Monday, 19 February 2018

The growing season has kicked off

Mid February marks the proper start of the growing season for us. The
winter jobs are coming to an end and plant growth is starting to pick up.

Today I cultivated in some seaweed ready for early spud planting later
this week. In the glasshouse we've been sowing seeds for a month and now
have some nice little plants coming on. The first salads will go in to
the polytunnel, planting out next month for cropping in April. The next
lot will be planted outdoors for harvest in May.

Today felt like the first day of spring, it was so warm and quiet. There
will be some wintry weather to come yet for sure, but it  certainly felt
like a turning point.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

In praise of Pittosporum

A good proportion of our hedges on Scilly are Pittosporum angustifolia, which are very hardy evergreens originally from New Zealand. They are drought tolerant, salt resistant, and withstand high winds - all characteristics which make them flourish on Scilly. 

The hedges are equally as good at 6ft high as they are at 20ft plus, like this one on the farm. They can be cut annually or left for 3 or 4 years before a cut again. 

The flowers appear early in the year, from now until April; generally they are a lovely deep red but occasionally white. On a mild and still spring evening the scent is deep, heady and quite intoxicating!

They go on to produce seemingly thousands of seed pods per plant, opening up from summer through to winter. This results in often a proliferation of young plants below the hedges. These are quite easy to dig up and transplant to a new site if you want a new or replacement hedge.

The cuttings can be used for animal feed, or can be processed through a woodchipper to make good woodchips. Lastly, bigger pieces make very good firewood which burns very hot due to the high sap content.

Without these amazing plants we'd certainly find growing quite a challenge down here!

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Impacts of running an office

We think using recycled office materials is really important, due to the impact that paper production has on ecosystems. A huge amount of paper is produced from unsustainable forestry, and many nasty chemicals used in its production.

As a result we only use 100% recycled paper for printing and to make labels. Here is our latest delivery from the wonderful people at Green Stationery Company.

We even use pencils from FSC forestry and recycled plastic pens! All these things do matter.

The other major resource use in the office is the use of energy. As our office is at home it is heated by a combination of our wood burner, solar hot water and electricity from our solar panels.

But when the sun's not shining we buy electricity from Good Energy who supply a 100% renewable energy the climate impact of our electricity demand is negligible.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Lawrences bay

Lawrences is where we grow all of our veg, have the polytunnels and glasshouse and where our yurt is. This is what it looks like from the air!

You can see we have 18 fields, some bigger than others, nearly all bordered by hedges. We cut one third of the hedges each year by hand - that's a lot of cutting! Nearly all the cuttings go through the woodchipper to be used for compost toilets, laying on paths, or composted.

You can see on the left hand side there is a lot of white on the fields; this is mesh over the salad to keep pests off.

On the bottom right of the bay is where the seaweed tends to collect. In the winter we go down with tractor and trailer and haul it on to the fields. This provides fantastic fertiliser!

The proximity of the beach can give us problems in the winter, when masses of sand can blow up over the dunes and in to the fields.

But all in all it's a lovely spot and the views are fantastic....

Thursday, 24 August 2017


We've had a nice selection of fruit recently: peaches from the polytunnel - absolutely delicious (alas now sold out); grapes, also from the tunnel, still going strong and getting even sweeter; and some apples from the orchard.

Devonshire Quarrenden and Scilly Pearl
The first early eaters are Devonshire Quarrenden (red) and Scilly Pearl (green/yellow). Both are sweet, juicy and tasty but, as with most earlies, they don't keep for long. 

Scilly Pearl is a particularly special variety, thought to be the only one bred on Scilly. It has declined in numbers over the years, but we're doing our bit to bring it back. They're definitely worth having and a real pleasure to eat.

Just to complete the strange season, we've noticed several parasol mushrooms coming up recently, thanks to the wet August.

Monday, 14 August 2017

August, the transition month

Predictably, as school holidays are upon us, August has been very changeable and at times pretty wet. More rain is forecast tomorrow! This is generally quite good for veg growing, but not so much for tourism, or for that matter fruit production.
Salad still growing well

Onions - yes they were planted very late! But looking nice

The blackberries are noticeably late this year, probably a good two weeks, because we've really had very little sun for the past two to three weeks. In fact the last warm, dry and sunny spell was about six weeks ago, after which low pressures have been in charge and driven cooler and wetter weather. Perhaps we're in for a fine autumn?
The wonderful Devonshire Quarrenden, our earliest apple

The orchard is looking good, the fruit just needing a bit more sun to ripen up

Despite the unusual timings of this season, there's no disguising that August marks the transition from summer to autumn. Fruits start to ripen, leafy growth slows down, flowers turn to seed, the light softens and the air clears.  The starlings start their autumnal chattering and swallows start to sit on wires, perhaps resting before their long journey south. It's one of my favourite times of the season.
Strawberries planted in May, growing like stink. Should be a good crop next summer!

The last of the evening primrose flowers

Squash coming on well, a winter favourite

Autumn calabrese getting away nicely

Cucumbers in full production

Grapes in the tunnel, a real favourite

Cherry tomato

On the farm there starts to be the biggest diversity of crops that you get in the whole year, and really is a pleasure to harvest...and of course eat!
Peaches growing in the polytunnel - delicious!