The fact that our farm is located in such a stunning part of the world, acts as a useful reminder that we need to look after our environment as best we can to keep it looking this way. We’re always mindful of how we can contribute to a greener planet and try to employ environmentally friendly ideas as widely as possible.
One of our environmental saving strategies is to reduce the amount of miles that some of the food served in the café, has to travel. By growing our own veg on site, we’re pleased to say that the distance travelled from our poly-tunnels to the kitchen is zero miles!
Two of our four poly-tunnels are turned over to vegetables and this year, we’re growing food that our kitchen team need to go with our customers’ favourite menu items. Cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and lettuce are all in high demand and take priority, but we’re also experimenting with chard, beetroot, aubergines and kale.
If you’d like to take a leaf out of our book and emulate our gardening team’s sometimes wonky but never the less wonderful vegetable production, read on for some top tips from James Carlyle on how to grow your own.
Prepare the Ground
At the end of the growing season, usually mid October, we remove all the left-over vegetation and enrich the soil with lots of well rotted horse manure (there’s lots of it from our on-site stables!). We fork this organic matter into all the beds to a reasonable depth and water well to promote continued breakdown and good microbial activity in the soil throughout the winter. We then fork over the soil to break up any big clods and provide some good aeration prior to sowing the following spring.
Support and Infrastructure
Tomatoes are easier to grow, maintain and harvest if they’re trained to climb up a suitable support. In our poly-tunnels, we use high tension galvanised wires running along the entire length of the tunnels, to which S-shaped hooks fitted with high strength twine are attached. Once the tomato plants are big enough to be sown, the twine is attached to the bottom of the plant with a bowline knot and twisted around the juvenile plant. Once it starts to shoot upwards, we just twist it around the twine to keep it well supported – no fiddly tying up required!
We use the same system for our cucumbers, although due to the added weight of the fruit from our prolific Carmen F1 variety, we give additional support from two wooden posts and a length of chicken wire strung between them. This helps the young plants support outward shoots as well, but we just need to make sure that the embryo cucumbers don’t grow through the wire, as it makes for interesting shaped fruit!
Once the growing season is over, plants are easily removed from the supports, which can then be used the following year, adding to our desire to be as sustainable as possible.
As with all horticulture under glass or polythene, regular monitoring of both light levels, temperature and water is essential to ensure a good quality yield. Too much or too little water can lead to diseased or split fruit, whereas large variations in temperature or humidity can lead to an increased risk of attack from pests including aphids or moulds. This season has been quite challenging due to the periods of really hot weather followed by some quite cool snaps. We try to make sure that there is adequate ventilation and twice-a-day watering during the heat, but keep the doors closed and reduce the available water when it’s cooler. Regular feeding is also important when growing inside, so weekly organic liquid fertiliser is applied to all the plants. Tomatoes and peppers do best with a specific fertiliser, whilst the other vegetables thrive on a general seaweed extract mixture.
We hope these tips have been useful, but if you’ve got any questions, our team would love to hear from you!