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.

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Tremendous tomatoes

From the simple Tumbling Tom, the size of a large gobstopper, with soft skins and a sweet taste that explodes in your mouth with every tomato...
To the Pineapple beefsteak, an enormous 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 amazing flavour and the flesh melts in your mouth, they are stunning.
Our tunnels of tomatoes are certainly performing...
The salad tunnel is delivering delights such as the midnight snack...
Which are very tasty and as their name suggests great for snacking on. There is also by contrast Orange Fizz which is not only a good tasting tomato but beautiful as well, with lovely orange coloured fruits which have an excellent, sweet flavour.
However the Sweet Cassidy has to be the winner on shape and appearance, which is good for fresh consumption but also as a Roma variety is great for sauces.
A close second on shape and appearance has to be the Bells of Russia.
Which has very attractive pink fruits with a unique shape and a dense pink, sweet flesh.

The main tunnel is delivering some very exciting varieties, such as Aumoniere Orange, a beautiful shape and colour, with an orange skin and flesh, with fruits which are pear shaped that become ribbed as they mature.
Scoring 7 on the Brix scale of sweetness with 10 as the highest score their orange flesh is firm, but when ripe, melts in your mouth.

Of a more traditional shape, but still green when mature, the Milano Green has regular shaped yellow/green fruits which present very unusual dark green stripes, not only good looking fruits, they are perfect for delicious, colourful salads. 
Also with traditionally shaped fruits is Bacovia, which is a vigorous variety with nice looking, dark yellow, round fruits, that exude a good sweet flavour.
A little more novel variety, with bright, smaller elongated fruits, is the Firecracker...
This variety has red-orange tomatoes, stripped with yellow not only do they look good, they have a superb flavour and score on the Brix (sweetness) scale of 7.

A perk of the job, we have been enjoying Latah tomtoes (an early variety), since the 14th June, however now the our customers in the local village, together with our business customers such as The Sheppey Inn and the Old Tannery, Glastonbury are too.
From the beefy varieties, which look beautiful on the plate, such as Great White, Pineapple and Caro Rich, to the beautiful varieties...
Which are now just to numerous to name...

Saturday 25 July 2020

The Simple Squash

Don't ever underrate squash, they are far from simple and it could be argued that they are rather special. A species that really enjoys rich ground they are really at home in muck enriched soil - perfect. After sowing over 200 seeds, we planted 176 plants and the beds dedicated to them now look like a sea of squash.
However this is just the tip of the iceberg, as it is very exciting to delve in to this sea of squash, as if you peep in amongst this mass of foliage there are many surprises to be seen underneath, let me reveal some of the delights.
Alongside the beautiful flowers there is the unexpected, like this Crown Prince
A large bulbous beautiful dusky green/blue coloured winter squash. By contrast of a similar size the Victor winter squash has huge glowing orange fruits that shine through the dense greenery. 
It can be used in soups, stews, roasted, baked with or in any other manner you would use a pumpkin, but it is actually a Hubbard type squash, which means that it is a combination of sweet potato meets pumpkin. The flesh is reddish orange and deliciously sweet. 

Currently of a similar football size the Ute Indian is an ancient variety from the native Ute people.
Currently green this squash will turn a Greenish-grey and will exhibit a bright yellow flesh, it will develop a huge button on the bottom, and will resemble turban. With a mild delicate flavour, it is great roasted, grilled or fried. Unique melon flavour when eaten raw.

A lot smaller and smooth in appearance is the Uchiki Kuri, which will also change colour, but far more dramatically to a bright orange/red.
Another Hubbard' type squash, it has a sweet nutty taste, with a creamy flesh and stores well. By contrast the Black Futsu, develops as deep, dark green (almost black) fruit, which becomes darker with age and develops heavy ribbing, bumps and warts.
Black Futsu Squash | Garden Betty
when raw, have a sweet and slightly nutty flavour, and when cooked, the flavour deepens into a taste similar to roasted chestnuts with a smooth, creamy texture.

Of a similar size the Volskaya Grey squash, has a smooth, round and attractive appearance, from the Volga region of Russia, it is a mid-season blue-grey squash that gains a pink blush with storage. 
This is a tasty, reliable and productive variety that is great for a whole range of recipes. It is said to be particularly good chopped up and roasted with whole garlic cloves & chunks of red onion.

A little smaller is the Celebration which is a unique light yellow acorn squash which develops bright orange streaks and attractive flecking. .
They produce fruits which offer an exceptional eating quality and flavour.

These are just a few of the varieties that we are growing, there are many more hidden underneath that spectacular undergrowth.
e wait excitedly to see them emerge and mature at a time when local fresh food supplies are not so abundant and our winter storers play a significant part in our diet.

Monday 20 July 2020

The beauty of the bean

From Aquadulce to Enorma, with Stanley in between, after enjoying and sharing, over 110Kg of Aquadulce broad beans, grown over the winter, we are now just about to taste the first of the summer beans, Stanley a green fine bean, before we head into the delights of the Enorma, one of the best cropping runner beans.

The broad beans sown in the autumn, came to fruition in the polytunnel at the end of April, they had beautiful flowers and we looked forward to seeing the pods develop and grow.
And so they did, to produce amazing full pods full of sumptuous beans

Many over a foot long
The autumn sowing outside came on fast behind, which followed suit and were very productive. 
After a short hiatus our spring sown fine beans were hot on the heals of the broad beans, with a hard act to follow they were certainly up for it. Sticking for maximum uncomplicated production, targeting the village community, our fine beans were the Stanley green bean which were looking good, after numerous delicate pale yellow flowers, the beans appeared a little magically.

The current climate of sunshine and showers was perfect, and our newly formed beans began to swell and after just a few days they were on the list for produce for sale.

Well I can certainly say that they tasted as good as they looked, squeaky to bite into and so flavoursome, the next fork sort for another one - lovely.

Now as a regular accompaniment to our evening meal, we have also been able to dabble in the harvesting the odd few Enorma runner beans that dangle through the rich foliage and beautiful red flowers. 
The small beans are now developing and hang like grapes, and with over 300 plants we are hoping that we will have plenty for local people and in addition we can supply The Sheppey Inn so that they can offer fresh, flavoursome, local runner beans as part of their Sunday lunch menu.
Whilst we wait for them to mature we benefit from the perks of the job, the odd one or two that mature that little bit quicker.
They too provide that taste of English summer we recall from our youth, with a squeaky freshness that only local grown produce with no food miles can achieve. Bring on the main crop, a beautiful addition to roast vegetables, risotto, curry, bean salad and as a traditional side dish, just to a name a few - lovely to look forward to.

Friday 10 July 2020

There with all our onions

Apart from garlic, which we eat large quantities, we have never grown onions before. Our garlic growing has always been very successful.
And other than the odd issue of rust, our crops have always produced satisfyingly large bulbs.
However, this year we have ventured into the unknown and had a go at growing a number of different varieties. 
Red main crop...
White main crop...
And finally yellow...
These are all now dying back and due to be harvested at the end of the summer, all have produced excellent sized bulbs and we look forward to using.  Whether traditionally in sauces, salads, curries and roasted, or with more unusual dishes such as mixing with grated beetroot to make a slaw, or as a base ingredient for homemade bhajis - scrummy.

The other side of our onion success has been with spring onions, both red and white, Red Holland and White Lisbon, which we have grown in trays and planted in bunches of 6 at a time.

They have been both a pleasure to grow and plant, responding instantly to being transplanted and watered, perking up like blades of rushy grass. But most importantly they are a pleasure to eat...
They have both a texture and taste that is almost indescribable, they are sweet, crunchy, and flavoursome, with an explosive, yet subtle onion taste that exudes that they have been harvested straight from the garden. It is a taste like you will have never tasted unless you have a salad onion which has been freshly harvested, dusted in soil, with green tops that are as crisp and crunchy as the bulbs themselves.

Monday 6 July 2020

Birthday babies

Last week I 'celebrated' another birthday, they do seem to come round rather quickly now!! However on many of my birthdays, as it falls on mid summers day, we go and collect new hens and this year we did just that - always a rather lovely thing to do and very special. Our existing hens are getting older and we felt that it was time to put some new youth and vigour into the flock. So in preparation, we recycled loads of old timber and roof sheets and built a new coup to a standard that could take some new recruits, although not finished it was weatherproof.
Never ready until we actually decide to go to collect the young birds, by the 24th June we made the trip to Manor Farm, Illminster, to collect 12 new pullets.
Due to the current situation with Covid 19, it is difficult to get point of lay hens, which is typically the age that you buy, when introducing new hens. As such we decided to go for 6 week old pullets, for a number of reasons, but in the main because they were the breeds that we wanted and that are quiet and unconfrontational, with little to no bullying instinct. This latter point we need to consider now we have rescued bantams, that due to their size alone can make them prone to being picked on.

We chose 6 Bluebells and 6 Speckledies, both of which we have had before and have found perfect for the combination of birds that we currently have. But being very tiny they needed to be kept separate until they were at least at the point of lay stage.

We soon had their area kitted out with what they needed, a new feeding station, nest boxes for sleeping, whilst they were so small, perches and water, they soon settled in.
After an initial inspection, it didn't take long before they were using a perch - something they had not come across before
Next it was to explore outside, again not a side of life that they had experienced, but they took it on with the upmost enthusiasm, like little 'uns playing football - all chasing the ball, they ran around in groups to investigate, areas within their new home.
The next investigation was the new coup, whilst we still needed to complete the cladding and complete the finishing touches the pullets weren't phased, as I cladded they investigated.
They didn't take long to settle in -  lovely
Now, over the next few weeks we look forward to watching them grow into young hens, learning as they go and growing in confidence from new experiences. We look forward to when the time is right to introducing them to their new home...
Then of course the existing flock when their role will be to boost its vigour and vitality and keep the old 'uns young and on their toes.

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...