I've written much about the Croft, its infrastructure, energy, toilets and all other things; but have not made much, yet, of the plans to 'grow our own'. This is mainly because I didn't think I had enough authority or knowledge about the subject - although that hasn't stopped me on all the other topics! Also because its not something you can 'prepare' for, from a distance; other than buying some seeds.
But, as fortune had it, time and luck were on our side once again last week. I randomly picked up a Grow Your Own magazine - the first time I'd bought this publication, as there were some great free seeds in it. And within its pages was an advert for The Edible Garden Show, not in two months time and too far to get there by then, but the very next weekend (this Sunday just gone) - exactly one week before the big move!
So, we booked our tickets and headed down there. A little ironic, to be going to a "Good Life" show, to help prepare for escaping the crowds, it was held in the middle of London - at Alexandra Palace. As expected, the journey was rather fraught. With Peterborough United in some kind of football match, the train, we were waiting on the platform for, sailed through the station without stopping (due to being too full of football fans). I guess it was one of those surprise football games, they decided to put on only that morning, thus catching First Capital Connect out...
Anyway, we did eventually arrive and had a great day, full of new knowledge and nice people. Some very interesting talks about various aspects of growing your own food, from some great speakers and some not so great. If I had one criticism, it would be that there were a few too many stands/stalls, selling chemical fertilisers and other 'unnatural' things; which we intend not to use.
One highlight, was a talk, at the Experts Theatre, from Christine Walkden. We had not really intended to see this one - getting there early for the next talk. But it was fascinating. Entitled "Water Wise Gardening" and in her own unique way, Christine explained the science behind why watering plants is so important; outlining the right and wrong ways to do it.
To this novice, I just assumed you poured it on; but it appears some plants like it put straight into the soil and not on their leaves and vice-versa. With the most important thing being to keep the soil moist and find ways to retain the moisture. Then there is the issue of how much water to use. Christine's answer to this was (if I'm remembering correctly), on average, 22 litres per square metre, depending on the weather (maybe the rain has already achieved this). Lastly, the timing. When it comes to days, it seems the best time to water plants is not actually the morning, but the early evening. If you are looking at watering a crop, for the 'season', then it depends on when the crop matures. As an example, Brussels need watering when first sown, but then leave them (unless its very dry) until autumn, a few weeks before the Sprouts are ready, to encourage the water to be used to mature the "fruit" and not the plant as a whole.
Don't ask me about the science of all this yet. But I do plan to try and learn and absorb (like watered soil) everything I can, as I do it. So I will post successes and failures, of my experiences, with this side of the new life, as they happen. Its actually the first thing we will need to get our teeth into, when we get settled in. We'll need to be sowing some seeds and plants within the first few weeks, to ensure we have something to eat later in the summer and autumn, with the Northerly location giving us slightly more time to do this than the warmer South.
We are lucky to have a fantastic Greenhouse, at our disposal and I plan to build and work some raised beds; for more control over the soil and to help the 'old' back. But another speaker - the author Anni Kelsey, gave us some brilliant ideas about planting and growing Polycultures; utilising plants that need next-to-no looking after (working with each other in harmony) and that produce tasty food year after year. These types of plants are also comfortable in not-so-perfect spots, being more hardy and less fussy about warmth and sunlight etc. Another version of this type of planting and growing is Forest Gardening. So, we will definitely be studying her book (which we purchased at the show): "Edible Perennial Gardening".
This type of growing is a form of Permaculture, something I have mentioned in previous posts. And the best magazine, that covers this, Permaculture Magazine, also had a stand at the show. I was able to meet the Publishers Tim and Maddy Harland, in person (having spoken to them over email previously). They are lovely people and I hope to be able to work with them in the future and develop a strong friendship with them. So, if this is an area that interests you - and if you are trying to live and grow sustainably, it should be(!) - check out the magazine and web site.
Thanks for reading about the preparations and the musings, about the adventure in general, over the past few months - its flown by so quickly! As of next week, it'll be real, with no more speculation and theory.
So, that's all for now. We will see you on the other side (of - no doubt with stories of the move and getting this Mac (I am writing on) across the water in a small boat (gulp!). Wish us luck!