A new place to grow

We’re excited this year to have our own heated propagating facilities. We’ve put up a new 30ft polytunnel and built a heated bench to give our early seedlings some warmth from below to help them on their way. It will make a big difference because until now we’ve had to buy our early plants from a nursery. It will save us money and give us more control over timings as previously delivery costs have meant we have to get lots delivered at the same time.

The first seeds were sown in early February – pak choi, salad turnips, spring cabbage, spinach, lettuce, fennel and mixed salad leaves. We’ve been really pleased with the results and our first plants are looking great. They’ve been taken off the heat to ‘harden off’ and will be planted in the polytunnels in the next few weeks. We’ve now sown the next batch to be planted outside in April – more of the same plus broccoli, kohl rabi, beetroot and chard.  We’ve also sown our summer polytunnel crops – tomatoes, peppers and aubergines. They need extra heat so will germinate in seed trays with their own little propagator before being potted on and moved to the heated bench.

Beyond the basic tunnel frame, we’ve been able to design the tunnel to our own requirements with insulation for the winter months and plenty of ventilation and shade for the summer. We’ve even invested in an automatic watering system to take the pressure off weekend watering in the summer months. It’s been a great winter project and along with our borehole another great asset for the farm, saving money and giving us that little bit more control over what we do.

Events at the farm 2023

We’re so pleased to be offering a selection of events at the farm hosted by our friends and supporters. Please see the table below for dates and details!

Date and Time Event TitleHostContact for booking and more details
12th March 2023
12noon-2pm
Explore the relationship between agricultural food crops & wild plantsMarley and Lorahttps://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/530415907257
6th May 2023
12noon-4pm
Chamomile HarvestMarley and Lorahttps://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/530429678447 
11th June
2023
10:15-11am
Family YogaSarah McCaskeyhttps://bookwhen.com/yourspace/e/ev-sqt8-20230611101500
11th June
2023
11:30-12:30
Yoga for GardenersSarah McCaskeyhttps://bookwhen.com/yourspace/e/ev-s4x0-20230611113000
25th June
2023
2:30-4:30pm
Kirtan – devotional singingSarah McCaskeyhttps://bookwhen.com/yourspace/e/ev-sfht-20230625143000
9th July
2023
10-11am
Wildlife Walk around the FarmChris and Judehttps://bookwhen.com/bennisonfarm/e/ev-sdum-20230709100000
6th August 2023
10am-12noon
Family Forest SchoolTim Evans and Floss PeacockTo book a place email Floss:
fpeecock@gmail.com
9th September 2023
10am-4pm
Potato HarvestDanny https://bookwhen.com/bennisonfarm

News from the farm – spring 2023

Starting all over again

I love this time of year when we transition from one growing season to the next. The slate is being wiped clean and we’re starting all over again.

Throughout the year I find myself listing all the things we’ll do differently next season and now is the time we can put those thoughts into action. There is of course no one right way of doing things. What works one year may fail the next. The weather is the biggest uncertainty, and whilst nature is our friend, it also presents a great many ever-changing challenges in terms of pest and diseases.  There is always something that wants to feast on our lovely veg!

Each year we begin again, learning from our mistakes. We’re forever tweaking our crop rotations and planting schedules, trying to optimise the system and get the most out of the land.  We can get two or three crops from some beds if we plan carefully.

There’s also a balance to be achieved when it comes to planting times. Plant too early and you have too much ready at the same time but plant too late and you can miss the boat entirely. We’ve been a bit late on sowing some of our root crop over the past couple of years, caused by our effort to create a less weedy seed bed to sow them into. This is risky as there is less time for crops to mature and little time to re-sow if something goes wrong. We’re going to try and bring sowing forward a bit this year to reduce the risk.

Pest and disease issues can also be mitigated with timing and rotation. We try to harvest turnips before the cabbage root fly take hold and try to avoid growing too much broccoli in the cabbage white caterpillar season.

This year we’ve changed our crop rotation to give more space between crops susceptible to violet root rot which has caused problems in our celeriac recently. We’re also going to be growing French marigolds in between our Brussels sprouts to try and deter the white fly which always seem to be a problem.

Each season there will be fine tuning and new ideas. It’s like a big puzzle with multiple solutions. It’s what keeps the whole thing interesting and whilst I know deep down that it’s unlikely to happen, I still can’t help striving for the perfect season, where we get it all right and everything goes our way!

Recipes and facts – Turnips

Turnips are a member of the same veg family as broccoli. They are high in nutrients and low in calories making them a healthy addition to a rounded diet.

Both the root and the greens of the turnip are delicious and nutritious.

It can be eaten raw, roasted, or sauteed.

Recipes

Asian turnip salad

Raw turnip salad

Braised turnips with greens

Asian Turnip Salad – from the Waitrose website

  • 1 red chilli, deseeded
  • ½ tsp grated fresh root ginger
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • ½ garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • handful coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • 3 medium turnips (about 400g), peeled
  • 100g watercress, tough stems discarded

Finely chop ¾ of the chilli and mix in a large bowl with the ginger, soy sauce, lime zest and juice, garlic, olive oil and coriander; set aside.

Cut the turnips into wafer-thin slices – a mandolin or the thinnest slicing blade of a food processor are useful here – and toss with the dressing. Quickly mix with the watercress and spread over a platter or divide between plates, spooning over the juices. Finely slice the remaining chilli and scatter over the top of the salad, with more coriander, if liked.

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Raw Turnip Salad – from Maria Ulashova’s website

  • 3 medium turnips, peeled and grated
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt to taste

Place the turnips, carrots, parsley and pumpkin seeds into a salad bowl. Add the lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and toss to combine.

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Braised Turnips with Greens – from Cooking Light.com

  • 6 small turnips with greens
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup unsalted vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cold butter
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Trim and peel turnips; reserve and chop the greens.

Halve turnips. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add turnips, cut side down;

cook 4 minutes or until golden.

Turn and add vegetable stock, vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to medium-low.

Simmer until turnips are crisp-tender, 5 to 6 minutes.

Uncover, increase heat to medium-high, and add greens; cook until liquid reduces by three-fourths and thickens, about 6 minutes. Swirl in butter and honey.

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