Thursday, 26 April 2012

Attack of the killer slugs....and snails

Salad and herbs
Yesterday it rain more than I have ever seen it rain in London. It started at 5am and it still hasn't really stopped yet. So far the prediction of a drought hasn't materialised. I am happy for the rain. All the plants are looking very vibrant and happy for a good drink. The rain makes everything feel more alive and I like the freshness it brings to the space. We mulched the remaining beds in the garden before the rains came and I am hoping that this will help with both the weeds and the holding water on the site. This month has been wet and very cold, but a few days ago I was planting out some coriander and noticed how much warmer the soil under the mulch was compared to the un-mulched beds. The mulch we used was mostly straw covering crass clippings and some manure. We were lucky enough to have a almost endless supply of both straw and manure from the lovely Dean City Farm near Colliers Wood. We also use hedge trimmings, newspaper and dead leaves as mulch. This year we have managed to get a bit more land to work on and will be experimenting with various mulching materials in an effort to see which works best. I am rooting for straw with a bit of manure.
Salad and herbs planted through mulch
One problem with mulching, I always hear people say, is that it provides ideal environment for slugs and snails. Since we started growing on the site it has been an ongoing battle with hundreds of slugs and snails. Earlier on in the year it hasn't been much of an issue as it's been fairly dry. April has been wet, very wet. Since the start of the month it rained almost everyday and as I mentioned earlier yesterdays' rain was heavy and consistent. I was cycling down along the river Wandle yesterday and the water level was the highest I had ever seen it. This was a good site, this meant that the wetland marshes could be flooded and kick start the abundance of life and activity that goes on there.
One night slug and snail hunting
With the arrival of the rains came the return of the slugs and snails. Last night I went slug and snail hunting and collected well over 60 individuals. We will be trying a few natural pest control methods to deal with this problem and will keep you posted on the results.
We have also put down a heavy mulch of newspaper, straw and manure on the beds which were being over run by ground elder. That has been down for two weeks now and we have planted some lettuce, coriander, basil and peas through the mulch. So far so good. Non of the ground elder has made it through yet. I am sure eventually they will manage to break their way through, I am hoping that it will take a while before they do return, but as they do we will continue to pull them out and top up the mulch. I am really excited about this season. We have introduce some perennial herbs, will be doing a lot more companion planting, and we are attempting a small poly-culture bed.
May Pond in April 2012
The pond is now very well established and the food forest is also beginning to hold its own. The black current bushes are loaded with buds and a few buds have began to develop on both the red and white currents as well. The apple and pear trees have also been producing blossoms but we have decided to give them another season to work on their root structures. So no new apples or pears this year, however we do have our ever reliant large mature apple tree and she is in full bloom at the moment. We have had to move the cheery tree from her original position in the food forest. We were a bit worried about the competition for space that may arise in the future. She is now happily blooming near our composting system.
Three composting solutions (L to R)
quick return, open heap and urinal.
Our compost is also doing very well. We managed to get about 60lt of very rich compost from the quick return wooded compost bin and one of the plastic bins will be ready fro harvest in a few weeks. The pit compost too will be ready for harvest soon. The wormery has not been well maintained and as a result has been very slow to produce but we have added some straw and shredded newspaper to the mix and it is already looking a lot better. We have also built a new compost bin. The system we will be using in this space will be the open heap method. This is where we will continually collect compostable  material and pile it all up in one large heap of alternating layers. We are also still making loads of comfrey-nettle fertilizer (Netfrey Tea).
The polytunnel has been providing us with a constant supply of salad leaves, leaf beet and lemon balm.
We have also just planted out some spinach. In the nursery we have got some tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, melons, courgettes, corn, and many other seedlings, some of which would be going to our second musical event for sale.

This time round we have joined up with a project called Concrete Jungle to organise a whole day festival to celebrate all things sustainable. Its' quite exciting as it is most likely to be a lot bigger than our last event. We have also partnered up with The Peoples' Kitchen Brixton who are doing amazing work in the field of waste food. This year is shaping out to be a very eventful one. The trick now is to try and hold true to our core principles and not get too carried away with our successes. One of the many Permaculture principles reminds us thasystems should be designed to function at the smallest scale that is practical and energy efficient (rather than the biggest). 'Slow and steady wins the race'. 

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Just a quick one

Hello all. Sorry for the long period of silence. Here at May Project we have been working on extending the services we offer at the site. We have already done a lot of planting and are now organising a one day festival on May 6th in Camberwell to celebrate all things sustainable. I haven't got a camera at the moment so not able to post any photos but will get on that asap. We have lost our French bean crop and the battle of the ground elder is still ongoing on one of the salad beds. But on a positive note we have managed to get a small plot at the lovely Dean City Farm in South London so do come by for a visit if you are able. The predicted drought has not yet hit (knock on wood) so we are making the most of the rains and collecting and storing as much water as possible and putting down more layers of mulch just in case. 
More post to follow soon. Until then happy gardening for 2012.