The first thing I want to tell you about today is our Summer Solstice event which we are holding on the farm on Saturday 18th of June. This event is going to be a 'potluck supper' event where you bring along one of your favorite dishes with enough for yourself and some to share with others. We will be starting at 6:30pm and I will be back with more details soon.
Dawn Chorus Walk
Yesterdays Dawn Chorus walk was a great success and worth getting up at 02:45 for. Graham took us on a route across low meadow that was new to me and we heard and saw a massive array of birds including many on the red list that are in declining numbers. Special to me was seeing a curlew giving its haunting call whilst flying across a beautiful bright June morning sky.
Thanks Graham for being our guide and to all those who came along and enjoyed the walk and the egg and sausage barms al fresco.
Plant Raising Experiments
You may remember a few weeks ago that we were having some seed germination problems. This made us experiment with compost mixes. The outcome has taught me a lot and led me to use a different technique for raising seedlings.
We first learned that we had poor seed germination in what is our standard Moorland Gold compost. My conclusion was that high nutrient levels were inhibiting germination which subsequent research seems to confirm this. However, within a couple of weeks, seeds that did germinate in Moorland Gold where double the size of the ones that we germinated in a specialist, low nutrient seed compost. I susbequently planted out the larger Moorland Gold seedlings to the delight of our mighty slug population. Two survivors from 100 lettuce seedlings was a wake up call.
My proposed solution; 'we need bigger plants!' Slugs like easy pickings and the 240 module seed trays that we have used for the last two years produce a tiny plant. We have had good results from these up to now, but like everything in growing, somebody keeps changing the rules. A mild winter has given slugs the upper hand, despite five feet of flood water. So, I took the small seedlings that we germinated in the seed compost and transplanted them into the larger 80 seedling capacty seed trays we use for larger plants. Within two days they were romping awayand within another couple of weeks they were ready to plant out. The results of this are we have a nearly 100% lettuce survival rate as of today when I checked them.
Roxy lettuce after being transplanted into larger modules.
This result encouraged more experimentation. I have now done this with brassicas with amazing results, producing some of the best seedlings I have planted out in my short commercial grower career.
Small 240 module seedling with healthy roots.
All of this is a 'faff' but I think it is worth the results I've had so far. The basic concepts are these. By starting the seeds in the 240 module trays, you generate a great many seedlings that you can choose the best from and you are using a relatively small amount of compost in a small area of the polytunnel to germinate these seeds.
Transplanting into the larger tray modules.
So far I have 'potted on' seedlings when they develop their second set of leaves and their roots have not been too constrained within the small module cavity, but have reached the bottom. When transplanted these roots hit the high nutrient compost and they shoot up. The last batch of brassicas we potted on last Friday doubled their size within 2 days and look healthy and upright this morning as the photos show. Planting out into the field when they have six leaves seems to work well
Only monitoring our plants over the coming growing season will prove if this technique is a success, but I am really excited by the results so far and I am now trying it out on beetroot and chickory.
Gloriously healthy Red Cabbage Seedlings about to make it onto the field.
I know that getting your hands in the soil doesn't appeal to everyone, but there are many other ways you can help our project move forward. One issue we have at the moment is researching funding proposals. If you could support us with a couple of hours internet reseach each week this could pay real dividends.
Just get in touch through firstname.lastname@example.org for more infomation.
As growers, when it comes to sorting problems it is natural for us to look to plants for a solution. Graham has come up with the following idea. Now many of you are getting into your home gardens and tidying up you may have some spare plants, thinings, cuttings or divisions that you don't have room for. Can we take them of your hands? Our plan is to grow on these unwanted plants and sell them to raise BCF funds. We will put up a dedicated drop off area near the gate for your outcasts and may be able to pick some up from you if you cannot make it over. Make sure your plants have name lables Contact Graham Clarkson for further details (email@example.com).
Thats all for now.