…but our thoughts are already looking towards the garden!
Before moving to Hungary neither myself nor my wife could be accused of having green fingers, however, given that we now have 5,500m² of land devoted to growing our food we have become a little obsessed! We are now in year three of growing food after spending our first year renovating the house, and three years in the crop rotation plan is now getting a little more complicated! So following on from blogs about photography, cooking, travel nightmares and public art why the hell not add one about gardening into the mix?
We did not particularly decide that we were going to go Organic for ethical reasons, we were driven in that direction by our poor understanding of the Hungarian Language. We had no idea what on earth we would be buying if we were to extensively use pesticides and I really did not fancy eating stuff that I was unsure of. So we did a load of research and seem to have a good system going and other than a huge problem with blight in 2010 that wiped out almost all of our tomato and potato crop we seem to be working well. We find that empty eggshells and nasturtiums work wonders at dealing with cabbage whites and that the only cure for the Colorado Potato Beetle is to get out there and pick them and their eggs and kill them on a daily basis… The tobacco hornworm caterpillar (below) that we found out about last year is a beast at about 10cm long and is something that we need to keep an eye out for in future as they can devastate a tomato or potato crop!
At the heart of any good organic food production system is a sensible crop rotation plan and knowing what to leave in the ground, what to take out and when and how to leave things alone. We have divided our land into twenty-four vegetable plots half of which are 36m² and the other half 48m² (due to an epic measuring tape failure) and an single area approximately 1,000m² set aside for growing chicken feed. January is the time when we can ascertain whether we have got our balance right in terms of the amounts that we are growing and also gives us a little time to work out what can or cannot be planted on the plots that were vacated from last year and what ideally should be planted after last years crops… We have tried a number of methods to work this out including little bits of paper and spreadsheets and the only commonality is that it is always complicated, a little bit haphazard and always very frustrating!
As I have mentioned in previous posts, winter this year certainly does not feel like the winters that we have come to know and love, we have only had a couple of occasions so far where daytime temperatures have been below freezing and we have had almost no snow to speak of. This means if things stay as they are we should be planting up our beast of a polytunnel with goodies in the next 3 weeks, at 22 meters long and 8 meters wide it is larger than our back garden was in the UK and it is great to get a head start on getting seedlings, particularly Tomato and all things Capsicum. It is amazing that the 250kg of tomatoes that we harvested last year is looking to be about the right amount but we seriously need to be doing a great deal better with peppers and chillis next year, we are also going to be needing an extra plot of peas as the 10kg we harvested last year ran out this week!
So as you are all settled down for winter this weekend I will be sat indoors observing my traditional “listening to the football with a beer” ritual whilst trying to work out a planting plan for 2012… Or maybe I will leave it till next weekend 😉