Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Spring is definitely in the air

At last it really feels like spring has arrived. The birds are singing, lots of spring flowers are out, the sun has warmth in it and my spuds are poking up nicely (though they are late).

This week has been intense on planting and sowing - carrots, beetroot, parsnips, potatoes, asparagus, rhubarb, green manures and loads of crops in modules in the glasshouse. I haven't got time to write much, but here are some photos from the farm:

Plants in the cold frame raring to go - Broad Beans, lettuce, kale, chard, rocket, mizuna and mustard

Veronica in flower - one of the lesser known hedging plants, it can make a useful hedge if well trained and has beautiful flowers that bees love.; It doesn't really have the wind break abilities of Pittosporum or Euonymous though, our two most common hedge plants.

No-dig beds in the market garden site - all the beds have an inch of compost and now won't be cultivated. First crop to go in will be lettuce (imminently), which will be picked as needed through the season. Each plant will keep cropping through re-growth after picking, reducing the area of land needed for a profitable crop.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Sowing spring crops

Now the weather is warmer and the daylength longer, it's a key time to be planting and sowing spring crops. I've been busy preparing ground for the direct drilled (sowed) crops in particular, such as carrot, beetroot and green manures. Here is a picture of my new toy, a Stanhay seed drill, circa 1984 and will probably last me out! They're solid bits of kit that drill crops very precisely.

Here, believe it or not, is a field of carrots. The machine is actually put here for effect because I drilled this a few weeks ago; the tiny carrots are just poking through now, but will pick up quick and in a month's time will rocket away. Once they get a bit bigger I'll hoe the field to knock back the first weeds, then put fleece over the whole field to prevent carrot root fly. The fleece will probably stay on until all the carrots have been picked later in the summer.

The seed drill was an incredibly important invention, allowing the move to row crops - meaning weeding was possible and seed was used more efficiently. It's very simple but very effective. The row is opened up at the correct depth, a seed dropped in the furrow from a hopper, a chain covers the furrow with soil and the back wheel firms over the soil.

All of it is driven from the back wheel, through a single belt. Meanwhile, the next row is being marked out for you; get the first row right and all the rest will be straight! These exact machines can be bolted on to an attachment for a tractor, mounting as many as the tractor can pull through the soil.

Simple, appropriate technology.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Soil Association symbol

Scilly Organics was the first Soil Association symbol holder on the Isles of Scilly, achieving full organic status in 2004 after a 2 year conversion period. But what does this symbol mean to us and what does organic mean to you?

For us, the Soil Association symbol is a reward for following and implementing strict standards on food production, and a guarantee of integrity and quality of our fruit and veg. Did you know that organic is a legally-defined term, and organic farming and growing the only legally-regulated form of food production in th world?

Organic sales in the UK now exceed £2bn per year and over 3.5% of farmland is organic across the country, with SW England and West Wales particular strongholds.

When explaining what organic is, I always like to stress the positives. Whilst we don't use artificial fertilisers, pesticides or GMO's, for me it's more about what we do do. We use natural fertilisers on the soil -seaweed, green manures and compost. We look after wildlife, aiming to improve the ecology of the farm, which in turn reduces pest and diseases. And we use human and mechanical means of weed control - mulching, hoeing and hand weeding.

These approaches combine to produce good food, healthy soil, wildlife and an aesthetically-pleasing landscape. We hope that you recognise the symbol as a sign of quality, integrity and trust.

We are proud to display the symbol - we have to keep careful records, be inspected once a year and adhere strictly to all the organic standards - all this so that our customers can trust all the food we sell.