Friday, 4 July 2014

Blazing June brings amazing crops of strawberries

So now I know just how weather can influence crop size as the clement and warm weather that has been with us right through the winter, spring and summer without a break so no gales no frosts and just the right amount of rain. What's more I think that my land is at last showing signs of getting into balance regarding slugs and snails as the amount of damage from these pests is minimal. Adding these circumstances together has made for exceptional crops of strawberries and cherries. Compared with last year the strawberry crop from the same patch was 10 kilo this year I have picked over 25k of delicious I started on the 6th June and am still picking. Last year the cherry crop was poor due to late frosts this year the first tree (Merton Glory) has just been picked out with a total of 8k.

Fantastic fruit
The strawberry bed
Prior to the strawberries coming on line I picked a kilo of berries from the Elaeagnus evergreen windbreak. I processed these through the green life juicer seeds and all and the result was a creamy delicious juice it almost tasted of liquid strawberry and made the tedious task of picking worthwhile.

Hundreds of Elaeagnus fruits which took 4 hours to collect
Protecting cherry trees from birds is quite a problem, you can try plastic snakes or owls or just sit under the tree all day and try not to go to sleep, or grow miniature cherries that are easy to cover.
My method is to use large nets and construct a cage from coppiced poles and bamboo. I have a 4 metre picking ladder which is useful in pulling the net over the cage. The netting I use is a micro mesh which allows good airflow but keeps out other unwanted predators such as wasps. Its 13 metres wide and I was lucky enough to purchase 500metres 2nd hand from a farm in Scotland and I cut it up according to each tree size, made to measure so to speak. Its now 3 years old and there is no sign of any breakdown in the fabrication, long may it last.
Completed frame of cherry Small Black
Net in position
Small black cherries ripening in safety
Eco Corner 
This time its about the humble scythe.
I have been using an Austrian style scythe to manage the grass, nettles,bracken and herbage for over 6 years now and have found it to be without doubt the best piece of kit for keeping order amongst my plants. This year in particular the growth has been amazing and the scythe with me hanging on the end has been in use non stop.
So whats eco about a scythe then?
For the planet
The handle or snath is made usually from Ash which is a renewable resource from coppice.
The blade is relatively small made from steel and can be reused over a lifetime.
The whole kit is light and cheap to ship.
The only fuel is human.
For the land
Animals that may have been chopped to pieces with mechanical devices will have time to escape the swish of the blade.
The trees will not be damaged as they can be with strimmer cable.
Only light foot traffic which will not compress the land.
For us
We get a chance to get closer to our environment observing nature while we work.
Using the scythe is a first class aerobic exercise and will also build muscle, you should see my 6 pack.
Believe me it is an efficient method of working and often wins in races against a strimmer.
Its quiet in operation you can even hold conversations with fellow scythers.
Any drawbacks
Well you will need to acquire some new skills best done by taking lessons from an expert.
The blade is razor sharp so you will need to be aware of this and how to keep safe around yourself and others. All in all its fun to learn and fun to use even if its only for your lawn ( yes you can scythe the lawn and get really good results.)
I would be happy to teach anyone interested I am shortly to announce a 2 day intensive course and allow students to camp in the Forest Garden. I plan to offer this as open source  (no fee) in return for 2 days scything. If anyone is interested just email me

A section of 3 metre wide windrow goes past a purple hazel which is now ready for mulching
And finally here is a pic of those cherries to cheer you on your way, till next time.