Sunday, 8 March 2020

Spring jobs

March is a busy month on the farm. With the increased light levels, longer days and milder temperatures, plants really start growing strongly this month. At the other end of the year it's late September when plants really start to slow down.

Now hedge cutting is finished (birds should be starting to nest soon), it's all about getting plants started in the glasshouse, and other things direct sown/planted outdoors. 

The shelves in the glasshouse are rapidly filling up and it's time to start planting out lots of crops very soon, to make room for the next lot. That's the gamble this time of year - it can be warm and sunny, but also cold and windy, which sets plants back. The grower's gamble!

I have cultivated a few fields so far, sown all the carrots and will be planting potatoes this week.It's really important at this stage to get plants in the ground that can take being out this early, and ensure they're established.

April and May continues to be about sowing and planting, but also about keeping on top of weeds, which sure as hell follow after sowing and planting! 

So it's quite a tough going season spring, but that's always countered by the wonderful spring days with bright light and warm sun, birds singing and spring flowers coming thick and fast. 

It's important to appreciate this time of year after along winter. If you don't, summer will be here in no time and the fresh green of spring fades away.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Apprentice grower wanted

Please note the deadline for applications has now closed.
We are looking for an apprentice grower at our small organic market garden on the Isles of Scilly. Growing fruit and veg for local outlets, this is a great opportunity to learn more about commercial organic horticulture, alongside the head grower.

Ideal candidates for this job will have had some experience of commercial horticulture, either paid or voluntary, and be keen to learn skills that will enable them to become a competent grower in organic fruit and vegetable production.

Covering all aspects of production, from seed sowing to harvest, this is a varied and interesting job in a beautiful location. You have the chance to learn at first hand skills that have been learnt from 20 years of experience by head grower
Jonathan Smith, including business skills and all relevant theory.

This post runs from early April to late September and is based on five days a week from 8am to 5pm. We provide you with independent accommodation, £120 per week and free vegetables. 2 weeks paid holiday is included.

For full details please email 

Closing date for applications is 2nd March 2020.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Winter on the farm

I'm often asked "what happens in the winter on the farm?". Partly it's delivered with curiousness, and partly with disbelief that there would be more than a morning's work a week to do! Well, dear reader I can assure you that there's plenty to keep me going in the winter and by this time of year I get a bit stressed about the forthcoming growing season and not being prepared!

Firstly there's seaweeding, which takes places mostly in November and December as soon as the first storms have brought some in to Lawrences Beach.

This goes on to about one third to a half of the veg fields, plus a bit more for making compost. It's a valuable and free commodity, but takes a lot of effort to collect up and spread on the fields. But this forms the basis of a fertile growing system on these very sandy soils.

Next up for the big jobs is hedge cutting. We cut our Euonymous and Pittosporum hedges on the farm on a three year rotation. This ensures that (a) there isn't to much to do in one year, and (b) there is a variation in hedge size and density for nesting birds. We have about 3/4 mile of hedges on the farm!

Every Saturday we pick veg for locals, which can include salad, kale, chard, cauliflowers, purple sprouting, squash, carrots, spinach, parsley and other things. This helps everyone not to get scurvy on the island!

As soon as we get in to January then it's time to start sowing, planting and drilling new crops. So we have to make sure there are enough seeds in, compost is ordered, seed potatoes arrive in time, etc. 

Then there's pruning, woodland management, scrub management, grass cutting, grafting, paper work, various office jobs, machinery maintenance, etc, etc. 

As you can see winters are far from slack!