A number of people within the Woden Folk-Community undertake what we call the Edel-Project which is a starter towards being self-reliant and self-sufficient by growing our own fruit and vegetables. This was a project first started in Leicester by the Hearth of Wayland when we rented two allotment plots which were worked by a number of people around the Leicester area. As with everything that is started up there were a number of people starting this and far fewer keeping things up, and we ended with just two families working together, but it did work.
Recently I watched an old River Cottage series by Hugh Fearnly-Wittingstall which was a similar project that he did for a TV series; in this he states that if a number of families get together in one area and ask the local council for land the council have to supply such land. This was done in the Bristol area and I am not sure if all councils are forced to allow the use of a piece of wasteland but for anyone who wishes to do something like this it would be worth a try asking, or better still going into the law to see if this is so today. But remember, it would be a piece of wasteland covered in brambles and weeds which would need clearing, and not such an easy task. An allotment would be much easier to start with, especially since many of our people are scattered and do not live in one particular area.
In 2019 I tried once more to grow as much as I could, even though each year seems to turn our differently than the last. This year has been rather less successful than I would have wanted, but nevertheless it has been good in some areas, and has taught some lessons. I would like to go through some of the successes and failures and share these with you -
Potatoes - Not very good at all this year, and the need to use more fertiliser before planting seems to be the cause. We had a supply of spuds for a few weeks but each plant did not produce many which was disappointing. I usually only put in First Early and Second Early because main-crop are plentiful in the shops, but ground is short for planting too many.
Salad (Lettuce) - I used a different approach to planting lettuce this year; the usual practice recommended is to sow at regular intervals to get regular crops. But I found that the spring-sowings were brilliant, but after that things slowed down and less were produced. This year I did one sowing and instead of lifting them I cut them at the stems; this way I got (in some cases) three crops from each lettuce over the season. This was a success story that will be repeated next year, and far easier to do than sowing over and over again. I did this method with mixed salad, Little Gem, and Lollo Rossa (the latter being liked less by slugs than the others, it seems). A tip here, about four years ago I started to break up egg-shells and put them around the plants in the raised bed; for the last two years I have had no slug problems at all. I believe this is due to the egg-shells being dug into the soil over and over again since I belie slugs lay eggs in the soil itself. Whatever, it worked and the beds are slug-free.
Salad (Spring Onion) - This was a crop that I have never had success with, even though I have used the age-old variety of White Lisbon and also tried others. So again I decided to change tactics here; this year I did not wait for them to grow fully and pull them up, I cut off the tops and used them before they were fully grown. This is like cutting chives and it did work, for they grew again after the first cutting and I got another crop. Of course, next year I shall try this again, but plant more seeds together to get more shoots. I plant these amongst the lettuce too.
Salad (Mustard) - Last year this did very well but not this year; not worth a mention really.
Salad (Rocket) - Same again here as I did well with rocket last year but this year was a failure.
Salad (Tomatoes) - I grew four small bush varieties this year which gave a very good crop; not as much as the larger ones, of course, but none of them got blight even though we had wet weather. Grown in pots.
Salad (Cucumber) - small crop but very tasty ones, but cannot recall what varieties I put in. Grown in pots.
Carrots - Brilliant crop of carrots for the second year running; had a brilliant crop last year too. These two years were far different from earlier years when I could not get a good crops of these at all. I made a raised bed some 15 inches off the ground and put plenty of sand into the soil, no manure of course this year or last year. Next year I shall change beds and use this for a different crop; it is best to crop-rotate even in a smaller garden. Another thing I did with carrots is to merely leave them to grow, taking out only a few now and then for a start. They still grow large and I get them up and freeze them for the winter months. These are easy to freeze and taste great.
Parsnips & Turnips - complete failure of both of these, even though last year I had great crops of both. Different weather I guess since last year we had months and months of dry weather and this year was back to normal.
Onions - another bad one, and only got a crop of small onions whereas last year's were abundant and large, both white onions and red onions. Probably needs more manuring though since I did not do this.
Peas - don't mention peas!!!
Runner Beans - for the past three years the runner beans have been very bad and even when they grew they were rather stringy. This year I tried the Polestar variety on a wigwam in the front garden rather than the back garden; our front garden is south facing. Brilliant crop of runner beans and they were not at all stringy, or at least the ones I did pick and eat weren't. We had an unusually stormy night in the summer which blew the wigwam over and uprooted most of the plants, so I didn't do well here either - back to the back garden with these.
Courgettes - as usual these ended up as marrows because I don't pick early enough but the crop itself was very good as usual. These are easy to grow but always end up putting too many plants in which I will consider next year.
Butternut Squash - these I did not do well at this year; last year I had over 30 squashes but this year - 3. But I did only put one plant in that grew, plus one in a pot I did not water enough, thus the bad crop. I grew last years from seed from a supermarket plant and also this years and do not know how this affects them nowadays.
Spinach - In previous years I have grown the 'perpetual spinach' (leaf-beet) but decided this year not to because these seemed to lose their green colour and yellow, even though fed properly. Grew spinach in a large tub which turned out very good.
Strawberries - again not a good crop; these were fairly early and we had a wet spell which rotted many of the fruits. They were also a new crop put in this spring. However, they did produce a vast amount of runners and I have got around 40 new plants from them for next year which is a bonus.
Blackberries - these produced a good crop for a start but not for long since they are later coming out and the rains set in. The ones I grow are a thornless variety which I got from a garden I used to work on years ago; they still grow back naturally to being thorny as they reproduce. But they do have good fruit on them.
Cherry Tree - this was a mistake when put in since, being a man, I did not read the label and it was a 'cooking-cherry' variety rather than an 'eater' as I had thought. Last year my daughter's lurcher managed to eat one of the stones and made herself ill, so I took the whole thing out altogether from the garden. Had I the time I would probably have replanted it at the new growing area but unfortunately I could not. Shame really since this tree produced a massive amount of white blossom in the spring and a massive crop of fruits (which the birds had mainly) for the first three years.
Apples - This year was a bad one for apples; the two trees are very young but produced around 40 apples last year, but this year only about 10 apples. I shall be trying to transplant one of the two trees because this is at the bottom of te garden by a stream and has not enough light because of the trees on the other side hanging over. My neighbour and I cut back some last year but they need doing on the other side of the garden, and even then the light would not be good, hence why I may transplant the back one of the two which is smaller. Not sure how this would go, but I have a friend who bought an olive tree from Spain which had a larger trunk and taken from trees fruited for sale, so this may work out alright.
Grapes - Not got this worked properly as yet; there were a few small ripe grapes again but I need to tie them along the new fence put up last year, then they may crop a lot more.
Gooseberries, Black-currants, Red-currants, Raspberries - these were taken up and transplanted to a new growing area I have and so they did not produce this year. As were two very young apple trees and a pear-tree; these are for future years of crops.
The idea is that, although we are scattered as a group, we can give as much help where we can by sharing seeds etc. Scyld kindly gave me five comfrey plants which I put into a large tub to grow - they are (or should be) rather invasive plants. I did have some by the stream at the bottom of the garden but somehow they did not survive.
I would not go so far as to say that what I have done would pay for itself, especially in view of the time put into this project, though I cannot do as much as some maybe. But this is successful on regard to growing and eating one's own food which has no chemicals sprayed on its and the ground is manured by natural means and not artificial fertilisers. If I had time to do more I certainly would do so, but in this regard I have to be a 'jack-of-all-trades' because of my work within Folkish Wodenism.
The problem we have here in England is how much freedom we have lost in regard to what we can do and what we can't do. We are not allowed to hunt with a bow and arrow, but I also found out that we are not allowed to fish with a bow and arrow, nor can we use a spear to fish. This is an act of 1965, so this is a recent thing really. Since the bow and arrow and the spear have been used for thousands of years for hunting an fishing, as opposed to a gun and a rod, the this seems rather absurd. And doubtless brought into force by neither a hunter nor a fisherman! There are also so many laws about what you can do and what you can't do on your own land.
There are loads of sites on YouTube that have hints and tips on how to grow better crops, and how to grow in the least space; many of these are from the USA where they seem to still have a little of the 'pioneering' spirit left. Some of these show container-growing in the house and other ways to grow in a very small space. I have grown a lot of stuff in pots, and trailed squash over a fence rather than growing along the ground; such techniques save a lot of room. After the years that I have done this I can say that if done right it is possible to grow a huge amount of food even in smallish areas. Food can be grown upwards rather than just on the ground. The only problem that appears by doing such things is that when growing in containers there is the need to water far more often, and this can become a lengthy job during the hotter summers. Some means of self-watering could be found for this, but then the expenses go up. There are cheap ways by using old plastic bottles tied above the plants, filled with water and which drip onto the plants over a time.
I have seven barrels which fill with water, but in a hot summer these last around a week or so and no more. There is a stream at the bottom of the garden which cannot be used because it is illegal to take this water (which has like the rest fallen from the skies free of charge). In any case, due to flooding on a nearby road the authorities 'rerouted' this and this part is near dry during the summer months anyway.
Overall, this year was not too bad on this project, and I have had time to make a few changes and to improve the growing areas of the garden. I grow areas for food and areas for flowers and shrubs, since it is also essential to attract bees and insects into the garden too. There are also herbs growing around, which need to be put into a raised bed since the dogs pee on them now, which does not add to the taste. This is another job to be done for next year.
There is one thing that I could share here and that is on the subject of cuttings from shrubs and herbs. Last year I produced around 25 plants from a Rosemary Bush, just by cutting the stems and pushing them into any soil around. These are so easy to reproduce; I have tried Lavender which works too, but not nearly so well as Rosemary. Strawberries are easy because they produce runners, and blackberries produce by either layering or by seeding. I have 4 blackberries in the front garden and 1 in the back garden, all coming from one plant. The same goes for raspberries which produces shoots all over the place; if dug up carefully they will make new plants.