materials piling up.


so a productive day all in all. Hoping to get some woodchips onto the coils tomorrow, the main problem has been getting them to stay where they are supposed to!



There's been a few teething problems with the heating, mainly my understanding of thermodynamics, i.e how hot does the heap need to be to push the water around 40m of pipe? will the pipe melt in high temperatures? etc.. So i'ts all about experimentation at this stage, will keep you updated.

Monday, 19 February 2007

Wet and Windy

Not much to report at the moment. The sky has been grey and overcast for days now, and looks like staying that way. I've been up the land a good bit, putting up the fence, deciding on which way the heating coils should coil..

I've also monitered the temperature of the woodchips, i've got a special probe thermomoter which makes me feel very scientific, but alas, alas no real change in temperature as of yet.

Everything feels like it's in stasis. The polytunnel will have it's skin on soon, the heating should be working and plants planted. There's a feeling of bated breath about.

Even though it feels like winter will stay around forever there are signs of sprin everywhere I look, buds on the rasberries, little green shoots of mint sprouting up... you can just feel it in the air..

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

When the chips are down

Well finally they have arrived. A gigantic truck made it's way up the tiny lane yesterday and delivered this massive load of woodchips. Thank you Green Waste Company!


It was great to see them get here at last, the heating source for the tunnel, the grand experiment. I know it sounds a bit dramatic, but what can i say? All the parts are begining to come together, the project is taking shape.Spring is here and it's time to get moving!

So there's lots to do: The skin needs to go on the tunnel, the heating pipes all need to go together and then plants need to be planted..

watch this space.

Sunday, 4 February 2007

Lasagne beds 101

Ok, today i'm going to show you how easy it is to use a "no dig" system of gardening. The art of digging is a manly thing and seems to be pursued with religious fervour.
I remember doing the same myself, coming in the door on an evening, exclaiming about how hard i'd worked, with a few slipped discs to prove it..

But that all changed when I discovered Lasagne Beds. This way of preparing a bed for planting is a part of "permaculture": Permanent Agriculture" do a search on the web, you'll find tons about it.
Basically it's emulating nature as close as possible with everything you do in the Garden.
Nature has it all worked out, ever seen a worm with a slipped disc? exactly.
Anyway to start a lasagne bed (or sheet mulch) you start with the plot you want:

You then decide on the size, a good size for veg is about 2-3 foot wide, as far as you can reach from 1 side twice.
Lay down cardboard in the shape you desire. This will help stop weeds coming up.

Then you need some sustenance for the plants. A mixture of Manure, straw and seaweed is good. But anything organic can be used.
Manure goes down:

then i add some straw and seaweed on top to keep away slugs and it's all ready for some spuds. FOr most other plants you need to wait a month or 2 before planting into fresh manure. Or else add a layer of soil onto the top and plant into that.
There you go, it takes a fraction of the time, enriches the soil and not an aching back in sight!

Friday, 2 February 2007

Beast of bodmin..

ooh aarh look at this fine beast, no not me, the tractor!
I've been very lucky to get the loan of this tractor from my nice landlord for the year. It's a great machine and can do lots of work that would take me ages to accomplish.
We have been quite busy, running loads of manure and seaweed, and getting ready for the beds to go in..more in a day or so..