Sunday, July 02, 2017

Less is more

When is comes to work  and veg anyway.

One of the aims for this year was to cut down the amount of time required to tend the farm, to cut down the digging, weeding and watering. While last year did produce a healthy harvest we certainly put in the hours. We were determined that this year would be a little more pleasure than pain!

So far so good, when we go away everything seems to survive, the weeds seem manageable and apart from when feeding is due the watering hasn't been too much of a challenge. In general the hours required to get our crop to this stage are a lot lower this year.

So how have we got to here?

Well the plan started at the end of last year. We started last season on the back foot with a plot that hadn't been properly closed down, dug, covered, manured or cleared the previous year. We put in a lot effort at the end of  last season to clear the ground, manure and tiller it before covering it for the winter.

The covering of weed control fabric or thick plastic damp proof membrane certainly made for an easier start this year, the earth was still pretty weed free, a good texture requiring no digging, just a quick going over with hoe to break up any lumps where the bricks held the covers down, and lovely and moist. It has been a case of rolling back the plastic a few days before you need the ground, apply some growmore and/or pelleted chicken manure, rake it in then plant or sow a few days later. A lot easier and quicker than the previous year.   

A good purchase for any gardener is a moisture meter. A quick run round the plot probing the ground can save a lot of time watering plants that don't really need it and can help to identify the heavy drinkers. You'd be surprised how often you can skip some areas, and every can saved is time and effort. They can be bought on Amazon quite cheaply but always look in supermarkets at the end of the season. I'd recommend the single probe models such as this one HERE. We'll see if it helps with the blossom end rot my tomatoes always seem to suffer from.

And finally....mulching. This year we have been trying to get to grips with mulching, and experimenting with growing some crops through weed control fabric. The results have been good.

A generous covering of grass cuttings has made a huge difference to the amount of weeding required around the plants and helps retain moisture.

Weed control fabric looks good and does make a difference but it a bit of a pain to plant through. In our sweetcorn we have also found that we have some kind of creeping weed that still grows and puts in an appearance though the holes we made for the plants.

I find grass cuttings easier and cheaper, its just a case of generating the volume from a small garden. A word with friends and neighbours in exchange for the odd courgette certainly helps. It's useful to sink a old bottle with the bottom cut off into the ground to aim your water into when mulching. Maybe the no dig method next year.

This week has been busy and we've only had a little bit of time to pop down, feed and harvest. We did clear the broads, dig over the area and add some compost so we could finally plants out the leeks. I didn't want to risk putting them in the same best we lost all the garlic and shallots in.

I've included some pics of the harvest/progress just so its not all words. As you can see from the Currently Picking list we are finally coming out of the quiet patch. The first spuds and cucumber were delicious and courgette silly season is upon us!! More later.

I hope the advice above it useful to anyone struggling to maintain their plot, as we refine the process in the future we'll keep you posted on the progress

Happy gardening folks!!! 


Sue Garrett said...

I wish that we had 'discovered' weed control fabric when we were still working full time as it has made a tremendous difference. We grow most things through it now.

Mal said...

A nice review of a topic close to my heart. And fennel! Not sure water meters are required kit in Scotland!

Dicky said...

Hi Sue

Do you make holes round holes or slits to plant through?

Dicky said...

Hi Mal. I guess you know it's a dry season when the water stops coming over the top of your wellies...

Fennel should grow well in Scotland, it needs a lot of water. Best germinating seeds I've had this year!!

Sue Garrett said...

To plant things like brassicas, potatoes, squash, sweet corn etc through cross slits cut at a suitable distance for the type of crop. To sow seeds e.g parsnips, carrots,mpeas etc we cut long slits and fold back a flap as shown in the video on this post