Celeriac being a moisture loving plant that needs fertile, moisture retentive soil I thought it might perform well hydroponically. Our celeriac was grown from seed (rather than the recommended plugs) in 8cm pots. When roots were showing, the pots were then placed in a small NFT system. These have overwintered in a small greenhouse without heat and are doing well. Progress is very slow though.
The Watercress trial has been interesting. In the wild, watercress grows partially submerged in running water in moderately cool climates. We trialled it in both an aquaponic system and an ebb & flood tank situated near each other outdoors.
The above photos speak for themselves (both of which were taken on the same day). Whilst the aquaponic system best mimics a running stream I suspect the nutrient levels are too high and the watercress is struggling. By contrast, the ebb and flood (sometimes called an ebb and flow or flood and drain system) tank filled with nothing more than inert clay balls and rainwater provided a great crop.
Any Hazel wood we remove from our coppice that cannot be used for walking stick shanks or other woodland crafts gets cut up into ‘Wood Chunks‘ which get used in smokers and BBQ’s for flavouring meats, fish and cheeses.
All our hazel is coppiced with a hand saw so has not been contaminated with chainsaw oil. It is processed through a ‘chunker’ where two blades come together and crimp the wood into short lengths. The bins of wood chunks are then tipped out and spread in large plastic trays. The trays allow for really good air circulation even when stacked high.
Along with most nut woods (The fruit of the Hazel (Corylus) is the hazelnut, also known as cobnut or filbert nut), Hazel is a favourite wood used for smoking food as it produces a strong, fragrant smoke.
It is often used in the UK as an alternative when a recipe calls for Hickory. We sell our Hazel wood chunks direct from the farm gate or mail order via www.WoodChunks.co.uk
I try and plant up at least a few gaps in the hedges each year but this season has been so dominated by tree planting nothing has happened yet and there is only a couple of weeks before the supply of bare rooted plants ends.
Having seen todays forecast for inclement weather moving in from midday I thought it would be an ideal day to do at least one hedge gap so this morning I called in at JA Jones’ whilst in Banks and picked up 50 60-80cm bare rooted hawthorn plants.
They all just got planted in time before the rain started. And it did rain. Outside jobs were definitely off the agenda so the chainsaws got a good service and all the chains got a proper sharpening.
Not the wasted day I thought it might be after all.
Our annual update on the progress of our firewood growing trials. All have made very good progress but the Eucalyptus seems to be doing the best at the year 3 point. The hybrid willow would normally be harvested now and it is a perfect size for making wood chunks.
Damon and Matt have been out in all weathers since November but 5000 trees later, the 11 acre field is now planted.
The trees planted are mixed species of varieties that can be coppiced and will eventually be cropped for timber for crafts or wood fuel . The first cuttings will probably be in 10 – 15 years and every 5 – 7 years thereafter.
Apart from providing fantastic habitat over what was previously monocrop arable farmland, the trees dramatically reduce surface water run-off which in turn reduces the volume and rate that rainwater reaches the struggling pumping stations that this area is so dependent on to alleviate flooding.
Also, trees sequester carbon, helping to remove carbon dioxide from the air and as the coppicing program we employ is selective rather than ‘clear fell’ this provides an ongoing benefit with the fuel produced being as close to carbon neutral as we can possibly get.
Lastly, the coppice provides the materials for many ancient woodland crafts. It will be some time before this plantation is ready but expect a few bodging, turning, carving and hurdle making courses to be on the cards in a few years.
At the end of the last season, a friend kindly posted to us a few seeds from a giant pepper with a view of us having a go at growing a big one. He advised us to get them planted early January which seems incredibly early but he is the expert so today half of them got planted along with a selection of our usual chilli and sweet pepper varieties. I will plant the rest towards end March as per normal and compare the results.
The consensus on germination temperatures for peppers seems to be 80-85 degrees F so the propagator has been set to 28 degrees C.
This week has seen some lovely crisp frosty mornings which is always a beautiful sight and is a real pleasure to walk around the farm.
Our willow trials continue with a mix of biomass hybrids and traditional basket making varieties planted. The photo above is of some one year old willow whips which are ideal for living willow sculptures or making new plants.
Selected pieces will be harvested from the Hazel coppice over the winter months, mainly for sticks to make walking stick and beating stick shanks but also to make wood chunks for food smoking which gives the wood smoke a slightly nutty flavour.
We also grow some Eucalyptus, mainly to harvest for the floristry trade and making essential oils but we are also trailing some hardy snow gum varieties for firewood production. To date the results have been very impressive.
Our hedges of Holly have been pruned hard in recent weeks for wreath making but the frost makes them quite a picture.