2016 Patch Plan

As mentioned, there have been a few changes this year – most noticeably the shrinking of the vegetable patch, which now has multiple 10ft x 10ft beds. In truth, some of the produce we grew in the 10’x30′ beds was too much – most noticeably the onions. We never get through them! Some we do use – the squash patch in particular. So with more beds, we can give some totally over to one type of plant. I still haven’t thought it entirely through, but I imagine it will be something like this:

Plot A – Potatoes

Plot B – Aliums (shallots, white onions, red onions, leeks, garlic)

Plot C – Root veg (parsnips, beetroot, swede, kohl rabi, turnip etc) and corgettes – carrots will go on clean ground as they always suffer from carrot fly on this patch.

Plot D – Summer (butternut) and winter squash

Plot E – Pumpkins & Sweetcorn

Plot F – Brassica (brussel sprouts, summer cauliflower, winter/spring cauliflowers, spring cabbage, winter (savoy) cabbage, summer/autumn round cabbage, red cabbage, broccolli)

Plot G – Legumes (peas and beans)

Carrots will go in the raised bed again, they do well raised that 2′ off the ground to deter the carrot fly, and also in the old fruit cage, next to the currant bushes as that soil is new to carrots. I may even add extra garlic in there to help deter new flies discovering our carroty goodness!

We’ll also plant the sunflowers in that area, we need sunflowers as they’re so gorgeous and the birds love them!

You may also notice that the wild flower border we had last year, running south of the Old Oak, is no longer there. In reality, it is, but our de-teaseling last year *seems* to have done the trick as I can’t see any young teasels starting off – but we’re doing nothing with it yet until I’m sure it doesn’t need rotovating again to kill any new growth off, so some wild flowers will push through and, as long as they’re not a teasel, they’re more than welcome!

We’ve also added three new trees to the orchard – a replant of a Beeley Pippin after the last one didn’t take well, It’s in the north-east corner of the little  orchard and, judging by the buttercups there, I think it may be that the ground is slightly wetter than the rest of the orchard. Other trees don’t seem to mind it, so it may be the Beeley Pippin is a bit reluctant as a variety. We’ve also added a Vilberie – an old Normandy cider tree – to the little orchard, and the same variety on larger rootstock to the big orchard. I’m quite excited about these, and they’re one variety that has gone in after much thought.


Acre Field 2016 01

Merrybower Cider – Tally Ho!

2016 tally ho cider 1I couldn’t resist a gratuitous photograph of the lovely line up of our Merrybower cider – Tally Ho! cider 🙂 Don’t they look smart all lined up! These aren’t for sale, but I’m making inroads into the process, for the day we may make too much and want to sell some. The name is indicative of the style of cider – a wild ferment from random(ish) apples, so you’ll never quite know what to expect when you dive into one! I have to admit it was fun designing the labels!

On a related note, the ‘special’ cider we only have one demijohn of, that was the second batch made last year, has woken from its winter slumber and begun to ferment again! I’m excited about this one in particular as it’s made from a mix of russets, cider and cookers. Fingers crossed we’ll be bottling it soon!

The Merrybower Homestead Almanac

Merrybower Patch 2014 Illustration

Merrybower Patch Almanac 2014 Illustration

I don’t think we’ve shared this before, but this is the illustration that hangs on the kitchen wall. It came about when life became a bit too hectic, and various notes scribbled in various places, or stuck with magnets/bluetack/pins to various surfaces began to mount up or blow away, never to be seen again. So I set to work, laying everything out, so a glance could let us know what needed doing at a particular time of year.

The orchards got their plot labels – something they already had for their own records, but something only I knew! And there was also no way I could remember which variety was which, so now we can glance at the Almanac, look down the section of the month we’re in, and get a good idea which fruit are ready to harvest, or at least try and bite in to!

Then there are the season specific jobs – some with timings you need to get right, even legally. Hedgerows shouldn’t be cut from March to August, inclusive, if there are nesting birds present. Now we can safely assume that somewhere in the 800ft of hedgerow surrounding the Patch, there will be at least one bundle of fluff, cosied up in their nest, so we add it to the Almanac. Likewise, there are things beyond our borders that it’s good to be aware of – hedgerow fruit picking time is one good example, when to pick hazlenuts, when to even look for them! We can also track animal movements – moving them from pasture to pasture to clean the ground and prevent disease build up.

Of course, things change, plants die, animal numbers change, we come back with waif and stray ducks that need a home, we squeeze another fruit tree in somewhere. So the Almanac will be updated – this is the 2014 version, and it has changed since then, but we’ll keep it updated somewhere on the website – possibly on its own page.

Merrybower Patch Illustration

Merrybower Patch 2014 Illustration

Here’s something I produced last year, to help with the day-to-day organisation of tasks at Merrybower. There are so many things to remember – when to sow, plant and harvest the various crops, when certain jobs need carrying out, when the various fruit trees are in season for picking. Obviously so much depends on the year itself, and you need to fine tune, but here I’ve laid out various calendars so we can see, at a glance, what we should be thinking of doing at any particular time. It’s an illustrated almanac specifically for us here to work from, and will be updated as and when things change (I’ve already noticed we’re missing celery and globe artichokes now, and a few trees are missing. Just click on the image below for the full-sized thing! See if you can spot the little owls 😉

Ah – I know I need some keys, but in a nutshell, the keys are as follows for the various tables:

“Salads, Herbs & Flowers” – sub-sections Greenhouse, Patch, Forage

  • Small dotted orange line – sow in heated area (indoors or heated greenhouse), to be transplanted later
  • Solid orange line – sow where they are to be grown to maturity (in cold greenhouse if appropriate, otherwise outside)
  • Solid brown line – plant out in final position
  • Solid green line – harvest period

“Seasonal Vegetables” – sub-sections by bed – Aliums, Brassicas, Legumes, Roots Squash & Sweetcorn, Potatoes

  • Small dotted orange line – sow in heated area (indoors or heated greenhouse), to be transplanted later
  • Long dotted orange line – sow under glass (cold frame, greenhouse, cloche), to be transplanted later
  • Solid orange line – sow where they are to be grown to maturity (in cold greenhouse if appropriate, otherwise outside)
  • Solid brown line – plant out in final position
  • Solid green line – harvest period
  • Solid blue line – leave in sunlight to chit

“Nuts & Berries”

  • Solid grey line – harvest

“General Tasks” – sub-sections Land, Orchard, Greenhouse, Fowl, Soft Fruits

  • Solid grey line – carry out task.

“The Orchard” – sub-sections Little Orchard (9-12ft), Big Orchard (12-15ft), Banty Paddock & House

  • Dark grey square – type of apple (culinary, dessert, cider/perry)
  • Calender dark grey square – pick fruit
  • Calender light grey line – useable time, with storage if necessary

It is worth noting that the fruit type is defined by the following colours:

  • Light green – apple
  • Dark green – pear
  • Purple – plum
  • Red – cherry