A personal account by Sam Taylor, FarmStart trainee.
June. When we tip over the edge. We’ve made the long slog from wet and sleety into ever extending bedtimes. Birdsong wraps us feather boa-like, tickling at the edges of our consciousness with a happy, echoing boastfulness; and the garden grows unrestrained for the first time in the year.
The FarmStarters entered June with a spring in their step – we’d got the White Lund polytunnel up and running with its first plantings, and finished May with a celebratory afternoon off. A trip to Growing with Grace in Clapham helped blow off steam, with a harvest of ideas and some commiseration over a cold month past that had kept crops in the starting gates. Then, a couple of us took half-term off, and one (Paula) had to struggle to make it back to Lancashire when her car gave up near Perth. All fun and games, and early starts for Paula for the rest of the month as she has adapted her routine to the sparse bus timetable that links Old Holly with Blackpool. Good job the sun gets up early at this time of year!
In the polytunnel in May, we were all amazed by the physical and psychological change that was wrought as we hoisted supports, framed the rows with wood-chip, and pushed plants into ground that had, up to that point, been recalcitrant. In June, we carried on that roll at The Plot. Runner bean, courgette, and squash seedlings that were bursting to get out of their protected surroundings at White Lund, shipped to Old Holly and were given leave to try the outdoor life. These summer residents all have specific requirements, so The Plot has sprouted cane scaffolds for the beans to clasp onto, and, along with a dollop of muck each courtesy of our neighbours the cows, weed barrier is in place to keep the cucurbit plants off the cool damp soil. Elsewhere on site, weeding has sidled in as a weekly task, alongside sowing and planting: free the spring onions/carrots/beets/leeks/agretti!
The polytunnel in June has continued to see change. The plants have their feet under them, and with support in place, the french beans, cucumbers and courgettes are racing away, while the tomatoes have been pinched back to keep them on the straight and narrow. They’ve been joined by chillies and basil, and, a real sign of summer – the plants now have a way to keep their feet cool, with a soaker hose snaking through under the soil. Particular thanks are due to the volunteers helping there to keep everything happy with watering visits.
We ended June with a real tipping point: our first harvests and sales through the Open Food Network. James, our expert trainer, was back too, this time giving us the insider track on quality control and harvest estimation as we bagged salad and bunched turnips. All cognisant of the significant effort that means we are ticking all the boxes for the Soil Association and Environmental Health. Food for thought this last Friday, as we set aside time to discuss and reflect on our motivations and beautiful boundaries, a first step in the business of business-planning.