What’s Growin’ On Guys? My name is Liam, I’m a 26 year old market gardener based in the Tamar Valley, Cornwall. I grew up in Reading but really unearthed my passion to grow whilst traveling in Asia. There I worked on a few different permaculture farms and instantly knew that I’d like to start something like this of my own!
My transition to Cornwall represented much more than just a change of location. It marked a huge life transformation. Before I decided to move I tragically lost one of my dearest friends to an act of unexplainable violence, serving as a pivotal moment in my life. The loss of a couple of other friends in the years leading up to this, due to the intense drug and party scene, had already stirred a growing awareness that change was non negotiable. It was almost serendipitous when, barely a week or so later, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity arose. The chance to move onto a farm in Cornwall.
What’s Growin’ On Guys, since my last blog I have been busy doing all sorts of jobs on the farm. These jobs are not as fun as the summer seasons because there is less harvesting but they are still very important jobs.
Harvesting And Tidying Up Veg Beds In The PolyTunnel And The Market Garden
I have been harvesting the last of my carrots, lettuce, peppers and any other crops that will not survive the winter. Tidying up the organic matter and adding it to the compost. This comes hand in hand with Preparing Beds For Spring. Once the beds are cleared of previous crops I spread a layer of Rocketgro Fruit And Veg Compost as a mulch and cover over with landscape fabric to prevent any weeds or animals disturbing the newly prepared beds.
Planning What To Plant Next Year
This year has been my first year growing on the land so I have to look back and reflect on what has grown well, what I can change for next year and what I will be avoiding next year.
If you followed my Instagram earlier in the season you would have seen one of my beds in the poly tunnel where I experimented with biointensive planting and seeing how much I could get away with in one bed. I planted 2 varieties of Kohl Rabi, Icicle Radish, Candy Beetroot in a 30 inch bed in alternating rows. I thought each plant has a different growth rate and can be harvested at different times. I was correct but I hadn’t taken into consideration the effect of the plants shading eachother out. I had some epic Kohl Rabi and radishes but the beetroot struggled.
Next year I will be playing with biointensive plant spacings again for sure but I have learned from my mistake and will think what will grow best with each other.
Building And Fixing Structures
In the winter months I concentrate on constructing and fixing of structures, this insures they survive the gnarly winters we have here in Cornwall. I am currently working on a shelter for our Authentic Gypsy Wagon so people can stay and enjoy the incredible views from the comfort of a cozy caravan with log burner.
Assess Irrigation Systems
Be sure to check your irrigation systems and make sure they will not be damaged when the frosts come. A small change now could save you lots of time and money in te spring.
Maintaining And Cleaning Poly Tunnel
This is something I am yet to do, I will be waiting until the end of december/new year to clear any weeds that have grown around the tunnels. I will also get some old bed sheets and tie them together. This will create a big piece of material I can clean the polytunnel with. One person on each side and water from the hose any algae should come off with not much of a problem. This is something I will be doing every year to ensure maximum light hits the plants and plastic doesn’t deteriorate.
What To Plant Before The New Year
- Elephant Garlic
- Onion Sets
- Corn Salad
- Winter Lettuce
- Mustard Greens
Berties First Butternut Squash
My partners 5 year old Bertie, sowed some butternut squash seeds with me at the beginning of the season. We chose the strongest seedling and planted it out into the poly tunnel. Bertie came up and made sure it was watered and kept an eye on it for months. When the time to harvest them came he was so proud of what he had achieved.
I believe all children should be taught how to grow their own food, it is a life skill that has kept the human race alive for generation after generation. Watching Bertie getting so involved with his squash plant has really inspired me to share my knowledge and encourage the children of Devon and `Cornwall to get their hands dirty and grow their own food!
The last few weeks I have been spending lots of time on my hands and knees weeding. I went for a week away in September with my partner and her little boy to Menorca. As we left it was hammering down with rain and we thought we were escaping to the sun with nothing to worry about. What we did not know was the second we landed the UK had another unexpected heat wave. The mixture of excessive rain for days on end and glorious sunshine resulted in a ridiculous amount of weed growth.
The two main weeds I am dealing with in the market garden are Creeping Buttercup and Dock Leaf. I have spent weeks digging out as many roots as possible and have even had friends come and help me out.
After removing as many of the weeds as possible I lay down the annual spread of Rocketgro compost and cover with landscaping fabric. This will smother the weeds and block out the sunlight, the weeds then exhaust themselves trying to grow in the dark and kill themselves.
Preparing beds at this time of year and covering with a black tarp eliminates soil erosion, keeps the beds dry in the really wet periods of winter so that the soil isn’t too damp for early plantings. Most of all the black tarp keeps the soil warm and increases activity of soil life that converts your nutrient dense compost into nutrients and minerals that are directly available to plants.
What I Have Planted
Lettuce (for the poly tunnel)
What To Do Before November
Harvest Remaining Crops And Make Preserves
This includes the squishy tomatoes and other veggies/fruits you’ve been leaving to last because they didn’t look as nice as the others. I have made a load of passata from my leftover tomatoes and froze it in sandwich bags so they lay thin and flat on the freezer shelf. Easy to snap off portions for pasta or soups!
I also made a few jars of vegan pesto from my excess basil plants, this stores for months but make sure you sterilize your jars beforehand! If you do not have time to do this please post something on your local community facebook page and see if anyone else would like to make use of your leftovers before they go into compost. That’s what I did and people snapped at the chance!
Tidy Up The Plot And Cut Grass Ready For Winter
Pulling weeds when you see them will save you DAYS-WEEKS of weeding. Cover any unused beds with mulch, compost or leaves then cover with black tarp until you are ready to plant. This keeps out any airborne weed seeds.
Prune Trees And Shrubs
This is the best time of year to prune your fruit trees and shrubs ready for spring growth.
Plant Spring Bulbs
Planting bulbs now will give you gorgeous flowers early on in the year. These don’t just look lovely but are also a great early pollen source for our bees!
August and September didn’t only bring big changes to the market garden but also to What’s Growin’ On as a company. I refrained from doing my usual market stalls at the weekends and decided to start seasonal veg box deliveries to local villages. Due to popular demand I have now expanded my deliveries and will be supplying nutrient dense, delicious fresh vegetables to families across the Tamar Valley! If you are interested in a seasonal veg box please feel free to contact me on Instagram or Facebook.
So, whether you’re a seasoned no-dig guru or just beginning your gardening adventure, know that the late summer and early autumn months have a special kind of magic in store. Keep tending to your garden with love and it will reward you with an abundance that’s truly What’s Growin’ On!
Liam here from @whatsgrowinonuk, and I’m thrilled to have you join me for this exciting leg of our no-dig market gardening journey. August and September are incredibly dynamic months in the garden, and there’s a whole lot happening that’s worth celebrating. So stick your gloves on and let’s get into it!
What Is A No Dig Market Garden?
“No Dig” is a growing technique now widely used around the world thanks to the work of Charles Dowding and other No Dig practitioners. It is a regenerative farming technique we love to use and here are few reasons why:
Minimal Soil Disturbance: No-dig gardening involves minimal or no digging, tilling, or turning of the soil, which preserves the soil’s natural structure.
Healthy Soil: The focus is on building and maintaining healthy soil through the addition of compost, mulch, and organic matter.
Reduced Weed Pressure: By not disturbing the soil, weed seeds are less likely to be brought to the surface, reducing weed growth.
Water Conservation: The layers of mulch and compost help retain moisture in the soil, reducing the need for frequent watering.
Enhanced Soil Biology: No-dig gardening encourages the growth of beneficial mycelium, microorganisms and earthworms that improve soil fertility.
Late Summer Planting And Harvesting
This time of year brings bountiful harvests of incredibly bright colors. Courgettes, squash, tomatoes, rainbow chard just to name a few of the delicious vegetables you can be enjoying.
Tomatoes in the polytunnel can last up to December if plants are healthy and kept at a temperature no less than 13℃ this can be done by using fleece. For me this might not be the most productive use of space in my polytunnel so I have started to interplant other crops such as beetroot and salad greens.
Sowing In September
- Lettuce (choose varieties suited for winter)
- Swiss chard
- Pak Choi
- Spring Cabbage
- Dwarf pea varieties
- Radishes (for quick harvest)
Garlic and Onions:
While it’s usually best to plant garlic and onion sets in October, you can start preparing your beds in September and get ready for planting.
Sow sets of overwintering onions for early spring harvests.
Consider sowing green manure crops like field beans or crimson clover to cover bare soil during the winter, protect against erosion, and improve soil fertility.
Remember that the exact timing of planting in September may vary depending on your specific location in the UK and the weather conditions.
All of my no dig beds in the market garden and polytunnels are made with Rocketgro Fruit And Veg Compost and mulched with green waste compost. Any sowings I do in module trays I use Rocketgro Seed And Cutting Compost sometimes paired with vermiculite depending on what seeds I am sowing.