It's August already and we are now at the height of the growing season. For me it is a time of ‘overwhelmedness’. The crops that have done well are overwhelming in their abundance. The weeds have reached a point where they are overwhelming and the amount of jobs that need doing are overwhelming. To be fair, it has been quite wet over the last month, perfect growing conditions but bad for doing any hoeing; advantage weeds.
I shouldn’t complain, most of the crops have grown really well. My main concern is for next season. I have learned enough now to know that keeping the ground as weed free as possible will keep the next season's ground work down and ensure that we can get off to a good start. Letting weeds go to seed and invasive plants, especially grasses, have it their own way over winter is just storing up trouble for next year. Each season we have made huge strides in getting better at this kind of thing but we will never know it all.
In the last newsletter I floated the idea of a local cycling group for those of us who use our bikes for sustainable transport or for pleasure. I have spread the word on this through Facebook and Twitter and we are now holding a meeting to discuss the idea further at 5:30pm this Wednesday, 3rd of August at the farm (tomorrow). If you feel it may interest you please come along.
Here is the post that I put on the Burscough Community Forum:
One weed management strategy I am trying this year is undersowing with red clover. I am trying this with all our courgettes and squash.
These plants grow rapidly over the summer taking up loads of space. Squash spread out in all directions with no respect for beds and paths, their tendrils weave into each other. This means that they cannot be hoed to keep the weeds down. All manner of weeds grow up through them. In the past I hoped that their copious growth and massive leaves would crowd out any serious weed competition, but this has had limited success.
The big problem with squash and courgettes is their tenderness. When the cold and frost arrives in the autumn and winter, these plants soon give up and shrivel to nothing leaving the weeds to have free range. By this time of year the ground is usually too wet to be worked, but if it stays relatively warm weeds will continue with a stealthy growth. A strong carpet of grasses and weeds lock together leaving tillage as the only option to make it workable again in the spring. If the spring is wet and using the rotavator isn’t an option, the problem is compounded. The result is late crops and a continuous fight to win back the ground.
Undersowing aims to break this cycle by replacing weeds with a useful plant that will out compete the weeds and have a beneficial effect on the ground. Enter our favourite green manure plant, Red Clover. Red clover is quick to germinate (given the right conditions) and if sown at the right density, will choke out the weeds. Another of its great accomplishments is that it’s ‘leguminous’, it collects nitrogen from the air and fixes it down in its roots providing fertilizer for the following crops.. And what roots they are, they drill down deep relieving compaction from the soil.
If we keep the red clover from flowering and going to seed, it can quickly be overcome by the rotavator leaving a rich fertile soil.
This year I have managed for the first time to sow my red clover amongst my established squash plants and it has germinated well to provide a thick carpet of red clover leaves. Have I pulled off this trick? It’s too early to say. I wonder if I have sown it too thick and it is now out competing the squash plants and inhibiting their growth.
That’s the thing about growing, you often have a long time to wait before you celebrate a success or succombe to yet another failure. We will see. One thing is for sure, we will have a good crop of red clover.
If you have any empty veg boxes can you please let us have them back as we are running short and struggling to fulfil our box orders.
Are there any of you out there who are handy with a paintbrush? We have been really lucky to have been sponsored by Crown Paints who have generously donated all the materials needed to cover the outside of the barn. I am so pleased about this, painting the barn would have represented a massive cost to us. Crown have provided us with specialised high quality coatings that should give our building protection for a considerable time as well as making it look good.
Special thanks go out to Anthony Owen from the Crown Decorating Centre, Southport for helping all this happen.
Weather permitting, we should be starting this Sunday if you would like to give us a hand.
It's ‘Balsam Bashing’ time again and seeds are starting to form, so we need to clear as many plants as possible before they start to literally explode and spread even further. We had extra balsam seed from the Ellerbrook spread across the field by the flood waters so we have a bigger problem this year than we did last.
The Environment agency have dug up most of the clay that was lying on the field and re-profiled the bank, so pretty soon you won't be able to see where the bank had broken.
One of their pest control officers was down yesterday looking for burrowing animals such as moles, rabbits, mink and rats. Apparently they are attracted to fresh banks as establishing new homes are easy in the soft vegetation free earth; keep you eyes open folks and let me know if you see anything. Burrows would weaken the bank and we don't want any more trouble with water.
We had a great day at last Saturdays ‘Celebrate Skelmersdale’ event. Terry and Jane had put together a great looking stand and we sold quite a few of our mini veg bags with potatoes, courgettes and broad beans all packaged up for £2.
We collected some new email addresses for this newsletter (welcome new readers) from who we made a draw for a free veg box; congratulations winner, we will be in touch.
I personally really enjoyed this event which was a credit to the organisers. Some of the performances were emotion stirring and as its name suggested, it really did celebrate what's at the heart of Skelmersdale, it's people.
We are having an open day this coming Sunday to give people we met at Celebrate Skelmersdale the chance to come over to the farm so that we can show them around. If you have never visited the farm why don't you take this opportunity to come and see us..
This Saturday attention turns to another community Farm, Greenslate, near Wigan. They are holding a big live music festival and are hoping to build on the great success that it was last year. We will have a small stand and it looks like there will be plenty to watch and eat. Call in and say hello if you are there.
Graham Clarkson has been busy with his iPhone again and has come up with a great set of shots that he has published on the Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/burscoughcommunityfarm). Here they are if you are not on Facebook.
Do You Like Garlic?
I do hope so because we have a great deal of it drying in our barn.
Whenever ground is turned over by the rotavator we get a reminder that we share the field with many others. I used to think that they were all rabbit prints but now I realise that freshly turned ground is patrolled by lots of bird life.
You would be amazed how busy our honey bees are. Cutting courgettes in the stillness of a summers the place is alive with buzzing.
Thats all for this week.