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On The Farm – March 2021 Update

Last night was the Vernal Equinox which to many growers marks the end of darker Winters and the start of lighter Spring. Practically it means from today there is more daylight than there is dark.

Not only does this feel great for our moods, for being able to spend more time outside but it also means plants and seedlings get enough daylight to be growing well. That is how it very much feels on the farm as spaces are getting completely filled up with seedling trays of all varieties of vegetables, flowers and fruit.

The winter has been a time of preparing and building and we now feel incredibly more prepared for the growing season ahead. This time last year we were planning to grow on 24 beds and had built just 6 of them. This year we have extended to 72 beds and they are already built and ready to go.

By the end of March last year we had built the frames on our polytunnels but had not put the plastic skin on them. This meant we had nowhere to germinate seedlings or protect them from the cold.

So last year we had a combination of seed trays taking over the lounge of our home in front of the log burner, seedlings in makeshift blocks around the farm wrapped in plastic to try keep them warm and the rememnants of a broken greenhouse that a storm had destroyed.

This year we have a heatbed for germination, a new greenhouse for raising the seedlings on, and the polytunnels are finished for extra space as seedlings are getting stronger. See below for a bit more on how we now give our seedlings the best chance to become strong and fruitful.

Seed Germination 2020
Cold Frame
Broken Greenhouse

Growing Seedlings This Year (2021)

This year we are working with our seedlings in three stages as seedlings require different conditions as they grow. We’ve separated these into Germination, Growing & Hardening-Off. Here’s a brief look at the way we are helping our seeds and seedlings at each stage.

Seed Heat Bed

Germination

This is the stage we struggled with last year, mainly because we couldn’t keep soil temperatures warm enough and constant enough. Lots of seeds require a soil temperature of 18 degrees celsius to germinate, for example Tomatoes require 18 degrees as a minimum and germinate better when the soil temperature is around 22.

This year we have built a heatbed, which is a large 3.6m long raised bed made out of pallet wood, that is filled with sand. In the centre of the sands depth is a heat cable running through, much like a heated blanket for a bed. Above this we have added grow lights and so we are giving constants in both heat and light to germinate seeds and to grow them on a little.

Once seedlings have germinated they do not necessarily require as much heat to their soil but this is where light becomes really important. If you have heard the term “leggy” when referred to seedlings this is due to the plant searching for light too often. It occurs a lot when seeds are germinated early and there isn’t enough daylight in early months of the season. In the early parts of March and late Ferbruary we would keep seedlings on the heat bed under the lights for a little longer.

Now we have reached the point where there’s more daylight than night we are happy to move seedlings on from the under the lights to our greenhouse almost straight after they germinate.

Germinated Seedlings
Upcycled Greenhouse Self Build

If you have been following us since February last year you might know we had a lot of storm damage and lost our greenhouse. This year we set about building a much stronger specific solution with the added challenge of building from upcycled materials.

We managed to get in touch with a local double glazing company and rescue the windows they were taking out from the skip and use these, plus some pallets and reclaimed timber to build a very strong and double glazed greenhouse space.

Double glazed greenhouse 3m square new – £1,500 +

Upcycled double glazed self build – £30

So once our seeds have germinated, we move them down to our greenhouse which has a smaller gas heater in it for frosty nights. We also tuck seedlings in if night temperatures are going to drop with a decent gauge and good quality horticultural fleece.

Once the seedlings have come on a bit stronger we then move them on to a bench in our polytunel to raise them further. Temperatures in the tunnel are nice and warm in the day but can drop at night in the Spring so we have fleece over the blocks in there too.

At the point that seedlings are ready to plant out we will also bring them outside to “harden off” for the day times, and put them back in the tunnel under fleece at night. We will do this for a couple of days ahead of planting them out so they are not shocked by the change in conditions.

Propagation Space in Polytunnels

So whilst the process is a little more long winded and complicated we are sure that this will bring us much stronger and well prepared plants, and we are already seeing incredible results.

Our tomato plants are stronger and happier than ever before and our germination rates are much quicker than we’ve seen in recent years; so we are delighted with how it’s working.

The only trouble is that the quicker we build more space for the seed trays, the quicker we fill them with seedlings.

We are looking to grow over 52 varieties of veg and fruit this year to go into our fresh and local veg boxes, and are excited to be more on course for that this year.

If you are interested in seeing how we build each of these and how we go about the different stages of growing our veg then head on over and subscribe to our Youtube Channel here: https://youtube.com/fanfieldfarm 

Welcome Back! Volunteer Days are Open Again..

We are absolutely delighted to be able to open for volunteer days again. We have always wanted Fanfield to be a community farm here in East Sussex.

We feel incredibly lucky to be on the land here and want to share that each week with our local community. We hope that our volunteers days give people a chance to get outside and see, learn and experience food growing. As well as be active in a relaxed and sociable environment.

This last year of lockdowns and lack of interaction has been hard on us all, so we absolutely loved having volunteers and visitors back on the farm. Of course we are still following social distancing guidelines but with new facilities and lots of open space we are now open Wednesdays 10 am – 4 pm.

Fanfield Farm Bed Preparation

If you would like to come along to one of our volunteer days, simply drop us an email to hello@fanfield.farm or message us on instagram and we will add you to the list.

Please be aware we are currently asking all volunteers to bring their own lunch and drinks inline with covid restrictions.

Autumn Veg Boxes

Spaces Open for our Spring Summer Veg Boxes

With the seedlings growing and plans bigger than ever for varieties of local, seasonal and regeneratively grown veg we are excited to announce you can now reserve your space on our veg box scheme starting in May.

We are providing veg boxes to postcodes BN20 – BN27 with free delivery right to your door. We have available Medium and Large boxes for weekly or fortnightly delivery, to suit you.

Our veg box scheme is set up as a Community Supported Agriculture scheme, which means you aren’t simply buying veg from us. We see the transaction as an ongoing relationship where you are supporting and buying in to the farm.

From us that means a promise that we will always work hard to produce the best local, seasonal and ecologically produced food for you. And for you its an understanding that we work with nature and the seasons. This means one week if nature has struck and your box is a little short, it will be made up for in the coming weeks! We see this as a natural way to grow, eat, live and an honest relationship between farmer and consumer.

We hope you can come on board.

Thank You for reading our latest update and for your support. If you have any questions or want more information do follow us on our Instagram page for the most up to date information on our advernture and quicker response to messages too.

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