Crop and Other News - September 2017

Autumn – The Season of Abundance
As we move into September the farm is bursting with crops ready to harvest. Crops which we have been growing and tending all season.  We are at the most abundant time of the year

It is a time of the year when we could easily just eat local fruit and vegetables, salad and herbs……. Maybe with a bit of bread on the side!

In August and September, we see all the summer crops: peas and beans, calabrese and hispi cabbage, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, salad and lettuce, parsley and herbs.  New potatoes, carrots, shallots and onions are fully grown and easy to harvest.  At the same time gardeners and allotment holders have a glut of courgettes and runner beans.

Now, as well as the all year-round crops of spinach, chard, kales and beetroot, we are starting to see the Autumn crops of sweetcorn, squash, cauliflower, romanesco.

Not only are the vegetable crops at their most productive but also the top fruit with apples and pears and hedges laden with blackberries and sloes.  The apples have been very early this year, with Discoveries from mid-August, then James Grieve and now we have the mid-season varieties Sunset, Herrings Pippin, Jupiter and Egremont Russet.

With all the rain in August and continuing into September most of the crops look healthy. The only real problem has been with the lettuce, which have suffered from slug attack! The most recent batch of lettuce were grown in between alleys of apple trees, which are designed to shelter the crops from the wind. Unfortunately, in this exceptionally wet summer this shelter has meant the soil has not dried out making it an ideal slug breeding ground.

The potatoes are great although a few are being hollowed out by more slug attack.  The carrots we are harvesting now are fantastic, which is a pleasant surprise as they were covered in weeds. I have a theory that the thickness of weeds has kept the carrots protected from carrot root fly as any damage level is negligible.

Similarly, the onion crop has been fantastic, despite being smothered in weeds. Just to defend ourselves here from accusations of being lazy growers! We did weed thoroughly at the early stages of crop growth, but it is just the sheer pressure of quick growing, late season weeds in this wet summer.

It would be great to see shops overflowing with local produce and market stalls stocked full - with a colourful array of abundance. Talking of market stalls, our Exeter Farmers’ Market stall is doing extremely well, thank you so much to all of you who support it and our newly launched stall on the Quay each Saturday (10-4pm) is getting there slowly. Do pop along to our market stalls – we are so happy to know our hard work means our wonderful, organic, home-grown produce can be enjoyed by so many local people.
by Martyn Bragg

Shillingford Organics - Farm School & Events
In our second year of ‘Shillingford Organic Farm School’ we have hosted twice as many children and their families, who come once a week to sow, plant and harvest their own crops. We erected our second polytunnel, which serves as a classroom, propagation space and a shelter when needed.
Since March we have formed ‘No-dig’ raised beds with the children, planted our first perennial herb patches between fruit trees, which includes over 10 varieties of herbs and flowers. We planted 12 new young apple, pear, cherry and plum trees, which were a gift to Farm School children from the Woodland Trust. We also planted raspberry canes and harvested 7 kg from them already!
Unlike last year, 80% of our crop is propagated from seeds and cuttings by the children (ages ranging from 17 months to 12 years old). The Farm School second year crop is much more abundant, we planted several varieties of:

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Courgettes
  • Squashes (Gourds)
  • Mint
  • Parsley (Flat, Moss Curled)
  • Runner Beans (Scarlet, Hunter)
  • French beans (Dwarf, Climbing French)
  • Kales Alliums (Spring onions, White, Leeks)
  • Lettuce (Little gem, Lollo Rosso, Maravella de Verano, Red Oakleaf, Satin)
  • Jerusalem Artichokes

We also attempted to grow some exotic plants; Jute, Loofa, and Yacon. Jute and Yacon are proving a success, Loofa didn't work out this year as we overwatered it. We may have stood a better chance if we had soaked the seeds overnight before sowing, we will try again next spring.
In addition to all this, we are setting up a Farm School Seed Bank this Autumn and will harvest 15 different varieties of flower and vegetable seeds and re-sow them in the Spring, as well as swapping some for different varieties with other organic growers.
Farm School was also proud to host 28 children from Newtown Primary School for a day, the visit was a great success and we plan to host more school children in the coming academic year 2017/2018.
Since Spring we have held four successful Community Events, with an average of 70 local people joining us, all passionate about healthy food and sustainable living.
It all started off with 'The Farm School’s First Anniversary' with free Farm School taster sessions for over 50 children from Exeter and the surrounding area who went on tractor and trailer rides to visit the fields and learn about the seasonal crops and animals around the farm.
We also ran 'Mother Earth Celebration' and on the day learnt about compost making and fermentation, as a traditional healthy way of preserving food.
In May we held a 'Herb and Wild Edibles Day' and went on a walk to the herb garden at Shillingford Organics to learn about different, wild, medicinal and edible plants and flowers.
Finally, just before the Summer holidays we held our 'Summer Feast Event' over 100 adults and children harvested, prepared and shared a healthy 100% organic lunch, 80% of that being raw.
Up and Coming Events
Saturday, 9th September 10-3pm sees us hosting our first 'Pick your Own' event in celebration of Organic September, why not join us and harvest your own potatoes, carrots, beetroot and onions for half price!  Please bring your own paper sacks if possible as these are ideal for storing roots. If not, we do have some large potato bags which cost us 25p each and free nets for onions.
There will be a tractor and trailer to move people…..and their produce. In the afternoon, there will be an opportunity for children to participate in a free ‘Farm School’ taster sessions.
The Farm School 2nd Harvest Season starts 11th September 2017, for details and booking please visit our Farm School page.
Our Apple & Squash Harvest Events are on the Sunday, 1st and 15th October.
We are very much looking forward to meeting you again, and welcoming new members to Shillingford from this wonderful community.
by Fatma Sabet