I started writing this newsletter right at the end of last year, and then never sent it! I wanted to say a big thank you to those of you who have ordered our organic veg bags through the year. We have made 4134 deliveries since the end of March 2020!
The year started off in a fairly familiar way - the familiar Spring anxieties…will it dry up enough to allow us to plant the early crops? It did, and we sowed according to our finely tuned sowing plans. Until the end of March, when we lost around 90% of our customers. We had salad growing in the ground and had planted the first crops, but had nobody to sell them to…
The obvious option was to start a veg bag delivery scheme (something that my parents started to do around 30 years ago, and something that I vowed I would never do as I saw what happened to my parents through all of the work associated with it). So, that’s what we did. March is not the best time of year to start a veg box scheme, but we supplemented what we had with bought in produce from other larger organic growers in the South West. Within three days we had over 150 customers and within a week we were delivering veg bags around Lyme, Seaton, Axminster and all the surrounding areas.
We (Ellen mostly) also quickly worked to change our cropping and sowing plans to add more diversity to what we grow and ensure consistent supply of veg for the bags. Our new trainees, Hester and Lucy were amazingly patient and understanding with our quick change of business and our slightly chaotic and hectic approach to work during that change. Emma also joined us last year to help us with the sowing, planting, weeding, harvesting and packing, and has been an amazing help too. Rob helped us with deliveries whilst he was on furlough and we are massively grateful to him for that. Zoe also joined us to help with deliveries and somehow grasped our chaotic approach to the box scheme and took on the deliveries of some rounds with a beautifully organised approach! Meanwhile in the garden Ellen managed everything and took huge amounts of stress off our shoulders - we will massively miss you this year Ellen (who has excitingly just had a baby!!)
So, by the end of 2020 we were all feeling completely shattered and looking forward to slumping on the sofa for a couple of weeks - which is pretty much what we did.
January has been a good month in the garden - getting things sorted for the year ahead, a few tentative sowings, and lots of tunnel washing, and it stayed relatively dry until the very end - when it got very wet!
We have had some excting news that we have received some funding through the Landworkers’ Alliance and the National Lottery which will enable us to make our veg more accessible to everyone, especially those on lower incomes. We will also be working with Chris (Old Dairy Kitchen) to deliver an exciting new programme that we will be working on over the next few months to engage more people in how to cook and grow veg. We will be looking to link up with local groups and organisations who work with marginalised groups and those on lower incomes, so please get in touch if you have ideas/contacts.
We have also just started to accept Healthy Start vouchers, so anybody who is eligible for these can use them to get veg from us - we will also discount our veg bags for anyone who is using these vouchers to make them more affordable).
New baker and option to add bread for Tuesday deliveriesAs Chris is not regularly baking, we will be supplying bread from Surya at Wellbread in Tytherleigh from now. This is also available to Teusday customers as well as Friday customers. He bakes with all organic ingredients and offers wholemeal, white or granary sourdough loaves. You can add this to your veg bag as an extra (or just give us an email if you would like to add it to your order).
Don’t forget you can also add other extras to your order like onions, potatoes and extra salad if you wish.
New online ordering system coming soonWe are very excited about almost being ready to launch our new, much simpler and user friendly online shop very soon. It will make our lives much less stressful, and hopefully yours too!
Continuing the veg bags for a little longer…We were planning to stop the veg bags for 6-8 weeks from the end of February, but have decided to try and continue into March as long as we can get good quality veg from other organic producers in Devon. Sadly the cafes and restaurants who we usually supply will probably still be closed through March, so we will have plenty of salad, and as long as we can supplement this with other seasonal organic veg from the other producers that supply us we will continue the bags.
We will keep you posted if we have to stop deliveries for a few weeks.
A surprise for one of our customers next weekChef Tom Hunt who came to the farm in 2019 to cook and take photos with Jenny Zarins for his book “Eating for Pleasure, People & Planet” has kindly given us a copy of his book for us to offer to one of our customers. All of next week’s deliveries will get a postcard in their veg bag, and one of these postcards will have a comment on the back letting you know if you have won the book. Let us know if you get this, and we will deliver the book the following week.
In the meantime here is a recipe from tom’s book…
Getting through January is not always easy for a grower or gardener. Having said that, I have quite enjoyed January this year. Perhaps it has been the fair share of cold, crisp, blue skied day and maybe just appreciating having the luxury of being able to work outside (which of course does have its drawbacks, but personally speaking these are far outweighed by the benefits of being surrounded by nature). February brings us longer days - and the beginning of sowing the first seeds for early outdoor crops and some of the tunnel crops too. Don’t let that panic you if you haven’t yet thought about sowing anything - there is plenty of time before anything really needs to be sown. Growing commercially means that we need to maximise the space that we have and we make the most out of the polytunnels that we have as well as using fleece to protect early crops. We also have a dedicated propagating tunnel with heated benches to start off our seedlings, so we can start them a little earlier than normal. For home gardening it is usually best to wait until March for most sowings.
We experienced the first shock of Brexit this January when trying to order seeds from a couple of European seed companies who have a great range of organic seed available - including many varieties that are not available from UK seed companies. After scrolling through the online catalogues adding to our basket we went to fill in payment and delivery details and found that we were not able to import seed from the EU to the UK. The phytosanitary checks required would be too costly for the seed companies to incur for retail orders. This really brought home the vulnerability of the seed system and how reliant we are on a small number of companies who control the majority of the seed that is grown commercially.
We have, for a few years now, saved seed both for ourselves, to swap and commercially for a couple of small seed companies in the UK, but having now seen the result of having relatively limited availability of seed varieties we are really thinking more about producing more seed and the importance of seed sovereignty. We were lucky to get our orders in to the UK companies before many of them closed their online shops as they were overwhelmed with orders from growers and a huge rise in sales to home gardeners growing their own since the first lockdown last March.
Seed is at the heart of our food systems. Without control over the seeds that we use to grow food we have very little control over our food systems. Saving seed and being involved in projects such as the South West Seed Savers allows us more autonomy. We can keep interesting varieties alive and bring more diversity to our fields. If each seed that is sown brings hope, then each seed that is saved brings back more control of our own food systems.
We will be offering the usual medium and large veg bags for the runup to Christmas, but will also be offering a Bumper box (£30) for those of you who need a little more veg over the Christmas period but also to keep you going for a little longer than usual, as there will be a two week pause before we restart the bags again on the week commencing 11th January 2021.
So, our final veg bag deliveries/collections will be on Tuesday 22nd December (for those of you who usually get your veg on a Tuesday) and Wednesday 23rd December (for those of you who usually get your veg on Fridays). Please note that on your account on Buckybox it will still say delivery day is 25th December!
Please note, that all orders will need to be in by Saturday 19th December for these deliveries.
We are offering the Christmas veg bags plus extras that you can add onto your order. If you would like to change your order from the regular bag that you get, it is probably easiest to add a new order for the Christmas week by logging onto buckybox (https://store.buckybox.com/trill-farm-garden) and then just make sure that you change payment for that week. Then you can put an order in to change back to your usual bag for January. Sorry - we realise that the Buckybox system isn't the most flexible - we are looking to change over to a more user friendly system next year!!
Alternatively just email us with any order change and we can sort it out for you!
In addition to the "extras" that will be available from us over the Christmas week (Onions, Potatoes, Sprouts, Red Cabbage, Squash, Parsnips, Leeks, Swede, Salad, Bread) there will be an opportunity to donate to help get food to people experiencing food poverty in our area. All donations will be used to supply the food bank with good fresh produce.
Please make sure you tick "Include extra items with next delivery only" when you add any extra orders onto your Christmas week order.
New Market Gardening and Salad Growing course dates for next year
We are excited to announce new dates for our popular 3 day Introduction to Market Gardening course and our Salad Growing: Spring & Summer and Salad Growing: Autumn & Winter courses. We have a new addition to our Market Gardening Course, bringing in the wonderful Lally Owen and Tomas Carolsfeld from Springtail Farm who will be giving us a farm tour of their relatively new market garden. One day will be with us at Trill Farm Garden and one day with Ruth Hancock at Fresh and Green near Ottery St Mary. Find out more information and book on our Market Gardening course page.
Our seasonal Salad Growing courses will focus on how we grow salad through the year, with information on propagation, successions and planning in the Salad Growing: Spring & Summer course and polytunnel production, growing for restaurants, harvesting techniques, pests and diseases and irrigation in the Salad Growing: Autumn & Winter course. Find out more information on these courses on the Salad Growing: Spring & Summer and Salad Growing: Autumn & Winter course pages.
We have had a rethink about doing the organic veg bags over winter and have decided that after a couple of weeks off over Christmas we will continue to deliver veg bags through January and February, up until early March. We will then pause the veg bags for about 6-8 weeks, until mid-end of April. The reason for doing this is that we can still get good quality produce in from other local growers through January and February, but March is the beginning of the end of stored produce in the UK and the quality declines rapidly (which is what we found when we started the veg bags this year). We can then start producing some of the early veg in our polytunnels like radish, spring onions, the first greens for the bags in April.
We will of course keep you all posted and give you proper dates for all of this, but for now the last deliveries of the year will be on the week commencing 21st December (Friday deliveries will probably be on Wednesday 23rd that week). The veg bags will then restart on the week commencing 11th January 2021.
Christmas veg bags
We will be offering special organic Christmas veg bags for the week commencing 21st December. We have not finalised the contents, but they will include all the favourites - sprouts, potatoes, parsnips, red cabbage and the rest, plus our salad of course. We will also be offering a Bumper Veg Bag for bigger families. We will send out an email with more details of contents and pricing for the Christmas veg bags over the next few weeks. We will also be offering some "extras" for the Christmas week if you want to add on more of something to bulk up your order.
We recommend looking at the Old Dairy Kitchen's Pantry, who will be offering amazing hampers of produce from local producers to feast on over Christmas. Along with most of the hospitality sector they have suffered a lot this year, so if you have the means please do support them so that they can keep going next year! Anna will also be making her amazing wreaths again this year, so get in touch if you are interested in getting one of these too.
In addition to the "extras" that will be available from us over the Christmas week, there will be an opportunity to donate a small amount to help get food to people experiencing food poverty in our area. We will match the donations ourselves along with donating produce to our local food bank (which we have been doing since June). It has been a strange year, but it has really hit people who were already suffering financially before Covid and we want to do as much as we can to even out the inequalities in our local community. Next year we will be looking into working more with local organisations and to offer cheaper veg bags for those who are on lower income/lower wealth. This is something that will take a bit of work in terms of the administration involved but we hope to get this up and running by next summer. If anyone has any links to local groups who are working on this please let us know as it would be good to link up with existing groups.
What's happening at Trill?
In the last few weeks Trill has entered a new phase as Romy Fraser who owned the farm for 13 years has sold it. Romy will be keeping a hold of some of the land up at Trinity Hill and along with her daughters Lara and Tamsin have exciting plans and ideas centering around their core values of nature, health and education. Sign up to their newsletter to here more about their plans for the future.
We have been at the farm for over 10 years and will always be grateful to Romy for the opportunity that she gave us here - offering us a market garden to do what we wanted with and also building an amazing farm to bring up our family as well as creating a space where we have been able to share our experience and knowledge with many others through the traineeships and courses that we run.
We welcome Roland, Olga and their family to the farm who we look forward to working with in the years to come. Their interest in conservation will mean more woodland being planted and more wildflower meadows being introduced.
Finally a huge thanks to everyone who has helped us in the garden this year. Lucy has come to the end of her traineeship with us, but will be comtinuing to work part time with us next year. Meanwhile, Hester, who has also been training with us will be continuing the traineeship next year which is great news for us! Emma will continue to work in the garden next year too, whilst Ellen who has been working in the garden and helping to run it with us for the last 5 or so years will be going on parental leave at the end of the year. So, changes are happening here, but we will continue to grow as much organic veg as possible on our small patch of ground, always trying out different techniques and varieties to keep things interesting!
Next few weeks...We will be getting into the autumn and winter projects over the next few weeks now that all of the polytunnels are planted up. This will include redesigning our packing shed to make more space for packing the veg bags alongside our wholesale orders, cleaning the polytunnels, making a shelter for our tractor, and if it dries out a bit, or we have some heavy frosts, sorting out the drainage around some of the polytunnels as well as moving compost around the garden to mulch some of the beds.
Finally we have got almost all of the outdoor plantings done for our restaurant and veg bag customers - just a few salad leaves, and the garlic to plant next month and that's about it. Because we try and make the most out of all of the space in the garden we are often trying to clear beds of old crops as soon as they are over and replace with new plantings straight away. This is great to make sure that the garden is as productive as possible, but it is a lot of work and we got a little bit behind this summer with getting all of the plantings in on time, but hopefully it will be a good, warm autumn so the plants settle in nicely. Below is all of the chicory that will go into our salad mix throughout late autumn and winter. We have about 25 varieties this year, trialling various ones that we have never tried before, to try and get a real good mix for the salad, but also varieties that mature at different stages and have different levels of hardiness to ensure that we have leaves throughout the winter.
The seed that was harvested from seed crops is now drying in the propagating tunnel and is ready for threshing as soon as we have a moment (hopefully in the next week or two). Below is the Golden Chard seed that we have grown for Real Seeds in Wales.
Next few weeks...
We have a busy week next week - we have decided to reskin one of our polytunnels that has been up for almost ten years. The timber rails were pretty rotten and it wouldnt have lasted another winter, so we have taken the plastic off and will be replacing all the timbers and plastic (hopefully next week). This is usually quite a big job, so we will try and fit it in around the harvests! We also need to prepare lots of beds that we have cleared - the courgette beds and beetroot have been cleared and need reforming so that we can get the green manures established for overwinter. Then there is lots of sowing to be done, for the overwintering salads that will be planted in the polytunnels. This has already started, and will continue over the next couple of weeks, and then we will gradually take out some of the summer crops and replace them with salad leaves to ensure that we have plenty from mid autumn through to spring.
What's in the bags at the moment?
More late summer and autumnal crops are featuring in the bags now - with some lovely autumn hispi type cabbages having gone in this week. The squash will start going in in a week or two, and then in October we will probably start to buy in a bit more produce to supplement our own. Our friends Adam and Dee have been growing produce near Honiton and we will be getting more of the autumn and winter crops from them as we just don't have the space or the soil type to be growing those crops here.
The padrons are still producing a fair amount, and will continue through september along with the tomatoes, which are past their peak production, but we are still getting a fair few. The courgettes finished quite early for us this year - they tend to get mildew early here as we are in a bit of a valley and airflow isnt great, so we decided to mow them down and cultivate so that we can prepare the beds for sowing a green manure to protect the soil overwinter, ready for early crops next year. The french beans are also starting to slow down a lot, so these will probably carry on for another couple of weeks.
Our second succession of cucumbers are going mad at the moment, so we have been putting an extra free one in the bags.
We are anticipating that we will continue doing the organic veg bag deliveries up until Christmas, and then stop until around mid February. We then plan to restart just doing fortnightly deliveries for a month or two until our full production gets going. We will keep you posted about our plans, but thats the plan for now!
Also, we have more spaces available for deliveries to East Devon and West Dorset (Axminster, Kilmington, Seaton, Colyton, Charmouth, Lyme Regis and surrounding areas) so if you have any friends who are interested in getting a veg bag get them to get in touch!
The planting has continued over the last couple of weeks, but we have noticed that the intensity of the work has lessened a little as the bulk of the garden is full of plants. However, it never stops and we continue to replant beds that have had early crops in already and we are planting the second round of crops.
The rain that we have had over the last few days has really helped to water in some of the more recent plantings and made some of the more established crops look much more lush. The courgettes are almost ready - we have been eating the first few, and we should have enough for the bags maybe at the end of next week or certainly the week after.
It is this time of the year that thoughts of autumn and winter already start popping into our heads as we plant kale for autumn, leeks and squash for harvests later in the year. It is always strange to be thinking of the winter at this time of the year and we certainly don't want to be thinking about it too much, but as growers it is important to be organised and think ahead to the next stages to make sure that we are making the most of the space that we have available and to make sure that we have a continuity of produce throughout the year. Ellen is working on the plans for overwinter in the tunnels to make sure that we have enough seed for sowing and to make sure that we have plenty of early produce for the veg bags next spring.
We are nearing the longest day of the year and this often marks a slight change in growth patterns of plants. We will soon see more of the fruiting plants like tomatoes, courgettes etc. providing us with produce, and some of the crops that are more likely to go to seed earlier in the year will be less likely to do so.
This coming week sees more sowing, planting and weeding! We will be mowing down some of our amazing green manures (integral to organic growing methods) that we sowed at the end of April to cover the soil and add organic matter, these will then be covered in black plastic to speed up the decaying process and we can then plant crops straight into the beds without cultivating hopefully.
In solidarity with Black Lives Matter
We stand in solidarity with the Black community and people of all races who are protesting across the world demanding justice and bringing an end to systemic racism. We are proud members of The Landworkers Alliance who are a union of small to medium scale farmers, growers and landworkers and work to create healthy and just food and farming systems for all. Central to this is dismantling systemic racism. Food justice is inseparable from social justice. BAME communities and particularly Black people are most at risk from food insecurity and racism is prevalent in the industrialised food system that we are all a part of. We will be working to provide more opportunities to people from BAME communities as we look to link our traineeship programme with some of the horticultural training that our friends in urban areas provide.
To read more about the work that the Landworkers Alliance and other food and farming groups are doing to help dismantle the systemic racism in our food and farming systems go to the Landworkers Alliance Solidarity statement
What's in the bags at the moment?
Some of the produce in our box scheme deliveries at the moment is slightly more unusual and the sort of thing that can't necessarily be found in supermarkets. We like to grow a wide range of organic vegetables to keep things interesting. Agretti (also known as Monk's beard) will be featuring through the summer and is a lovely Italian vegetable which we have grown for a few years now. It can simply be blanched and then mixed with a bit of fried garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper. Kohl rabi has gone in the bags this week - this is lovely just sliced thinly and eaten raw with a vinaigrette. The aztec broccoli will be ready in a week or two - this is another green which we started growing last year and can be treated like spinach.
Courgettes may feature in some of the bags by the end of this week, and we will have the first of the baby bunched carrots from the polytunnel. The sugarsnap peas from the tunnels are over now, but we will have mangetout for a few weeks and the beautiful purple Beauregarde pea will be ready in a week or two (see picture below).
With more and more of our own organic produce being harvested now we are opening up to a few more door to door deliveries in East Devon and West Dorset, with some spaces in Axminster, Seaton, Kilmington, Shute, Lyme Regis, Rousdon, Colyton and Charmouth. Please spread the word to your neighbours and friends and get them to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the organic box scheme.
Lots more planting and everything is growing so fast!
We have been spending the last couple of weeks continuing to prepare beds and plant them. We got a lot in the ground this week including more chard, perpetual spinach, more basil and sage (in the heat of the polytunnels!), new zealand spinach, lettuce, other salad leaves including mallow, orache, burnet and buckshorn plantain, beetroot, dwarf french beans, sweetcorn, more kale, and some globe artichokes. Next week...We will be continuing with planting next week - getting in more successions of beetroot, getting the squash in and some more kale and sowing some more carrots.
We will also start to train some of the indoor tunnel crops such as the tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers - by sideshooting we will encourage more fruits, and we need to stake the peppers too.
We have just started to prepare some of the beds that had early crops in such as turnips, radish, salads and kale in different ways, and something that is working especially well for us in this heat is solarization - this is where we mow down the old crop (and any weeds) and then lay down clear plastic over the bed weighed down with sandbags. This heats up and kills off and weeds and crop residue. It can mean that a bed can be ready to plant within a day without having to cultivate. It is very impressive and a useful technique for hot weather. It can also be really useful to create stale seed beds before we direct sow crops like carrots which otherwise have to compete with the weeds. In this case we usually have a cultivated bed that we water and let the first flush of weeds germinate and then lay the plastic over it for a day and all of the weeds are killed off. We can then sow into a weed free bed and the carrots can grow quickly with very little competition from the weeds.
We grow a few crops for seed at Trill, some for our own use and to exchange with other growers and some comercially for small seed companies like Real Seeds and Tamar Organics.
It is always interesting to see the crops full life cycle which would generally otherwise not be seen, for example with chard and parsnips that we are saving for seed this year. When they start flowering they grow very large and require supports which we put up this week. These crops were both sown last year as you would for growing the crop normally. We then selected the healthiest crops and those that fit to the variety characteristics and replanted them at wider spacings to allow good ventialtion when they get to flowering and seeding stage. We will be harvesting the seed in July/August for these.
What's in the bags at the moment?
We are continuing to take on a few more organic veg bag delivery customers in Axminster and Seaton so please do get in touch if you would like to get an order from us.
For those of you who have been getting the organic veg bag deliveries, we are getting more and more of our own produce now, and it is just potatoes that are not our own at the moment (potatoes will no longer be in the bags every week). We have had the first of the beetroot, broad beans, wet garlic and little gem in the bags the last couple of weeks, and we will be harvesting agretti next week for some of the bags. Agretti is a lovely Italian vegetable which we have grown for a few years now. It can simply be blanched and then mixed with a bit of fried garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper. We will also have kohl rabi in the bags probably the week after next - this is lovely just sliced thinly and eaten raw with a vinaigrette. The first of our red little gem lettuce are ready now too, and don't forget - these are lovely on the bbq or griddled (just salt them a bit first for half an hour or so and then place on the bbq/griddle and char them. Them just add a squeeze of lemon.
We are probably just two weeks away from cucumbers being ready for the veg bags, and courgettes will be ready about the same time too - that will really feel like summer has started!
We waited until the end of the week to get the tomatoes planted, but managed to get all of them in on Friday (about 450 plants in all). They should race away as long as we can manage to keep the woodlice off them and hopefully these wretched little symphylans don't eat too many of their roots...
Ellen's pictures show the process of clearing and preparing and planting the tomatoes
We will be continuing with planting next week - getting the padron peppers in the polytunnels, as well as planting out some sweetcorn, french beans outside, chard, perpetual spinach and beets along with more successions of salad leaves.
What's in the bags at the moment?
We are continuing to get more and more of our own produce from the polytunnels as well as out in the field now, with lots of leafy greens like perpetual spinach, chard, kale, spring greens, rocket, cress, little gem and of course our mixed salad leaves, alongside some of the spring roots like radish, salad turnips, baby beets (which will be in the bags the week after next most likely) and the spring onions and sugarsnap peas and maybe even a few broad beans from the polytunnel over the next couple of weeks...
Lot's of the salad greens like the packs of rocket and the little gem, don't have to be just used for salad, but can be cooked too. The rocket can be wilted like any other green, and the little gem is great if you cut it in half or quarters and salt it for half an hour or some, then wash off the salt and dry fry or place in a hot griddle pan (or best on the bbq) until it takes on a bit of colour - a bit of charring is what you want. This technique can be used for all sorts on the bbq - like spring onions and sugarsnap peas and flat french beans (which we will have in a month or so) and radish and turnips too.
We had planned to plant up the tunnels with peppers and tomatoes this last week, but with the cold nights forecast for the next few days we decided to hold off and get everything prepared for the plantings, and then focus on outdoor work.
We cleared the remaining salad crops from the tunnel beds and broadforked them before putting up the strings which the tomatoes will be trained onto.
We are having a bit of a nightmare with woodlice in the polytunnels along with a new pest to us - symphylans. These look like tiny white centipedes and eat new roots. They have totally stunted the spring onion plants that we planted a few weeks ago, as any new roots sent out are eaten. We are hoping that as the tomatoes have a bigger root system they will be able to overcome the damage caused by the symphylans. Fingers crossed...Often in organic systems we see a pest population arise when there is imbalance, but this is often overcome with the rise in population of predators as a result of more food supply for them. In the case of woodlice and symphylans in the tunnels we have been adding a lot of fairly woody compost to the tunnels over the years, and this has increased the organic matter a lot, but also provided perfect conditions for these crop pests. We have seen a rise in numbers of centipedes recently and hopefully these will slowly get ontop of the number of woodlice along with the spiders in the tunnels.
We managed to get our shallots planted, which will be ready to harvest as fresh bunched shallots from some time in July. We also planted another succession of outdoor mangetout and a couple of beds of aztec broccoli which you will be able to try in the summer!
It was a good week for hoeing with the sun and the breeze so we got round to a fair amount of that too.
Next week we will start to get the peppers and tomatoes planted as well as lots more chard, perpetual spinach, beetroot, kale, spring onions, salads...
We are spending more and more time harvesting now as we are getting more of our own produce from the tunnels and early sowings outdoors - with perpetual spinach, red russian kale, radish, salad turnips, spring onions, salad, sugarsnap peas, and new this coming week will be little gem lettuce and rocket that will be going into the bags.
It feels great for us to have much more of our own produce going into the veg bags, but we will still need to buy in a few items for the next month or so until we have more variety, so the mushrooms and potatoes are being bought in at the moment, and we may need to get some chard from Shillingford Organics next week.
May is one of the busiest months in the garden, April is a pretty busy one too... We have now setup a vegetable box scheme delivering door to door to people in and around Lyme, Axminster and Seaton.
Anyway, it is the time of the year when everything is happening - sowing, planting, weeding and hoeing and the first of the harvests from overwintered crops and early spring crops too. It is a question of prioritising jobs generally, rather than trying to get it all done - you will only get stressed out if you think you can get it all done! We have a sowing calendar and we always try and stick pretty closely to these dates. With some crops it doesn’t matter too much, but we end up doing a lot of successions of a lot of crops to try and keep continuity of harvest of things like beetroot, chard, kale, spring onions, salad leaves, annual herbs, radish, carrots and many more. Other crops sowing time is critical, and if they are sown at the wrong time of the year they will just go to seed really quickly (for example brassica salads like rocket), they may not bulk up in time before the winter (for example chicory - we don’t sow any later than the first week of July, but if you sow them too early they may bolt!), or they may coincide with certain pests - like flea beetle for brassicas from Spring - late Summer, or carrot root fly which can sometimes be missed if the carrots are sown early June and harvested before autumn.
We aim to have all of our tender summer polytunnel crops planted by the beginning of May, this includes climbing french beans, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers. This year we were lucky to get a week of wet weather at the end of April which meant that we could focus on the tunnel changeover, from overwintered salads and herbs to the summer fruiting crops. Meanwhile outside throughout April there were plantings of beets, chard, lettuce and other salad leaves, spring onions, shallots, early brassicas - kale, spring cabbage, kohl rabi, mangetout, broad beans, peashoots, turnips and radish and carrot sowings. The courgettes will be going in at the very beginning of May, as could squash and corn, but fleece will be needed to keep the wind off and keep any late frosts off (should be safe by mid-end of May).
It is a great time of year to be a vegetable grower - and with the rains at the end of a very dry April (after a very wet winter!) everything is looking very lush and growing well. The main pest that we have had to deal with this year is the leatherjacket - the larvae of the daddy long leg or crane fly. The adults lay their eggs from August to October, and wet conditions at that time of year leads to a high success rate of the eggs hatching (which is what happened last autumn). The larvae eat the roots of many plants, and even snip off plants at their base. They are difficult to control organically, though nematodes can be used (but are more effective when applied in the autumn. Otherwise it is a case of checking under new plantings and picking them out, which is pretty laborious but has to be done if you want to save your veg!
So, the big priorities for May are making sure we have all of our seed sowing in order and being done - including successions of things like salads, then making sure everything is getting planted, and finally making sure all of our new plantings are being hoed and weeded...not too much!
For more information about our veg bag delivery scheme go to trillfarmgarden.co.uk/boxscheme.html
Ashley has been running Trill Farm Garden since 2010 with his partner Kate. Ellen is the Senior Grower and Seed Coordinator at Trill Farm Garden.