Seed trials at Low Stanger - first report

Low Stanger Farm - 13 June 2013

We changed from being non-certified organic to certified organic when we moved to Low Stanger from our small but well established market garden seven years ago. One of the biggest difficulties we had, technically, was choosing suitable seeds from a now exclusively organic list – in the past we had used a range of organic and non-organic varieties, favouring proven old favourites like the broad bean Dreadnought, and the the carrot Danver’s Half Long. We found that these older, often British varieties did well in the relatively difficult conditions of the Lake District’s western fringe. We now have a good idea of which certified seed will perform for us in most seasons, but we welcomed the chance to trial some alternative varieties.

The first outdoor trial seed sowing was the carrot Amsterdam on the 13th April. Germination was OK, considering how cold the soil was at that time (around 7°C), but weed competition has been quite bad – as is often the case with early sowings (early for us!). The second batch of trial carrots were sown on 6th May, St Valery. Germination was better, as might be expected, and weed control has been easier as the seedlings showed more quickly. Weed control is initially done using a double-wheel hoe which straddles the row.

Indoor sowings started at the beginning of April (as soon as the seeds had arrived). Tomatoes were followed by sprouts – the sprouts were planted out on June 3rd. Tomatoes are yet to be planted – need to clear some early crops from the tunnels first!

Low Stanger is a small family farm on the western edge of the Lake District. The farm has a small market garden of around two acres on which they grow vegetables and fruit for consumption locally, chiefly in the nearby town of Cockermouth. The climate is challenging, with persistent damp conditions and frequent storms, as well as low light levels and a short season!

The seed variety field lab is looking into Open Pollinated (OP) seed varieties available to non-organic growers and trialling them in organic systems with a view to either creating a demand for them organically or saving them on farm for use in subsequent years. The field lab is part of the Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme which is aiming to improve productivity, quality and environmental performance in organic and low-input agriculture.

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Low Stanger
06 August 2013 11:10

Hello Peter The trial tomatoes were sown on April the 3rd, and planted on June the 20th. First picking was on August the 3rd (variety Bloody Butcher). Our conventional organic tomatoes were sown on February 20th, Planted on May 20th and first pickings were July 23rd. That variety was Matina. Hope this is of some help! We tend to stick roughly to the sowing and planting dates given got Matina - the cold spring this year probably explains why there was not much of an advantage despite being sown weeks earlier. However, we have often only begun picking in mid-August in recent years.

Peter Brinch
17 July 2013 11:13

Hi, (sorry don't have your name)Good to read what you are doing. I would be interested to know when your sowing dates and planting dates were for your tomatoes. Also your first harvest of each variety, when you start on that. It should give an idea of earliness, i.e how many days from sowing to first harvest. And again when variety has finished.This information will be useful.I hope you have a good season. Many thanks Peter

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