Posts Tagged ‘green thought for the day’

Organic Gardening

18 September, 2011

After such a good start to the year with a warm sunny Spring its been a dull Summer which hasn’t contributed to the growth and development of some crops. Melons after planting both in frames and in the glasshouse sat around for ages before beginning to grow again and we won’t be getting any melons this year. Although the tomato plants grew well fruit has been slow to ripen and taste and texture has been poor(with a flavour reminiscent of cotton wool ) I am informed as I can’t eat them myself due to an allergy. Even regular feeding with comfrey liquid to increase potash doesn’t appear to have improved the quality by much. Many people are saying similar as to the taste of tomatoes this year so lack of sunshine is surely a factor. The only other poor crop this year has been dwarf French beans which in my experience do better in a dryer and warmer summer. Most of the other crops have done well with prolific cucumbers in the polytunnel, good sized onions and some monster beetroots. Other successes in particular were lettuce, plums, strawberries, fennel, carrots and garlic. Runner beans and autumn raspberries have faced constant battering by winds which have done them no favours.The sweetcorn was blown sideways after the severe winds last week and we had to stake all the plants which is a first for me. This was probably planted a little late on our exposed site but its nearly ready now. We have kept the conference centre well supplied with vegetables and any excess has been sent to the Bristol shop.

Vegetable garden in September

Vegetable garden in September

The south facing greenhouses were leaking badly whenever it rained so when it was dry we have been up on the roof sealing with silicone which has improved the situation considerably. The rain blown horizontally by last weeks gales revealed further leaks however where no rain could normally be expected to go requiring another assault on the ridge and hopefully curing the problem for the winter ahead.

We have already sown some Hungarian rye after early potatoes , early lettuce and onions. When the carrots are harvested for storage these beds will also be sown . This is a good cover crop  over winter to prevent nutrient leaching and its deep penetrative roots are good for soil structure. It is also a good weed suppressant and continues to grow in cold weather.

The use of green manures is an important part of organic growing. Two beds were sown with alflalfa in the spring. This is very deep rooting  so again useful for soil structure  and also bringing trace elements to the surface.  This will be overwintered and dug in next Spring after the tops are cut down for composting .

Also grown were Phacelia which has an extensive root system to improve soil structure and with dense foliage for smothering weeds. The blue flowers are very attractive to bees and benficial insects such as hoverflies which eat aphids. Fitting in with the legumes red clover was sown which  is one of the best varieties for fixing nitrogen from the air , weed suppression and improving soil structure. Trefoil will tolerate some shade and is useful for undersowing once crops are established such as sweetcorn. It is good at fixing nitrogen and once the crop is cut down it can be left overwinter to protect the soil. Trefoil was also sown on a small area in the glasshouse which will be dug in before planting up with winter salads. There is one more green manure to sow which is field beans after summer legumes and in parts of the glasshouse and polytunnel after the tomatoes and cucumbers have finished. They germinate well in colder weather and can be sown from September to November.

sweetcorn undersown with trefoil

sweetcorn undersown with trefoil





We have a few chickens up at the farmhouse and the problem of them pecking holes in their own eggs was solved in 3 ways: The placing of golf balls in their nesting boxes acted as a deterrent towards further pecking of rounded objects, a dietary supplement of broken shell solved their calcium craving and Mr Fox made off with the chief protagonists for his dinner! The remaining chickens were penned in behind electric fences and have maintained numbers (18) since the dreadful discovery. They are due to be joined by 20 newcomer hens this week. The Gardening Team have done their best to mentally prepare Russell, the sole cockerel, for their arrival.

The potager at the farmhouse was an abundance of colour throughout the summer. This along with other areas will be available for public appreciation next year through the National Gardens Scheme on 1st July.


Potager in July

The Physic Garden and thyme clock has also excelled in colour and variety

physic garden

Thyme clock and Physic Garden

physic garden

Physic Garden in July

For Neal’s Yard remedies we have harvested chickweed , oats , and elderberries. Last week competition winners from Neal’s Yard spent a day at Sheepdrove and helped with harvesting hawthorn berries. These are used in combination with other herbs to help lowering high blood pressure.

We made more charcoal with the large burner . This is sold at the conference centre and at the shops in London and Bristol. Our lumpwood charcoal gets hot very quickly and saves that time waiting for your barbecue to warm up before you can start cooking.

charcoal burner

Charcoal Burner

wood burning

Wood burning before sealing

Throughout August we spent many early mornings team ragwort pulling in one of the woods which was thick with it. There were thousands of them and, volunteers from the kitchen, farm, garden and office as well as the owners came in at 7.30am come rain or shine to pull up every single plant by hand. With a unique sense of teamwork, humour, belonging and passion for what Sheepdrove stands for, a labourious task was made light. After an hour or two’s ragwort tugging, there is nothing better than the succulent bacon and sausage rolls received gratefully from the chef at the Conference Centre

ragwort pulling

Team ragwort pulling

If you have managed to follow this to the end you now reach the funny moments to report. One colleague while strimming around the farmhouse managed to lose his car keys from his pocket. Although not funny at the time in retrospect we can laugh about it. We found someone who had a metal detector and after 2.5 hours searching finally found his keys and he was able to get home that evening.

For those of you that remember the Basil Fawlty episode when he threatened his car we had similar incident here. Another colleague disappeared and came back with the following:

basil fawlty moment

I'm going to give you a damn good thrashing

The same person also had her hair adhered securely to a yellow sticky trap causing an impromptu hair cut as the only safe way of release.

So autumn is here and the ever-present winds up on this ridge continue and the temperature is beginning to fall overnight.. The spiders have made their way into the greenhouse and the wasps are drunk and dangerous amongst the windfall apples. The mornings can be chilly though the afternoon sun we sometimes see is glorious and there is a beautiful quality of light over Lambourn Valley, rich and with a tint of orange.


Make the Most of Your Roast

22 November, 2010

A warming Sunday roast can help save energy and fill your belly.

Along with your meat or nut loaf, roast the veg in the oven, instead of cooking separately on the hob. Still got room to spare? Cook a pud, or extra veggies to use during the week.

Share your planet-friendly foodie tips in our Forum

Best Wishes, Rita @ Friends of the Earth

Friends of the Earth – tips

24 May, 2010

Do you get these FoE emails?

A green thought for every day, sent to your mailbox!

Friends of the Earth Tip of the day

Feel the need – for less speed If you have to use a car for essential journeys, save cash and reduce pollution by going easy on the gas pedal. Driving at 60mph uses 9% less fuel than zooming along at the motorway speed limit (70 mph).Best Wishes, Rita @ Friends of the Earth

Shop for green books Shop for green books Check out past tips Check out past tips Discuss green stuff Discuss green stuff Support Friends of the Earth Support Friends of the Earth

School of Food

11 September, 2009

The Soil Association has launched a scheme called Organic Farm School to run 300 courses about self-sufficiency, gardening and larder skills. Anybody wishing to grow-their-own can gain the confidence and skills they need to get started at these classes, being run with support from the Daylesford Foundation.


Here’s how to book a course:

How to add your name to the GTFTD campaign

7 September, 2009

Please look for the GTFTD article earlier on the blog (it was written just before this one) and at the bottom there are listed keywords, etc. Click on the tiny link for ‘comments’ at the end. When you see the comments, scroll down to the bottom of the page and you’ll see the space for your name, email address and comment.

Still baffled?

Search for the petition for Green Thought for the Day and then look for the comments at the bottom of the page. You’ll see a space to add your name, email address, and your comment.

Please add your support to the petition! It just takes half a minute.

Green Thought for the Day

5 September, 2009

An Open Letter of Petition
to Mark Damazer, the Controller of BBC Radio 4.

Sheepdrove Organic Farm
Lambourn, Berkshire

PETITION: Green Thought for the Day

Please could we have a daily slot dedicated to the growing momentum of British people doing their bit for the planet?

We, the electronically undersigned, ask BBC Radio Four to begin a new four-minute slot each weekday to focus on environmental issues, what ordinary people are doing about their environmental impact, and practical ideas for action ordinary people can take.

Dear Mr Damazer,

The famous daily editions of Thought for the Day broadcast on the Today programme usually take a moral standpoint on various issues, and it seems that increasingly often the message is about our impact on the planet.

It is no coincidence that the Environment is such a frequent topic for the speakers. It is relevant to how each of us leads our lives and the view we take of the world.

Day after day we hear reports on Radio 4 about the degradation of our world’s natural resources and how urgent the need is for action in our everyday lives. Indeed most people recognise they must take steps and in recent years there has been a huge popular shift to all sorts of planet-friendly activity such as organic gardening, growing your own food, buying local, recycling, adopting renewable energy and cutting your carbon footprint.

However, concern can lead to apathy or a sense of hopelessness if there is no clear route to meaningful action. We think many listeners would be glad of a little encouragement and constructive guidance.

We propose that BBC Radio 4 should start a new mini-programme called “Green Thought for the Day”.
It would aim to provoke greener lifestyles and reflect on the personal scale of the rather formidable topic of environmentalism, with its challenge to ‘do your bit’ in the face of problems which can be of a global scale.

GTFTD would feature ordinary people doing something – however small – about their environmental impact, and would provide practical ideas for action that the listeners can take.

Programmes about the natural world and green issues such as Climate Change currently thrive on BBC Radio 4. Green Thought for the Day would complement what is often in-depth or science-based journalism, with something informal, inclusive and interactive.

We hope you like the idea, and look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Jason Ball
Manager for Biodiversity and Alternative Energy
Sheepdrove Organic Farm


Readers – to electronically add your name to the petition, please add a comment below with your name and email address.  Short link =