Last week you saw how things got started when we took over Oakcroft Gardens. The story of what we faced when the clearing and cleaning on the site continues today with a quick look at how we faired when tackling the main growing area.
When we began to tackle the main growing area things didn't start too well. We discovered that there were serious drainage issues across the site and we just couldn't touch large parts of the land as they were waterlogged. In early May some contractors came in and fixed up some old land drains, which allowed us to really start working on the land.
If it wasn't for our old growing sites we would have had nearly no produce in the first half of the season due to this slow start, fortunately the existing sites were still kicking out plenty of produce.
So it wasn't until early May that we really got going and very quickly we realised that we were going to be faced with more problems, the whole site had major perennial weed problems mostly in the shape of couch grass, giant dock leaves and a comfrey infestation that had all but taken over. These problems still plague us today and as we work the land to get ready for the change in weather the frustration levels of last year are nearly being reached again! Along with the crazy weed burden we discovered that there was hardly any organic matter in the soil this proved to be a major issue for our carrot growing.
So along with with piles of rubbish, weed infestations, poor drainage, soil compaction and very little residual fertility we had a serious issue growing good quality veg! By this stage we were in too deep to turn back so we ploughed on (excuse the pun).
The summer was unbelievably tough, trying to keep on top of the list of jobs and tackle the ever growing set of problems pushed us to the limit. It was without doubt the hardest growing year we've faced, with the hardest parts being the numerous failed crops or the rows of produce just not good enough to put in the veg boxes. Survival was a close run thing at times and the poor harvests have affected our coffers heading in to the new growing season.
We managed to tackle some of the issues, work around others and blindly ignore several of them.
This year the pressure is really on to make the site work and while we made some good progress; it is this year that we will really see the site become a productive market garden again and in 5 or 6 years we might have beaten the weed burden!
Tom & Matt