Earth Day

Yesterday was Earth Day 2020, a time for thinking about nature and our planet. No dig gardening is an earth inspired way of growing which protects the soil, soil life and environment. There’s been a phenomenal increase in interest in no dig gardening, which is fantastic!

Recently I was asked by the RHS to make a short video about no dig gardening for their social media channels, because I was due to talk at RHS Cardiff Flower Show, which of course has been cancelled. It has had over 30,000 views. You can see it on Facebook here.

Also, the fantastic Australian permaculturist Morag Gamble has put a video of her visit to us at Charles’ garden Homeacres last year, on her You Tube channel.

Every month I write a feature for Kitchen Garden magazine about what I am growing at my allotment. They have a special offer at the moment for subscriptions with 20 free packets of seeds, including digital orders for those who prefer to read mags on their computers, tablets or phones. Handy if you have been unable to get seeds to sow for your garden.

It’s another gorgeous morning in Somerset, all sunshine and blue skies. I’ve been watering in the greenhouse and opening the polytunnel so that wild things can fly in and forage.

A few days ago I cleared much of the overwintering crops in the polytunnel, to prepare for the summer plantings – you can see short videos about this on my Instagram accountI post there every day, usually including topical growing advice and tips, or a garden themed craft.

All of the plant material is piled up in a heap, waiting to be added to the compost heap, layered with cardboard that I have been keeping behind the sofa all winter. I’ve had the polytunnel for over nine years now and so have learned to make sure I have plenty of “browns” to add to these “greens” at this time of year. I also need to make another compost heap, and have been keeping pallets from book deliveries for this purpose.

The warm sunny weather means that the polytunnel is getting very hot during the day, so I need to harvest the rest of the Florence fennel today, because it is thinking about bolting.

On March 3rd I planted Swift and Rocket first early potatoes in the polytunnel and in pots. They are looking great! At night I tuck them up under a layer of bubble wrap (packing saved from parcels I’ve received) because it is still chilly at nights. They are earthed up with compost saved from pots last autumn. I store it in an old metal bin – it’s useful recycling of compost.

In the greenhouse, I’ve been using grow lights to help the tomatoes, aubergines, chillies and sweet peppers, sown in February and early March, grow well. They are on a timer which extends the “day” for the plants by about 3 hours. It looks very weird! As you can see, they illuminate the polytunnel too.

I’ve turned them off now because the bright days with summery warmth has encouraged the plants to grow very fast.

This week I’m sowing melons, cucumbers, squash, summer squash and courgettes into paper pots and modules. The plastic cloche lids help to deter any passing mice and also keep moisture in – the hot-for-April weather means these shallow trays are drying out quickly so I have to water twice a day.

The trays are on capillary matting which helps conserve moisture, and there are heat mats underneath which I turn on at night.

My daughter Caitlin and I made a video about making paper pots for my Instagram and there’s also one about how to make your own capillary matting from old clothing. (I would try to add them here, but the wifi is incredibly slow just now, with the lockdown situation!)

I’ve harvested almost all of the over wintering crops from the Vegepod, except the garlic which is looking amazing, and re-sowed with summer crops. Because I’ll be keeping the netting cover on all of the time, I have chosen veggies which do not need insect pollination and will benefit from the pest protection of the cover: potatoes, parsnips, carrots, beetroot, pak choi, kale, spring onions and spinach so far (the spinach is a trial of a slow bolting variety).

Read about how I constructed the vegepod here.

The container is made up of four pods which are a generous depth, so I am trying out deep rooting veggies such as carrots and parsnips, plus potatoes. These were all sown/planted on April 6th.

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This is the vegepod on April 22nd. I’ve already earthed up the potatoes and will need to add more compost to earth them up more soon, as they grow. The carrots have germinated well and need thinning out – a much nicer job standing up than kneeling on the ground, which is how I have to thin most of my carrots out. Another experiment is with carrot root fly. Will the height of the vegepod combined with the protective mesh cover reduce carrot root fly?

My garden is filled with blossom and baby fruits! It’s a gorgeous time of year.

I live in Bruton, Somerset and now have all three of my student children home, their universities are closed and they decided to spend lockdown at home (where there’s loads of food!!) in the countryside. My sons are both undergraduates and my daughter is studying for a PhD.

It’s strange not being able to see Charles socially because we live in different houses, but we do get to catch up when I work at Homeacres because of course food production is essential at this time. Here’s Charles happy in his polytunnel, harvesting salad for the local shops.

Much of my work has suddenly disappeared – courses, workshops and talks – a situation shared by many others here. It is rather disconcerting but we are trying not to worry (too much).

One thing Covid-19 has made me realise is the huge privilege of having a garden (allotment, or other growing space). Too many people worldwide are having to cope with lockdown in flats, cooped up indoors for most (and in some places all) of the day. The request to stay at home isn’t quite so bad when one can spend time outside, especially as the weather here is almost summery. I live in a rural environment with long walks in the open air literally on my doorstep, a real blessing which I don’t think I fully appreciated until now. It really makes one recognise the importance of urban green spaces, and accessibility to them for all.

I am sure we are all appreciating the incredible work done by the key workers, medical staff of course, but also the crucial role played by the postal service, van drivers and agricultural workers. Our local postman is wearing a different outfit every day to help boost morale for those who are housebound now: children and elders alike look forward to seeing what he’s wearing today!

(photo by a local resident)

Keep well and happy gardening.

11 thoughts on “Earth Day”

    1. Stephanie Hafferty

      Happy gardening! He really is such a delight to see, a real tonic. Many of the local children have drawn pictures of him and put them in their windows

    2. What a friendly and informative blog you have! I found it in the Permaculture Magazine advertisement.
      I look forward to reading more.

      1. Stephanie Hafferty

        Thank you so much, what a really lovely comment to read – I really appreciate it 🙂

  1. Lovely pictures of your growing space.
    I too am very much appreciating having both a garden and allotment.
    My daughter home from university has helped me at allotment, an offer not usually made!
    Your postman is brilliant too x

    1. Stephanie Hafferty

      Thank you. I haven’t quite persuaded them to help at the allotment but they are helping in the garden

  2. I’ve just ordered a couple of elevated raised beds similar to the Vegepod, and wondered how you would manage crop rotation in them, without having to replace all the soil once a year? I plan to have one bed in full sun and one in partial shade, so I think I might be limited in terms of being able to rotate between beds, esp with the partial shade situation. Would welcome your thoughts!

    1. Stephanie Hafferty

      I wouldn’t worry too much about rotation, even in my regular garden I only do a kind of “every other year” rotation

      1. Thanks, Stephanie! The whole rotation concept seems to be taken very seriously by those who write about it, but I’m happy to hear a more casual approach is workable 🙂

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