What to do now #3

Now is a vital time of year to start looking at sowing a few things in order to have earlier crops next year than would be possible from a spring sowing, alongside things that traditionally are planted over winter.

Now is the perfect time to start to sow Broad Beans. Traditionally these are a crop that it is seen as being easy to sow in early autumn and guarantees a crop that is ready by late May or early June, rather than a month at least later from a spring sown crop. Broad beans are also great to sow as they are legumes and so act as a green manure as well as providing those wonderful beans that are so delicious picked young and added to risottos, pasta dishes and used for houmus and even just as steamed beans! They are easy to sow, with the only thing needed being a weed free patch of soil and a packet of bean seeds that are one of the varieties that are hardy enough to overwinter, such as Aquadulche, which is easily available at Garden Centres. Then the seeds just need to be sown approximately 6 inches apart, with rows around a foot apart, and they should start popping their shoots through within 3-4 weeks. By sowing in October they will have enough time to establish themselves as good plants before the really cold patches of winter are upon us.

The other things to be aware of planting now are onions, shallots and garlic. Traditionally these are sown on the shortest day of the year and harvested on the longest day, but in reality the sooner you get them in, the sooner they become established and the sooner you get a crop! It’s also worth  remembering that often on the shortest day the ground is sodden or frozen so it’s a good insurance policy to get them in earlier. Although onions are cheap enough to buy in the shops, there are far more varieties of shallot available as sets in the garden centre than there usually are in the supermarket, and the same can be said of garlic, so it’s worth taking up the room for them. Shallots and onions are both grown from sets, which are tiny bulbs of the final plant and garlic is grown from individual cloves from a garlic bulb. Pop them into weed free soil in an area that won’t flood, approximately 6 inches apart for onions and 8 inches for shallots and garlic, and leave them to get on with it.

It’s also time to sow sweet peas now but you don’t ewant to know about ornamentals!! But next time we’ll talk what can be sown in the next few weeks under protection.

Scarlet Flowered Broad Beans, a heritage variety

Scarlet Flowered Broad Beans, a heritage variety

Pollinators Poll: Wildflowers v Wasteland?

pollinator-choiceSo we’ve been talking through various ideas, aims and project plans for 2015. Many of these are simply about continuing and expanding what we started this year, but some (to do with Pollinators and the Pollination story) involve new ideas and initiatives that we’d love to see happen. We have a chance now to apply for a small amount of Green Capital funding which along with volunteer hours, donations in kind and a fired up community of IEBers could easily make these ideas a reality. So – the question is…

Are you in!? Do we have your support?

This question is important not only for idealogical reasons (we are all in this together) but also because the funding application demands ‘evidence that the community wants’ what we’re proposing.

But we don’t have much time, so we figured if we could ask you to respond to this ridunculously simple poll, and ideally, ask your friends to do the same, we will get the evidence we need to add to the application and hopefully secure the funding, and then we can share what we’re thinking and get your more detailed input via comments on this post, and in person, at the Incredible Afternoon celebration at Trinity on October 19th.  So the proposed theme for next year’s project is Bees, Flowers, Honey, Food – Bristol’s Pollination Story. And here’s the poll:

Q.: Which would you rather have around Bristol? 


What to do now #2

Here at Incredible Edible Bristol HQ we are working towards a year where we put pollinators at the forefront of our hearts and minds and, bizarrely this means that the majority of this post is going to be about flowers. And I’m not even going to apologise for that.

In order to upscale urban food production in our towns and cities it is going to be vital that we ensure our pollinator populations are high enough to be able to take on the role we need them to do. This isn’t just about bees but is about moths and wasps and all those tiny hoverflies and the other insects that are vital to ensure our food is pollinated and sets fruit, be that our apple blossom in spring or our courgettes in summer. Without pollination we have a big problem. We need these creatures to go from flower to flower to collect nectar to feed on so that they can also pollinate our crops or we will be in trouble.

So what can you do I hear you ask? Well now is the ideal point to sow hardy annuals from seed in order to overwinter the small plants and get them flowering earlier than they would from a March sowing. A March sowing can then take place to ensure lots of pollen rich crops are available over a long period in the late spring, summer and early autumn.

The timescale to do this now is fairly short, in that these need to be sown in the next week or 2, but it will be well worth it to ensure a steady stream of pollinators to your garden. The list of what to sow is huge, and includes Snapdragons, English Pot Marigolds, Ammi, Wild Carrots, and many, many more, but once you’ve decided what to plant it’s really easy to sow them and then you just need to keep them under cover once it starts to get really cold, until the end of February/beginning of March when you can start to harden them off by putting them outside during the day to acclimatise them for a while and then planting them out once the really hard frosts are over.

To sow them, I usually use modules as space wise these are the most efficient, in multi purpose, peat free compost that I have seived a bit to take any lumps out of. Make a dent in the soil with your thumb, sow 3-5 seeds in each module so you get a nicely bushy plant, cover the seeds with some more sieved compost and put in a safe place where they’ll get lots of light and a bit of fresh air. If you water the compost before you sow the seeds, they will only need the lightest sprinking post sowing, and this should keep them damp enough so that they don’t need much water until they start to germinate, when they will need to be kept moist. Once the weather starts to cool, water with caution, although don’t allow to dry out and should they freeze remember that they will need watering as soon as they have defrosted as frozen soil is the equivalent of drought.

So where do I get these seeds I hear you cry!! Well here is a great start as a local to the south west and sustainable business.


Sunny marigolds

And next time I promise we will talk veg.

Native mallows

Native mallows