March at Bare Acre Farm
With February out of the way, March, despite the threat of snow, feels more like spring. The longer days have kickstarted growth around the farm, though it is all still very tentative and most of it is happening under fleece.
Vegetable Crops now in the ground:
So far we have only planted undercover. Early crops include Wild Rocket which was sown in September and overwintered inside in 3″ pots, Onions from sets, Homeguards for first early Potatoes and a first sowing of Carrots.
In the first week of the month, we planted out Spinach, Scallions, Beetroot and Dill which will add fragrance to out late spring Salad Bags. All of these crops were raised on heat in multisown modules.
We still have Calabrese and Tenderstem to plant as they were a bit behind and will be held back a further week or ten days before going into the tunnels.
We also planted Kailaan, an exciting new crops for us. We will tell you more about that as we get closer to harvesting it. Or if it fails, you may never hear about it again
The Cut Flower Project:
As I mentioned in previous posts, we have taken the first tentative steps to producing our own cut flowers on the farm. Our aim is to offer good quality, affordable farm bunches to our customers at reasonable prices.
A major driver for this was the realisation that the majority of flowers sold locally are imported. We don’t see why these flowers cannot be grown here, after all, our climate and soil is absolutely suitable for the job, so we decided to put our money where our mouth is.
So far we have planted a sizeable bed of Hardy Annuals which should begin to produce flowers in reasonable quantity in mid to late May, to supplement this we have Sweetpea, Snapdragons and Ammi planted inside. But our cut flower season will start with a limited quantity of tulips.
The tulips were planted in crates in November and spent the winter outside in a cold pit. The first of them has now been brought indoors to force and they are looking good. With luck, we will have our own, Irish grown tulips, both in pots and in bunches for Mother’s Day Weekend.
The Young, The Fragile and not so Fragile Seedlings :
Our Aubergines, Peppers and Chillies are now all pricked out into large modules and will remain on the heat bench until they are nearly ready to plant.
Our Lettuce, Peas for Shoots, early Leeks, Herbs and Onions all germinated well and are now in the cold house where they will grow on slowly with the benefit of some skimpy frost fleece when needed.
If you are growing your own seedlings, remember, more seedlings die from too much heat than too little, so for hardy vegetables, heat is only required to get them going, but once they are up, they should be removed from the propagator and grown on at cooler temperatures.
Another thing to pay close attention to is watering. Too much is definitely worse than too little so water only when your plants need it and if possible, bottom water. We use shallow water trays which go under our standard module trays and this works very well for us.
What we are sowing in March:
We are continuing to sow small batches of seed for our Cut Flower project, some outside, mainly Hardy Annuals, but most of the sowing is still confined to the heat bench in the small tunnel.
Our procedure for cut flowers is very simple, we sow, place the trays on heat and then once germinated they are pricked out into module if required and the seedlings are then moved to the cooler tunnel where they will grow on slowly with frost protection when needed.
We have also sown our second batch of Bedding plants. We are finding bedding very labour intensive to produce with seeding, pricking out and growing on, but we hope that we will have 6 packs of good enough quality to offer for sale in the Farm Shop in mid to late April and on into May and June with the second batch.
March is a big month for sowing vegetables, most of them for summer harvest.
In the coming week or two we will sow the following crops for the farm. Second sowings of Tender Stem, Kailaan, Scallions, Beetroot, Spinach. We will also sow a first lot of French Beans, Winter Leeks, Peas for pods, Basil, Courgettes and we will sow our Tomatoes on about March 15.
Sowing for Gardeners:
One thing that we are very much committed to is supporting anyone who plans to grow their own food.
Last year we sowed and sold limited numbers of plant starts for gardeners, this was an experiment for us, but the feedback was terrific and gave us the encouragement to continue producing plant starts in convenient packs for local gardeners and allotment holders.
This year we plan to be a bit more organised and systematic about out starts, with the intention of offering good quality seedlings from Mid April and throughout the growing season.
In the coming few days we will be sowing; Basil, Summer Cabbage, Calabrese, Cauliflower, Chives, Dill, Oregano, Parsley, Lettuce, Scallions, Spinach, Beetroot Tomatoes, Sage, Coriander, Sorrel, Celery, Leeks & Cucumber, all for sale in pots and in 6 packs.
The first of these starts will be ready for planting in early too mid April. You can see our full list of plant starts at https://bareacrefarm.ie/vegetable-starts/ If you have any queries about our starts, or if there is anything you wold like us to grow just for you, please do get in touch.
The hens, all 30 of them, are slowly coming out of the winter sulks where the absence of daylight reduced egg production to something of a crawl.
Now, as day-length is again increasing, we are seeing a small increase in egg number, though not enough yet to prevent a scramble (pun intended) on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, when our eggs hit the shop shelves and sell out in hours if not minutes.
There have already been conversations about increasing hen numbers, but that will have to wait for a while yet.
The pigs remain firm favourites of both us and out visitors. I have to admit, I was uncertain about them in the beginning, but they have certainly proved me wrong. They are wonderful, intelligent creatures, full of personality and are a constant source of amusement for everyone.
We still have no firm date for the arrival of our two pygmy goats, but there have been mutterings that suggest we may have them for around March 24. The paddock they will live in is fenced and their housing has arrived and is ready to assemble. All we need for them now, are names. More about that in a later post.
March saw us launch our Vegetable Boxes. The initiative came about because of the massive rise in cost of imported vegetables, specifically Tomatoes, Peppers and fruit.
We felt we needed to offer our customers a way to purchase quality fruit and vegetables in a more cost effective way. The idea was simple. If we could bulk up our orders by Thursday evening, then we could buy in quantity early on Friday morning and demand a better prices. We could then pass on this saving to our customers in their weekend boxes.
We are only in our third week of offering this service and so far it is going well. Customers seem to love the boxes and they are consistently saving 18-20% on the cost of there shopping so we feel we have achieved our goal.
If you’d like to learn more about out vegetable boxes, you can check them out at https://bareacrefarm.ie/weekend-orders/