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Rough Runner, Seasonality and Sowing Crops

Some of you might be aware that I have been trying to keep myself fit by running and participating in a few local events to give myself goals. This weekend, I participated in one namely Rough Runner based in East Meon. This entailed me joining my fitness team of 16 and running 15km interspersed with 21 obstacles. Having beautiful sunshine on Saturday was a real bonus as well as spotting some beautiful wildlife on the trail; buzzards, kites, deer and prolific spring plants through the woods. It just reminded me how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful landscape on our doorstep.

Seasonality is so intrinsic to what we do at Tuppenny Barn that our work changes a lot throughout the year. Spring is the time of year that we start having a bit more energy after the winter hibernation.
As you know, this is also the time of year that we start sowing lots of seed, the majority of which is sown into trays in the propagating benches and planted out by hand in the field or polytunnel. We have three heated benches which are made by running heat cables from upcycled electric blankets through a bed of sand. These are connected to a heating thermostat that can then be set for whatever temperature the seed requires for germination. This varies from crop to crop, with preferred temperatures ranging from low (about 12 degrees) for broad beans up to around 24°C for tomatoes.

One of the keys to growing crops continually without big gluts or gaps in production is through successional sowing. We crop lettuce outdoors from around mid-end April until end October continually, from sowing 2/3 batches from mid February until mid June. Whilst we do multiple sowing of many crops, some are just sown once a year. For these there is much pressure on the seedlings to germinate and grow well, as there is often only one opportunity to sow them to allow enough time for them to reach maturity in our climate. For tomatoes and peppers this is the case, and if we were caught out with a late frost and hadn’t provided enough protection for them, we would have to buy in plants and have fewer varieties to choose from. During March and April, the polytunnel and propagators fill up with trays of seedlings, and it is a daily effort to juggle trays on and off heat benches, making space for newly sown trays requiring heat, slowing plants down if it is looking likely to be too wet outside to plant for a while. This year the season is incredibly late due to the hard frosts and snow we had a number of weeks ago so there is now pressure on to get enough plants ready to supply our needs for the coming months!

You might be interested to know we will be holding a plant sale on Saturday 28th April, which is also day one of the Emsworth Arts Trail. This year, we will be hosting 6 artists inside the centre and a couple outdoors in the marquee. Ann and Suzanne will have a selection of their plants also on sale also on the Saturday so do come along if you are looking to buy something for your garden be it ornamental or fruit and vegetable as we will have a good selection of all three.