So the month of March has been one of slight confusion and panic. It seams many of us have begun to notice how fragile the systems we rely on are, and how certain levels of self sufficiency can only be of an advantage. Amongst those self-sufficient activities is growing your own food. It seams there has been no better time to get out in the garden and learn how to grow your own fruit, veg or herbs. It seams the panic buying and food shortages have spurred people to look closer to home for their food needs, support for local business’s has been enhanced, and gardening has become an educational focal point for families while schools and work places are closed. Harvest Barn farm shop is now closed for the foreseen future as are many other businesses dealing with the public. We however are lucky enough to be in a position to carry on as normal. On a busy day, the project is isolated so with the farm shop now closed and some members working from home, things are eerily quiet at the project. This being said things are still moving in a promising direction and despite the current lockdown situation, we are lucky enough to be somewhat unaffected by the situation.
We have been rushed off our feet selling last year’s seed stock, and have noticed massive benefits to saving just a small percentage of our produce for seed. In addition to masses of free seeds for this years growing season, they have proved a major source of income in what farmers and growers call ‘the hungry gap’, while we wait for our main cash crop of salad and vegetables over the spring and summer months. It leaves quite a proud feeling to be distributing our seeds nationwide and have been overwhelmed and almost unprepared for the huge increase in orders but, the unexpected increase has forced us to quickly create more efficient systems for weighing the seeds, creating the packaging, and organising postage and distribution. Its exciting to see some of our produce from last year beginning to flower enabling us to expand the varieties in our seed bank for sale to the public, and of course for growing later this year and next. Check out our stock of seeds here.
With travel restricted, we are struggling to get materials that we were once overflowing with. Cardboard which we use as weed suppressor for our ‘no dig’ beds and pathways has become hard to come across, assuming due to restricted travel. Wood chips for our pathways is ‘not essential’ and other materials such as good quality compost are becoming scarcer in large quantities. With these obstacles to over come, we have focused our energy on creating our own compost on a larger and quicker scale. This, although more labor intensive, can produce good quality compost in just 18-21 days. Increasing the nitrogen ratio in your compost material can do this as nitrogen begins the heating process, which effectively breaks down your compost material; we are using freshly cut grass and horse manure to quickly heat our pile to high temperatures but this must be turned often and can often be very hot to the touch, so be careful. This then has to be turned every 1-2 days until the heating process begins to slow down then, every 3-4 days. Check out our Basic Guide To Compost
In regards to our edible produce, we have harvested small amounts of purple sprouting broccoli, some spring onions, and some baby carrots, all of which were planted last year, along with a variety of herbs. We are only a few weeks away for launching our veg/salad boxes. In addition to the selection mentioned above we have our mixed lettuce and radish almost ready for sale mid April . We have many of our other variety coming along nicely too.
A valuable lesson of patience has been learnt this month however. While we were given a few nice days of weather, we gave in to temptation and planted out some of our early sown broad beans, kale, Radish and brussel sprouts (amongst a few others), only to be hit with a hard frost the following week. Some of our young plants in the poly-tunnel were affected too; Sweetcorn, pumpkins, runner beans and tomatoes all taking a large shock, many have survived, and weather permitted should restore themselves back to full health. We expected to encounter problems, as specific seeds are genetically imprinted to grow at certain times of the year, often in spring. Trying to grow seedlings in cold temperatures and few light hours can be challenging and will often require some basic equipment and growing space. We expected to lose some plants due the reasons mentioned above, although it’s a small reminder of how quickly your plants can deteriorate when planted or exposed to the wrong conditions.
Lastly we would just like to mention that we are carrying on as normal during these uncertain times and with any luck preparing for our summer food glut. We are taking every precaution with regards to social distancing and fully understand the severity of the situation. Our intentions before this situation was to progress to charity status, helping the most vulnerable and less fortune members of our communities. This being said, we would like to do what ever we can to help those in need. We have members available to drop off food items, collect medication or whatever we can do to help. If you are concerned for someone’s well being, please let us know!
On a brighter note, we shall begin harvesting produce within the next few weeks but will be limited to availability to begin with. If you would like to reserve an organic veg/salad box please join our mailing list to be notified of their availability first.
Keep safe and stay positive!