2020 – October news: Rat Attack

October 15, 2020 by General Administrator

Here at Canalside we live in harmony with all of nature’s fauna and flora. However, some animals are getting a bit too harmonious for my liking: someone, or something, has discovered our squashes (which are seasoning in tunnel 3 just now) and invited all its friends and family for a squash party! We suspect the rat, so have set up live traps which so far have failed to entice the offender. Luckily not too many fruits have been lost so far.

Dom van Marsh

2020 – September news: Skinned

September 17, 2020 by General Administrator

‘To skin’ is one of those unusual verbs with two meanings that are the complete opposite of one another. The skin a rabbit is to remove the skin, but to skin a polytunnel is to put it on – as the land team (finally!) did to tunnel 1 on Monday. The main reason to replace the polythene cover is about opacity more than anything else – you can ‘clearly’ see this by comparing the transluscent new cover of tunnel 1 with its 13 year old, virtually opaque neighbour. This will give much better crop growth, particularly in winter. Canalside member Eleanor made a fantastic short video of the work, which you can view on vimeo.

2020 – August news: Roasting

August 14, 2020 by General Administrator

Regular readers of Canalside news will know I love a weather stat, and this week has delivered a few – England has recorded temperatures upwards of 34 degrees for 6 successive days in a sequence that included the third hottest August day for 17 years.

At the farm it has been challenging to say the least for land workers, not to mention the plants – thankfully thunderstorms have brought much-needed rain to quench their thirst. The downpours have helped arguably the most important crop on the farm to germinate nicely: the grass-clover green manure leys that are the biological powerhouse behind our soil fertility. Green manure replenishes soil nutrients and regenerates soil health as well as providing habitat for insects, and it is always a huge relief to see it germinating well!

Dom van Marsh, head grower

2020 – July news: Fine Young Cabbages

July 17, 2020 by General Administrator

I’ve seen cabbages, and I’ve seen cabbages, but I’ve never seen cabbages like this before – not in July, at any rate. Planted just 6 weeks ago these plants have exploded in size and are glowing with health. The work morning teams have been going through clearing out any remaining weeds but the great thing about massive brassicas like these is that the canopies close up to shade out any weeds underneath – meaning we won’t need to go near them again until harvest. Right now you’re experiencing the benefits of this brassica boom with the kale that’s been in the share lately; I wouldn’t normally expect the first pick so early but somehow this year the soil, weather conditions and help in the fields from our marvellous volunteers have combined to give a bountiful early crop.

Cabbage magnificence

2020 – June news: Rain at Last

June 19, 2020 by General Administrator

We’ve tried prayer, raindances and even some of the spells out of Harry Potter and finally it has worked as at last some decent rain arrived for our crops this week. This is particularly timely as we have been very busy getting some important crops in the ground: cabbages, kale and over 5000 leeks have all been planted in the last fortnight. Also, with the maincrop carrots and parsnips just emerging and getting established, the downpours are particularly welcome. The only question is: after 3 months of moaning about how dry it all is, how long before the growers start moaning that it’s too wet?

2020 – May news: Don’t Mind the Gap

May 29, 2020 by General Administrator

The spell from mid May to mid June is the dreaded ‘hungry gap’: the time when the growers are scratching around down the back of the sofa desperate for anything, anything at all vaguely veg-like to put in the share. Well, don’t know if you’ve noticed but that hasn’t really happened this year!

New projects (e.g. the strawberries) have come good, new varieties have thrived (e.g. overwintering broad beans and onions) and our usual staples are all here a bit earlier (e.g. tunnel carrots and potatoes).

The weather has been outstanding for early production (provided we can get enough water out there), but most of all it is down to our superb volunteers, toiling away – at a social distance – in the baking heat every Wednesday and Saturday. You have kept the crops weed free and got the seeds sown, and kept us well ahead of the game at a crucial time. Enjoy the bumper ‘hungry gap’ share!

Virtual blossom walk

April 19, 2020 by General Administrator

The orchard is looking amazing at the moment – the apple blossom is at its peak and the cherry trees that still have blossom have an abundance of it! Hopefully all the blossom foretells of a bountiful crop of fruit this summer, all being well through the growing season.

Click here to watch:

Credits: Filming, editing and music: Eleanor Brown

2020 – April news: Royal Variety Performance: Grafting Apples

April 17, 2020 by General Administrator

What do you do if you plant an apple tree and, after ten years of care, the variety you’ve gone for just isn’t performing? One of ours, ‘Tydeman’s Late Orange’, has given us this problem, with a decade of low yield, tiny scabby fruit and other misdemeanours.

All is not lost – this week Dom has been grafting a new, favoured variety (‘Edward VII’, hence royal) onto the old TLO trees. This involves cutting the tree right back to a few decent stumps (leaving one as a ‘sap drawer’) and in this case cleaving into the wood and wedging two tiny scions (twigs from the preferred variety, cut in winter and stored in the fridge) into the edges of the cleft.

The wounds are taped up and sealed with wax. The Edward VII scions will grow with the vigour of a ten-year old tree rather than a new sapling and will reach a good size in no time, so this is a much quicker way than replacing the tree entirely – those 10 years were not totally wasted.

Onion planting – still needs to happen despite COVID-19…

March 19, 2020 by General Administrator

This year’s onion planting will happen in a slightly different way to usual, to make sure this big annual task can be completed whilst at the same time enabling members to get out in the fresh air and still maintain the recommended social distancing measures.

Come and help plant the main onion crop – a task suitable for all ages! The work will continue for as many days as needed (Tuesday-Saturday) and any member who is well and symptom free, and has not been advised to self-isolate, is welcome to come and join in – the work will be arranged so that social distancing measures can be maintained.

Due to COVID-19 we will not be providing any refreshments or arranging shared food during onion planting work sessions. You are encouraged to bring a flask with your own hot drinks, and are welcome to bring a packed lunch if you want to work both sides of lunchtime.

We will be contacting members to let them know when the work can start (dependent on the ground being dry enough for the land to be prepared). Saturday 4th April or 11th April onwards – to be advised

2020 – March news: A Load of Crap

March 13, 2020 by General Administrator

Many people have an idealistic mental image of land work, of ruddy-cheeked farmhands chewing a stalk of hay, cheerfully digging carrots against a bucolic backdrop of butterflies fluttering across wildflower meadows.

This week, however, reality came crashing down as the time finally came to dig out the compost toilet. You may be aware that one half of the toilets has been shut for the last six months to allow its contents to decompose and pathogens to die off; consequently much of what we “harvested” was beautiful black gold, well-rotted compost with a pleasant aroma of nutrition and fertility, a far cry from its stinky beginnings, such is the cycle of order and chaos that we call nature.

Organic regulations prohibit the use of this “humanure” in growing, so we got permission to deposit it in an inaccessible corner of a nearby private woodland. Find out more about compost toilets at https://humanurehandbook.com/.

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