TUESDAY 8TH SEPTEMBER
A return visit to Orchard End Farm, where our project began. In the back of the van, Mark told us of the ancient varieties of apples he'd tried at the Greenpeace Fair over the weekend - one tasted of strawberry, another of aniseed. There was plenty of fruit ripening at the farm - conference pears, discovery apples, greengages, some late season plums. David Wrenn handed out figs fresh from the tree upon our arrival. He wants to plant more fruit trees in the future, to replace the orchard that was cut down to create the farm.
But for today, it was a clear out job. The poly tunnel that was full of neatly sculpted lettuces, chard and mustard leaf when last we visited was now overgrown with flat beans and cucumbers, the last of some celery plants, and plenty of nettles. They put lots of potassium into the soil, he assured us. Which didn't make them sting any less...
We set about untying beans. So sweet and crunchy in early June, they are now stringy and inedible. We kept a few of the white beans from inside yellowed pods, to dry and use for seed next year, but all the green leaves and tendrils were destined for the compost. The same fate awaited the cucumber plants. We harvested the last of them - several were enormous, but a number had refused to ripen, and were added to the heap. By the end of our morning's work, the tunnel was clear again, the soil raked over, ready for rotivating and replanting. What would have taken a long time for one man was a three-hour job for a team of five.
David made refreshments, picking leaves from a lemon verbena tree and chopping them to make a refreshing tea, easy on the stomach and beneficial to the digestion. As we drank, he told us that in the biodynamic calendar, this is the time of year when energy is directed down into the soil. The upward energy of summer, when plants climb and climb is over, so growing slows down. It is, however, an excellent time to take root cuttings - and to plant root veg. David, however, won't be doing much of that. As his farm is very small, he cannot grow root veg on any profitable scale, so he extends the growing season of the greens by sheltering them in his poly tunnels.
Similarly, the limited, container-centred growing space of the Greenhouse's courtyard garden rules out root veg, so David advised some more robust greens, which should survive the autumn in our sheltered space. Leilai and Andy set about sowing plenty of rocket, some rhubarb chard, and some oriental greens - the return of Chinese mustard leaf, and the debuts of low-growing tatsoi and pak choy.
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