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HomeNewsWork continues on getting people-powered Kirkstall Valley Farm up and running

Work continues on getting people-powered Kirkstall Valley Farm up and running

Work is continuing to gather pace among volunteers getting the new community led Kirkstall Valley Farm up and running. Land group lead Jenny Lawrence has the latest details…

The farm is now the proud owner of the big tractor, and Keith has already given it a thorough workout.

The top fields have all been cultivated and are (almost) ready for seed sowing of green manures. Keith has now started on the lower fields, which have been left fallow for a number of years.

I plan to use a summer green manure mix that contains Italian Ryegrass, Mustard, Fodder Radish, Trefoil, and a range of clovers.

This mix will fix Nitrogen from the air into the soil, and the deep roots will help to break up the deeper soil. Later we will decide if we mow it with the flail mower, or incorporate it into the ground and start again with a winter cover green manure.

I think it will depend on the level of weed cover that develops. There is so much couch especially around the edge, but this warm sunny weather is great for helping to kill it off as it is dragged to the surface through the cultivation.

I have already sown a mixture of Buckwheat and Phacelia into the plot in front of the poly tunnel, and there are signs of germination, but it has been so dry!

The veg plot is now beginning to look like a veg plot, with potatoes emerging, and the onions growing strongly.

In fact that is about all you can see as the rest is covered by swathes of white cosytex, which is a crop cover designed to keep the pests away and to give some weather protection.

We did get caught out with the frosts the other week though, as the potatoes and outdoor tomatoes that we had just planted looked very brown, but do seem to be making a come back.

After that experience I have held off planting the pumpkin and squash plants out, that many of you have grown and brought down, but we will make a start on that next week.

Things are happening in the poly tunnel as well

So one day a volunteer turned up with a load of free wood on her roof rack, and said that a local industrial unit was dismantling their section, and there was plenty more to be had.

Fortunately Keith had his big trailer so after two further visits, we now have quantities of 4 to 5 metre lengths of 2 x 6 and lots of plywood. With this we have built sturdy bed frames for the tunnel, and four of those are now planted up with tomatoes: 64 plants in fact, and I have cucumber, chillies and aubergine plants growing on to plant up another 4 frames.

The frames are designed to stack together to make a raised bed for winter use.

The structures group have started on designing and constructing a compost toilet, mark one, behind the tractor shed. There are plans for ‘mark 2’ and ‘mark 3’ later as well. All that free timber will be put to good use.

Talking of free things, we have been gifted with three polytunnel frames, by Leeds City College, from the old Horsforth campus site.

They are very large tunnels, 8m by 26m, and will be a tremendous asset to our year round growing capabilities. Just a small matter of dismantling and transporting back to the farm. We will then need to construct and cover. So between us we are going to be learning quite a bit about building tunnels.

We only found out yesterday, so need to sit down and work out a plan of how to go about it. Very grateful already for offers of help, but if you have experience with building work, and would like to help, we would like to hear from you!

One thing we will need to sort out is transport, as we will need a flat bed or similar to transport 6m (20 foot) lengths, so if anyone knows a company who could help us, or if you have a suitable commercial license to drive such a vehicle, that we could hire, then again please get in touch. Ideally we get the tunnels dismantled and moved by July. We will aim to get them up again in the autumn.

Also, please start saving your fruit punnets, as they could be good for our tomato harvest!

Best wishes, and happy gardening.

  • Jenny Lawrence (Land Group Lead) –
  • A version of this article first appeared here.


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