Thursday, 29 December 2016

December sunshine

The weather's always like this in December!
A few from today and sunset two days ago...

Friday, 2 December 2016

Carbon footprint

Being winter, we're in the mood for doing indoor jobs and all the things
that have been put off in the summer. Now this one, calculating the
carbon footprint of the business is a year behind schedule, which is
pretty tardy by most standards!

But better late than never, here is the carbon footprint of Scilly
Organics in 2015. Once again we have calculated that far more carbon has
been absorbed on the farm than is emitted by all other activities. So
buying vegetables from us is a really carbon positive thing! If you want
to look at the detail go straight to this link:

Now, on to the 2016 carbon footprint...promise it'll be done in the next
month, as soon as the soil organic matter test results come back. Let's
see how the farm has fared this year...

Wednesday, 31 August 2016


A fairly recent addition to the polytunnel is a couple of peach trees.
These were actually grown from seed by taking some organic white peach
stones and putting them in some compost in the glasshouse.

They were planted a couple of years ago and this year had fruit for the
very first time. Not many, only six fairly small peaches, but the

We're hoping this is a sign of better things to come and look forward to
bountiful crops of St Martin's peaches in years to come.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Sweet clover

Sweet clover is grown as a green manure - to suppress weeds, fix
nitrogen and build organic matter in the soil. It's an amazing plant,
growing really tall and producing masses of yellow or white flowers that
bees and other insects love.

This field has plants that are in excess of 7ft tall and show no signs
of stopping yet! They also have very deep roots, which is ideal on our
sandy soils. Searching for water deep down, they are also bringing up
minerals and nutrients from lower down in the soil profile.

Next spring we will gently cultivate this field and all the organic
matter in this crop will give a massive benefit to the following crop.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Staff training

In the current climate of a lack of skilled labour for farms, we decided
it would be a good policy to invest in new staff from an early age.
Hopefully the time invested in training now will pay dividends in years
to come. We also thought it would be good to start now because in a few
years the unhelpful concept of 'school' will somewhat get in the way of
practical training.

Organic growing is certainly a long term business....

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Stunning colours today

The spring continues to bring cold winds, but today also brought amazing visibility and stunning colours. Scilly at its best!

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Some photos from the glashouse

The centre of operations is full of lovely looking little plants. The
season is well and truly in swing!

Sunday, 20 March 2016

In the polytunnel now...

...there are leaves coming on the vines and the Oxalis plants (weeds) are in flower and looking beautiful.

Spring is here, even if outside it's feeling colder than it has all winter!

Thursday, 10 March 2016


We like Blackbirds, a lot. They seem to be very intelligent birds, as demonstrated by this one that is a regular visitor to the glasshouse. He knows that it's a potential source of food, and if the weather's poor he can get in out of the wind and rain. Hopefully he also eats a few slugs and snails too.

Our friend 'Mr Blackbird'
But they seem to have a curiosity for humans that not many birds appear to possess. He will happily sit for a few minutes very close around us, just watching and observing, as though being thoughtful and reflective. Then he'll fly outside and sit in the hedge, singing one of the most beautiful songs of all the birds - perhaps bettered only by the song thrush.

This blackbird - and I'm fairly sure it's the same one, was our daughter's first real encounter with wildlife (aside from trying to eat wild plants!). She was in her play pen, in the glasshouse, when in he came and started hopping around just a couple of feet away. Immediately she was captivated, not frightened at all, and has loved seeing him ever since.

So here's a thanks to the humble blackbird for enriching our lives. Oh, and it even gave name to our house....

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Building carbon in farm soils

One of my passions is about the potential of farm soils to increase their carbon content. Soil contains organic matter, which is largely comprised of carbon. When we add organic matter to our soils, through green manures, manures, composts and other materials, we are literally nourishing the soil ecosystem.

The benefits for the farmer or grower is soil that contains more biological activity, holds more moisture - yet drains better, has a better structure and is more fertile. This translates in to not just higher yields - and therefore hopefully higher profits, but more importantly it is building up the soil 'capital bank' that enables good production on the land to continue for many years to come.

For society, these higher carbon soils mean there is literally more life on the land, upon which people walk, cycle, sit or just admire. More life in the soil means more above it - flowers, insects, birds, animals. Biodiversity above and below ground are completely intertwined. Furthermore the quality of food coming from fertile, carbon rich soils is superior to that of depleted soils, resulting in increased health from consuming such food.

For the planet, every bit of carbon that is locked up in the soil (and it is quite a stable place), means less CO2 in the atmosphere. Whilst farming is one of the largest sources of man-made greenhouse gases, it also has the potential to become one of the greatest tools we have to turn the tide on climate change. 
This carbon sequestration (absorption) has tremendous potential to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels.

What I hope you can see is that by focussing our energies on building carbon in soils (farms, gardens, forests - it all counts), we can make fantastic positive changes, indeed this is a win-win-win situation!

For more about this topic please read some soil carbon resources on the Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit website, and this article I wrote for Farming Matters magazine

Thursday, 28 January 2016

'When the south wind doth blow, we shall have sand'

The storm over the last couple of days has brought huge amounts of sand over the dunes straight in to our fields. It looks like snow, only gives a longer lasting problem for us.

It's not easy trying to farm next to a beach!
There's a layer of seaweed somewhere under the sand!

Snow? No, sand...

There was so much sand in the guttering of the tunnel I had to use a trowel to get it out (and the guttering nearly broke under the weight of it)

Snow on the tunnel roof - this after some had already come off

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Trainee position at Scilly Organics for 2016

Please note the deadline for this position has now passed

Trainee wanted for organic market garden in spring/summer 2016

Scilly Organics is a small organic market garden on the Isles of Scilly, growing a range of vegetables, herbs and fruit that is sold locally, and we specialise in mixed salads. The business has been running since 2003.

In 2016 we are looking to take on a trainee for five months, from early April to late August, working with us in our small team. We are looking for someone who wants to learn about all aspects of running a market garden business, is motivated, hard working and is keen to learn.

Working hours are 4 ½ days per week, accommodation is provided on farm, free vegetables are available from the farm, plus £50 per week in cash.

This is an informal trainee position with no formal qualification, but offers a chance to gain first hand experience of running all aspects of a small market garden business alongside an experienced grower. The trainee will receive both physical and theoretical tuition in growing organic vegetables.

To apply for the position please send a CV, and a covering letter to include description of relevant experience, your motivation for applying and what career plans you have.

Applications, and enquiries for more detailed information, should be emailed to Jonathan Smith Deadline for applications is midnight on 27th January 2016.