Monday, 9 November 2009

tulip trial and error

First, apologies for lack of images, my camera seems to have given up which is very boring and requires a trip to town to the camera shop one day soon..

Finally I've started planting tulips, I can't prioritise any more diversionary tasks although I really now should be starting on clearing out the Flower House and checking materials for next week's large wedding. But before I could start this morning I had the most frustrating conversation with BT, to cut a long story short, after 45 minutes I was almost weeping with frustration and had got nowhere....

Tulip planting this year is a bit of an experiment. I'm on a new piece of ground at the far end of the existing plot and I haven't treated it in the same way as other parts as the soil seems to be lighter here, and there's no problem with fertility as it's worm heaven. I had it ploughed last spring, and planted it with green manure which I cleared a couple of months ago and covered the area with black membrane. It's not perfect but it's the best I can do without using chemicals - or machinery. On machinery - I have called on local farmers when necessary to prepare the ground initially for me, ploughing up patches as and when required - but thereafter I rely on hand labour. I have a small and ancient rotovator, nothing else, because the way I am growing is more like building a garden than a traditional commercial plot. It wouldn't really make sense to invest in machinery (at the moment, anyway) as it is far more efficient to invest in labour - there are an awful lot of woman and man hours in the cost of a piece of machinery. Also, I'm interested in how my rather chaotic growing system might work as a sort of model for other very small scale producers - though they could probably do it much more efficiently than I have done so far, and they could benefit from some of my mistakes and not go with quite as much trial and error. I'm assuming that there are a lot of people out there who do not have huge capital resources to sink into the infrastructure of a project but might still be interested in growing on a small scale. The big and obvious drawback - one of many probably - is that it is very very hard work sometimes! (As I am now writing at the end of a very long planting day, I remember that I do sometimes feel that machinery would be wonderful!)

Planting 10,000 plus tulips by hand is such a gesture of faith somehow, hoping that weather, rodents, rabbits and late gales don't put paid to them. I decided to try planting largely in trenches this year, but it has been so wet over the last few weeks that we only got one large trench dug before the rains moved in, and I really need 8 more.... I was half tempted to plant this one and leave the rest until it has dried out a bit, but it may never dry out much now so it will be a week or more of soggy trenching. It is actually still quite early for me to plant - usually I reckon to get them in by Christmas Eve but I have been known to be hurling in latecomers in January. I'll plant some in different areas to try and stagger the blooming a little, but in my experience tulips of the same variety flower at the same time regardless of how you treat them. I hope to have them from mid-late March onwards, but it does depend a bit on the weather, the earlies are usually later here than in other areas, and the lates also later, we were picking the lovely waxy long lasting Vancouvers at the end of May last year but most varieties peaked in mid to late April.

1 comment:

  1. I hope your camera is fixed by springtime when the tulips reward you with their stunning and colorful performance!