Friday, 23 December 2011

onions and troglodytes...

A quiet day this week at the urban farm. The trainees are on holiday and we were all winding down before the Christmas break. If you read the last blog you’ll know that the women folk were out in the cold while the men were keeping warm in a polytunnel. I might be a bit slow on the uptake but I’m not dim - this week I got myself a job planting out onion seedlings in one of the polytunnels while the chaps edged one of the paths to stop weed creep.

The seedlings we planted out are North Holland Blood Red - a mild and sweet variety. If you plant them close together you can thin them in the spring for spring onions and leave one which will fill out for harvesting as a full bulb later in the year. If you want to give them a go sow under cloches in February or direct in the ground from March to April in 1.2cm (½ inch) deep drills, leaving about 25 to 30 cm (10 to 12 inches) between rows. Water very gently if the soil is dry, and cover with soil. The smell of onions confuses carrot fly and Sarah Raven ( ) recommends planting them as companion plants to protect your carrots. Or you can wait for spring when they will be appearing in the urban farm veggie boxes.
A wren had found its way into the greenhouse. The RSPB estimate that there are over 8million breeding pairs in the UK - so not a rare bird but it's behaviour means that it is not seen that often.Wrens like to be low down in the undergrowth where they can creep around finding spiders and insects, poking into crevices with their long thin bills. This behaviour explains the  wren’s scientific name, Troglodytes, which means "cave dweller".  It used to be customary to stone a wren to death and parade it around the houses on 26th December. This is the feast day of St Stephen, a Christian martyr who was stoned to death. It was believed that the wren's song betrayed St. Stephen as he was hiding from his enemies. A bit more nature friendly, William Blake in Auguries of Innocence  wrote:
He who shall hurt the little wren
Shall never be belov'd by men

so we left the greenhouse door open to let it escape.

We're taking a break over Chrismas so no volunteering - and no blog - next week but if you want to join us come along on any Tuesday in the new year.