Vital Veg, organic farm

Newsletter 7 September 2020

On the farm
It’s potato harvest week on the farm! Up ‘til now we have been harvesting just the quantity of potatoes that we need for each week. Now it is time to lift our main crop and get them safely into the shed. We lift them at this time of year in case we have deep frosts, which can damage any potatoes left in the field. Deep frosts seem to be becoming less common these days. But there are two other good reasons to lift now – the soil is dry and this means we can drive safely over it with the potato digger and cart. If the soil is wet heavy machinery damages the structure of the soil and it can take many years to recover. Crops planted into soil damaged in this way never do quite so well. Finally, by harvesting now we have time to sow a protective green manure once the potatoes are harvested. We sow a mix of grazing rye and vetch. The rye holds nutrients and prevents them being washed out of the soil by winter rains. The vetch is a legume and will “fix” nitrogen from the atmosphere to enrich the soil next spring before we prepare the ground for our next crops.

Walling classes
At last, after a long enforced break we are able to resume our drystone walling courses on the farm, led by the very talented and experienced stone mason, Malcolm Hutcheon! We are running courses for those people who had booked for our spring courses (which we had to postpone). Because we can now only accommodate four households on each of our courses it will take us a little while to work through our backlog. We obviously have to see what happens with regard to COVID-19, but we intend to run more courses – perhaps later this year and hopefully in the spring, all being well. We will be advertising these, but if you are interested do let us know. The courses last a weekend and are £130 + VAT.

Fat Hen
Plants do have the most interesting names! Fat Hen a good example. Classed as a weed in the UK these days, it has previously been used as a crop plant here, and is sometimes grown for human use today in other countries, notably India. The leaves can be used like spinach, and the seeds are nutritious. It produces many thousands of seeds per plant and can rapidly fill up a field, out competing the intended crop. As I said in a recent newsletter, we leave some Fat Hen in our crops, and are happy to have many in our leys and field margins because the birds love them so.