Andy, our head grower, writes these garden notes for the blackboard in the cafe so our customers know what is going on so we thought to share them here for people who live far away or can't visit the cafe (excuse gaps!).
New year, New season. Well rested and well fed after a mid winter break.
The garden team start to focus on the new season, first sowings of peas, lettuce and carrots not far off.
Already growing well for an early harvest are Sugarsnaps and Carrots sowed in the glasshouse.
Still lots of lovely crops from last year in abundance, spinaches, salads, lettuces, carrots, beetroot, parsnips, spuds, cabbages, kales and herbs.
Winter has finally arrived after a long warm Autumn.
The drop in temperatures along with the very short day length are a key milestone in the horticultural year, we now rely on all our hard work over the previous 7 months to supply us with the majority of our food for the next 6 months.
From our Root Store we have lots of lovely large stocks of Potatoes, Beetroots, Celeriac, Garlic, Onions and Squashes.
From our Fields we have lots of established crops of Savoy Cabbage, January King Cabbage, Cavelo Nero, Green Curly Kale, Red Russian Kale, Brussel Sprouts and Sprout Tops. Still digging up lots of Beautiful, Carrots, Parsnips and Swede.
Poly tunnels and Glasshouse are packed with Verdant beds of Spinaches, Spring Greens, Herbs and Salads.
Whatever winter throws at us now we’ll be eating well.
September is a very busy in the veg gardens with bulk harvests well under way, a rewarding time of year as we bring in the fruits of our labour through the year.
Potato harvest is almost finished, Onions are all now in the store curing so they last through till March.
Bulk squash and Beetroot harvests just about to get under way.
Lovely crops of Broccoli and Cauliflower at the moment.
Still cropping lots of gorgeous tomatoes and peppers.
September is also a second spring for us as we are busy planting up the polytunnels and glasshouse with lots of lovely crops of Spinaches, Salads and herbs to supply us through the winter, the race is on to establish them well as the days get shorter and we approach true autumn.
After a busy Christmas, the growing team have managed to grab a bit of a rest and are now back in action excited about the season ahead.
This season will start earlier than previous seasons thanks to the addition of the glasshouse to our growing area, this will bring all of our spring and summer crops to the shop earlier than usual.
We still have lots of lovely Salad crops, Kale, Leeks, Onions, Carrots, Parsnips, Beetroots, Sprouts, Cabbages, Swede and Squash to keep you all fit and healthy for the rest of winter.
First new season crops of Sugar Snap Peas and Lettuce have already been planted and first plantings of Potatoes and Carrots will be going in over next few weeks.
June 29th, our 21st birthday! 2020
- After and intense and fast moving Spring which had drought, High winds and flooding, we are just starting to begin Summer harvest properly.
- First of the tomatoes, potatoes, chillis, courgettes, cucumbers.
- Lots of beautiful salad crops of lettuce, spring onion and salad leaves.
- One of the best years we've had recently on soft fruit, although massively condensed by hot weather, currently cropping gorgeous Raspberries, Gooseberries, Blackcurrants and Redcurrants and although shop opening was not quite in time for the lovely strawberries, loads in the freezers.
- Lovely time of year for the gardeners as we shift from manic planting season to Tending and harvesting the fruits of our labour, great to be welcoming customers back to the shop to share with us.
Wild weather but early spring.
Despite recent wild weather, spring is coming early with warm temperatures bringing bulbs up early and plants budding up early.
Lots of pruning of fruit bushes and apple trees, tree planting and mulching before spring really starts.
First crops of lettuce, salad, spinach, onions and sugar snap peas all growing nicely.
Carrots, parsnips and onions in good supply and salads, lettuce and spinach still coming out of the tunnels steadily.
Potato and Onion areas ploughed ready for first signs of warm weather.
1st January 2020
- January sees the days lengthening but still a good stretch of winter to go.
- Lots of greens being harvested to stay healthy in the New Year Spring Greens, Savoy Cabbage, Kale, Salads, Spinach and sprouts.
- Still lots of beetroot, carrots, parsnips and squashes In the fields and stores
- Crop planning and seed ordering well underway for new season
- First new season crops of lettuce, spring onions, shallots and spinach will all be on the way into the shop soon.
- As days reach their shortest, gardeners are focused on filling the stores with lovely veg ready for mid-winter feasting.
- lots of lovely carrots and parsnips.
- great crop of Brussel Sprouts this year, buy them on their stalks to keep them fresh for longer.
- still lots of fresh Greens for keeping the feasting healthy, Salads, Kale and Cabbages.
- amidst all the frantic harvesting ahead of christmas rush, this is the time of year we start looking to next season, with crop planning well under way and first seed orders being placed.
- hopefully there will be a bit of time after all the sprouts have been sold, to reflect on another successful season and look forward with anticipation to the next.
Very wet and grey autumn has been challenging.
- Finally got all out potatoes out of the mud.
- Over wintered onions, Garlic and Broad Beans all planted
- Harvesting lovely autumn crops of Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Cauliflowers, savoy Cabbage and Kales.
- Great year for parsnips and carrots, lots to see us through the winter.
- New poly tunnel for cut flowers erected should give us some earlier bursts of colour in the Spring.
- Days starting to shorten and the Brussel Sprouts are nearly ready for mid-winter feasting.
After a cold and wet June, Crops were slow
To get going but the recent warm weather has helped everything catch up.
- Most crops are planted out and well established now, so focus now switches to watering and weeding.
- As well as harvesting, lots of lovely harvest too , Good year for soft fruit Strawberries finishing now but lots of gorgeous raspberries and black currants.
- Carrots, Beetroot, Beans, Onions, Fennel all cropping well.
- Tomato, Chilli, Cucumbers and Courgettes starting to crop well too.
- Busiest time of year in gardens.
- Frost risk now passed so tender crops like squash, courgette, French Beans being planted out.
- Tunnel crops of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and Aubergines all planted and growing well.
- Field scale areas filling up with main crop potatoes, carrots, beetroot, parsnips, Onions and Sweetcorn and lots of Brassicas.
- new season harvests well underway with lovely Lettuce, Mix leaf, Bunched Beetroot, Spinaches and Chards. Beautiful Asparagus just coming to end of it’s 6 week season, grab while it lasts.
Very busy in the gardens now with proper spring weather finally here.
Lots of sowing our propagation tunnel now bursting at the seams with lots of crops ready to go out,
Tunnels almost fully planted up for the summer with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, chillis, beetroot, salad crops, Beans and Sugar Snap peas all growing well.
Potatoes and Onion crops went in early and well, onions are looking great and Potatoes just breaking the surface now.
Lovely sunny weather recently brought on our spring crops nicely, Asparagus season now under way, Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Spring Greens cropping well, Rhubarb too.
Tunnels have been giving us some lovely lush crops of Spinach, Rocket, Corriander Mix salads and Beet Leaf.
- Spring arrived very quickly with recent sunny weather.
- Great for early ground preparation, lots of ploughing done ready for planting onions and potatoes.
- Propagation tunnel bursting with first crops to be planted out already, lots of young lettuce, salad, spinach, beetroot and chard. Tomato seedlings have emerged and peppers, aubergines and chillis just being sown.
- Sunshine has brought on a verdant flush of green growth in overwintered crops in the tunnel, with lots of salad leaf, rocket. leaf beet and true spinach.
- Outside the sunshine has brought on first of our Purple Sprouting Broccoli and first of the Spring cauliflowers.
- Tulips and Daffodils starting to crop so Spring definitely here.
New season, new team! This month we say goodbye to Fran who has given the garden and front of house flowers much time and energy in the last two years and wish her well on her next adventure in Cornwall. We welcome Lucy, who will take on Frans work. You might also see her taking gardening sessions with our visiting young people during the week and of course meet her in the shop on occassional Saturdays. Eva, our trainee last year is coming back as a full time 2.5 year apprentice which is wonderful news. Wilhem is joining us as this seasons trainee. Rosie is now in her third and final season as our senior apprentice, with Hedge now entering his second year.
Great team, great veg!
Spring is in the air after a short blast of winter
- First crops of the year have been sown, Shallots, Spinach, Chard, Lettuce and Mix leaf
- Cold snap welcomed as it kills off pests and disease that have thrived in a warm winter so far.
- Busy planting 70 apple trees and a variety of native trees in field in front of the Cafe.
- Finishing touches being put to this year's Crop Plan.
- seeds and sundries being ordered in ready for fast approaching new season.
- Growing team now well rested and eager to get going with fresh round of crops.
After a midwinter rest the garden team are still busy harvesting.
After a great Summer and still a very warm winter so far still lots of lovely produce.
- Spring Greens, Savoy Cabbage, Cauliflowers, Salads, Rocket, Carrots, Swede and Parsnips.
- New year, New Season so crop planning and seed ordering are underway.
- As the days lengthen first signs of spring are already showing, Tulips, Peonies and Daffodils all starting to stick shoots up.
-Christmas veg all looking good ready for Mid Winter feasting.
- lots of lovely Sprouts, Parsnips, Carrots, Leeks, Swede and Red Cabbage.
- Still lots of healthy greens for post xmas de-tox Kales, Savoy Cabbage, Bunched Turnips and Salads.
- Growing staff looking forward to putting feet up for a few days after a long season, before we come back in the new year to start over again.
- Planning and preparations already underway for the next growing season.
With a succession of hard frosts autumn feels like it's properly arrived.
- establishing good healthy winter crops in the tunnel before mid-November is a key target for this time of year.
- tunnels are now full of lovely Spinaches, Chards, Salad crops, Lettuces and Herbs to keep some fresh greens available through the winter.
- Fields are full of lovely crops of cabbage, kale, swede, carrots, beetroot, leeks and parsnips to see us through the winter.
- Stores are also brimming with potatoes, celeriac and lots of lovely varieties of squash.
- so no shortage of choice on ingredients as we head into winter.
- Squash, Sweetcorn, Courgettes all planted.
- Parsnips, Carrot and Beetroot crops being drilled.
- Onions and Garlic growing nicely.
- Lovely harvests of Beetroot, Asparagus, Lettuce and first of the sugar snap peas.
- Strawberries not far off.
- Despite the challenging weather, new season underway.
- Propagation tunnel already full of young plants - Lettuces, Spinach, Beetroot, Sugar snap peas and tomatoes.
- Poly tunnels are switching from winter mode to spring crops, first carrot crop has emerges, as well as turnips.
- still lots of lovely salads coming from the tunnel as well as spinaches and lettuce.
- storage crops of beetroot, parsnips, potatoes and crown prince all still in good amounts and lovely quality.
Garden Diary April 27/17
It’s been a glorious spring so far with lots of sunshine and very little rain, allowing us to get going with the new season, the polytunnels are now full of spring and summer crops, sugarsnap peas are starting to climb quickly, lots of beautiful lettuce and spinach cropping now, beetroot growing well, first of the bunched carrots will be ready in a couple of weeks. Tomato tunnel is fully planted up, but gave us a few sleepless nights as the frosty nights threatened the young plants. Jude our second year apprentice has done a fantastic job managing the tunnels through the Winter and into Spring.
The propagation tunnel under the watchful eye of our senior apprentice Michael is overflowing with young plants, lots of successions of lettuce, celery, spring onions, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages. Pepper and Aubergine plants looking good, all requiring constant careful watering during the sunny days and temperatures carefully controlled and monitored during the cold nights.
Our new apprentice Rosie has settled in well and has been overseeing harvest for the last couple of months, which have been bountiful for the time of year with lots of lovely salad, rocket, herbs and lettuce from the tunnels, beautiful Spring Greens, Russian Kale and Purple Sprouting Broccoli are just coming to an end, but are being followed by some fantastic spring Cauliflowers and lots of delicious Asparagus which we have started harvesting from our new Asparagus beds, we don’t harvest from new Asparagus plants till their third year of growth, but the wait has been well worth it. With the first strawberries just round the corner spring is well and truly here.
Andy - Head Grower
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
Well there is no guessing how the harvest will turn out even after 13 years of growing here.....the carrots and swedes are lovely and big, but the parsnips are sweet but smaller and the celeriac too small to use. Keith shakes his head at the mystery of it all. Probably the allotment growers and gardeners amongst you will agree.
Generally all is good in the garden. The kales have been gorgeous, the leeks have lost their moths, the squash have been modest in size and quantity but sweet as ever. The gardeners are busy cleaning the muddy roots a bit, storing the beetroot and cabbages, and generally getting ready for the christmas week rush on sprouts and other seasonal veg.
Welcome to Glenn who has joined the soil association apprenticeship scheme here, and many thanks to Rochelle and all the other wwoofers who have given their energy in the garden in 2011.
Autumn is here and with it comes all the delicious roots and cabbages that grow so well in the uk....... swedes, celeriac, sprout tops, chards, kales, red and white potatoes, good sizes for baking this year, a few squash, carrots, onions, red and white cabbages, january king cabbage and lots more.
Life in the polytunnels is busy too - the shop has been enjoying lovely little lettuces, the first of the mixed leaves and lots of delicious parsley and basil. One of the stars of the year is our chilli harvest. RIng of Fire is its name, and it is HOT. This winter we are going to be self sufficient in chillis as i have dried great bowlfuls in the plate warming oven.
Keith, Lizzie and Luke, our two apprentices, have been harvesting constantly the last few weeks, helped by Alex who helps out on a regular basis. We have said goodbye to our longterm wwoofers from Italy, Germany and France, and hello to Rochelle from Canada.
Sweet tomatoes of three colours, big white onions, slim spring onions, after an abundance of calabrese, french climbing, broad and now french beans, green and purple..............fresh cut flowers daily, waxy madlen new potatoes, and now lovely milva potatoes, good for most dishes. Basil, parsleys both flat and curly, fennel, carrots getting bigger now, our own aubergines with prickles at their heads, shiny hard peppers and hot little chillis, ring of fire!
So much to choose from in the shop now at the peak of the year for vegetables.
Not forgetting a few late strawberries and the autumn bliss raspberries too.
The season has not been without a problem...... some of our garlic is a little mouldy in the middle, altho the most part is delicious and we are selling it at half price, but in general all has been fab in the garden as we head into the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and piles and piles of autumn veg.
The garden is starting to overflow with summer veg now. Broad beans at their most prolific, sugar snaps by the crateful from the polytunnel, with french climbing beans just beginning. Two sorts of parsley, swiss chard, spinach beet, loose beetroot (yum, beetroot and horseradish pie coming up on the menu again), garlic, early potatoes freshly dug, slim spring onions, the first tomatoes, aubergines, green peppers, carrots and lettuces by the armful. heaven.
We welcome Luke as a fully signed up apprentice, Ben, who has been a seasonal worker as our next apprentice, and congratulate Mike on his marriage to Vanessa last weekend.
Alex is back in the garden for his third season, Sam is helping again this summer. Kate has joined Hugh Fearnleys team at River Cottage after 3 years here and we are happy to welcome Debbie to tend the flower patch now and bunch the beautiful cut flowers.
Wwoofers this year are from Germany, France and Switzerland, Italy and Portugal. They are helping the garden team propagate, plant, weed and harvest.
Such a great feeling when the asparagus start to poke their tender little heads above ground, and now the first bunches are in the shop. A customer say the first 3 bunches and took them all last saturday, their delight was enormous. I usually walk thro the garden on my way home and munch a stem as i go, they hardly need cooking at the moment. Limited amounts at the moment in the shop.
Its the hungry gap as we all know but this week the gardeners are harvesting swiss chard, spinach, a little purple sprouting, spring onions, herbs, a few salad leaves, lettuce, curly and red russian kales and limited but lovely spring greens.
The sugar snaps and early tunnel carrots are in and coming up, the tulips have been beautifully timed for mothers day! and propagation has begun in earnest.
Luke is trying out an apprentice job, and Ben is our new Wwoofer, with Sarah from Switzerland arriving this week to learn and help.
Lots of comments on how lovely the garden is looking, thank you!
Asparagus doing great, spinach delicious, a profusion of mint, chives and marjoram. the crown prince squash and leeks have done their longest season yet here, using in the kitchen and in the shop from last autumn till may - amazing.
Just waiting for the sugar snaps to fruit, the carrots and beetroot in the tunnels to grow a tiny bit more and the summer harvests will begin..........
Kate and I are concentrating on more cut flowers this summer, they are being planted as I write, do look out for them in a month or two.
Tunnel oriental brassicas, mixed leaves and coriander growing beautifully. Polytunnels are ugly but so useful in our climate...... Lovely swedes, parsnips, sprout tops and cabbages coming into the shop now in earnest. Uchiki kuri, the little orange squash is favoured by lots of us as you dont have to peel it, just chop it up and cook it. Kales are looking great, Nero de Toscana so dark green it must be healthy and it tastes good too, unlike other kales needs quite a bit of boiling. Laura, Mike, Lizzie and our new Wwoofer Jessie from Australia are digging and lifting carrots, celeriac, parsnips, swedes, leeks in all weathers. Mud everywhere this week.
The summer vegetables were good, lots of sweet tomatoes although the black russians didnt grow as large as normal. Ample lettuces as the dry season kept the slugs away at the right time, shiny aubergines, sweet peppers, the hottest chillis we have had so far. The summer soft fruit harvest was good. The later strawberries seemed the sweetest. Rich in the production kitchen is getting ready to make more jams and jellies from the excess fruits this winter.
The flowers looked so colourful alongside the drive. Kates time was well rewarded in customers delight at the bunches on sale, although the financial viability of such a labour intensive job is in the balance. An extra 50p a bunch might help, comments welcomed.
It was not a good year for the outside beans, but the tunnel crops of sugar snaps and climbing runners was fantastic.
Now there is sweetcorn by the armful, good size swedes, carrots sweet altho the carrot fly found a good few, lots of kales, the brussel sprouts are looking promising, cabbages hearting up.
The onions have been taken up and dried. Lots of red and white.
The leeks planted earlier in the summer have been found by the leek moth, which is unsightly but not to offer them for sale (at a reduced price) would be to waste too much food. Later leeks will probably be fine.
The Cosmos potatoes are a good size this year, the earlies grew well too, and sold out quickly. Parsnips are just ready to harvest, and the squashes are safely inside, to the delight of the cooks and the customers, squash soup, squash risotto, squash and coconut curry bake, squash and goats cheese lasagne, stuffed squash, and so much more to do with a squash......
Keith, Kate, Laura and Mike have been joined again this season by Alex who has been in the shop this winter, Keiths son Sam, and Jamie who woofed here in 1999. A great team. Lots of wwoofers coming and going, so far from as far afield as Sweden, Germany and next week New Zealand.
The fruits of the harvest are now all evident in the shop, such an exciting time of year beetroot with the leaves as an added spinach like present on top, sugar snaps, freshly dug carrots, wet garlic, sweet peas, cornflowers, strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, kohl rabi, broad beans, .......
Its a fever of activity in the garden at the moment. Keith is up and down on the tractor behind the shop, sowing parsnips and carrots. The first brassicas have been planted out, the onions and potatoes are looking good so far and the squash will be in next....the garden in front of the shop is being planted out with courgettes, beans, sweet peas, cottage garden flowers, beets, celeriac and carrots.....the soft fruit is looking fab and the rhubarb is producing well.
Kate, our apprentice from last year, has been joined by our second apprentice Laura with Mike waiting on the next space available and seasonal helper Alex. Considering this is their first season here on the farm they are all doing brilliantly, the workload at this time of year is immense.
Asparagus is in its last week, bunched young carrots and beetroot are coming in every morning from the tunnels, lettuces are really beautiful at the moment.
Our mint is the best its ever been, and we have copious amounts of marjoram too. the first signs of sugar snaps in the shop, gone in a flash - more to come soon.
Sit and sip your soup that was in the field in front of you mere hours ago.............
The last two weeks of sunshine have given us lots of asparagus. surprisingly we still cant satisfy you all, but hopefully you are getting a taste of it.
Yesterday Aimie, who is harvest coordinator at the moment, told me we had over 300 cauliflowers and hoped i hadnt ordered any for this week............. so come and buy them please! they are so annoying the way they all come at once, them and cucumbers seem to behave the same way, i wonder if you have the same problem in your gardens?
Generally the garden news is good. lots done and lots to do, may is a particularly busy month. the polytunnel sugarsnaps, beetroot and carrots are looking more hopeful by the day, the lettuces are AMAZING and the spinach and rocket are just about keeping up. The tomato plants are established and we have lots for sale at the moment by the shop. Outside the onions and potatoes are in, and the propagation tunnel is a picture, hundreds and hundreds of seedlings, reminding us that nature is a truly miraculous thing.
At the moment it is either far to dry or far too wet! Anyway, there is some progress although now the land is too wet to walk on.
Now we have lots of beetroot with the tops on to use like spinach, four varieties of lettuce, rocket and loads of spinach - the cafe menu has been spinach everything this week. all from the tunnels which are so useful at this time of the year.
Also available in the shop at the moment are lovely spring greens, the first beautifully small broad beans and there is talk of strawberries, fresh garlic, overwintered fresh onions and sugarsnaps soon.
The hungry gap will be over and we will glide (!) into the time when everyday a new vegetable comes into the shop - with oohs and aahs from us and the customers, as if we have never seen such a sight before. This surely is the essence of seasonality.
At last it stopped raining and the gardeners could get onto the land. And now? We are wishing for rain again. Its very exciting this year as we are doubling the garden area to approx 20 acres. We need more vegetables for the shop and the land needs to rest more too. We are hoping to double the amount of onions, potatoes, carrots, brassicas and grow more of many of the other field crops too. More crops means a new irrigation system, in the summer months many man hours are spent moving pipes from one strip to another, so we are investing in a new system which should help on the time front and also give a much more even drink to the plants. You will probably be able to see it whizzing up and down the rows from June time.
At the moment a lot of seeds are being sown, seedlings pricked out and couch being dug.
Asparagus has just started, sold out the last two days, and we have coriander coming out of our ears. If anyone knows a fool proof coriander chutney recipe please email it to me, we always seem to have too much or too little.
Now the shop is brimming with broad beans, beetroot, climbing french beans, courgettes yellow and green, lettuces, potatoes that melt in the mouth, tomatoes; sun gold, gardeners delight and our old favourites black russian. Black and red currants, raspberries, strawberries and gooseberries are coming in from the garden and going out again at enormous speed. And phlox, sweet peas, zinnias, rudbeckia and dahlias are starting to be bunched for sale.
This must surely by one of the most exciting times in the english kitchen garden - our cooks in the cafe are at last spoilt for choice after a long hungry gap.
After a long warm autumn, with good plant growth – the brassica patch really benefited from this – we were threatened with a seriously cold winter by some forecasters. It started, but fortunately failed to stay and apart from some damage to the softer (unhardened) growth - leeks and cabbage – all has returned to normal.
The autumn sown broad beans, having escaped the attentions of the mice (I’ve seen a couple of cats around about) and kept their heads down during the cold snap, are now emerging: a couple of months late but very welcome. The carrots are finished and most of the parsnip but now the kales and sprouting should get going as the days lengthen.
Last year the celeriac, calabrese and cauliflower did particularly well and the lettuce cropping eventually got going after the leather jackets had flown. (I’ve yet to find an answer to the leather jacket problem – so any suggestions are welcome). To help improve the long term condition of the soil in the polytunnels we undersowed the tomatoes, aubergines and peppers with trefoil. Good idea? – in the short term we established perennial weeds and the restricted air movement around the plants led to increased fungal attacks. Now working on some refinements for this year with different approaches for the differing crop requirements.
In the winter the pigeons have become particularly ‘attentive’ to the brassicas, kales and sprouting especially. This has required us to cover them with mesh – again! I say again as shortly after planting last year the 1st brassicas were severely attacked by flea beetle so required covering (they were at the time just about managing to survive the pigeons). The beetles stayed around a long time, then along came the butterflies, so the mesh stayed on. On all summer; only coming off before harvesting started in the autumn. I think we will see an increased roll for crop covers of various types in the future!
This year we plan to plant more raspberries as they seem so popular, and to try to keep up with the demand for winter salads we hope to increase the area grown in the tunnels by a half. We are very much looking forward to our 1st harvest of asparagus this spring.
As I now delve deep into the seed catalogues trying to separate the fact from the flannel in my search for the best organic varieties, I wish you all a most productive year.
Did you know you could still be eating our own organic fruit? We have frozen raspberries and redcurrants and plenty of blackcurrants. Blackcurrants are an excellent source of vitamin C which is particularly important in preventing disease. Useful through these winter months. Despite being boringly good for you I found some excellent recipes; blackcurrant and apple pie , blackcurrant fluff (an upmarket fool) and even as a sauce to accompany beetroot, made with 1-2 tbsp blackcurrant jam heated with the juice of half a lemon and poured over diced beetroot. Apparently good hot or cold!
Meanwhile we still have some work to do towards this year’s crop! The raspberries are now neatly tied in and a new row planted. The Autumn Bliss will be cut down in February and a new row of them planted too.
Then the bush fruit all needs to be pruned. The gooseberry bushes are well established now and should give a reasonable crop this year (assuming we don’t get another late frost!) and at last you can get out your gooseberry and elderflower recipes, etc.The strawberries are all weeded and tidied up and waiting to grow. We will be planting some more later in the spring, as we do every year as the plants only usefully produce for 3 years. JANE
Most of the work over the last few weeks has been done in the polytunnels. Clearing away after last year's crops, weeding, spreading compost, and rotavating; as well as caring for the over wintered salads.
The early carrots are up and look very promising - look for these in early/mid June.
The early leeks have germinated well in their seed bed and it looks as if we will have more of this variety 'Hannibal' to plant than last year.
All the spuds are in the ground: this year we are trying a new First Early variety called Orla - let us know what you think. The change was forced by supply problems.
We've still not managed to sow anything outside yet (1/4/05) apart from broad beans. Much of the soil in the garden is still too moist under the surface - the clay content just over 20% and the recent rains -so trying to bury the over wintered green manure with a rotavator becomes a sticky business.
Our first lettuce of the year started to harvest over the Easter weekend and the spinach beet and swiss chard, over wintered in the tunnels, have performed well.
The over wintered onions, normally grown in the field but suffering significant losses, have done much better in the more protected environment of the garden and come June should show a much better weight.
The spring greens are here now.
The tomatoes are shooting up and, as I was gently reminded today, need moving on into their 9cm pots before they get leggy and therefore more prone to fungal infections which can be a problem this time of year.
The main crop white onions (sets) were planted last week and as I write the red ones are in transit and should, if the weather holds, be in the ground by the end of the week.
This summer the sweet corn will be grown in the field rather than the garden for the first time. The plan is to grow more, but this is a bit of an experiment as whenever it's been sown (rather than planted from modules) in the garden the slugs have eaten the lot….. time will tell.
Asparagus update - one year on, plants grew well over the summer and have been mulched and weeded this spring. Waiting to see how well they over wintered - was it too damp under foot?
The fruit bushes are about to burst in to life. They'll get their annual muck and mulch any time now and the beds are now ready for the new strawberry plants that are due next week. Keith
We are now several weeks into my third season in the garden and the young vegetable plants are already advanced. Each morning I tour the propagation tunnel and glass house to ventilate and water all the plants. I always have one eye on the very changeable weather conditions, its surprising how much a short burst of sun can dry out some plants so generally I make my rounds very regularly throughout the day to make sure all my babies are watered, happy and healthy. At the end of the day the plants are 'put to bed' meaning covering them with fleece, closing the hot bed sides and closing the tunnels to protect them from the cold and the wind. Louise.
SOFT FRUIT UPDATE
Everything is bursting into life again on the fruit plot. At the end of February we had a couple of sunny days to do the pruning and were well pleased with the results. The gooseberry, red and blackcurrant bushes are really establishing and taking shape now, the planting strips have been weeded to reduce the couch invasion and are now awaiting a good dose of well rotted manure. (courtesy of the farm). The regular dressing with this is gradually improving the soil as well as aiding fruit production. We plan to plant more Autumn Bliss raspberries this year as they are such a useful crop. I hope some of you found the surplus we managed to freeze for sale over the winter. The strawberries are 'greening up' and we have ground ready and mulch laid to receive new plants which will be arriving mid April.
Unfortunately we lost a lot of the crop last year due to the wet autumn. Maybe better luck this year?
I am afraid we still haven't got rhubarb this year, it was moved hastily two years ago to a very poor site to make way for the new tunnels and it is not doing well! However it is marked urgent this year and an area is planned and will be weeded and well mucked prior to winter planting. Apologies, but I hope you have enjoyed the extra tunnel produce.
Meanwhile the punnets are counted and ready so we will just wait for the fruit to ripen. Jane
After a seemingly long cold start the new year is up and running - and we start playing 'catch up'.
The salads that have served us so well over the winter months have finally achieved their aim - and are flowering beautifully.
The extra tunnel space we now have has allowed us some early lettuce. Although slow off the mark, these are now cropping well, as are the spring onions.
The tomatoes are waiting (some what impatiently) in the wings for the above to move on.
As the field carrots come to a natural end (we've been harvesting them for seven months), the early tunnel crop is now two inches tall and has just been hand weeded.
In the field although we've finished harvesting many of the brassicas, they are being left to flower and any over wintering pest predators are being allowed as much time as possible to migrate out of the crop before it is ploughed in.
The fresh green shoots of the main crop onions are growing fast, tempting us out for our 1st run with an old Ferguson steerage hoe (new to us) while the spuds seem to be keeping their heads down for a while yet.
Cultivations for the new seasons brassicas and roots are well under way - and no I've not sown the parsnips yet: the later I sow the less carrot root fly and cancker I get in the over wintered roots.
As I write this we have just planted our 1st asparagus plants (give us a couple of years and I'll let you know) and another batch of ever bearer strawberries.
The fruit bushes have woken up and will get a weed - muck - and mulch as soon as we can manage.
In the last year we have harvested two hundred different varieties of vegetable, fruit and flower.
Phew…This year …
Click the images below to see a larger version along with it's description.
What a long dry time it's been. Very glad to have water available in the field to irrigate the crops.
We eventually got our new tunnels covered - the last on the 1st of July. The tomatoes transplanted that week, recovered from their very pot bound state and are producing well.
A significant "first" for us this season was the arrival of spider mite, they thrived in the favourable conditions and the French beans, Cucumbers and Aubergines all suffered as a result. Next year we'll be waiting!
We've had our first taste of the black and red currants, the raspberries and gooseberries - and very nice too, though the latter has us searching for a remedy to the saw fly problem.
The sweet corn grew on well from the transplants this year and produced a decent crop; once that is we had replanted many and fleeced them following the rather too close attentions of the rooks, and latterly with the ground being so dry and hard the badgers have been foraging farther afield and found it -fortunately after we'd picked the best.
Although the carrots started the year poorly with some very erratic germination in the garden plots (too coarse a seed bed and a dry spell) we are now lifting some of the best ever, although it is from the ground most suited to them in the rotation (it will come around again in 6 years time) credit must go to those concerned for the excellent hand weeding job.
The parsnips too are looking good (as above) and a trial sowing of a smoother skinned variety is promising - provided it don't grow too long for us to get out.
This year the swedes survived the attentions of the flee beetle and are filling nicely.
We've had excellent yields from our spuds with two new varieties to us, the 1st early Junior and the red main crop Raja both proving popular
The selection and growing of cut flowers continues to tease, tempt and teach, the anemones, Dahlias and Zinnias doing well.
We're now clearing away early and mid season crops as they finish and sowing green manures to keep the ground covered over winter and to hang on to what nutrients we can.
The oriental brassicas, the main-stay of our salad packs over the winter, have just been planted out and the rocket, American cress and purslane are coming up.
The pumpkins and squashes are ripening well.
Pssst - I hear that when it comes to beetroot this year - it's got to be big!