Onions N Taters
We were greeted with Farmer Paul’s cheery instructions today – have a gander at them here, watch out for his Fenland humour!!
We sang Farmer Paul happy birthday too to embarass him. Happy Bday Paul!
So we got stuck in planting onion sets throught black biodegrable maizestarch plastic…
Here’s what Satowa thought of her day at the farm- thanks for letting us know Satowa!
“Everything I did was the first time for me, so I learned a lot. I learned about covering the onions with a plastic sheet (made out of maize!), which had multiple benefits, including keeping the seedlings warm, reducing weed growth and bird interference.”
As the onions grow the leaves will poke through the holes in the plastic and the maizestarch plastic will hang around for the next 6 months or so keeping the weeds down.
We also had a few questions about cropping from onion sets VS onion seed- the two ways of growing onions. In 2011, we planted out our acre of onions grown in modules from seed. Although seed is cheaper than sets, the plants are slow to grow, are more likely to be overgrown with weeds and be smaller onions come harvest time in autumn. Planting sets, which are young onion bulbs grown for one season and heat treated to prevent running to seed, you are more likely to get a good onion bulb in a short amount of time though they are more expensive than seeds.
We also had a fair few potatoes to plant out too! Farmer Paul planted most of the seed potatoes with his planter on the back of the tractor, but we get a good yield with hand planting so did about ¼ acre of this.
“I realy enjoyed just being outside and getting “dirty”, which is hard to come by these days. I also loved meeting people that I wouldn’t usually get to meet, and talking to them about some things that I didn’t know much about (both directly related to farming/planting and other topics).”
“I also learned about planting on a tractor, and its very clever mechanism for getting the seedlings in the ground. In that activity I also learned that cornflower (I think) could be planted attract pollinators, even if it wasn’t a crop itself.”
That’s right the old tractor-mounted planter was given a spin this morning planting out cabbages and cornflowers grown in modules. Satowa is absolutely right- we’re growing a lot more flowers in the fields this year for many reasons. We’re growing nasturtiums, calendula, borage and cornflowers. First of all, all these are edible so CropSharers can tuck into flowery snacks whenever they want or add to our weed salads at lunchtime (this week we have mostly been enjoying young field poppy leaves & chickweed). Secondly, like Satowa says, the cornflowers grown alongside the cabbages (so called inter-cropping) are there to attract the bees on the farm so they can use the flowers as an additional source of pollen and nectar – borage flower honey is especially nice so get visiting that borage mates!
The flowers also are very important as sources of food and basking sites for natural predators of crop pests, such as hoverflies whose larvae especially prey on aphids that eat our cabbages! Hoverflies, lacewings and ladybirds will all enjoy visiting the corn flowers for food and while they’re there eat a fair few aphids of our crops for us. Ta insect pals! Of course this is what we as an organic farm rely on for pest control. You can read more about farm beneficial insects and how to attract them to your farm, allotment or garden here.
And how about that CropShare lunch…?
“I loved getting to try so many dishes that were often also sustainable/environmentally conscious. I often miss home cooked food, and everything was absolutely delicious.”
Thanks CropSharers for coming along and farmin’ with us….see ya next time!