Author Archives: rp

Tomatoes

This is the low down on the tomato varieties we are growing this year. And we have a limited number available for ‘grow your own’.

[red] Stupice: This fantastic 1954 variety from Eastern Europe is an early vine tomatoes. Has been known to give a great crop simply in large pots on the patio. The plants are vigorous and produce red fruit with an excellent flavour. Ideal for outdoors, but also good in a greenhouse for early crops. Larger than a cherry tomato, but not as big as a beefsteak type, the fruit are about two inches across and ideal for salad use.

[red] Ruby : Beautiful red tomato from Bulgaria, early, very productive and tasty. The vines don’t grow very tall (so good at the shorter edge of a greenhouse) but make a good crop of really nice rounded red tomatoes for a long season.

[red] Gardener’s Delight: – possibly the most widely grown tomato variety as far as the amateur gardener is concerned. It is easy to grow. Not only does it tolerate a wide variety of soil and weather conditions but it regularly produces a heavy crop. It also has great taste and texture.

[red] Chadwick Cherry: Mid-sized, sweet, firm, bright red cherry with great flavour and high yield. The plants make long trusses with large numbers of really attractive, bright red tomatoes that are right at the top end of the size range for a cherry type. Bred by eccentric and visionary horticultural genius Alan Chadwick, who in 1967, and at the age of 58, gave up being a Shakespearian actor in South Africa and instead joined the University of Santa Cruz in California – to create and run their new on-site Farm & Garden project, run on egalitarian biodynamic principles. And as well as in inspiring a whole generation of market gardeners, he created this wonderful cherry tomato. .

[brown] Chocolate Cherry: A very sweet cherry tomato, with lots of purple-brown fruit about 1 inch across. You should get about 6 to 8 fruit per truss, and they keep well after picking. As well as the unusual colour, we think that this is an especially tasty variety, nicely sweet and fruity with a good balance of acid.

[yellow] Galina: A hugely productive cherry from Siberia – very sweet flavour balanced by good acidity. The bright yellow cherry fruit are in neat bunches, and don’t fall off when ripe, which makes picking easier. It is early to get going (not surprising given where it comes from!), but just as importantly, it fruits over a long period. Grow as a vine but let a couple of shoots develop for highest production.

[white] White Cherry: The best tasting and best performing ‘white’ strain of tomato that is available – sweet & fruity, with a real tomato flavour. The fruits ripen to a very pale yellow, almost pure white. The amount of exposure to the sun effects the amount of yellow. If there is good leaf cover, then you can get almost snow white fruits. Good for taste, productivity and looks.

[orange] Tangerine: A brilliant orange, with a great balance of sweet and acid, and is quite large for a cherry tomato – about one and a half inches across. The vines grow to a decent height and produce lots of fruit over a really long season.

Cucumbers

The cucumbers we are growing this year are all easy to grow heritage varieties and they are much easier and less fussy than the hybrids. You don’t need to pick the male flowers off, and they don’t go bitter if you grow several types. All you do is plant them and look after them. And then you can save seeds from them to grow next year.

They can grow indoor or out, along the ground, or trained up netting to save space.

 

Wautoma: a cucumber developed by the University of Wisconsin in the 1980’s. It can either be used small for pickles or left to grow for use as a slicing cucumber. The plants set many lightly striped dark green fruit , with tiny white spines that come off easily. Quick to set fruit, bitter-free, high-yielding and has a reputation for resisting cucumber diseases.

Chengelkoy: A delicious traditional salad cucumber originating in Turkey that grows well in the UK. It has a smooth, tender, thin green skin with no bitterness and is very prolific.

Boothby’s Blond: It makes sweet crisp fruit, best taken when about 4 inches long, and comes from a region in Maine, US, with cold springs and a short growing season, so it is well adapted to setting fruit pretty quickly. The fruit ripen to an amazing bright yellow colour while still being good to eat. Really good flavour eat them for snacks like a piece of fruit – they are the perfect size to slip into a lunchbox for a refreshing snack.

Poona Kheera: An unusual cucumber from India. It starts out a very bright lime green, but as it gets bigger, it turns an amazing orange colour. It is very, very crisp and crunchy – even for a cucumber. It is good eating at all stages.

Permaculture Southampton 2018-05-19

In February and March we visited Liz Batten and had a really good time sharing our permaculture ideas and doing some practical work in her back garden.

This was a simple but effective way of exploring permaculture together and we are keen to try it in another context. Do you have a project we can visit and follow the same kind of pattern? We think it is good to meet twice, to give time to think about the project and then do what we can the following visit.

In the mean time, on Saturday May 19 we are meeting to swap excess plants (and maybe also seeds). It often happens that gardeners have a few spare plants that they have grown and would be willing to swap with others for something different.

Don’t worry if you don’t have any plants – come and join the conversation over lunch, when we will share our interests and expand our knowledge around permaculture. Bring your questions, ideas, inquiries, projects and problems that can be explored by the group using permaculture ethics and principles.

The plan is to arrive at 11am for the swap and we will talk permaculture over a shared lunch. There will also be some plants and perennials on sale from the farm.

Permaculture Southampton 2018-04-14

In February and March we visited Liz Batten and had a really good time sharing our permaculture ideas and doing some practical work in her back garden.

This has been a simple but effective activity and we are keen to try it in another context. Do you have a project we can visit and follow the same kind of pattern? We think it is good to meet twice, to give time to think about the project and then do what we can the following visit.

Meanwhile, for the April and May sessions of Permaculture Southampton we will return to the farm.

Our next dates are Saturday April 14 and Saturday May 19 and we will gather to share our interests and expand our knowledge around permaculture. Bring your questions, ideas, inquiries, projects and problems that can be explored by the group using permaculture ethics and principles.

The plan is to arrive at 10am for some practical activity. We will talk permaculture over lunch.

Permaculture Southampton 2018-03-17

In February and March we visited Liz Batten and had a really good time sharing our permaculture ideas and doing some practical work in her back garden.

This is the background to the work we did with Liz:

At the first meeting of the Permaculture group at Aldermoor Community Farm last year, my theme for myself emerged as “coming home”. My life is spent mostly looking outwards, running campaigns, and not much time spent with “me”. I wanted to remedy this imbalance by using Permaculture principles. So, I battled with my reluctance to ask for something for me, and asked if members of the group could meet at my house, to help me think about the design of my garden and (I later realised) help me get unstuck, help me “come home” to my garden, which is laid out as a fruit orchard.
[Read more about the February session at Liz’s here]

Here is the final installment from Liz:

Thank you so much for braving the weather and helping clear the old wood out of my garden last Saturday. We accomplished a lot in a short time and now I feel ready to greet the Spring.

During the time between the two sessions I was observing what the bees were enjoying and have identified two plants which will fill the “hungry gap” for the bees. These are hellebores (Lenten Rose) and pulmonaria (common lungwort). Bees love them. I am also going to add Daphne Bohlua (very fragrant).

Finally, as I now have a ready-made seating area, exposed by removing the wood pile, I have decided to make it more private by planting a screen of runner beans. So I have, with the help of the group, achieved what I wanted for my garden.

Thank you very much, and I hope to get an opportunity to help with someone else’s garden.

Warmest wishes,
Liz Batten

February sun

The following words are from Milo Maguire, on Wednesday 7 Feb 2018.

Milo and Simon finish the brick edging

A beautiful day at the farm. Young February sun dazzling in a winter sky.

Geoffroy was collecting wheelbarrows full of bricks from everywhere and arranging them to form the border of a new garlic bed.

Looking closely I noticed that some of the found bricks were engraved with a letter ‘P’.

Richard mentioned that the ‘P’ bricks are all very old- dating from the 1800s in fact. The reason someone engraved them so is now forgotten.

There are other bricks too, all collected together and all from different times, different phases in the farm’s history. Perhaps some from a pig sty long since demolished.

Now all rearranged together to find a new purpose – beautiful and practical.

We had lunch in the open air. The meal included radishes that have popped up of their own accord and rocket from the polytunnel. Hot and nutty.

A buzzard circled overhead surveying the scene.

Bulbs – 2018

New for 2018 – we are selling potted bulbs. You can enjoy them in the pot and then plant them in your garden.

We have chosen varieties that are hardy – they will survive in your garden or in pots and most will ‘naturalise’ – they will multiply and get better each year.

Plant in moist but well-drained and fertile soil. After flowering. allow foliage to die back naturally as this will help to feed the bulbs for the following year. It is important that the ground is not too wet when they are dormant otherwise they will rot and not grow again. After a few years, overcrowded clumps can be lifted and divided in the season when the bulbs are dormant.

The following information is from our supplier’s website: jparkers.co.uk

Name Flowering details Price
Crocus: Blue Pearl
(pot of 4)
February. Pastel soft, pearly blue; orange stigmata
h 10cm
£2.00
Crocus: Ard Schenk
(pot of 4)
February. Pure white, free flowering, long lasting.
h 10cm
 £2.00
Crocus: Ruby Giant
(pot of 4)
February. Striking ruby purple. Showy and outstanding
h 10cm
 £2.00
Crocus: Fuscotinctus
(pot of 4)
February. Deep yellow, striped purple.
h 10cm
 £2.00
Grape Hyacinth
(pot of 3)
Mid Feb to mid May. Bright blue.
h 15cm
 £2.50
Anemone: Blanda Mixed
(pot of 3)
Early March. Fine mixture of blue, pink and white shades.
h 10-15cm
 £3.00
Anemone: de Caen
(pot of 3)
April- May. Single long-stemmed poppy flowered. Great variety of colours.
h 10-15cm.
 £3.00
Tulip: Kaufmanniana Mixed
(pot of 3)
March-April. Mix of white, yellow, red
h 25cm
 £3.00
Daffodil: Tete a Tete
(pot of 1)
March, April. Yellow. 2-3 flowers / stem.
h 20cm
 £1.50
Dutch Iris
(pot of 3)
Mid April to mid June. Shades of purple, lilac, white and yellow.
h 50cm
 £3.00
Drumsticks /
Alium sphaerocephalon
(pot of 5)
May, June. Crowded heads of purple drumsticks. The flowers open green, then start to turn purple from the top, creating unusual two-tone flower heads.
h 60cm
 £3.00
Ranunculus Mixed
(pot of 3)
May, June, July
Mixed colours.
Compact Peony-shaped flowers.
h 20-25cm
 £3.00
Peruvian Lily / Alstroemeria
(pot of 1)
June to August.
Shades of pink, coral and orange.
h 45cm
 £1.50
Dwarf Gladioli: Mixed (Dwarf)
(pot of 3)
June, July, August.
Many different colours.
h 50cm
 £3.00
Ixia Mixed
(pot of 3)
June, July.
Showy six-petalled starlike flowers on tall wiry stems, sword-shaped leaves.
Various bright colours.
h 45cm
 £2.50

Permaculture Southampton 2018-02-17

This month we went on a field trip!

For our February meet up, Liz Batten invited us to visit her garden which she is keen to develop for more fruit and food.

Liz Batten - after our permaculture meet up

This is Liz and her garden after our work

Working with Richard Parker and Suzanne Baker, Liz provided some facilitation to help assess the site, looking at things like orientation of the plot, prevailing wind, watershed/water sources. Then we let our imaginations run free with how to build on what’s already there, to enhance the fruit production and biodiversity.

In return for all this thinking, Liz made a splendid lunch and we managed quite a transformation.

This is what happened in Liz’s own words:

At the first meeting of the Permaculture group at Aldermoor Community Farm last year, my theme for myself emerged as “coming home”. My life is spent mostly looking outwards, running campaigns, and not much time spent with “me”. I wanted to remedy this imbalance by using Permaculture principles. So, I battled with my reluctance to ask for something for me, and asked if members of the group could meet at my house, to help me think about the design of my garden and (I later realised) help me get unstuck, help me “come home” to my garden, which is laid out as a fruit orchard.

What actually happened on the day felt quite magical to me – a group of like-minded people discussed Permaculture and its meaning for us, ate a hearty lunch together, discussed my garden and its attributes (and problems) and then went outside and worked together – on my garden! This was a personal challenge which transformed into a wonderful sense of relief – the places where my garden needed attention were worked on, we planted an apple tree and a pear tree, we took down a broken fence and used it to finish off a compost bin, a small bed was cleared for some newly-arrived strawberry plants, copious quantities of manure were spread over the fruit beds. To top it off, I was able to have a conversation with my neighbour about how the broken fence might be replaced, and we arrived at a friendly solution together.

Now, the garden feels like it flows again – it feels great to be in it now. The following day, I spent some time scattering seeds that I had been given by neighbours, pruning and just admiring how a group of caring people have – in one afternoon – helped me take my first steps on my path to coming home.

Grateful thanks to those who came and to Richard and Suzanne for co-hosting.

Liz Batten

 

News – January 2018

A happy new year to all our friends! 2018 is looking both exciting and a little daunting for us as a community…

Staffing
…Yes daunting because our dear Adam Brown has got a new job, working as head gardener at the amazing Minstead Study Centre. He will be responsible for growing all the food needed to feed the hungry children staying at the centre. He started at the beginning of January and HE WILL BE GREATLY MISSED! We are planning a farewell party at the start of February (details to follow). We’re hiring a room, cooking some food and probably playing some games!

The shop and volunteering
We are now only open on Wednesday and Saturday, due to the loss of Adam. But we hope to be open on Fridays again in the early summer. We have a plentiful supply of chicken eggs. We also have spring and summer bulbs in pots – the crocus are looking very cheery already!
More about the shop…
More about volunteering…

Our ‘vegetable year’
We learned a great deal last year about growing vegetables and we are looking to put it into practice as the need to become financially self-sustaining increases. Our aim is to have vegetables for sale in every month of the year, from March 2018 through to March 2019 and beyond. We are also very excited to be growing a considerable amount of vegetables to supply our friends at Bitterne Box Company throughout the year.

Activity on the farm
The main activity in January is planning. The major work here is planning for our ‘year of vegetables‘, but we are also planning the construction of our sawdust toilets and the associated composting system. We are applying for funding towards getting mains electricity to the barn so we can put in proper lighting and have power for running tools and maybe a bit of heating under my desk!!

We are working hard to finish top dressing all our beds with our home-made compost, and the chickens are helping by going over the beds, having a good scratch around to eat up remaining plants and weed seeds and eat all the slug eggs they can find.

Over the last year we have received £2150 in donations and sadly we had to pay £430 tax on this. Seems a bit daft, so we are also beginning to investigate the possibility of setting up a charity alongside the co-operative to support the farm and to receive donations.

Looking back on December
There is a report on what we achieved in December here.