May 4, 2018 by Tor Park
14th April 2020
While we are closed to the public, Billy is still tending to the plants at the Farm.
Spring or Summer?
Spring has given rise to an abundance of wild goodness. A few of my favourites are Jack by the Hedge, Chickweed, Spanish spinach, fat hen, and burdock. The last one is a wonderful treat if you have the energy to dig the deep root up. In Japanese it is called ‘Gobo’ and is delicious sautéed in soy sauce and mirin. You can also add carrot and hijiki (type of seaweed) to make a very authentic Japanese dish.
There is an amazing little family of newts living in the pond, and if you can keep still on the bench for a while, it’s possible to watch them play around in the glistening water.
Much to do about the mulching on the farm at the moment with all the plants getting a good layer of compost to keep the moisture in, especially important as there has been such little rain.
The forest garden has had a ground-cover makeover with lots of mint and strawberries to accompany the garlic chives, three corner leek, comfrey and rocket.
Keep calm and pot on
Our tiny little seedlings are currently being moved into their own bigger pot so the roots have more space whilst still being in the warm and protected polytunnel. We have many different varieties: 6 different sorts of tomato, 4 of peppers , 5 squash varieties and 4 of courgette.
A whole lot of lettuce
The new polytunnel has just had the first batch of spring salad planted out. Varieties include red salad bowl, deer tongue, purple sword, lollo rosso, oak leaf, mixed leaf and golden frills. All these have been inter-planted with nasturtium, calendula, ishikuri onions, mint and coriander.
Online open volunteers
Our Open Volunteers usually help out with a lot of the growing across the Farm. As we can’t run sessions on the Farm at the moment, we have been running sessions virtually with our regular group being able to interact with farm activity from the confines of their homes.
12th March 2020
Lead Grower Billy updates on what is springing up across the Farm this month.
Just the skin to go
With all the framework, trenches and doors constructed, the poly tunnel is only missing the final piece: the plastic covering. The metal frame needs to be fitted with hotspot tape and then we need to wait for a wind and rain-free day. We can then get transplanting our Asian salad mix for a few months before the summer crops come into play.
Heated bench nursery
Thanks to the craftsmanship of our site manager Kyle, we now have two permanent heated raised benches in the near poly tunnel. Both benches have a layer of sand and a heating cable which runs within. A thermostat keeps the soil of the seedlings at a constant 20 degrees, which is perfect for all our heat-loving varieties such as pumpkins, Padron and chilli peppers, cucumbers, bitter gourd and tomatoes.
Pond and bog garden tidy up
The Goji bush had pretty much taken over the whole old pond area so we have cut it back to leave room for other plants and animals to feel the Stepney love. This is a wonderful sit spot for anyone wishing to spy a newt, water boatman or other interesting creature enjoying the marshy land and water.
We have introduced some colourful salad varieties in the growing beds behind the café. Some of them will also flower soon, providing a nice backdrop to the Plant Shop that will start blossoming again soon. Once our seedlings have matured and are ready to move on, we will have a wide variety for our visitors to buy.
The colourful edible plants include vivid choi, shungiku, Tokyo bekana, mibuna, karashina, mizuna and red mizuna.
Go have a look and see if you can identity them!
12th February 2020
Lead Grower Billy updates on winter growing and the development of the growing spaces at the Farm.
Here at Stepney City Farm things have been rather mild, as our new returned land is becoming less wild.
Our Mandala beds have been planted with intertwined brassicas, chard and salad, and the outer fields have seen a scattering of broad beans and garlic, which are all growing well.
To combat the deluge of rain a French drainage system was implemented under the path through the Mandala beds and broad beans to divert the excess rain down to the new pond. By constantly adding more organic matter the land will also soak up most of the precious water.
Three hoops up, ten to go
The foundations are in and our new polytunnel (PT) is starting to take shape. It should soon be ready for us to transplant the winter salads which are moving from the existing PT nearer to the Farm entrance.
Once the salad and soil has been moved out, the near PT is now ready to be fitted with heated benches and become our little nursery all ready for seed sowing. The heat is on!
Winter cut backs
Fig, mulberry, hawthorn, medlar, apple, sloe, and rosehip were all cut back quite severely this winter due to limited previous pruning and few harvestable fruit.
The overgrown trees also led to fungal disease spreading, which will hopefully be stopped with less watering and more aeration.
Cuttings have also been taken from the grapes, and the soft fruit bushes too.
Trainees on board
Seven new growing trainees will start in March and we look forward to introducing them. We’ll be keeping you posted on all the exciting things they will be learning and taking part in.
A fair few of them come from a cooking background so it’s great to see so much enthusiasm in linking production to process in the food world.
18th December 2019
This month’s grower’s corner introduces our Horticulture Trainer Tiffany Landamore.
Hello! I thought I’d take a moment to introduce myself here.
As the farm’s Horticulture Trainer & Development Lead I train adults in organic, sustainable food growing practices and also facilitate horticultural tasks for corporate groups and volunteers, including youth volunteers aged 12-17 years.
I’m passionate about the healing power of plants. I trained in Sustainable Horticulture and Permaculture Design at Schumacher College and – as well as working at the farm – I also design, install and maintain edible gardens and offer holistic health consultations through my company Emerald City London.
It’s been a busy month here at the farm. With the help of our amazing volunteers, we’ve been hard at work creating the growing beds on the new land. The new beds will allow us to increase the production of our high value ‘cut-and-come-again’ salad and cooking green crops. We also now have the space to grow leeks, carrots, beetroots, turnips, radishes, broccoli, kohlrabi, pumpkin, courgettes, summer squashes and edamame beans.
Our main concern at the moment is improving the soil. We’re currently planting broad beans which will provide us with a crop for next year, as well as acting as a green manure. The beans will suppress the weeds, fix nitrogen in the soil, improve the soil structure and encourage soil life to come and make their home in the new beds. We’re also adding layers of organic matter in the form of compost, straw, manure, green garden waste and cardboard.
We’re really excited about the imminent arrival of our new polytunnel and aim to have it up before Christmas. This will provide us with an additional space to extend the growing season – meaning we can grow salad even in the depths of winter. In the summer we will use it to grow lots of heat loving crops like aubergines, tomatoes and chillies.
If you’re interested in learning more about food growing using sustainable practices, then do think about applying to become one of our next Food Growing Trainees. We’re currently looking for the next round of trainees to begin in March 2020. For more information about the opportunity and how to apply please go to the vacancies page on our website.
16th October 2019
This month’s Grower’s Corner introduces our fabulous new grower Billy Styles.
Hello! I’m looking forward to updating you regularly on the growing spaces at the farm, but just as a quick intro, I thought I’d fill you in a bit about my background.
After completing an MA in Sustainable Cities, I moved to Japan where I worked on a range of small holdings. It was there that I learned the practical applications of Permaculture and was introduced to the wonderful world of organic Japanese vegetable growing.
Upon my return to the UK I continued to work with Japanese vegetables at Namayasai, a 30 acre organic farm in East Sussex who supply high end restaurants across London.
I also have a background as a yoga teacher, and have been introducing more of a mindful approach to farming. I’ve been encouraging my regular team of volunteers to bring more awareness to their actions as they go about their jobs, thereby enhancing their connection to nature.
I’ve also been to keen to strengthen and develop the relationship with the restaurants we supply our produce to – which is currently Rochelle’s Canteen at the ICA and our amazing farm cafe The Humble Bee.
I recently invited the chefs for a taste tour of the garden. The reaction was incredible! The chefs were so excited and inspired and after getting the chance to experience first hand some of the more unusual varieties that we’re growing here, they’ve since been ordering a much larger range of produce from us.
This month we’ve been busy harvesting:
- Rainbow chard
- Mixed salad
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Crab apples
- Lemon Verbena
- Salt bush
- Vivid choi
- Fat hen
I’m really excited to have the opportunity over the next few months to work with our Horticulture Trainer Tiffany on the plan for the new growing space. I’ll be introducing some Japanese vegetables into the growing plans as well as more heritage, heirloom varieties from the UK.
If you’d like to try our delicious, local, freshly-picked, naturally-grown produce come along to the farm shop on Saturday mornings. See you there!
Next months Grower’s Corner will introduce our Horticulture Trainer Tiffany Landamore and the traineeship programme.
17th April 2019
Due to the warm weather in February the over winter salad leaves and cooking greens started growing back sooner than usual and then surged earlier than they should.
Unfortunately an early surge is then followed by an early bolting (plants going to seed) and the tricky period of judging when to gradually take the old plants out and replace with new ones while maintaining quality. We have managed this so far but the recent cold weather has slowed the growth of the newly planted out crops.
The new crops going in are mainly salad, both in the outdoor new season salad beds and as “catch crops” in the tunnels (short interim crops between the overwinter ones coming out and the new ones going in).
We are still selling to Rochelles Canteen at The ICA and restaurant at The Stores X on the strand.
We have started selling to Jess and Jack who run Tower Green Hamlets veg box scheme, and aim to have at least one item in all their boxes every week. Over the last two weeks they’ve bought 200 endives from us.
We will aim to increase sales of cut flowers this year with more variety. Growing them mainly in areas not suitable for food growing (next to the road for example) as well as in the café area. They will bring in more income to support the charitable objectives of the Farm, increase pollinators – and make the farm look lovely 🌼
Wild plants are able to grow wherever possible to increase biodiversity, and provide for wild life, as a balance to the food growing. This has meant leaving wild plants in the food beds would be regarded as weeds, e.g nettles, dead nettles, purple dead nettle, teezels, speedwell, alcanette, comfrey and mallow; all vital for bees, butterflies and other insects. Also poppies which you will particularly notice in the bed at the end of the office. These will start to flower in the next few weeks and look spectacular. Once they’ve died back we’ll replace with cut flowers.
The Big Dig ( or No Dig in our case)
We will be running a stall for this on Saturday April 28th between 11am and 3pm
So far planned:
- Selling plants and produce
- Salad leaf tasting and tasting a few things made with produce
- Sharing gardening info
- Giving out info about Tower Green Hamlets box scheme
- Running a mini activity for children, potting up a sunflower seed or cutting to take home for a £1 donation.
- 1 or 2 tours of the growing spaces
2nd March 2019
For natural compost look no further! Compost is great for improving the structure and texture of soil. It contains nutrients for healthy plant growth. Just £4 from the Farm!
Another 21st September 2018 update from Shelagh – one of our team of growers:
I’m delighted to let you know that we are now supplying our local box scheme, Tower Green Hamlets with our veg! Which this week will feature some of our bumper crop of chillies in every bag.
Tower Green Hamlets is a family run Organic Fruit and Veg Box Scheme that provides weekly deliveries across East London. They use produce from local farmers including Sarah Green Organics and Stepney City Farm and aim to run with zero waste. Prices start from £10 per week. More info at www.towergreenhamlets.com
And in Farm news… The planting of the outside beds is almost complete with the inside spaces next.
The poly-tunnel nearest to the café is a transitional, between seasons, mess with the last of the summer squash and new direct sown spinach coming through.
Harvest wise, we’re still picking around 15 kg of tomatoes a week and the sold 6.25kg of chillies: 2kg to the two restaurants (The Stores Pickle them) and 4.25kg to the Towr Green Hamlets scheme (85 bags) with loads to come. At Bryde’s suggestion we will dry any we can’t sell fresh on strings – beautiful as well as useful.
Veg of the week is Sorrel which is particularly lush and massive at the moment. This is partly due to the drought as we haven’t had enough milder tasting leaves to balance it strong citrus taste in the salad – we haven’t been picking it as much as we normally would.
It does have lots of other uses though and the restaurants do buy it as a single leaf.
It’s traditionally used a lot in French cooking as a soup or as a sauce with fish and one of our allotment plot holders tells me it’s used a lot in Bengali cooking to make fish curry
Sorrel also makes a delicious pesto
50g almonds or other nuts or seeds
100ml olive oil
clove of garlic
50g parmesan cheese or strong cheddar (optional)
salt to taste
This pesto can also be made with Nasturtium leaves, which are currently making their annual bid for world domination; just add a sprig of fresh mint and squeeze of lemon.
The salad this week was a overlap of the seasons containing Endives, spinach, nasturtiums, sorrel, mitzuna, salad rocket, and little bits of the first mustard.
13th September 2018
After the weeks of drought, summer has redeemed itself with all the late summer crops and flowers coming through in glorious abundance: chillies, grapes and now white figs which are unusual (pale green, not purple) and truly delicious if allowed to ripen to really soft. Currently for sale in the shop but we’ll see what the restaurants think of them this week.
The grapes are getting sweeter and more complex in flavour with even the previously mouth puckering green ones starting to sweeten too. Rochelles ordered five kilos this week which, according to their menu, are being served with a raw cows milk cheese from Neal Yard called St Judes.
A Bengali plot holder told me that they eat sour grapes (literal, not metaphorical ones I presume..) raw mixed with chilli, garlic, salt and coriander as chutney.
Tomatoes are still going strong, as are the courgettes and summer squash – particularly the white patty pan: the one that looks like a cross between a flying saucer and a fluted pastry pie.
It’s high season for our flowers too with Dahlias, sunflowers, Zinnias, cosmos, rudebekias and others in bloom.
They are great for the bees and bio diversity as well as for us and we’re selling them too, as the more you cut the flowers, the more they grow back (in fact we have to keep picking them or dead heading to keep the flowers coming)
Planting wise we’ve been planting out the winter salad and have already started to crop small amounts off it for the café. The mix currently contains endives, mitzuna, spinach, nasturtiums, sorrel and kale with much more variety to come to boost our salad sales before winter.
In the shop this week will be:
sorrel – use for pesto, soup, sauce
courgettes/ flying saucers
Bunches of flowers
Maybe even some salad…
In the week ahead we will continue to plant out, tackle the weeds, save seeds, risk our lives getting the figs down and plant spring bulbs…
Please let me know if you have any observations thoughts or suggestions firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out these juicy grapes!
We’ve also been selling some of our leafy greens and salad to local restaurants (where it has been reviewed as “an exemplary green salad with quite spiky personality”) and veg boxes.
We are now in high season with the fruiting crops (that have benefitted from the heat) producing in abundance and we’ve been told on good authority that our courgettes are as good as those they normally import from Italy!
Tomatoes are also doing well
And we have cut flowers to pick to order
Anything leafy is coping less well, so our mixed salad has pretty much stopped, because the summer staple, lettuce just bolts in high heat.
Chard is still going as we are watering it daily, but it is still trying to bolt.
Sowing of overwinter salad, which should be happening now, is having to be delayed as it’s too hot for seeds to germinate. Hey ho…
In news of who else we have been working with, we have started to take used coffee grounds from Exmouth Coffee in Mile End, which we will compost. And for those of you that use the Tower Green Hamlets box scheme (which has a pick up point here at the Farm), we have started to supply them too!
We are turning all the small beds in the main field into one big growing space, and this has been done with a huge amount of help from the Corporate groups under the guidance of Charlie, and some amazing work by our volunteers. Thank you to everyone for their hard work
The second round of the traineeship is in full swing under the guidance of Elizabeth.
And finally, we are all looking forward to celebrating all the wonderful fruit and veg grown on the farm – as well as all the other things the farm does – at our Harvest Festival on 23rd September!
So much growing at the Farm at the moment, salad (fresh to you with zero miles flown – did you know salad often flies around the world to get to the UK? And it has to be refrigerated for the journey, all in all not too brilliant for our planet) and lovely tomatoes.
Tomato tomato tomato!
If you haven’t been to the Farm Plant Shop recently you are missing out on these totally terrific tomato plants.
May harvests include salad, chard, whole butter head lettuce, herbs (picked to order), spinach and rhubarb.
When it’s late autumn in the garden the produce slows right down and we move to clearing, raking, seed saving, planting and planning for spring! Thanks to our lovely polytunnels we can grow salad leaves through most of the cold season, but we’ll give them (and our cold fingers) a rest in january… We’ve also shared some seasonal treats with the cafe – look out for a medlar concoction coming up in the puddings. Never heard of medlars? They are a fascinating, weird looking and yummy tasting fruit, commonplace in medieval times and out of favour now, but delicious once you put the work in…they need to be picked unripe and ‘bletted’ until they are soft, and once you pick out the stones and skin they taste like gooey toffee apples. Heaven! According to this article they are getting back in fashion… https://ind.pn/2sMdDW0
We have also been planting lovely spring bulbs all over the farm, a bit of bright colourful hope to hold in our minds over the cold winter, and sowing broad beans and garlic, those wonderful plants which unusually you can plant at this time of year.
Another great autumn task is raking and collecting leaves! If you have some room in your garden or shed you can use this fallen gold to make your own Leaf Mulch – just pop a load of leaves in a tied up bin bag with a few holes punched in the sides for airflow – leave for a couple of years and you’ll have a lovely delicate compost to use for seed sowing or to condition your soil.
Remember you can get in touch with us if you have any questions or queries about growing in your garden or ours! email@example.com
In the garden we are preparing the beds (and ourselves!) for the changing season. You can still grow loads of delicious food into the winter and beyond, so we are planting out the beds with delicious winter salads plants which you can buy in the plant shop for your own patch.
Kale is a winter staple – we have different varieties such as Cavolo Nero and Red Russian, and you can pick the leaves small for a salad mix or grow them big for cooking. Same applies to Chard – that year round favourite. These, along with all leafy greens are super good for you, full of iron and calcium to power you up.
And now a word from the lettuce family…winter sees the amazing sharp and sophisticated flavours of Chicory and Endive – slightly bitter leaves (great for the digestion, and also great to grow as the slugs don’t seem to like them!). Most varieties are Italian, so we have wonderful names like Pancallieri, Palla Rossa, Grumolo Verde, Catalogna Frastagliata.
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