Madeline plants onion sets under a sunny sky!

Don’t look now but the sun is shining in Cambridgeshire! Sunshine was a great addition to our latest CropShare farm day.

Happy CropShare day forecast at last!

First job: CropSharers were kept busy planting out some broad beans on the back of the tractor. These have been successionally sown by CropSharers since last autumn, to give a rolling harvest of fresh beans from June onwards.


Sit-on planting machine last autumn
This is a broad-bean planters’ view on the sit-on planting contraption pulled behind the tractor.  The game is to keep up with that moving conveyor belt! See, farming is just like going down the Amusements on Filey seaside.
British-grown dried beans and peas from Hodmedod’s, Norfolk

This year CropSharers are also going to experiment with harvesting dry broad beans to rehydrate and eat like you would chickpeas. I was excited to hear Hodmedod’s in Norfolk are distributing all sorts of British-grown dried beans to eat in this way and they have loads of exciting recipes for them. Really want to try their Black Badger beans!

Biodynamicly grown Sturon onion sets

Next, an old favourite for CropShare, onions! We planted out sets of Sturon variety onions into beds. There are 3 rows of onions per bed, planted in exact positions as Farmer Paul  (@waterlanderman on Twitter) will weed these with a brush hoe. I’ll get a picture of Farmer Paul’s soon, but you can see how this piece of equipment works in the video below.

Stiff plastic brushes remove anything growing inbetween the rows of the crop, so its important to plant the crop accurately otherwise it’ll get taken out by the brushes. When the onions get larger CropSharers will take care of them by hand weeding as the larger plants may get damaged by the brush hoe.
Planting out onion sets
CropSharers took home any little onion sets that will grow into perfectly healthy onions but would benefit from closer attention in the garden that fighting for life out on the CropShare field. What I’m going to try in my limited space garden is growing a handful in a pot and harvesting the leaves to cook with, like strong spring onions.
Murray Edwards Edible Garden on Facebook
Some of our spare little sets went to the fantastic Edible Garden project at Murray Edwards College– a great community food garden in the centre of Cambridge that we’ll be following with interest!
Lunch table is colourful as always!
LUNCHTIME! Never fails to impress, with two vegan soups to choose from made with farm grown produce by Farmer Doreen- mushroom and creamy squash. Lovely homemade breads, circular flat breads, lentil loaf, salads, and vats of houmous. Yum!
Novelty circular flatbread! So tasty.
And most importantly, we got to sit outside in the lovely weather. Thanks sun!
View from my plate at lunchtime

After lunch, CropSharers protected the garlic we planted last autumn which we think is getting munched by some bunnies which must have very bad breath now.

CropSharers planting garlic cloves last autumn


Plastic netting covering the garlic crop


Protected garlic plants under the netting

Then we were back on the onions- keeping busy popping more sets into the prepared beds.

Ellie plants onion sets- catching up to Farmer Paul preparing land in the background!
Farmer Paul was kept busy aswell preparing more soil into beds for CropSharers to plant into as we powered through the jobs really quickly. Maybe we were solar powered. We like to keep him on his toes! 
(Soil preparation nerds- Farmer Paul ploughed, rolled and then ran the empty planting machine through the soil to form into beds and mark out rows where sets should be planted)
CropSharers preparing to plant onion sets in the sun
All in all we planted out about 4000 onion sets today- well done to all the CropSharers that helped out. You’ll be able to eat some of these onions this autumn.
Nyree holding one of Farmer Paul and Doreen’s lambs!
Then it was time for CropSharers to have a break and play with the lambs on the farm. Awww…. guys you would all make very caring sheperds and sheperdesses.
Today was the first day these lambs had been outside from the polytunnel where they were born and they were having a great time and making loads of noise kicking about in the field with their mums.
We checked up on the new hens that are part of Farmer Paul and Doreen’s HenShare scheme that CropSharers helped to deliver last time on the farm.
You can sponsor a chicken on the farm and receive some of its eggs- check out the Waterland organics website for more details. And of course, through CropShare, you can come and spend lots of time with your sponsored farm chicken and see how they are getting on.
One of the farm’s cockerels looking after his new posse of girlfriends.
Update for rye and green manure fans: Last years crop of rye which was scythed, stooked and stacked into a rick by CropSharers last autumn is still being used as bedding for farm livestock.
Stook of scythed rye, autumn 2012
Rye grains rubbed from ear

 The chickens have been pecking up the rye grains but unfortunately we had trouble finding a threshing machine (that separates the grain from the chaff and straw) so never lived our dream of suppling homegrown rye flour to the Cambridge community bakery CamBake! It’s on our list to achieve in the future (Anyone out there with a small threshing machine, get in touch!)

Rye stack this spring

The 1/2 acre field has benefited from having the rye green manure, locking nutrients in the soil over winter and supplying organic matter (any fallen straw not stooked and the extensive root systems left in the ground). 

Rye growing from seed shed last autumn 

Seed shed by the rye crop last autumn has now started to come up on the field and pull nutrients up to the topsoil hat can be used by following crops after it gets ploughed in.

Field greening up with self-sown rye

Farmer Paul has started ploughing in some of the rye organic matter which will really improve soil structure, and currently planning to crop sweetcorn on this land this year. Read more on green maures here, from the Vegan Organic Network.

Ploughing in of the rye green manure has started!
Another green maure technique that Farmer paul has been experimenting with is under-sowing plants such as squashes and cabbages with a leguminous green manure such as trefoil. Read more about this from genius organic grower Iain Tolhurst here.
Cabbages undersown with clover mix. Photo: Cotswolds Seeds
As well as keeping weeds down in between rows, these green manures are living fertiliser, fixing nitrogen and encouraging nitrogen fixing bacteria in the soil around the hungry crop plants. See this technique in action from May on the farm, and come plant the squash plants and drill the trefoil seed first hand.
Photo: Hempsals Community Farm
And if you’re interested in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which is what CropShare is all about, then don’t forget to check out our friends nearby on Hempsals Community Farm and this page on the Soil Association website which tells you loads of info on CSAs!
See you on the farm soon!