Hi, I’m Sam, the Lead Apprentice on the farm.
As we’re starting to see some warmer days, the propagation tunnel is filling up with seedlings. All the tomatoes, aubergines and peppers have now been sown with an exciting mix of different varieties. Successional batches of spinach, salad and pak choi grow larger over time and we have been planting these out into the seven polytunnels. In the VegShed the potatoes are chitting on the shelves above the packing tables. You can watch a video of the process on the farm’s YouTube channel. We had intended to grow some Highland Burgundy potatoes but alas they were out of stock. Instead we are growing a variety with blue (yes, blue!) skin and blue flesh called Violetta.
Photos by Sam: Potatoes chitting, onion sets, the propagation tunnel filling up with seedlings, winter purslane, a pheasant hiding in the wheelbarrows and a robin in the pak choi.
The plants already in the ground have suddenly begun to leave their winter dormancy, growing stronger and taking in the sunshine where they can. As you can see above, the winter purslane is embracing its name with big juicy green leaves and the over-wintered garlic looks strong out in the fields. A group of children from Finton House School came to visit and enthusiastically helped with harvesting the spinach and leeks and then made a delicious soup whilst learning about seasonality. We also had a visit from children with the Crystal Palace Football Club who helped with sowing thousands of beetroot seeds and harvesting the last remaining Brussels sprouts. We then began to remove the plants from the ground, composting the remainder of the towering stalks to clear the beds for the broad beans.
Unfortunately the morning sunshine has mostly been followed by raging wind and cold rain which has meant the ground has been too wet to go out on the tractor. Working the soil in wet conditions should be avoided in order to limit damage to soil structure. I am hoping for some dry conditions so that urgent bed preparation can be done in time for planting out onion sets and broad beans and so that I can get some more tractor practise in.
The hibernating caterpillars I keep finding in the chicory have fortunately not yet been awoken but the birds have been much noisier and I’ve seen a few ladybirds. Hopefully they will be out in force this year to assist with pest management along with the frogs I regularly see in the polytunnels. We also had a visit from a pheasant hiding in our wheelbarrows. Although a common sighting in many places, pheasants are not so frequent on our farm, maybe due to the resident foxes.
The next Open Saturday is the 11th of March. There’s lots to do as the first signs of spring appear, so get in touch if you’d like to take part.