‘Tis the season of anticipation ……….
Hammonds End in its “summer clothes”
Having almost made our way through the UK Hunger Gap we have kept the veg boxes going with purple sprouting broccoli, giant winter spinach, chard and salad and are now looking forward to our summer crops.
At Hammonds End the winter and spring crops have been cleared as the battle to prevent them from forming flowers and seeds instead of leaves to eat was inevitably lost and the remains are now being chopped and added to the compost heap.
At the March sowing day, we sowed over 1,000 seeds including: runner beans, french beans, borlotti beans, squash, courgettes, cucumbers, sweetcorn, fennel, celeriac, swede, parsnips, tomatoes, calabrese, purple sprouting broccoli, cabbage, leeks and cauliflower.
The cleared vegetable beds have been weeded and broadforked (instead of digging over the beds which can damage the soil structure and soil life we loosen the soil with an enormous fork). Compost has been added to the vegetable beds (thanks to the local council grant for funding and Aylett for supplying bagged compost at a great price. In addition, we have used our own “home-made” compost) and then as the plants reach a decent size they are moved from the polytunnel and planted out.
Summer Crops being planted and the “Foodsmiles” compost
We are generally on track with only 4 more beds to go for the leeks and kale which should be planted out by the end of June.
And then it is a summer of watering and keeping on top of the weeding for as the old adage goes: one year’s seeding or seven years weeding! (I had originally written “we could still do with some rain” but after last week I’m now wishing for warmth – growers are never happy, though thankfully it’s not been as hot and dry as last year!)
New PT2 (cucumbers/lettuce) & PT4 (tomatoes/aubergines/peppers/sweet potatoes)
The new polytunnel is completed and has already produced its first crop of rocket and lettuce and is now filling with cucumbers, chilli peppers and sweet potatoes. Polytunnel 4 is now ready for summer full of tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and sweet potatoes. We are getting to grips with the new irrigation system and when it does rain have been harvesting the rain water to water the tunnels.
It is also good to see plenty of ladybirds around the site, inside and out, helping to hoover up the aphids which seem to be very prevalent this year.
Ladybird on a Pepper Plant in Polytunnel 4
The new raised salad bed built last winter is fantastic providing some great “cut and come again” salad for our weekly veg boxes.
The new raised salad bed
The plan over the rest of the summer is to install some bigger rainwater collection tanks next to the polytunnels and to look at how we use what we have learnt to irrigate the other tunnels.
At our Hixberry Lane Site we have been harvesting some new crops for the FoodSmiles members. The rhubarb that was planted 18 months ago has given two good harvests and the globe artichokes we grew from seed last year are producing so many flowers that every member should get at least one.
Rhubarb and Artichokes at Hixberry Lane
Last autumn we took blackcurrant and redcurrant cuttings and are delighted that most have taken and are growing well. We also planted strawberry runners from the Hammonds End site that were surplus to requirements and we hope to harvest our first fruits very shortly.
Incredible Edible Russell Avenue is really coming on well and we can hardly believe it only began in January! Lots of residents and their families from the surrounding streets have welcomed the garden and are using it regularly, which is great to see, and we had an amazing 22 adults and 8 children at our last session (which was also part of the Sustainability Festival).
Incredible Edible Russell Avenue Site
The garden now boasts raised beds full of veggies and strawberries, a herb bed, a big bed full of gooseberries and currants, a raspberry patch, a flower border for pollinators and a wildlife area with bug hotel.
Incredible Edible Russell Avenue Bug Hotel
This month we will mostly be working on the woodland ‘forest garden’ area beneath the trees, where you will soon be able to pick wild garlic, wild onions, nettles, sorrel, purslanes, rhubarb, wall rocket, and many other wild (or wildish) greens and herbs.
We were disappointed when somebody dug up and stole many of the plants from our herb garden a few weeks ago, but the community rallied round and together we soon managed to replace them. If you’re out and about in town it’d be great to have your support in keeping an eye on the gardens, perhaps helping us out by picking up litter or reporting any problems, or simply just having a good look around and helping to cultivate a positive community presence there. These gardens are for you!
Don’t forget the food grown in the two Incredible Edible gardens is free for anyone to pick, and you are invited to help yourself. You can find all kinds of herbs and salad leaves in both gardens, and the strawberries will be ready soon…
Incredible Edible Russell Avenue Raised Beds
Other News: We are pleased to welcome new members to Foodsmiles many of who signed up at the Sustainable Food Festival Market Stall which generated lots of interest.
Friends of Foodsmiles are welcome to come to work informally at the farm whenever they need some hearty exercise and company (and probably cake too)! It would be great to see you so please come along and say hello - there is always plenty to do! If you are interested please contact us and we can let you know when we are working on site. You can also go on our 'active friends' list and receive our site newsletter if you wish to do this regularly (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Date for the diary: Harvest Festival at Hammonds End on the afternoon of 7th September where there will be food and drink, a chance to chat and celebrate the year. All Friends of Foodsmiles and members are welcome so please save the date. Details will be circulated nearer the time.
Finally, a seasonal recipe from Jayne, the easiest nut loaf to use up summer tomatoes, you can also add spinach or courgettes and it freezes well so make big batch and eat later.
1.5lb loaf tin 4 crusts (brown bread) 110g
Grated cheddar 100g 400g handfuls nuts (any)
4 eggs 2 tsps Marmite
4 medium tomatoes chopped 340g mushrooms
1 onion 1 leek
40g garlic butter Finely chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
- Grease the tin then line with foil or cling film and grease generously again.
- Put all the ingredients into a food mixer and finely chop.
- Mix in a large bowl. Season to taste.
- Preheat oven to 180C (fan setting). Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 mins. Remove foil from the top and bake for another 30 mins.
- Check if it is reasonably firm and if not then bake a little longer (20 mins).
- Remove covering foil and turn tin over large plate, carefully removing all foil/cling film. Slice and serve.