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With the ground warming up around the UK and some parts passing their Last Frost date, we can all start sowing most of the crops now (There are still crops which can be sown from the March and April month lists)…

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Organic Sweetcorn can be grown in your own back Garden !

Outdoors:

  • Maincrop sowings of root crops – carrots, beetroot, leeks, radishes, turnips etc

  • French, runner and broad beans, mangetout & podding peas – sow in modules/pots if you have trouble with slugs/mice etc

  • All the brassicas can still be sown this month for overwintering – kale, brussels sprouts, purple sprouting broccoli, summer and winter cabbages, calabrese and cauliflowers

  • Leaf beets inclduing Swiss Chard

  • Herbs including parsley, coriander and others

  • Keep sowing salads, Much better a small sowing every 2-3 weeks than a large patch that bolts before you can eat it

  • Early sowings of fennel – if you have trouble with it bolting, wait until mid-June

  • Sweetcorn – but only sow direct if the weather, and soil, are warm, if not then start it off in modules / small pots.

  • Salad Onions

In trays or pots

  • Brassicas & Salad Onions (If you have slug / snail problems)

  • French, runner and broad beans, all types of peas

  • Sweetcorn

In trays or pots indoors

  • Courgettes, squashes, cucumbers and melons – ideally best sown by the end of May

In a polytunnel / greenhouse

  • Summer salads

  • Basil & coriander

  • Plant out summer crops (tomatoes, peppers etc) started indoors once you’re certain night time temperatures won’t fall too low

Maintenance

  • Application of compost onto growing beds if you haven’t done so already (Creating compost in less than one year is possible with the right amount of turning and moisture / urine addition)
  • Weeding will be a chore now, good strikes on sunny days with a hoe will be useful
  • emptying your composting area and bagging up the not-so-ready compost / mulch / mold to stack somewhere out of your way and to continue composting in the bags (I recommend you get hold of stronger bags such as old compost bags or builders rubble bags as they can last years – contact a local established gardening firm or landscaping company, they often need to dispose of hundreds of mulch bags after large landscaping jobs or annual mulch applications)
  • Slug / Snail / pest control including checking regularly for Aphid and Spider Mites etc.
  • If Green manures were sown at the right dates, you may need to start chopping and forking them in as you should be getting ready to start planting crops such as Tomatoes etc.

Note/s:

We have had a pretty bad start to Spring / Early Summer – it was only 8 degrees celcius on Monday and we have had hardly any good sunshine besides that one week where we had perhaps four good days? You may still need to sow indoors with this unpredicatable weather otherwise outdoors may be a gamble considering this year’s miserable start …

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The date of the 2018 Off-Grid festival has been set, ticket sales are on and the organisers boast a larger site with about 50% higher capacity.

Previous events were held at Goffin’s Land, Exeter in Devon, now they have moved to Tapeley park, Christie Estates, Instow in North Devon. Click here for a Map of the area.

I first stumbled upon this event last year a mere week or so before the actual event! No money and not having enough time to prepare, as well as not being able to request in such short notice for holiday leave put an end to the possibility of going. I made sure that 2018 will be the year to attend and it seems like I will definitely be able to go, even if only for a day using their cheaper day pass tickets…

It looks like a great event especially for Children, giving them the opportunity to spend quality, fun time away from their phones, computers and tablets.

Switch off, tune in, turn on …

 

The above video is footage from the 2016 event as a promotional for 2017’s event.

Below is more of the 2016 event and shows a little more including all of the entertainment side.

If one is interested in Off-Grid methods, even just out of interest sake or to learn a thing or two, take a look below at the extensive workshops list for each day from 2016, I can’t believe a 3 day event was just so jam packed ! ! !

 

The concept of Hugelkultur (Hugel Mound Growing) can basically be described as a self-composting bed or planting area (in the case of this article, in large pots). The gardener digs a shallow trench or pit and places logs, branches, sticks, twigs, brown leaves, nitrogen rich greens and or fresh manure, then tops these materials with the dug out earth and finally a decent layer of compost.

A good Hugel with large thick logs can be self-composting for anything up to 10 years. Read previous articles on traditional Hugels here Article 1 and Article 2.

Just the other day I realised that I can re-create the Hugel system but in large plastic planter pots, this will give you the benefit of Hugelkulturs without having to strain your back doing loads of digging!

Anyone taking on an uncultivated or fallow piece of land such as a disused Allotment Plot can always Sheet / Lasagna mulch a section, cover the result with thick impermeable black plastic sheet to kill off the perennial weeds and simply place Hugel Pots on top to ensure the land is still productive. Once you need to remove the sheet after a year and start using the ground space for planting, you can simply knock over the pots and empty the goodness to build up the humus / top layer!

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Hugelkultur Mound in Planter Pots

The general rule in terms of what can be grown on the Hugel Mound in year 1, are shallow rooted crops / plants such as various lettuces. Thereafter you can grow plants that require more nutrients and moisture and then finally on year 3  you can pretty much grow anything from Tomatoes to Pumpkins.

In the terms of the Hugel in a large pot, you can start the bottom layer either with composted or semi-composted wood chips (skip them and use soil if you have Slug / Snail problems), place a decent layer of soil (especially soil you wish to amend) on top of the latter with the Branch, Sticks, Twigs and cardboard / leaves as the carbon layer.

Follow on top with vegetables, fruit scraps, cut grass or fresh manure and then go on to adding the thick layer of soil / compost for growing in

(refer to image for general idea on layers, there are no specific rules but rather guidelines to follow) such as:

  1. Wood and wood chip need Nitrogen to break down, the plants you intend to grow need nitrogen too, the wood will suck this out of the soil and this is why we add manure or nitrogen rich fresh greens like veggie scraps and grass clippings / garden prunings, therefore, try to add as much green / manure / nitrogen rich material the more wood you have – greens decompose much quicker so stuff a lot in there.
  2. Compose the larger wood at the bottom and build up with smaller pieces until you reach brown leaves and cardboard this should ensure nice air spaces between are protected from being filled in by settling materials, these air spaces are important to ensure that the process does not become anaerobic – you could even start the logs on top of a 3-5cm thick layer of fresh grass clippings although this is not imperative.
  3. Intending on using this pot every year for the same purpose and do not intend on emptying it for a few years? then this is the time that you can use much thicker logs and branches in the bottom, if you want to empty the contents regularly (every 1 – 2 seasons) then it would be more beneficial to use thinner branches and sticks instead.
  4. Shallow rooted crops are mostly recommended in the first year however, you could easily use root crops such as carrots and parsnips provided you have a deeper layer of top soil / compost, remember that carrots and parsnips need nicely sieved compost / soil to prevent roots from ”forking”

One of the best ways to obtain a stock of Perennial Herbs such as Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano etc. from what I know is to pass by near the Vegetable section of a large Sainsbury’s Supermarket (Found on a metal shelf at the end of one of the aisles).

As long as you are okay with the idea that these plants are not of Organic cultivated stock and have likely been fed with a Chemical Fertiliser of sort, that this is a great way to save some money and increase your herb variety if you cannot or will not want to wait for seedlings to become decently sized.

They sell these in potted form and if I remember correctly, I got a Rosemary and Thyme for only £1 each which is a little more than buying a pack of freshly cut spigs! As Sainsburys is not actually my regular shop, I cannot say what other stock they have and which season they sell them in, my purchase was a last minute effort just before I finished my Herb Spiral on my allotment and my large Herb Planter at home in my kitchen garden. So far all of the plants purchased are still surviving and look healthy.

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Cheap / Decent Sized Perennial Herbs – £1 per pot!

As always, I like to encourage my followers or any visitors to try go from a mainly intensive annual crop production to a more relaxed approach which includes loads of Perennials, a system like this gives you more free time and could help you to produce a better Annual crop due to the fact that you can spend a little more time on them.

Starting off with Herbs is a great way to start up on a Perennial approach, species such as Terragon, Chinese Chives, Oregano, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme to name the most common are quite cold hardy and will live for more than two years. Most of those mentioned are very nice in herbal teas which have healing properties, they have more than one function other than for flavourful cooking!

Don’t get too hasty if you see a plant that seems to have died off, some plants such as the Terragon, Chives and Oregano will die off above the soil but new shoots will emerge from the soil in Spring!

To add to the above, I would recommend to plant the following in order to be able to create or at last add to salads during the summer months; French as well as Red-Veined Sorrel, Red Valerian (a common ornamental plant whose leaves are edible – not so great on their own but nice as a sandwich filler or added in a salad), Salad Burnet, Alchemilla (Lady’s Mantle – another very common ornamental – young leaves in a salad), Cedum (Ice Plant – quite common ornamental, also in salad) < All three of the latter mentioned Ornamentals are quite drought tolerant once established! The final one which I have yet to plant / try is Hablitzia taminoides, another salad plant which is said by Mandy at Incredible Vegetables to be happy growing in a shady corner in ones garden.

For those of you in the Tropics / Sub-Tropics where either all of most of the above-mentioned species will not grow well, please refer to the Plants For A Future Database if you would like to research Perennial Herbs and edible / medicinal plants suited to your climate and soil conditions etc.

Hi everyone, It’s been ages since I have posted anything, as you may be guessing, it’s because of the growing season! Being the owner of two gardens (one is an allotment) you can mostly understand that I have my hands full!

In the meantime, other than the news that things might go quite well for me this year on the allotment side, I have gotten hold of a nice handy little A4 companion planting guide which can be printed out and stuck at the back of a shed door, inside a greenhouse or in a gardening notebook.

Companion Planting Guide

Unfortunately when printed out (at least with my printer), the black text seems to be a little faded.

I hope this helps you out with your planting in the meantime whilst I spend time away from the interweb, many updates are in the pipeline, but for now …

This is something I have been meaning to write about for quite some time now, in my travels across the capital I am constantly reminded bout these great ideas including sometimes at properties I see during my working hours! Can you imagine how much nicer our cities and living areas would look if a large majority were covered in Living Green Roofs?

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I have, in the past written an article on Eco Friendly buildings, here I am concentrating on Green Roofing at our homes or existing buildings, some people even create smaller ones on top of their bin sheds which are merely a few feet across and wide!
Although this is not a top priority right now for me (With all of my current projects ongoing), I will hereby make a pact that I will create at least one in my small garden on my rented property as well as one larger one (probably on top of my shed) on my Allotment (What is an Allotment?)

Examples of Green Roofs in a Modern Building Setting:

According to the London Wildlife Trust, London itself loses around ”Two and a Half Hyde Park’s” Sized worth of Green Urban Habitat and Forage ground due mainly to Hard Surface Landscaping in front and back gardens across the capital – one small way to revert and give back even just a little is to Create a Green Roof on part or even the whole of a building on the specified property.

Structures such as Bin Sheds, Wood Pile Roofs, Garden Sheds, Garages, Outdoor Rooms, Office Blocks, Houses and even part of your Conservatory can be adapted to a Green Roof Structure!

Some Other Examples:

Things to Consider before starting a Green Roof, and further comstruction information:

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All Information Below is obtained from The Green Roof Centre’s Website

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Extensive green roofs which are designed not to be trafficked and are therefore relatively undisturbed, can offer a very
good habitat for plants, birds and insects. There is evidence throughout Europe, that with the right design, green roofs
can encourage ground nesting birds such as lapwings, skylarks, oystercatchers and plovers.
Green roofs are able to create a “green corridor” through an urban environment helping the movement and dispersal
of wildlife.
– greenroofcode.co.uk
Other Links and Resources / How To:
Permaculture.co.uk Article 1

One door closes…

Posted: November 6, 2016 in Uncategorized

Money over Humanity seems to be a reoccuring theme in society these days …

quercuscommunity

…and another door opens.

Warning: This post may contain rancour and traces of bitterness.

Three months ago we were informed that because the farm is not making money, we would have to vacate the Ecocentre (which would be rented out as a commercial property) and use either the kitchen or a barn.

The barn, being badly lit, leaky, windowless, unheated and infested with mice, was deemed unsuitable, despite promises to make it right. We’ve been promised things before.

The kitchen is a bit on the small side for the group, particularly when you get two electric wheelchairs in there, but it is better than the barn. We looked at alternatives, but there really wasn’t anything suitable, so we agreed to go into the kitchen.

We did, however, ask if we could lease it on a three year rolling lease and run it as a social enterprise because we wanted security for…

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