Hooters Hall

Cotton, Loofah, Watermelons & Walnuts

I’ve spent all day today busy in the polytunnel and garden as ever juggling growing and propagating space, I always grow too many plants. In the polytunnel I adopt a policy of polyculture and try to keep all the beds filled throughout the growing season. I grew a lot of plants in pots in the polytunnel when we first started because the soil is very hard to work. It’s a fairly heavy clay so we’ve got a long term project to improve it. At the end of each growing season I add the remains of the straw bale garden, and from this year the hot beds, to the soil.

Most plants do quite well in the soil beds even without improvement because for all its faults the heavy clay soil does contain a lot of nutrients, but it is a nightmare to dig and as the Summer progresses gets so hard it’s like trying to work concrete. We’ve got several direct planting beds that have been improved enough to work on now though and that’s where I was planting this morning.

First for planting were my cotton plants. This is part of the slow textile project I blogged about recently The cotton project . I put the cotton in my heated propagator because they need a temperature of 25 C to germinate. I achieved a 90% germination rate which I was pleased with.

Here are some of my cotton plants ready for planting. As you can see I use root trainers for my seedling. It means I can fit a lot of plants in a small area, move them around easily and use less compost.

I’ve planted all the cotton in one bed. I might add some other crops as under planting depending on how quickly the cotton grows. I haven’t done much research into pests. I’m hoping that there won’t be too many as it’s not a native plant though I’m sure slugs will have a nibble if they can.

After the cotton I decided to plant out another of my experimental crops Luffa or Loofah squash. This is the plant that Loofah sponges come from. The squash are dried and then you get a loofah sponge. I’m hoping that I get enough sponges to add them to the Christmas hampers I make with homemade soaps for family and friends.

Here’s a picture of the Loofah squash seedlings

 Next on the planting list were Watermelons and Melons in the beds that currently have Elephant garlic in. We’ve started harvesting the Elephant garlic so there will gradually be more room for the Watermelons and Melons. Last year I only had three melons but they were delicious so I’ve planted 10 plants this year. I’ve planted the same number of Watermelon plants but this will be m first attempt at growing Watermelon. From what I’ve read success for both hinges on a long enough, warm enough growing period together with plenty of watering. Hopefully I’ll be able to achieve that in the polytunnel.

Finally I was very pleased to see the first of my Walnuts has germinated. Here it is.

I wrote recently about our Mini Tree Nursery Project The Sweet Chestnut, Oak and Silver Birch that I planted in recent months have all germinated well and the Alder and Staghorn Sumac I planted last year have survived the winter. Our plan is to add more trees to Hooters Hall over many years. I want to grow lots of trees from seeds and also then take cuttings. We’re mainly growing trees that we can use for fuel, use for projects on the smallholding e.g. fencing and natural dyes.

We’re going to fence off an area at the back of the polytunnel, cover it in weed suppressant fabric and use this for bringing on our tree seedlings until we’re ready to plant them out. I might also dedicate part of it to a small coppicing area.

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments are closed.