This month Tom is featured on the Soil Association website, after a great interview with Anna Louise Batchelor (aka @porridgelady on twitter) an environmental scientist and member of Reading’s True Food Co-op. Reading born and bread (sorry, a genuine typo – bred not bread!), Tom loves the food co-op and has recently advised the food co-op on setting up their own bakery.
The Soil Association are the UK’s leading membership charity campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use.
Week 3 and the weather has got the better of us, cutting the Urban Veg workshop short for a week – to be continued in full post snow. But who wants to be out in the freezing cold anyway? Vegetables certainly don’t want to germinate yet, and if our poorly (but on the mend) chicken at home is anything to go by we’re all better off in the warm for now.
Watching the snow swirl across the garden from the second floor of the beautiful Winterbourne House, instead we put pen to paper to glean as much knowledge from gardening expert Alys Fowler as possible. This time we learnt about planning our organic vegetable plots, what to grow and where, and how to arrange the rest of the garden for composting, wildlife ponds and rainwater collection.
Back home now, I’ve decided I’m going to have a reshuffle in our back garden. We’re moving the chickens to a new piece of ground to make way for the veggies on the manure rich soil. The beech hedge that overhangs it is of little edible use to us, and has always caused a lot of shade restricting our veggie growing. So I’m thinking of doing something radical and either giving it huge hair cut, or replacing it with fruit bushes (let’s hope our neighbour and Tom agree). We can then make a ‘dead hedge’ pile with the cuttings to attract some useful wildlife to eat our pests. Cunning.
As our water butt is already full, the hoarder in me has already started collecting snow melt-water as it drips off our roof. I’m also hoping to add guttering to our shed and the shelter over our winter forlorn earth oven (remember the good old bread making days of Loaf at home, anyone?). My challenge is then to keep collected water from spoiling. Apparently young seedlings can suffer from ‘damping off‘ and wilt if too much bad bacteria grows in the water, so this water may be better used directly on the garden in warmer weather.
Indoors, my seedlings are struggling a bit already. Whilst my salad leaves on the kitchen window-sill seem to be ok, my chillies never came up (airtight seed storage next time). I’m told it’s too late to replant chilli seeds now, so I’ll have to try again with plugs. Next week we’ll be in the Urban Veg poly-tunnel, so I’m saving up loads of seedling questions until then.
In the meantime, I’ve succumbed to a rare purchase and going on Alys’ recommendation I’ve bought Joy Larcom’s Grow your own vegetables (2002), apparently a ‘go to’ book for veggie gardeners. Fingers crossed it works on me.