You are welcome to look round the garden at the front of the shop on Saturdays and Sundays, but please do not pick anything or go inside the polytunnels.
Notes from the garden
March 2017 - with apologies for the gap, time has just flown - again.
Spring is definitely on the way between cold easterly winds sweeping across the vegetable fields.
Those of you who eat in the cafe will have noticed Andy has started ploughing the big plots which have been 'resting' for a couple of years beside the seven small plots. We are changing the direction of the big beds, they will now face north south you will see beetle banks emerging between the plots.
We are just finishing the tail end of last seasons vegetables. The last leeks are used on sundays for lunch, the last white cabbages are for sale in the shop, the last parsnips are just kitchen grade now so the cooks are making delicious soups with them, still sweet despite their size and age. The onion harvest was amazing last autumn and the shop and kitchen are still enjoying beautiful white onions; french onion tart is on the menu most days just now.
Tunnel crops are doing well; we always have a good flush of both spinach beet and true spinach at this time, and the oriental salad leaves are hanging on in, with lots of delicious tender flower shoots as they start to bolt.
The cabbages and kales just beside the overflow car park have also been providing us with delicious tender shoots and flowers, nearly over now. The purple sprouting broccolli has been fantastic, we are selling it every which way to keep up with the picking; as it is, sunday lunch in the cafe, lightly roasted/steamed with a satay sauce in the salads...
As the psb finishes, the spring greens are taking centre stage, and although storm doris tore the plastic off one of the tunnels, the red spring greens that were planted inside are still looking fine and about to come onto the shelves.
Tiny carrot heads emerging, both parsleys plentiful, coriander too plentiful (always too much or too little with coriander we find) pea shoots growing well, sugar snaps planted, lettuce flourishing, tulips for sale in the shop now, gorgeous.
Michael has just finished his two year apprenticeship here and is staying till the autumn, he is a great asset now he is coming into his third season. Jude and Poppy are halfway, and we welcome Rosie who has just begun her two years. The apprenticeship is no longer affiliated to the Soil Association as the future growers apprenticeship doesnt exist as a 2 yr placement anymore. We now have an Abbey Home Farm growing apprenticeship of our own, Andy mentors with weekly mini seminars alongside constant learning in the field. We believe 2 or 3 years in the same garden with the same soil but all sorts of different weather scenarios thrown at one is of real benificial help in the very tricky journey of growing food for a large amount of people in our climate.
And thank you to all our wwoofers last year, you contributed so much to the garden and shop, and hello to Paulo from Portugal who is with us at the moment and doing a grand job.
Time has flown since august last year and lots has happenend in the garden here. Sadly Keith, our head gardener of 17 years, has had to retire a little early due to ill health, leaving a hard act to follow of course! We know you will join us in wishing him well.
We welcomed Andy as our new headgrower in January. Andy has lots of experience growing veg around at four different holdings in the Bristol area mainly, and he is now settling in here with his wife and sons.
Keiths last season was great. The weather was mainly on our side, and we stored squash, beetroot, white cabbage and onions right up until May. The leeks lasted well into May too in the field.
This year has been colder than usual (we think!) but the tunnel and now outside crops are doing well. Sugarsnaps, bunches of beetroot and carrots, rocket, summer salad pack leaves, lots of herbs, edible flowers and more coming each day.
If you are a cafe customer you will see the new cropping rotation just outside the door, there are 7 beds (the new asparagus bed which is perennial so wont move) 6 of which will be rotating yearly. At the moment there are potatoes, shallots, edible flowers, calabrese, caulis, a green manure ley and globe artichokes on beetle banks between the beds. Do come and enjoy eating the produce it brings us, and watch it develop.
The tomato season is upon us, with our favourite black russian and sungold toms topping the bill in the shop. Courgettes taste better than i can ever remember, it really does pay to cook them very lightly so they dont turn mushy and keeping them very slightly crunchy makes them taste really good. Our lettuce harvest this year has been phenomenal, the slugs have not touched a single one, red lettuces, green lettuces, multi coloured little gems, endives, curly, butterhead, a feast for the eyes. Our fennel has not enjoyed such a good year, but there is still the outside crop to come. Aubergines, cucumbers, chillis and peppers are in full swing, a very short season so enjoy it while its here....Enormous onions coming out of the field today, to dry in the prop tunnel, garlic already out and drying, a little rot but great taste and nice easy pealing bulbs. Great big bunches of basil, pesto making in the cafe every week, summer cabbages are very sweet, and the brocolli has just begun. Our main failure in the garden so far has been not managing to control the main crop carrot weeds,which has made the carrot crop slow to grow. Half the crop had to be abandoned but we still have some lovely carrot bunches, and will soon have our usual large sweet carrots too.
The celeriac is looking good in the ground, the kales and other brassicas too, thanks to the great summer sun and the showers too. Main thanks of course to Keith and the apprentices, Al, who leaves next week after finishing his apprenticeship as a grower after 2 and a half years, and Jolke and Jamie who are following on behind.
Also thanks to Iain and the wwoofers for all their help too.
The flower garden has been lovingly tended by Yuka this summer,our intern from the Ag Uni. Many thanks to her for all her help.
Its suddenly spring, tiny asparagus shoots are poking up through the soil, the kales are going to seed, you can see their mass of yellow flowers from the cafe verandah. Everyone seems to have enjoyed the crates and crates (thank you gardeners) of purple sprouting broc and all sorts of kale and cabbage tops that have been piling into the shop in the past few weeks. The Crown Prince squash are still storing well, making up for nothing last year. Such is growing. Leeks were good but smallish and now finished. Onions now only small ones left, fiddly to peel but a lovely flavour. The wind ripped one of our older polytunnels plastic in half in a gale so there has been lots of preparation before recovering it last week. We lost quite a few lettuces, endive and coriander, but some was saved and now its full steam ahead to fill it up with our tomato plants, a little leggier than we had hoped but soon they will be in their new home with room to spread and grow. The propagation tunnel is full of seedlings, flowers, veggies, herbs, and the gardeners and wwoofers are busy sowing more each week. And of course the weeding. Every day there is weeding!
The sugar snaps, beetroot and early carrots are looking good in the tunnels and we can look forward to welcoming them in the shop at the beginning of June if not before.
This autumns harvest is looking a lot better than last years, much to our relief! Armfuls of lovely greens, including red russian kale, nero de toscana, sweet sweet sprout tops, january king and savoy cabbages, oriental leaves, large for stir frys, smaller for salad bowls. Leeks, carrots, cara spuds, onions red and white, enormous swedes and beetroots, and best news of all for our kitchen, LOADS of squash. Delicata, the small long stripey one is my favourite at the moment, sweet and very quick to roast, no need to take the skin off and delicious in stews, soups, curries or just eaten straight from the pan. Thanks to Keith, Will, Al, Jolke, our team here this year, and to all the helpers who worked so hard to help us this summer just gone by.
Sungold tomatoes tasting like sweets, black russians, common and garden reds, heaps coming out of the tunnels at last. Fennel, aubergines like velvet when cooked, rocket, lettuces x 6 colours, sweet carrots, cucumbers, red, yellow and green sweet peppers, onions red and white, basil, the list goes on and on, what a great year so far.... thank you sun at last!!!
the sweetcorn is taking its time ripening but there will be more than last year when there was NONE. the squash patch looks incredible, like a little forest, with crown prince, uchiki and hokkaidos all growing well. holding our breath, the cafe winters are so much easier when there is plentiful squash around.
Potatoes are lovely so far, the nicola sold out already, milva available now, delicious flavour and fine to bake and roast altho they are not main crop yet.
At last! the asparagus tips are braving it, come rain come shine, so there are now lovely little fresh bunches to buy in the shop. Tender spring greens from the plot by the shop, and very nice lettuce from the polytunnel. The outside lettuce is growing a little, so we should go straight onto them without having to buy any in, the aim of course! There will be baby beets with tasty leaftops soon, followed by young carrots and sugarsnaps from the tunnels. Ugly though the plastic is, we really benefit from them, and could do with quite a few more.
The tulips grown undercover were beautiful this year, much enjoyed in the cafe and by us and lots of customers too. The parrots seem to be the favourite.
The growers are full on now, sowing, planting out, putting up supports and weeding like mad. The inside carrots are a few inches tall now and the garden carrots are just having their first weed.
Onions are growing, altho the couch grass is very prevalent on this plot.
Garden Team 2013
We welcome Jolke as our new soil association 2 year apprentice, joining Will and Al, who are now in their second year. Howard and Rachael have joined the team for the season, with volunteers and wwoofers in and out, all a great help.
As any grower will tell you, its tough out there at the moment. Luckily we have the polytunnels to keep us in salad leaves, lettuce and intermittent parsley, coriander, chervil and rocket. Just started to harvest some lovely tender spring greens which Keith grew in the polytunnel this winter for the first time.... they wont last long but melt in the mouth.
Finally some jan kings and savoys will make it to the shop now, along with much smaller but just as sweet leeks, and sporadic bags of kales, purple sprouting soon, and red cabbage. We have had the sweetest carrots and parsnips this season, and the best celeriac for a long time, it must enjoy the wet ground. (lucky something does!)
Will and Al, our soil association apprentices who are just about to start their second year here this week sowed our first beetroot and spinach, along with 3 varieties of lettuce, kipling, prunai (red) and weston. Very exciting to think of fresh young beets in early june, tops and roots alike.
Just starting to interview for our 2013 soil association apprentice, and will be looking for a seasonal flower growing assistant soon.
The shop today was brimming with greens from the brassica patch, and althought the caulis and cabbages are still not maturing, (will they ever this year?) we have lots of lovely crops for sale. From the field we re harvesting potatoes, swedes, nero de toscana, curly kale and red russian, not always all at the same time. Leeks, well, they do look a bit raggedy sometimes cos of the leek moth, but still sweet and tender, beetroot, red and white onions, carrots, no fly yet, and the celeriac has grown better than the last couple of years.
Just catching the last of the tomatoes and peppers, not the best of years but good enough, the cucumber harvest was fab, and the chillies are being dried in batches for the winter.
If you come at the weekends and have a look around the garden you will see how great the polytunnels look at this time of year. (but please dont go in them). The nearest one to the veg shed is now no dig, and looks amazing, not a weed to be seen and full of vibrant winter salads, red russian kale, rocket and more......
The salad packs, both orientals and mixed leaves, are now for sale in the shop, bringing a taste of summer to the table.
Bailey from Oregon is our long term wwoofer at the moment and we thank her for her energy and enthusiasm.
Its been very up and down this year for most of our gardening customers i have talked to over the till - rain, slugs, wind, poor germination............. growing our own food has never been easy and even when it is your job, as it is ours, it has been a hard year this year.
VEGETABLES THIS YEAR
Even so, the shop is crammed full of our own produce at the moment! Lettuces like we have never seen them, sometimes 7 varieties in one day, red, crinkly, crisp, soft, something for everyone. Gorgeous enormous red, yellow and soon orange peppers so fresh they shine, aubergines that turn to sweet velvet when cooked, courgettes yellow and green, chards swiss and ruby this year, spinach altho it runs out faster than we can grow it at the moment. Strong soldiers of celery, smallish but sweetest carrots, fresh white and red onions straight from the field, garlic, great salad spuds and second earlies not quite so waxy, lovely flavours we bake them now even before the skins are quite formed. Pretty little sungold tomatoes, good as sweets, and tender summer cabbages.
Not so prolific but picking up whenever the sun does shine are the outside beans and the black russian tomatoes.
Sadly no sweetcorn this year, started so well but between the crows and the slugs there was no chance, nor with the squash, altho some survived they are still waiting for the sunshine they need.
Cucumbers by the crateful from the tunnel, chillies coming on beautifully, last years dried v successfully so hope to do the same again.
THE FLOWER PATCH
The rain and the winds have not been conducive to a good flower crop. And even worse the rabbits have got into the flower patch and eaten off all the tops of the larkspur and the poppies. Next year a fence, colditz style. The flowers that have grown have been looked after by Hannah this year and bunched generally by Bex who used to think about being a florist. The garden has provided plenty of flowers for the weddings here, with another one this saturday, for which bex will weave her magic with whatever is growing.
Keith, who has been on the farm for 14 years now, has been well helped by Alex, Lizzie who is just finishing her 2 year soil assoc apprenticeship here, Will and Al who are just starting theirs, and lots of great volunteers, from as far afield as the U.S. France, Venezuela, Wales and Bristol!
We all want to go and join them when the sun is out, by take our hats off to them when the rain is belting down and the shop needs crates of muddy veggies from the field.....
The first gorgeous little orange tulips from the polytunnel are decorating the cafe and the few bunches available for sale are whizzing out. Polytunnels arent the prettiest structures but their value for growing winter veg in uk is so great - lettuce, endive, landcress, rocket, oriental brassicas, coriander, spinach (intermittent i admit), and soon some very tender winter greens.
The white onions have kept well, the parsnips have been lovely and sweet but are finishing now. In the field the leeks are plentiful, and there are 4 sorts of cabbage, 3 kales and soon some purple sprouting broc.
And now the sowing is starting again..... soon the propagation tunnel will be full of seedlings, this year being looked after by Lizzie who is in her second year of a soil association apprenticeship.
purple sprouting brocolli, tender greens, asparagus, real spinach