The 1st of February is for me, a very happy time. Its getting lighter and warmer (some days), the shoots are appearing on trees and the snowdrops are flowering, I can finally start some seeds like peas and parsley and brassicas, and its only 6 weeks to the Spring equinox.
Candlemas Day, (Imbolc) has always been a weather marker as we are told in this poem:
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
The winter will take another flight,
But if it should be dark and drear,
The winter is gone for another year.
So, take heart during ‘the beast from the East’, its good if February has bad weather!
Friday was actually such a warm day that I was able to garden barefoot again. I have so missed being able to ‘earth’ or ground myself. We spent about 6 months of last year barefoot outdoors and then it has been 4 months of Welly Boots.
I made our first batch of seed compost for the year, using 2 parts leaf mould from the forest floor, 2 parts general compost and one part perlite. Charles Dowding himself even uses this formula, the idea is that seeds don’t need such nutritious soil, just good drainage. We sieve the ingredients together and fill up the trays.
I love the smell and feel of leaf mould, the more of this we can bring into the no-dig beds the better, in my opinion. Bacteria, nematodes, protazoa and healthy amounts of Funghi come too.
I’m germinating my seeds in the office, which is above 10 all night, then, i will transfer them to our newly made ‘hot beds’. These are boxes filled with fresh manure in the polytunnel. The heat of the manure warms the soil in the seed trays and speeds growth even in the colder months. Its a first for me so my fingers are crossed.
Our aims for Black Grove Greens for 2021;
- Increase vegetable growth and production to feed 40 families for 30 weeks of the year.
- Improve facilities (shelter and Loo and refreshment area) for the volunteers including disabled access.
- Become 60% financially self-funded.
- Employ more people in the garden.
- Improve germination of seedlings.
- Improve quality of produce through organic methods.
Thankfully, the incredible success of our crowdfunder campaign means that with the £10k we raised through pledges from 90 incredibly supportive people and Herts County Council match funding award, we can employ a volunteer coordinator to help Rosie welcome people into the garden, to learn, connect to nature, themselves and the community, heal and re-balance themselves after this incredibly challenging time for people’s mental and physical health. Already the volunteer community is set to double with all the people who have contacted me.
COVID safe policies are all in place.
We also have been in discussions with counsellor James Frecknall, to plant a community orchard on the land with his Trinity ward in Ware. It would be a dream come true for us to be making a space here in this rural paradise, for the town dwellers to experience and enjoy growing food and building their sense of community.
They are looking for experts in local varieties of fruit trees, to bring the agricultural heritage of the area back as well as what works well currently on this clay soil with these weather patterns. Cherries, plums, gages, apples, pears, figs and grapes
Despite lockdown for the hens, (avian flu guidelines), they have been laying for britain. We have set up an honesty box at the end of the track at the turning circle so people can walk down and pick up eggs or drive down. You can pay by BACS online or pay with cash.
We painted an old hutch, and put on a new roof with an overhang so the boxes can’t get wet inside.
Vicky, a volunteer, brought up a HUGE piece of Rhubarb root. Its not the best time for splitting and re-planting but it was the right time for us as she needed to get rid of it. We split it into about 12 pieces. Hopefully we’ll have a decent crop in 2022.
Most of my seeds for the first 6 weeks have been delivered now and I’m determined to do a better job of storing them this year. Last year, I kept leaving the paper bag they were in out in the rain. This year, I using very clean and dry jam jars to keep them water tight and storing them in a box to keep them dark. I’m hoping to save and store seed this year too.