Welcome to Spring! As with many things the seasons and growing cycles have decided not to pause whilst Covid runs its course. Thanks go out to everyone who has helped to keep the sites ticking over, the harvests productive and continued enthusiasm during what has been a largely wet, cold and restricted time. We look forward to warmer days, greater on-site activity as restrictions permit and to taking the best from our past practices and what we have learned during the pandemic. Like the tomato seedlings (below) that our members are nurturing at home we expect that bigger and better things will emerge.
At Hammonds End we have made it through the winter months and are now starting to think about spring. Vegetable boxes have been fortnightly with 2 members harvesting Tuesday and Wednesday and delivering boxes to 3 main locations in the area for members to pick up. Over the last 3 months boxes have contained leeks, kale, purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, parsnips, rocket, pak choi, beetroot, spinach and chard.
Hammonds End Cauliflower and Leeks ready to harvest
Polytunnel 2 Lettuce and Pak Choi/Polytunnel 4 Beetroot
Over the next few weeks we will harvest our way through the remaining polytunnel and outdoor crops as we enter the UK Hunger Gap (the period when last year’s crops have finished and this year’s crops are yet to produce). As ever it’s very hard to predict if last year’s crops will produce for long enough before our early sowings for this year are ready – all down to the weather (and a fair bit of luck!).
In addition to the garlic and onions planted in autumn, we have sown the first of this season’s crops: 300 Broad Bean seeds, along with the first of the cabbage, lettuce, and spinach. These are all covered by mesh to stop the mice feasting on the seeds.
In addition, we have sown 60 tomatoes, 30 aubergines, 30 peppers and 8 chilli peppers which members have at home to bring back to site once the last frost has gone.
Over the next few weeks we need to weed and broadfork the outside beds to prepare them for planting at the end of the month. We will plant out potatoes and broad beans and sow calabrese, cauliflower, leeks, celeriac, beetroot, chard and spinach.
Lockdown continues to restrict the number of people on site which means we have lost the communal aspect of growing but hopefully before the summer is out we can be back to normal! We have made a number of videos viewable on You Tube to show members what to be done (available for all to see on the FoodSmiles YouTube channel).
Garlic outside and the first lettuce and broad beans growing in the polytunnel
Over the winter months we managed to dig through the clay to sink the final rainwater harvesting tank for polytunnel 4 which now needs to be linked up to the irrigation system. We have used our compost to top up the beds in the polytunnels and have expanded our rhubarb beds which we hope to be harvesting from in the next few weeks.
Rainwater harvesting tank, filled up beds in PT3 and Rhubarb bed
A very wet winter resulted in waterlogging at the Hixberry site. So it is with some relief that we see signs of new growth. Garlic and overwintered onions grown from both set and seed are growing well and the rhubarb is bursting into leaf.
We started sowing seed in the polytunnel early in the year and have beetroot, turnip, red onion, Brussels sprouts and broad bean seedlings growing strongly. In previous years we have lost a lot of seedlings to hungry mice so members have constructed some fantastic covers to go over the seed trays and these are working well.
Over the winter we have also been working on eliminating wireworm from the polytunnel bed. A lining barrier has been put around the bed to prevent wireworms entering from the land outside. We are now trying to eliminate any wireworms already in the bed. We are using potato, one of their favourite foods, to entice them. The potatoes are on sticks which can easily be regularly checked. We then plan to grow a lettuce crop which we know from experience is another favourite food to see how successful we have been. Fingers crossed.
The Incredible Edible team are very much looking forward to resuming activities after Easter.
Foodsmiles AGM 2020
We had a well-attended zoom AGM at the beginning of March where it was heartening to see so many members who have not been able to gather together in person. In 2020 we grew 2,008kg of vegetables, a small decrease on 2019, remarkable in the circumstances. At Hammonds End we grew 1,414kg and at Hixberry Lane 549kg of vegetables. A new five-year lease has been signed for the Hammonds End site and both Hixberry Lane and the Incredible Edible gardens are doing well.
Special thanks went to the Site Managers, Treasurer, Secretary and existing Committee Members who will all be serving again this year and three new members were welcomed to the committee.
We continue to delay the introduction of new members until more
individuals can gather together on-site but look forward to greeting new faces
when the opportunity arises. Planning for future events continues to be
cautiously considered and details will be shared when we can be more certain
that they will take place.