Wednesday, 23 September 2015

A Goal Reached!

A Goal Reached!

Back in the Spring I was hoping to harvest 250 to 300kg of produce. I thought that was possibly going to be to upper limit for this year but today I totalled up the last few days harvesting and found that the 300 kg has been reached!

We have done barely any shopping for the last month, literally emptying the cupboards and fridge of food and only popping out to buy milk and peanut butter for sandwiches etc which has forced us to have far more vegetable dinners and the odd bit of meat from the freezer. I've even been getting more adventurous with the cooking and roast vegetables are becoming common place.

We bought half a pig from a friend earlier in the year and these chops were the last of the pig. It's been the best pork we have eaten for years. 4 of our own apples chopped with 3 of our onions and cooked in apple juice.

Part roasted small potatoes and whole onions, then carrots, courgette, chopped red and white onion with a few cloves of our garlic, a few tomatoes and then finish roasting. Very nice. All our own grown.
Today I picked 2 sweetcorn, simply boiled and ate corn on the cob. The picture doesn't do the corn much justice but it was very nice. Also a surprise because we didn't think they would ripen and become ready with the lack of sun but the last few days of sunshine have brought them on.

We have never had a lot of luck with sweetcorn and this year was looking the same, planted too late and then had not enough sun but it now looks like we'll get a full harvest of about 30 cobs. Not good enough quality to sell as there are patches of corn that haven't puffed out but perfectly good enough to eat! These 2 were growing 20 minutes before I had eaten them - it doesn't get fresher than that.

With squashes, leeks, a load more tomatoes (fingers crossed they ripen), kale, spinach and some parsnip still to come I think it highly likely that we'll surpass 350 kg. There are even a couple of dozen apples still on the trees, raspberries still being harvested and courgettes in full flow and I think the caterpillars have left us some sprouts, it could even be 400 kg. Next years target is going to need to be 550 kg plus.

A fair few failures this year. A mole went through the carrots, swede and French beans as they germinated. The runner beans were gotten by slugs as where the cauliflowers not to mention a whole bed of onions just not growing at all. We forgot to sow beetroot and radish which was daft!

As a friend once said....

"we may be poor, but we eat like kings"

Saturday, 19 September 2015

New seeds and planning early

New seeds and planning early

We've been planning for the spring because most years we leave it late and when the time comes we forget to do or buy all the things we wanted to. Now, as soon as I thing of something to try, I'm buying it! Just have to remember to be organised enough not to lose them.

Lemon grass seeds. Something different to try. 
Lettuce Saladin seeds.
Broccoli green sprouting - this and the lettuce came free with other seeds.
Bolt hardy Beetroot - lots of seeds because we never have enough seed.
Fennel Florence - we already have the other type of fennel.

Strawberry Spinach. Spinach sells well and we eat a fair amount. This type not only has edible leaves but also edible berries. The berries are said to be a bit bland but as a different variety it may open up other possibilities and may prove interesting.

Climbing Strawberries - the idea being they will extend the season and produce a lot more fruit for the space. Could also be an interesting garden feature.

Another plan is to get a Poly-tunnel in the next few weeks to extend the season and try other plants. Lemon grass won't survive outside but it might just work in a Poly-tunnel, although may still require protecting, and may be able to stay in situ. The problem with the greenhouse, apart from being a bit small for us, is that everything goes into pots and requires watering or feeding. The Poly-tunnel will allow us to still grow in the soil where watering isn't so much of an issue but also free up the greenhouse for seedlings which may allow us to achieve successive sowing, something we always fail to do partly because the greenhouse is full of tomatoes and there isn't enough room to work in there potting up etc.

This year we weren't geared up for selling enough produce and as the Autumn and Winter approach it is clear that we will be missing out selling produce. Next year we need to scale up more and extend the season at both ends. Better planning and more under cover space will be needed.

The Alford Country Market is proving to be a good place to sell things people can't easily buy elsewhere and speciality produce like Bulb Fennel, Spinach, Lemon Grass, Kale and produce grown without any chemicals is likely to do well.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Autumn Sowing

Autumn Sowing

Normally I'm a little late with sowing in the Autumn but this year I'm ready!

Some field beans are now sown from seed saved from this years crop and I will do more in another week or two.

Two bulbs of Germidour Garlic (red garlic) have gone in. These are large and can be colourful but since each clove is also large I only got about 20 cloves. These are the far side of the leeks.

The other side of the leeks are the field beans, then I've sown a mixture of red, white and golden onions - no names - just a cheap "Wilo" 50 set. I've always been impressed with Wilko Onions but have never known what they are :) probably different every year!

Next to them are 2 beds of Wilko Japanese Onions (100 sets) and last of all, and closest to the camera are another 3 garlic bulbs split into about 50 (didn't count) of Allium Sativum Casablanca. A pinkish garlic.

Hopefully next week I'll get some large white garlic to go in as well as some of this years crop that was saved.

This bed has just been dug over and had potatoes in before. Last year I had placed about 2 feet deep of manure over the entire bed and that seems to have made the soil very workable. Still some clay clods in it but another year or so and I think this bed will have the best soil of the entire field.

The rest of this bed, in front of camera and to the left, still has a squash and a couple of sprouts in it so has been left. Half of it is empty and only had a little manure last year so this part has now had another 4 barrow loads heaped on top and left to rot down for the winter.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Our Little Field Time Lapse Video

Our Little Field Time Lapse Video

Every couple of days I take a photo from the upstairs window looking out onto the field. Most of them are taken between 6 am and 9 am, so the light isn't always very good and the mobile phone camera isn't that good when light levels are poor but they do give me a record of how the field is progressing.

The video is best viewed at twice speed and full screen. Each photo is taken from a slightly different position as the camera was hand held.

Unfortunately the view isn't of the whole field and misses about a quarter on the left hand side where the greenhouse and main veg beds are. The time covered is Dec 2012 to Sept 2015.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Main Crop Potatoes - Sarpo Mira

Main Crop Potatoes - Sarpo Mira

The main crop potatoes are 20 to 21 weeks old and can start being harvested. Back in mid April I planted 1.5kg of seed potatoes and today I harvested half of them. I had intended to earth up these potatoes more than I did and one or two potatoes were poking through the surface and I was a little worried about them being green. I needn't have worried as the foliage of the potatoes was so thick that no weeds and therefore not much light had got through to the soil.

The first and second earlies that were dug were inconsistent from plant to plant but the main crop was very consistent. Some of the potatoes are large, plenty large enough for baked potatoes and chips.

Sarpo Mira - Main Crop
The photo shows some of the larger potatoes and although I am very pleased with the larger potatoes there are just as many small ones as there are large. Also lots of good standard size. The crop is probably split into thirds, with a third being small, medium and large. 

I'm hoping the small are good for boiling, mediums are good for roasting and large for jackets and chips. That's the theory anyway :)

26kg (50% of main crop)
This represents 50% of the total harvest with the other half still in the ground and I'll leave the others for another week or 3.

26kg for this half and presumably the half still in the ground will be at least as much and possibly a couple of kg heavier for the extra  time which should make the total harvest 52+ kg from 1.5kg seed potatoes.

Hopefully they will dry over the next couple of days with the strong wind and will be ready for storing and selling some at the Alford Country Market on Tuesday. Apart from a few (6) there is almost no slug damage. The ones that are damaged have wasp damage, as 3 of the 6 still had wasps in the damaged area. Despite being in the ground longer than the Pentland Javelin and Charlotte earlies the Sarpo Mira has a lot less damage.

Next year we'll have to give the Pentland Javelin a miss, it certainly isn't good enough in our conditions to warrant the space because of the variability between plants and the amount of slug and other burrowing creepy crawly damage. Providing the Mira store I think we'll be doing these again, along with another main crop variety. 

The total potato harvest this year looks to be between 90 and 100kg, and depending on how these main crop sell at the country market we may have to double the crop for next year. The earlies have sold reasonably well and I now have another selling outlet for next year.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Corn Cockles - Harvesting Seed

Corn Cockles - Harvesting Seed

Autumn 2014 I sowed some wild flower seed and some bulbs on the old bonfire site. Tulips, Daffodils and Crocus appeared in the spring and around June 2015 Corn Cockle and Poppies were flowering.

I've taken some of the corn cockle and poppy seed and sprinkled around the garden but today I decided to harvest the Corn Cockle seed in order to sell.

Corn Cockles and Poppies, old bonfire site
All the seed heads have dried now and a lot of seed has fallen, almost all of the poppy seed has been dispersed, but a lot of Corn Cockle seed remains. I spent an hour with a pair of scissors cutting the seed heads off and then set about separating the seed from the casing. After 7 hours of work I had 570g of seed which, if I manage to sell the seed at the average Ebay price will be worth about £13.50 per hour for today's work.

Selling Wild Flower seed is going to be a bit of a test, just to see if it is worth while and whether there is enough interest.

The actual process was quite a hard slog.....certainly a multi beer task!

It started off with a box of seed heads....

Then progressed to a pile of empty seed heads...

A bowl of seeds with some shrapnel left behind. Crushing the seed heads with fingers and scraping the insides out with the thumb left a fair bit of casing behind!

But after a lot of shaking and and gentle blowing the bits around I ended up with a fairly clean bowl of seed (this isn't the full amount).

A close up of the seed head and seeds. There appears to be about 30 seeds per head (a rough average) and about 56 seeds per gramme. Just under 32,000 seeds have been obtained from around  1,000 seed heads taken.
It's been quite a satisfying days work and I'll see if I can sell some on the Alford Country Market on Tuesday but I think my best bet is Ebay. Most places seem to suggest sowing this seed in the early to late spring but I've always found Corn Cockles germinate and grow better when Autumn sown, where they can out compete the weeds and get a good head start before spring arrives.