Friday, January 04, 2019

Meet Percy..

As some of you will remember, 2018 was not my year for parsnips, something I'm normally quite good with. In fact we have only two this year.

We popped down to check covers etc over the weekend and decided to dig up this fellow, one of the cleanest parsnips I've actually ever grown, at the moment he is destined to be soup. 

Elsewhere there is very little left growing, just some chard, kale, slightly eaten cabbage, holey carrots and the last parsnip.

The Cape Gooseberries and Chillies have been killed off by the frost and once again the allium leaf miner struck and ruined what was once looking like a promising leek crop. That's 3 years in a row now I have had trouble with these pests.  I know a few fellow plot holders have also had issues, although it seems totally random who they hit. 

There doesn't seem to be any chemical control available but here is an extract from the RHS site regarding non chemical control

"Plants can be protected by covering them with horticultural fleece, or an insect-proof mesh such as Ultra-Fine Enviromesh, at times when the adult flies are active and laying eggs (March to April and October to November). Crop rotation must be used, as adult flies might emerge from pupae underneath the covering if susceptible plants are grown in the same piece of ground in successive years."

I will be growing onions and leeks from seed this year and am unlikely to plant them out before May, so it appears that my best hope is cover any unharvested crops for Oct-Nov. Guess we'll give that a try.

Happy gardening folks!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Food stockpiles and Brexit

Here are the farm we don't discuss politics but politics is impacting gardening it seems. 

I follow a few food preservation groups on facebook and ended up following a link to one where its members are seriously concerned about a disruption to the food supply following Brexit in March 2019. The members are building up their food supplies so they could survive a few weeks or even months by living off food in their cupboard.

The BBC has been covering this same topic with members of the public stockpiling along with company efforts to stockpile.

As one poster pointed out on facebook, March/April is possibly the lowest time of productivity yield in a garden. However a number of them have been making long term plans to maximize their winter vegetables like leeks as much as possible.

Some of my jarred chillis
Some have decided to start gardening this year, remembering the Dig for Victory efforts and how rationing in the UK was in effect during and after the war until 1954. 

Others are stockpiling vegetables in tins in the event that the electrical supply is disturbed. They're buying an extra few tins each week of things like carrots and potatoes along with basics like rice and lentils.

Independent of Brexit, here at the farm we try to preserve and stockpile food as much as possible, although Dicky has put his foot down at my frozen French bean stores (too soggy I've heard!)

We do have three spaghetti squash and five marrows still to see us through the next few months.

In the past I've jarred tomato sauce, salsa and chillis. There's nothing so nice as eating your own tomato sauce in the dead of winter. 

Dicky and his sister recall spending hours assisting their parents when the bean harvest came in. I'm not sure if they are really fond memories though!

Some of my dried and jarred chillis
I grew up near Amish country in America and those folks have big gardens and they preserve a lot. Granted there is a lot more growing and storing space in America but check out these photos of an Amish larder, it may give you canning envy!

How about you, has Brexit influenced your garden habits?

Friday, November 30, 2018

Snails in the rooftop garden!

My facebook recently brought up one of their 'photo reminders' where they remind you of what you posted in the past. Here is a recent one that popped up, when I went snail hunting!

My little rooftop terrace garden is four floors up. I am pretty organic up here, all my vegetable scraps and coffee grounds go into a compost bin.

Considering I'm off the ground and only bring up soil in commercial bags, I'm amazed that I have a plethora of living creatures up here like worms, bugs, snails and slugs. 

Periodically, i.e. when they start eating too much of my produce, I gather them all up and relocate them to a more suitable place at ground level in our public park or in woodland on the way to our allotment. If I don't clear them regularly every year, I end up with a situation like this when I skipped a year:

I'm not sure where they're coming from but I've eliminated a few sources:

1. Ground level: I live in a concrete jungle. They're not climbing up the side of the building.

2. Neighbours: My neighbours don't have plants so they're not hitching a ride on a pot or in soil.

My current thinking is to blame the birds! As I have a roof terrace garden, I still have additional roof space which is above my living space. We regularly get birds up here: crows, sea gulls, magpies and occasionally sparrows.

The bring a mix of gifts to my rooftop. They like to perch on the TV ariel and over time the pots below this area started to grow a variety of plants that were not from me such as rapeseed and general weeds. I have since moved these pots.

In addition to their organic matter the crows LOVE a good takeaway and we have plenty fast food shops nearby that cater to drunk folks on a Saturday night who leave their empty boxes in inappropriate places. The clever crows will bring up the leftovers, in particular, the fried chicken remnants. Every time that we have a good storm I am guaranteed to find chicken bones or various dead bird bits on my rooftop.

I much prefer the friendly magpie. He seems to have stolen a ping pong ball from the local outdoor community tables (looked like an egg?).

Imagine the conversation I had with my neighbor who also has a terrace, we're separate by frosted glass but have 5 inches of clearance so things can blow underneath. 'Excuse me kind neighbour, are you missing a ping pong ball?'

In the meantime I found some slugs in the lettuce that I picked this week. They're back! Time to go hunting again...

If anyone has any other ideas of where they're coming from, feel free to comment.  :)

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Book Review on the Dig for Victory Campaign

As the nights draw in I find myself under a wool blanket (and usually a cat) with a good book. I wanted to share my recommendation for The Spade as Mighty as the Sword by Daniel Smith.

I picked this little gem up a few months ago at one of those book stores where everything is discounted. If you're interested in the Second World War and how the Dig for Victory campaign came about, this book gives a full overview.

It gives background about how the nation sourced its food prior to the war, how government policy came into being, how commercial and farm production changed and how each person was encouraged to take part.

It does have a few pages in the centre with black and white photos.

A poster from the campaign at the Duxford Imperial War Museum 
The most interesting thing that I learned from it is that the original campaign was not called 'Dig for Victory' but instead was 'Grow More Food.' In 1939 it went through a re-branding effort which seems to have paid off.

One of the Amazon reviewers stated that the book isn't much of a nail biter. I find that sort of true, it does read like a history textbook at times, dense with facts. However, it is also filled with personal anecdotes of how people reacted to government policies which balances it out.

Another neat things that I learned from this book: by 1943, 25% of fresh eggs were coming from home coops, can you imagine that today?

It also states that in 1942, 55 - 60% of families were growing some part of their own food.

If you're interested in this time period or how the nation produced and consumed food at the time, I'd highly recommend this book.