Godney Aquaponics

Godney Aquaponics
In the village of Godney, with the beautiful back drop of the Glastonbury Tor, Melv and Sal are embarking on a new venture. Fed up with the poor quality of veg in the shops, they have the ambition to set up an aquaponics system to provide fresh vegetables and salad crops for the village, and with a little help from their hens a supply of fresh free range eggs too.

What is Aquaponics??

What is Aquaponics??
Aquaponics is a sustainable method of producing quality food with minimal external inputs. It is a system that combines conventional aquaculture (e.g. fish in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. Water from the aquaculture system is fed to the hydroponic system where the by-products are broken down and are utilised by the plants as nutrients, and the water is then re-circulated back to the aquaculture system.

Monday 27 April 2020

The Community Spirit

It makes you realise with the current situation and lock-down, how much we take for granted in the UK, for example that we will always be able to acquire items that we need. When we worked in the Seychelles we got used to items not being available, and I s'pose living on the island of Aride, we kind of expected to have to 'make do and mend'. 

But still it was a challenge when there was no toilet roll available, or DIY items such as paint (only 'muddy peach' emulsion). There was never any milk and milk powder was in short supply, when they ran out of packaging, it took months to get a toilet seat for our long-drop toilet, we had to make our own calendar and mirrors just couldn't be found - the latter interesting for Melv trying to have a shave! 

But in the UK we have come to expect to be able to get what we need when we need it and more to the point very quickly. With the current lock-down, supply of many items has become a challenge and the closing of shops and stores has meant that acquiring products such as compost has been a concern for us, especially as it is so key to our business operation. It was therefore a huge relief that during one our recent deliveries a doorstep conversation with one of our customers led to an act of community spirit.

It was lovely that one act of good will led to another and later that day we had an offer of as much compost as we needed. Andrew Rowlands of Godwins, a local growing media producer and grower called to say he could supply us with compost, both peat free and multi-purpose when we needed it. Although the factory was currently closed to customers, he would be able to ensure that we could collect pallets as needed, as long as social distancing was maintained.

Godwins' peat free compost is a product that we already used and we were very excited that we now had a supply of the material in such difficult times. With the help of Mike Chitty, a Godney villager, and the loan of his trailer there was soon a pallet at our barn door, ready to be off-loaded.

With the assistance of the muck truck our stock supplies were soon replenished, as Melv off loaded the trailer in the bright sunshine.

With plenty of storage room in the barn it was great to get stocked up, giving us both the peace of mind, but also the freedom to pot on and grow as we needed in our attempt to provide continuity of supply for village people - Andrew included - who is now enjoying our living salads!!

Andrew's kindness is certainly going to go a long way to helping our small business' ability to be an important fresh salad and vegetable producer for the local folk of Godney, Panborough and Polsham, and so to fulfil our new ambition to be useful during these unusual times. 

To compliment the compost, Andrew also offered us a large supply of redundant 9cm plant pots, another offer we certainly couldn't refuse.  Again providing us with a better ability to pot on a larger quantity of plants, especially varieties such as courgettes, cucumbers, cabbage and beans. Planting out larger plants into the outside beds helps to ensure their survival and counteract being devoured by pests such as wireworm and cut worms.

They also inspired us to resurrect an old idea of producing potted herbs, such as coriander and red basil. 

These 9cm pots would be perfect for this, providing herbs in pots, which will have a long shelf life and provide people with the opportunity to have the fresh ingredients they need to invigorate and liven up their home cooked cuisine.

Friday 24 April 2020

Tasty tomatoes...

Tomatoes are just one of the many things that we look forward to growing over the summer, but this year we are particularly excited as we have got some rather exceptional varieties, in both their appearance and taste.

With the traditionals - Alicante, Gardeners Delight and Tumbling Tom (below), already planted in the polytunnel and some starting to flower, we are now keenly potting on the less traditional species that will certainly make our customers smile and hopefully keen to try - as they are going to be amazzzzzzing.

From cherry to beef-stake, from lime green to those the colour of raspberries, from orange to chocolate, some shaped like pears, others like sausages. Here is a taster of what is to come...

Midnight Snack - 
A dark red, almost black/purple cherry tomato, just 4cm in diameter they are really tasty fruits and great for snacking at any time of the day. 
White Pink Stripes beefsteak -
Fabulously coloured, cream-peach with large, round, flattened and ribbed fruits, 400 to 900g in weight and 10/13cm diameter - huge! Peachy flesh with a sweet subtle flavour and aroma of melon.

Lime green salad - 

These are round fruits between 75g and 140g each, with a Chartreux lime green juicy flesh and an excellent spicy flavour.

Malinowy Retro -

This variety produces, very unusual large fleshy fruits  which are the colour of raspberries and the shape of Coeur de Boeuf (ox heart). Their flesh has an excellent flavour, which is soft and sweet.

Orange fizz -
A beautiful luminous San Marzano type, not only a good tomato but beautiful as well, with a lovely orange colour, ranged evenly on trusses. The fruits have an excellent, sweet flavour and a good yield.
Ananas ou Pineapple - 
Is an enormous pineapple beefsteak tomato, which has a skin and flesh which are yellow-orange, marbled with dark orange, weighing between 500 and 900g with a diameter of over 13cm. The fruits have an excellent flavour and the plants provide a good yield.

Green Sausage - 
A Roma type variety which is great for sauces and homemade ketchup, with clear green fruits, speckled with dark green, weighing at between 60 and 80g in trusses of 6/8 and 7/10 cm long. They have a thick green flesh with a pronounced delicious flavour. 

Aumoniere orange -
Very unusual pear shaped fruits which are ribbed with an orange skin and flesh, that are very even and attractively shaped, weighing approximately 100g, and typically 10cm in diameter. 

With over 20 varieties planned, these are just a sample of what local tomato lovers have to look forward to. We hope that there will be a tomato for all, whether they are a sauce maker, heatlhy snacker or salad lover, there will be a new variety to try - surely that is what summer food is all about - even in times like this.

Friday 17 April 2020

A different turn

As with many businesses, big and small, the last few weeks have been challenging to say the least, with what feels like the rug being completely pulled from underneath you. Our planting plan was set, according to our current and existing markets that we have worked hard to establish, and then in less than 24 hours those markets had closed and gone.

After 4 or 5 days of muzzy heads and uncertainty we directed our efforts to the local community - empty shelves and the message of 'stay at home' we knew that we were in a very privileged position in that we could try to deliver a service that could help - grow produce for our local village. By doing this we could help those that had to self isolate and help those that wanted to stay at home and avoid public places. We were early enough in the season to be able to take a different turn and to direct our energy in to growing lots of the kind of salad, veg and fruit that local folk would need in the coming months. 

As I write this nobody knows what lies ahead of us, all we can focus on is what we can do now, at this moment in time, to help make the situation better and as long as this remains as our focus we can still achieve and succeed, however tough it gets.

As a result our planting plan now looks radically different, so do our seed packets!!

Whilst quality is still very important, variety has to take a bit of a back seat, with quantity more significant - to make sure that there is enough - e we are now on to 'sacks' of seeds rather than 'packets'.

So we have been scaling up, our hot box is no longer growing posh sweetcorn shoots for a luxury garnish at The Sheppey, is jammed with pea shoot trays, to provide people with a tasty addition to salads and a green that can be added to any dish stir fried.

Scaling up is the name of the game, we now have a sea of pea shoots, which are flying out of the door.

The salads continue to be our bread and butter as people crave fresh, either as living trays or cut leaves.

Greens are also key at this time of year, traditionally known as the 'hungry gap', collards and Swiss chard are currently our main offer.

We are working really hard to get ahead of the game and get fresh produce out to people as quickly as possible, as a result we have loads of new goodies on the go, like a forest of leeks...

Beetroot galore...

beans of 3 kinds - broad, dwarf fine and of course runners, to name a few.

Everyday is now an important step on a significant journey...

as we look to transform our operation to deliver a challenge we are very grateful to have, which provides us with a focus and a purpose that is very welcome indeed and one we will rise to.

Sunday 12 April 2020

Fruity, fun and favourite

At times like this its great to do something that makes you smile, but has the added bonus of providing a source of fresh fruit without a trip to the supermarket! We weren't planning on growing much soft fruit this year, as they can be quite demanding on time, particularly keeping them watered - however as we know all things have changed somewhat recently and easily accessible fresh fruit has now moved rather high up the list for all.

Our strawberries have been given a new home, last year we grew them in planters along the side of the tunnel, but them demanded a lot of watering due to the shallow troughs.

Nice little plants, about to come to their own as 2-year old plants, we removed them from their troughs, cut back all the dead material to leave bright new green leaves, ready for spring.

Making use of what was to hand Melv made some planters - originally for the aquaponics, the numerous blue barrels acquired for filters were ideal.

Each barrel provides a home for 25 plants:

Melv began planting them up in a mix of muck and compost - lovely. Three different varieties - Elsanta - early variety, Ostara - perpetual (keep going) variety and Pineberry - a white strawberry for a bit of fun!

The plants looked well in their new home and the Pineberrys are even in flower...

So which will be first - we wait and see - 5 barrels planted, 125 strawberry plants - yum - 1 inside and 4 outside - the race is on... Lovely

Home grown

Now normally with our horticultural hats on when we talk about home grown we are refering to vegetables. But for the first time since we hav...