Thursday, 20 August 2009

Updates #3

Well I am back in London, what a trip. It took 12 hours to get there, by bus, it was cheap but very tiring. The place I stayed was called New Galloway, near the city of Dumfries in the south of Scotland. It was wet and windy, not the best weather in the world, but when it stopped raining it revealed some of the most beautiful landscapes I had ever seen. I stayed at the house of a friend of a friend, which was situated smack in the centre of a 2000 acres sheep and cattle farm. The scale of "emptiness" was something to behold. It was nothing like the city, no large building, well... no buildings what so ever, I could count the number of cars I saw on the road, during my time there, on one hand. The silence allowed the mind to wander and reflect on what's truly important, the fresh breeze rolling down off the mountain tops cleansed the soul as the eyes marvelled at Natures' comeliness. This trip reminded me of how important the natural world is to man and without it we are doomed. It is important that we do everything in our power to protect and preserve the land, it is where we're from, where we live and where we're going. It provides for us and allows us to survive, so surely it makes sense to strive to live in union with Mother Nature... Isn't it?

Enough about my amazing trip to the luxuriant hills of New Galloway, what's been going on at the May Project during my five week absence? Well first thing's first, the bad news. Foxes in the polytunnel, I am not exactly sure how or when but it seems as though a fox clawed it way into the tunnel. So we now have a brand new polytunnel, barely a month old, with a large hole at the bottom of one side.

"This means war".

The garden looked well, not much weeding had been done but never the less everything's growing well. The 200 litre waterbutt was installed before I left and it has been put to good use, unfourtunately it could not meet the demand for our large garden and it was being filled very quickly and as a result overflowing, A decision was made to aquire and install another 200 litre waterbutt very soon.

Inside The Polytunnel

Most of the plots needed a good weeding as did the polytunnel. Things grow so fast inside the tunnel it's almost hard to believe it's all organic. Remember the bell pepper plants we had growing inside the house before we erected the polytunnel?

8 to 10 week after germination

Five weeks later

The polytunnel has been a huge blessing for us. One of the projects' supporters grows her own as well and had three aubergine plants which she started from seeds in pots and had no space in her garden to plant them out. We offered to take them off her hands and we placed them in the tunnel and they took quite well, no crop yet but not long now.

Transplanted on arrival, approx five weeks old

Seven weeks later

We planted three rows of beetroot in front of the aubergines and they were started from seeds. The conditions present inside the polytunnel allowed them to mature very quickly.

Beetroot: Seven weeks after sowing

We are attempting to bring a bit of the Caribbean to Morden. We managed to get some chilli seeds which are, apparently, a "Caribbean Mix". We started them off indoors and once the tunnel was built they were moved. However, they were only just planted out and some blossoms had already appeared. It would be very interesting to see what varieties they actually are: perhaps the dreaded tiger teeth or maybe the flavoursome scotch bonnet....only time will tell.

Caribbean Mix about three weeks after germination

Transplanted seven weeks later

We also obtained a tokyo hot chilli plant from an internet recycling site called freecycle. You can check out their website which has loads of free stuff on it. We kept it in a medium size pot for several week, it was only once the polytunnel was completed that it was planted out and soon began to flower, and it has already given us a good crop.

Tokyo hot: A week after transplanting

Seven weeks later

In the polytunnel we also have five tomato plants which have grown an impressive 6ft in the last five weeks and had to be tied up to aid ventilation and avoid rot. They are covered in flowers with a few young crops leading the way to maturity.

We grew some green peas last season but we were unable to create a strong enough support structure that would stand up to the heavy rains and high winds. That plus the constant attacks from caterpillars cost us the entire crop, although I think we managed to save one pod. The shame. This time, it seems that both these problems have been addressed and solved. Under the polytunnel we were able to construct a solid support structure by anchoring down very strong plastic netting, using short bamboo canes and plastic coated steel wire, to the ground then streatching up towards the roof securing the netting to the polytunnels' crop bars using twine, thereby providing a climing wall for the pea plants to cling onto. Inside the tunnel it is must easy to prevent or eradicate any pest which may harm the plants.

Seven weeks after sowing

As an experiment, we planted two runners from our 'mother' strawberry plants in a hanging basket and placed it inside the polytunnel. We do not expect to get any fruit, but it will be interesting to see if it survives till next spring. So far it has done well, filling out the enitre basket and has now statrted sending out runners of its' own.

What an amazing tool a polytunnel is, it has made a big difference in the way the garden operates. Crops are maturing faster that ever before and we are most definately seeing a reduction in the number of crops lost to pests and diseases. The fact that plants growing under a polytunnel are sheltered form the harsh conditions that can occur in the 'great outdoors' allows them to consentrate all of there energy on crop production in an environment which has been specifically tailored to the cause.