It's early June and we've had a hot couple of weeks, in fact the weather has been wonderful. Last Friday I was sat outside our Tea Hut having a well earned Beer after a long week. The hut is surrounded by Comfrey which is found everywhere on the farm and I was amazed at the amount of Bees buzzing from flower to flower. Although I'm aware this is happening day to day at work it's not often I get a chance to just sit and appreciate it. It really struck me what a haven for wildlife Barcombe is and this is exactly what we are aiming for on an Organic Farm. We endeavour to create a bio diverse environment, encouraging wildlife onto the farm because in doing so there is more chance that things will be kept in balance and harmful pests will not get out of control. For example we have Aphid on our Courgette, Pepper and Aubergine plants at the moment but, on close inspection there are also Aphid predators. Hoverflies, Lady Bird Larvae and tiny Parasitizing Wasps which all prey upon the Aphid.
In the glasshouse where the Courgettes are there is a bedof Rocket that we have left to flower and once again I'm amazed at the amount of Bees and Hoverflys it's attracting. Not only are we getting pollinators in but also Aphid predators too. An example of how we encourage wildlife creating a diverse well balanced system. From Complexity and Diversity comes Stability. This is the ideal scenario anyway. It's not always the case though and sometimes we lose entire crops to a pest or disease!!
It's been a busy month as always and first off we got all our Squash planted outside. It's the first big planting session of the year and it all went very smoothly. We also got our early batch of Corn planted. To top it all off we had a good soaking of rain just after planting to help the plants get established. We always try to time planting with a drop of rain if we can as this can save us a lot of time and money if we cut out the need for irrigation. Of course this is not always possible but we keep an eye on the weather forecast, rain radar and long range forecasts to see if there is a chance of rain.
Ah......................I forgot to mention that we had Land Drains put in just before we began planting. it was all a bit last minute and a bit risky as we didn't know what impact the procedure would have have on the soil but we went for it thinking of the long term benefits. They came with a huge machine and within hours they were done! Amazing, and we managed to get everything we needed to get planted in and in good time!
As I mentioned we had a good soaking of rain post planting so I used this time to get the Steerage Hoe I've been working on ready for action. Adrian has a lot of old tools and machinery around the place, built up over many years and they may look like they'd be no use but, with a bit of time, energy and imagination they are back in working order again either as they are or with different parts combined as new, bespoke tools for the farm. The Steerage Hoe is the first piece of machinery I've got up together and it's been very satisfying indeed! I spent a few hours here and there over winter greasing all the parts and loosening all the siezed up nuts and bolts. All I needed to do now was get the blades in the correct position for our crop spacing and do a final set up.
I should probably explain, we use various tractor mounted, mechanised weeders for our outdoor crops such as a Brush Weeder, Inter row Rotivator and now the Steergae Hoe. They all go on the back of a tractor with someone aboard the weeder to steer it through the crop. The reason we really wanted to get the Steerage Hoe up and running is because, if set up correctly and with the timing of weedings right, it could dramatically reduce our workload over the next few months. The other devices are fine for dealing with the weeds between the rows but you are generally left with weeds between the plants which may need to be hoed by hand. Very time consuming! The Steerage Hoe should hopefully not only deal with the weeds between the rows but the weeds between the plants by throwing up a small ridge of soil covering and killing the weeds there too. Timing is key here! As another very experienced grower said to me when talking about weeding "If you can see them, it's too late!". This only works if you get the weeds when they are literally just germinating. Anyway, we have now tested the Hoe and it works a treat so I'm chuffed! Lets hope the weather is on our side because too much rain and this plan goes out the window!
In our Polytunnels and Glasshouses things are doing well in general. I have to mention our Fennel crop as it's been very succesful this year. Last year they all bolted so we had no Fennel bulbs at all which was very dissapointing however I learnt from my mistakes and it seems to have paid off. Well, I like to think so but it may well be a fluke! Who knows, they are delicious anyway!! The various salad crops that had just germinated in the last blog entry are now producing well adding diversity in colour and taste to our mixed salad bags especially the Golden Purslaine with its citrusy aftertaste and the Red Orach with its lovely colour. Our Sugar Snap Peas have been doing very well and we've had a good few pickings with maybe a bit more still to come. Apart from that we're still busy clearing beds getting them ready for new crops such as more Beans, Courgettes and Salad leaves but also, now there's not so much demand for the indoor space as we get more planted outside, we can start getting Green Manures in to give the soil a rest and build fertility for subsequent crops. That's pretty much it for now. There'll be an update in July. Thanks for reading!