Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Atumn Bliss

The May team at Deen City
Farms' harvest day
So after a challenging spring/summer period, we are now carrying on into the winter months. So far it's been cold, wet and very windy. But that hasn't dampened the spirits of the true eco worriers  We have had a steady inflow of visitors and volunteers helping us get our herb spiral, composting toilet and communal space built before next spring. Over the past month we have been focusing on winter planting and early spring harvest. We have been making good use of our neighbors garden and have planted loads of golden chard and broccoli. 
Broccoli under plastic soda bottle
greenhouses/slug barriers 
We are still fighting with the slugs and snails but have an ally in the form of miniature white spider creatures which we have identified as a type of nematode. We have been noticing the increase of injured sickly look slugs being found around the garden and on closer inspection observed that these nematodes were crawling all over the poor slimy creatures. Natures balance. However we are still taking precautions and have added extra barriers to help keep the pests away.  We had a slight frost a few weeks ago and all of our younger tomatoes we were hoping to have a late harvest off were damaged. Next time we will aim to build some sort of temporary weather protection from the later succession crops. In our garden we have planted out the salads we had sown back in September. Most of which we planted in the polytunnel and the rest in large pot indoors. We are hoping that we will be able to harvest grees all through winter. 
Winter greens and seed balls/
green grenades
We have also planted loads of chard, broccoli, leek, kale, parsnip and cabbage all of which were sown last month and are now incubation in the winter nursery in the polytunnel. They all seem to be doing very well despite the low temperatures and limited sunlight available. In the last post I mentioned the workshops we have been hosting and all the groups and organisations we had visit. Well we were invited to be part of our local farms' harvest festival and were featured in the local newspaper as a result. We had seed balls making workshops and had jams and cider for sale. It was a great day and we were received very well. We have been growing slowing in popularity and are now been seen by other, larger more established, organisations as potential beneficial partners. This is great for us as it means that we have the backing and resources of more experience ecological institutes. 
Mushrooms growing in the QR
composting heap
Another thing which has grown dramatically this year is our compost making capacity. We have created so much compost this year that we are slightly struggling to find places to store the excess. I still have to publish a post completely dedicated to our composting system.We have five different composting processes but my personal favorite is the quick return (aerobic) system. During this time of year (summer - autumn) there is almost always lots of excess fruit laying about. This year our apple tree didn't do very well (compared to previous years) but we were blessed with locating a number of neglected fruit trees, both public and private. We collected a great deal of apples, plums and pears and had juicing sessions, and made a selection of jams and chutneys which went down a treat. 
A selection of jams
We have also been playing around with planting crops outdoors to see how they will cope with the harsh change in weather. The spring onions recently got demolished by slugs, but the beetroots are still going strong even after the frost. Also the forest garden has been really living up to its' name. All the trees have put on a hell of a lot of growth this year. We restricted them from bearing fruit by prick out the blossoms as they began to form fruits which I think allowed them to concentrate on working on root and wood development. We have also been dividing up the comfrey plants we have and planting them up around each tree. This will serve as feed for the trees next season when we will allow them to produce fruit.  

Chard and leek beds
So it hasn't been all dull, wet and gloomy this season. Though the harvest wasn't as abundant as we would have expected, we still managed to form valuable connections, learnt valuable lessons and are now even more confident for the development in the coming seasons. We've got a compost toilet, communal structure, and herb spiral on the horizon. This season was all about creating awareness of the project, building up our network and developing the main focus of the project. This come season we will aim to increase the educational aspect of the project and step up community engagement. We always welcome new ideas and energies to the project so if you have anything to offer or just want to get involve and learn about ecology please visit our website and get in touch. Peace Love and Blessings.