Stirley Community Farm’s Orchard Takes Shape

The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Stirley Community Farm saw its first fruit tree planted this half term, with help from volunteers and visitors to the Half Term Family Fun Day. The ‘Czar’ plum tree, kindly donated by Totties Garden Centre, Holmfirth, was the first of many trees to be planted in the forest garden and training orchard, made possible by generous funding from the Big Lottery’s Local Food grant.

Community groups, volunteers and trainees are busily preparing the next stage of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s fruit and vegetable training area which is designed to demonstrate to local people of all ages how to get involved in growing food both at the farm and in their own gardens, allotments and school grounds.

Kim Warren, the Food Education Officer said, “We are planting a third of an acre of fruit trees here at Stirley, ranging from plums, apples, quince, nuts, pears and damsons which will provide food for both people and wildlife for years to come. As visitor numbers grow, so will the opportunities to see how much of our food can be grown in even the smallest spaces, and there is huge scope for people to come and learn about fruit growing, pruning and harvesting throughout the gardening year.”

During the day, families enjoyed harvesting autumn produce, sowing garlic, making minibeast houses, digging potatoes and storing beetroot and carrots for the winter.

Autumn & Winter 2011 events at Stirley Farm

 

Vegetable planters for Newsome village

Growing Newsome are hoping to have some vegetable planters in Newsome village centre. The children from Hillside Primary would like to look after the plants, with help from Active Social Care. We’re looking for sources of funding to get the project started, and we’re talking to local businesses and others about where we might be able to put the planters.

We’re really pleased that Hillside Primary approached us with the idea, because this project will help us to promote the fantastic work of all the local food growers across the Newsome area, including the children from local schools.

Having vegetables and salads growing in the village where lots of people will see them every day could make a big difference to everyone – as well as making the area look nicer, it will encourage more people to get growing their own local food. It’s also a good way for us to build stronger relationships between the community and local businesses, which is important if we want to see more locally grown food available in Newsome in the future.

Can you help? Please get in touch if you’d like to:

  • help to build the planters
  • offer us a space to put a planter in
  • sponsor a vegetable planter
  • or help in any other way

Contact us if you’d like to help.

Plant Swap – Saturday 21st May 2011

Growing Newsome Plant Swap
Saturday 21st May, 10am to 12 noon
at Newsome Scout Hall
Newsome Road South HD4 6JJ
(opposite St. John’s Avenue)

Please come along to our Plant Swap to get together with other food growers, swap plants and seeds, get advice (or give advice) about growing your own food and find out what’s going on in the Newsome area. This year’s Plant Swap features:

Plant swap stall – bring something along to swap or collect some plants and seeds in exchange for a small donation. You’re also very welcome to bring along your spare plant pots or seed trays to donate to Growing Newsome.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust / Stirley Farm – Kim Warren (Food Education Officer) will be doing some planting activities throughout the morning. Plant some edible flowers and make your own paper plant pots. You can also hear the latest about Stirley Community Farm and find out how you can get involved.

The Reading Circle – book stall with all sorts of good quality books.

Newsome Out to Play – find out about outdoor play activities for children in the Newsome Ward in the coming year as part of the “Play in the Community” programme.

Refreshments – tea and home made cakes on sale. Also cakes etc. to take home.

Growing Newsome May 2011 leaflet (pdf)

To soak or not to soak?

We were in fine spirits for our planting session at Stirley Farm on the sunny morning of 16th April. Not even The Tool Safety Talk could deter us, although that perhaps doesn’t sound like a very exciting start. There were eight of us doing the planting (including Kim and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust volunteer Yvonne), which is enough people to create a small amount of havoc and risk poking someone’s eye out with a badly placed rake – so we heeded Kim’s advice to put the tools safely to one side whilst not in use and to not leave them pointing upwards where a stray foot might step on them. I confess to having my trowel turned over at least once during the morning…

What we planted

Broad Beans – Hangdown Green and Express Elanora

Peas

Oriental mixed leaves

(yet more) Potatoes

What we learnt

  • Kim soaks her peas and beans before planting to get them started off, but Monty Don doesn’t. This seems to be a cause of no small degree of controversy. Does soaking your peas overnight have any effect? If you have any thoughts on the subject please let us know…
  • Tasty oriental salad leaves are less likely to be eaten by slugs than lettuces are. They also don’t need as much water in the summer, so we should give them a try because they’re a more sustainable crop.
  • There’s a fantastic well on the farm – we learnt how to throw the bucket in on its side to fish out some water for our seeds.
  • Kim is on a mission to get us eating things which suit our climate, including the oriental salads but also leaf beet and other hardy crops (beware, this obsession may feature celeriac).
  • Salad crops often have very fine seeds, so you can ‘broadcast’ them (scatter them in a block) then cover them with a fine top dressing. Try to sieve some compost over the top of the seeds and then pat it down gently.
  • You should try to avoid too much bending and twisting of your back whilst preparing your soil. We tried some new tools including a tiller / miller and a push-pull weeder, which have long handles and can be used standing upright (whilst looking at the lovely view).
  • Yvonne keeps bees, and she’s going to be bringing some hives onto the farm. She’s also doing some great work at Batley Girls’ High School, which we look forward to hearing more about.

It was an interesting morning – we enjoyed meeting some new people and trying out some new tools. As someone who appreciates a proper bit of old stone, I was particularly delighted to be able to use the well. It’s also fascinating to hear about the many different methods that people have for growing things (soaked or otherwise). And Carole was particularly intrigued to find out that the strange spur-shaped thing she has at home is actually a tiller. We put it to good use on the community allotment the following day. We shall have a fine tilth yet.

Photos: Stirley Farm, 16th April 2011

Bonnie and Borecole

I joined Kim, David H and Hilary for a morning planting session at Stirley Farm on Thursday 7th April. There are lots of different things to be planted this month, so there’s plenty for everyone to do and plenty to learn. You can see a tiny glimpse of the M62 from the farm, but it’s a different world up there. We had a calm, instructive and (dare I say it) fun time doing our planting.


What we planted:

Potatoes – Bonnie (2nd early)
Onions – Florence Long Red (sets and seeds)
Shallots – Red Sun
Peas – purple podded
Kale  – Green and Red Curly

What we learnt:

  • A plank of wood with seed spacing measured out on it is very handy indeed.
  • Planting both onion seed and onion sets helps to spread the risk of something going wrong and means that you’re less likely to end up without any onions.
  • You should try not to stand on your veg beds after you’ve dug them over, because it’s bad to compact the soil.
  • Umbellifers (it’s a real word, honest) are a family of plants with umbrella-like flowers.
  • You can cover your seeds with fleece for a while after planting to help keep the birds off your shallots (and the mice off your peas).
  • Kale may or may not be different from Borecole.
  • There’s a reason why there are no Celeriac festivals.
  • Having no mains water is a disincentive to doing the washing up.
  • There’s a well on the farm (also no good for washing up).

We had a great time, were rewarded with a cup of tea in a clean cup and a chocolate biscuit, and we lingered so long that David missed his bus and I missed my dinner. In fact, we were still there when Sue arrived for the afternoon stint, and even then I didn’t really want to leave. But at least I was inspired to spend the afternoon in my garden.

If you’d like to take part in one of the planting sessions this April, there’s some more details here: April planting at Stirley Farm

Photos: Stirley Farm, 7th April 2011

April planting at Stirley Farm

A message from Kim for Growing Newsome members:


Please join me at Stirley Farm for any or all of the following events, where we will be sowing seeds directly into the new vegetable beds at Stirley Farm, and possibly doing some weeding:



Thursday 7th April – 10am to 12 noon and 2pm to 4pm
Monday 11th April – 2pm to 4pm
Wednesday 13th April – 10am- to 12 noon and 1pm to 3pm
Saturday 16th April – 10am to 12 noon
Wednesday 20th April – 10am to 12 noon
Thursday 28th April – 1pm to 3pm

Directions:
Facilities at the farm are basic – two portaloos, no hot running water, and some tea / coffee making facilities – you may like to bring a thermos flask!

Drivers: The farm buildings (green portacabins) are off Ashes Lane, before Castle Houses as you head away from Castle Hill. It is easy to miss the turning, so feel free to park at Castle Hill car park, and walk the 500m or so down to the farm.

On foot, there is a field gate at the bend in the road at Hall Bower Lane where it meets with Lady House Lane, walk along the farm track and through two more metal field gates.

From Berry Brow end, where Cold Hill Lane turns uphill off Lady House Lane, past the high walls of the old reservoir. You are welcome to walk up here but PLEASE don’t drive any vehicles up.

Please don’t hesitate to call if you are lost / confused!


Kim Warren
Local Food and Education Officer –
Stirley Farm, Huddersfield
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Mobile: 07557 002113
Email: kim.warren@ywt.org.uk

Sowing the first seeds at Stirley

On Saturday 19th March 2011 a few of us helped to plant some Pentland Javelin seed potatoes in the first of the veg beds at Stirley Farm. We dug two trenches, measured the rows out with a line and (unusually for us) a proper ruler, then put lots of good stuff in the trenches to help things along, including some chicken manure and a bit of grass. And in went the potatoes, covered over with soil, and protected snugly from the cold with a big bit of fleece. Job done.

This all might sound quite simple – a bunch of people digging in some potatoes in a field – but the truth is it’s taken years of patience on behalf of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and local residents to get us to this point.

And this point is just the beginning. There’s really nothing modest about those potatoes. They’re a testament to our shared aspirations to grow more of our own local food.

The buildings at Stirley Farm are still awaiting renovation, but the changes on site are very noticeable since I last visited in July 2009. The yard has been cleared, the veg beds dug, and the steep farmhouse garden has been prepared. The boundaries are being repaired, the access is being improved, and there’s now a temporary office and some portaloos on site (beware of the one on the right hand side, which we’re told rocks about whilst in use).

We were shown around the farm by Kim Warren, the trust’s Local Food Education Officer, who some of you will have met at our recent Seed Swap. We know how much demand there is across the Newsome Ward for learning how to grow food, so we’re delighted that Kim is now based at Stirley Farm. This will give us all lots of new opportunities for learning, and for sharing what we know, both at the farm and in the wider community.

More photos of Growing Newsome’s first visit to Stirley Farm

 

Hillside Primary Harvest Fair

Everyone is welcome to come along to Hillside’s Harvest Show on Thursday 23rd September from 2pm to 4pm. Come along to look round the school, enjoy tea and cake, join in the games, do some bulb planting and lots more. Growing Newsome members will be there to do some planting activities for children in the school grounds (weather permitting).

We’ll also have a display as part of the Fair. You’re very welcome to join in the planting activities too.

The school are keen to involve all the community in this event, so all the exhibitions are open to the public to enter. The exhibition categories are:

• Baking – Victoria Sponge, Tray of buns, Freestyle
• Art with a fruit and veg theme
• Handicraft
• Harvest poem
• Scarecrow
• Fruit
• Vegetables


Please bring your entries to the school on Headfield Road by 1pm on the day.

For further details please contact Laura Merriman or Jill Mellor on 01484 226834.




Hillside Harvest Fair Poster (pdf)

May into June

Usually ‘March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers’ – because of the warmth that May provides. May 2010 is an exception. Night time temperatures have been the lowest for 40 years; down to -4oC. Cold daytime winds deepen the problem. Now in mid-May it remains cool but with the promise of warmth to come.

This may be a problem for those who started to sow seeds in March, then plant out in April. If you did, and things survived, OK. If frosts persist, protect plants overnight by covering with opened out newspaper, several sheets thick and water the paper thoroughly.

If frosts killed your newly sown seeds and plants – simply start again. And if we haven’t started yet, like me, start planting seeds now. We can start planting seeds now if we haven’t done so yet. So – for May – look at the hints for March (March into Spring) and keep going. (I notice that in March I advised looking at February’s tips!) The seasons are a-changing.

Planting late is not a problem. Last year I planted courgette and French bean seeds in July and was picking good crops in late November. So – take a chance, persevere, experiment!

We can expect temperatures to rise in the next week or so – the forecast looks good. Persist with seeds planted in the last month; re-sow if they have not germinated; sow seeds now if you have not done so this far in the season.

(Since everything is late – look at bargains in garden centres. Homebase in Huddersfield have half price seed potatoes, garlic and onion sets as they try to clear the shelves.)

Look at the RHS Veg Planner (pdf) – check out the blue lines for seeds to sow in this period:

Runner beans – these grow high and need a frame for support. A tall wigwam (as tall as you can reach) of poles, stakes or canes tied securely at the top – a metre diameter at the bottom. Put a seed either side of each pole and tie the growing plants to the pole when they are long enough.

French (dwarf) beans – see March into Spring notes for good types. These can now be sown outdoors immediately into the ground in rows 20cms apart and 8cms between seeds – 5cms deep.  With a draw hoe (a swan neck and blade to pull soil back) and a garden line, make a 2” deep channel in the soil; drop the seeds in, water the channel and push back the soil. Or use a dibber / trowel to make holes into which to drop the seeds – then cover after watering.

Broad beans – as above but 30cms between rows and 15cms between seeds.  Sutton is a dwarf variety. If taller varieties are chosen you need to erect a string frame on poles along each double row to support the plants up to 1m – 1m 30cms high. Double poles, either side of the double row, hammered in, and string taken around each pole continuously every 15cms as the plants grow. Leave 50-60cms between each double row for picking.

Peas – can be sown outdoors or planted outdoors if you’ve sown them in pots and they are around 15cms tall. Peas, like beans come in dwarf and taller varieties – some very tall up to 3m+! There are also peas that you pod to eat them – and peas that are mange tout – you can eat the pod too.

  • Little Marvel is a dwarf pea that grows only to about 45-60cms.  A few twigs provide adequate support. 
  • Tom Thumb is even smaller at around 30cms.  Both of these can be grown well in deep pots. 
  • Oregon Mange Tout grows to 1m tall so needs more support – netting on posts or string as in broad beans above.  Pick the pods early when they are flat and sweet. They can be eaten raw, steamed or stir-fried. 
  • Kelveden Wonder is a popular variety, crops heavily, is tall and needs good support. 

Planting peas is straightforward. With a draw hoe or the back of a rake, make a shallow trench 2” deep, pulling the soil to one or both sides, 30cms wide. Plant the seeds in three rows across the shallow trench – and only 4cms apart. Water them in – and draw the dry soil back over the wet trench. When the peas sprout and come through they are attractive to birds, especially pigeons. Wire netting pegged both sides in an arched shape is an effective defence. If you have the ground – sow in succession a week at a time – for a continuous supply after a couple of months or so.

Finally: 

  • Check back to February tips (Spring into Gardening) for hints on potatoes. They can still be planted – and seed potatoes are half price at Homebase just now.
  • These hints will appear throughout the late spring-summer and autumn periods, hopefully covering more ground and different crops for new growers.
  • If you need specific advice on an issue or a problem or other more general advice and tips – send them to David Browning at browning707@btinternet.com and we shall get back to you and publish those questions and answers for others as the season goes on.
  • There will be other advisers and specialists at the up-coming Growing Newsome event on Saturday 29th May in the Scout Hall from 10am-12noon.

 

David Browning

Breaking new ground on the community allotment

On Easter Saturday 2010 our community allotment got under way. Eight of us turned up for the initial meeting, to talk about both the practicalities and our aspirations. Some of us had never met before, so more than anything this first day was about making new friends. We quickly decided that all the areas on the allotment will be shared between us, and we talked about what we’d like to grow. Pat brought along some Jerusalem artichokes and tomato seeds, and Ruth offered some raspberry canes from her garden – so before we even arrived at the allotment site, the sharing had already begun.

We started dividing up some of the urgent jobs (such as getting a shed to hold our community tool bank), and we talked about how people want to participate. Some of us will help with the organising and getting supplies, others will garden on the allotment at whatever time suits them. Some people are able to visit the allotment during the week, and for the rest of us we might try to meet up regularly on weekends or during the summer evenings.

We’ve decided to aim for an organic allotment, and we’re lucky to have expert advice available from Rob, who used to be an organic farmer in Canada and now lives in Newsome. He’s one of several people who have offered to help that couldn’t be there for the first meeting, and we hope to catch up with everyone who is interested soon.

News to me was that the plot boundaries have been shifted around a bit since we picked up the keys, so as well as our wonderful wonky A-frame glasshouse, we have now inherited an old grape vine and its little abode. This is yet more broken glass to replace, and something else for us to learn. With my fondness for old bits of wood, I am of course delighted. Hands up who knows how to tend a grape vine…

Once we got to the site, we set about planting some potatoes that were left over from our Spring event, kindly bought for us by Information by Design (IbyD). I’ve since realised just how appropriate it is that the first things we planted on our community allotment were supplied by IbyD, who are the research company that helped us to run the ‘Grow your own food in Newsome’ survey that told us how much demand there is for allotments in Newsome. Steve Wisher, these potatoes are dedicated to you.

As usual, this particular Growing Newsome escapade was both fun and thought-provoking. I found out about the perils of couch grass, the difficulties of getting claggy soil off your wellies, and the vital importance of bits of string. I also discovered that I’m not the only person in Newsome who uses their underfloor heating to propagate seeds.

We all pitched in to establish the boundary of our allotment and to get three row of potatoes in. I think it’s fair to say that the soil was not very co-operative (Cherry aptly said it was what her mother would call “diggin’ pudden”), but we persevered.

It’s clear that we’ll need a lot of patience to turn this sticky patch of earth into something that we can all be proud of, and we’d really like to hear from you if you’d like to help – you can use the contact page on this site to get in touch.

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