Working with Nature

oak trees

The two Oak Trees in the middle of the field.

As you probably know we run Five Acre as a fully certified organic farm because the land belongs to Garden organic and has been certified for many years. What organic certification means and what you can and can’t do has been a learning curve for those of us who aren’t experienced organic growers but luckily we have several on the team who are experienced at this.

Today I want to tell you about how we incorporate and consider wild life into our system, which is one aspect of being organic.

As you will have noticed if you have come on the field we have mature hedgerow hedgesall round the field and two big oak trees in the middle.

These along with the wild flowers and grasses we allow to grow in various places help encourage beneficial insects, small animals and birds many of which help keep pests under control, which is important as we aren’t allowed to things like slug pellets or sprays most of the time. Even organic ones we have to get special permission to use from the soil association and it’s meant to be a last resort type thing.

Of course it’s always a balance as some birds for instance eat pests but other birds like to eat the cabbages and how to you encourage one and not get the other? Knowing when to net certain plants is quite important either to stop butterflies laying eggs or because pigeons will stripe a cabbage bare over night if it gets cold and there is less food available else where ! wild flowers

Also nature can sometimes be a bit inconvenient and it can be tempting to just remove it rather than work with it. Our practice of leaving strips of the field to grow wild flowers is very useful and often pretty but it also means there are more weed seeds produced and therefore more weeds, after all a weed is just a plant in the wrong place really.

Those two lovely oak trees in the middle of the field, they have been shading the plots to their left, as you look from the gate, meaning they have been producing less than other plots on the field, and some of that area is particularly weedy which in turn throws out the amounts we have to harvest of whatever type of veg we have allocated to that area in the rotation plan. We aren’t going to cut down the trees so what do we do?

You may have noticed Becca has changed the layout of the plots in that area. We now have one plot near the trees running up and down the field and smaller plots farther away from the trees running in the same direction as the rest of the plots on the field. new_layout

The plot near the trees will have perennial crops in it which don’t need quite as much sun as most of the annual ones we grow and Becca has created a new rotation which works with having different sized beds in different areas of the field.

The same goes for those lovely hedges, they are so tall that in some parts of the field they are creating a significant amount of shade and most of the veg we grow in this country to eat doesn’t like shade. What exactly we will do about that is being discussed over the next few weeks with Garden Organic. We have some ideas which might work but we need to check what we can and can’t do and make sure anything we do doesn’t harm the biodiversity of the hedgerow.

Esther

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