Where is the rain?

Ben Raskin - 21 April 2011

The one thing you don't want after planting fruit trees is 2 months without rain. I had been putting off sorting out an irrigation system in the hope of the heavens delivering my water for me.I have finally accepted the inevitable (perhaps a little too late) and rigged up a makeshift system. Farming on a budget tends to lead down the low tech route, so my "system" consists of an old hosepipe (there is lots of old hose left on the site) with a hole drilled in it at each tree. It took a little while to find the right diameter of hole that was big enough not to clog up but small enough that I kept enough water pressure to water a few trees. In this way I managed to water about 7 trees at once, while I went off and got on with other jobs. Day one I succeeded in watering 3 rows of trees - hoping to get the other 5 done over the weekend.
Most of the trees seem to be coping ok so far, though I am a little worried about a couple of the pear varieties.
I have also planted around 100 garlic cloves. My aim is not to sell or eat (rather a challenge in our garlic loving house) any this year, but to bulk up my seed stock for growing on next year. Garlic seed is very expensive from seed merchants so I was delighted to buy in Feb some superb looking bulbs being sold in farm shop at Abbey Home Farm in Cirencester. Although their soil is very different to mine, I hope that because they have been grown in an organic system means they will do well for me.
The other thing on the go is a biochar field trial. Biochar is a stable form of carbon (essentially charcoal) that is added to the soil to build up organic matter with a range of claimed benefits. click here for Wiki's info on it http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biochar. I will be trialling a new product made by "Carbon Gold" both on my trees and on a planting of butternut squash. More details will follow.

After discovering the outdoor life on an organic vineyard in Northern Italy, and a one year professional gardening course at Lackham College, Ben has worked in horticulture for 16 years. Previous incarnations include running a walled garden in Sussex, working for the HDRA (now Garden Organic) at their gardens in Kent, setting up and running the horticultural production at Daylesford Organic Farm, before moving to the Welsh College of Horticulture as commercial manager. Ben is passionate both about the commercial production of high quality organic vegetables and teaching practical skills through on farm learning. He currently works as horticultural advisor and learning manager for the Soil Association, as horticultural advisor for The Community Farm at Chew Magna, and has just signed the lease on a piece of land near Bristol to plant an experimental and educational fruit and agroforestry system.

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Graham White
13 September 2011 10:02

Hi Ben: Exciting to see you are now amongst the landed gentry. How has the new plot fared over the summer? Did you mulch the trees? Are they ready for their formative pruning?

Ben Raskin
27 April 2011 14:34

Will am taking soil samples now and in one years time, + doing a basic worm count and observation of any differences in plant growth. So for initial results next spring, though I will continue to monitor after that. Ben

Will Frazer
27 April 2011 14:23

Ben, Biochar trial sounds interesting! What's the time scale for the trial and when will you know results? Could do something for FW on it...

Ben Raskin
27 April 2011 11:09

Hi June no mercury pesticides are used in organic farming, and indeed there are strict limits on the levels of mercury allowed in both soil on organic farms(2kg/hectare) and the compost brought in (0.002kg/tonne). Although of course not all non-organic produce is contaminated, buying organically certified produce is still your strongest guarantee. Have you tried getting your veg from a local shop or box scheme - this usually works out cheaper than going to a supermarket too. Thanks for your interest Ben

June Goh
26 April 2011 11:56

Is any level of pesticides with mercury power used in organic farming? I buy organic vegetables at all times but availability in supermarkets is being reduced as comsumers tighten their belts. I recently heard of a potato farmer suffering mercury toxicity.Do I risk feeding my kids non-organic foods?

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