• Caption: Red Alert tomatoes
    Caption: Akron Tomatoes

    Flavour - that’s what it is all about. That wonderful taste of home grown organic fruit and vegetables. Although I grow a wide range of vegetables and fruit, for me there is nothing to beat the taste of succulent, sweet, sun ripened tomatoes picked straight from the plant. Their juice, that exquisite blend of sugar and acid, wrapped up in that unique musky tomato aroma.

    To produce the best fruit a tomato plant needs access to a wide range of major and minor nutrients, minerals and trace elements and this is where Dalefoot composts come in. With their unique blend of composted bracken and sheep’s wool the Dalefoot range of composts have produced some excellent crops of tomatoes for me - in both heated and cold glasshouse crops and outdoor plants here in Airedale, Yorkshire at 53 degrees North.

    Of the many varieties that I grow each year the season starts with ‘Stupice’. From a January 1st sowing, given a sunny spring, it will produce ripe fruit some 16 -17 weeks later. Stupice is an old Czech variety and is reasonably cold tolerant, so that once in their large pots heat is only needed during very cold weather. This variety used to stop growing after 6 trusses, but last year, planted in 30cm (12”) pots of Double Strength Wool Compost™ they continued growing to 8 - 9 trusses tall.

    Each year I grow some of the latest varieties and also some Heritage ones, bearing in mind that cherry types take around 6 -8 weeks from fertilized flower to ripe fruit, standard size around 8 weeks, while the larger beef steak type take 11 - 12 weeks plus any spells of poor weather during this time.

    Your ideal sowing date, is when, in your greenhouse you either know or can estimate when there will be several hours on several days in the week when your greenhouse temperature is in the 18 - 24°C (65-70°F) range. This is the date when the first trusses need to be in flower to ensure successful pollination and fertilization. Go 8 weeks backwards from this date and sow on that date. Thus sow early March for early May flowers. If you sow too early for your site and facilities there will be no pollen, too late and you lose valuable growing time, particularly in the North.

    Many modern varieties are expensive so to get a good germination fill a clean seed tray with moist Wool Compost for Seeds without compressing it. Sow the seed spaced 5cms (2”) apart and 1 - 1.5 cms (1/4- 3/8”) deep. Water gently and allow to drain, cover the seed tray and keep as near to a temperature of 20°C (68°F) as possible. Once germinated place the seedlings in a position with as much light as possible and in a temperature of as near 20°C (68°F) during the day and 13°C (55°F) at night as can be maintained.

    When the leaves of the seedlings are starting to touch, pot them on into next size pots filled with Wool Compost for Vegetables and Salads, carefully lifting the entire root ball around the seedling. Place them in as light a position as possible in a temperature as near as is practicable to the above.

    When half of propagated plants are showing their first flowers it is time to plant them all into their final pots. They grow well in containers of Wool Compost for Vegetable and Salads or for very particularly vigorous varieties try the Double Strength Wool Compost. For plants growing in the greenhouse or outdoor border beds, replace a spade full of soil with a spade full of Double Strength Wool Compost at each planting position. They will then get off to a flying start!

    Less water is needed when growing in Wool Compost™ but the plants should be kept uniformly moist.

    Good crops of tomatoes can be grown outdoors in the North in sheltered locations. Strategically placed containers of Wool Compost™ can yield excellent crops as can a sheltered border. My ‘Ferline,’ and the latest ‘Blight resistant’ varieties will grow to 4 - 5 trusses here in Yorkshire, during most seasons.

    The secret to outdoor tomato growing lies in propagating well developed plants. From a mid- March sowing they usually have the first truss setting by the time the last frost has gone and they can take full advantage of the early summer weather. Whatever weather the coming season brings, strong healthy plants raised and grown in Dalefoot composts have the potential to create heavy crops with that luscious, unique tomato flavour.

  • Galanthus Trumps
    Caption: Galanthus Trumps grown in Dalefoot Compost
    Snowdrops trial to compare Dalefoot Composts
    Caption: Trialling Dalefoot composts

    Margaret and David MacLennan are Plant Heritage National Collection Holders for Galanthus (snowdrops). Their collection has “scientific” status in recognition of the special contribution that it makes to the conservation of the Galanthus genus. They have more than 1500 different varieties of snowdrop, including species and named varieties, growing in frames in their garden at their home in Carlisle.

    We first met them when they came to our stand at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show last summer. They explained that their National Collection was all planted in special pots using a compost based on commercially produced John Innes No 3 with the addition of grit and small quantities of other materials. They had never tried a peat free compost but after we had shown them our products they offered to conduct a comparative trial using conventional and Dalefoot growing mediums.

    Last August, Margaret potted up dormant snowdrops bulbs from two dozen different varieties. Half of each variety went in a pot of the usual John Innes based compost. The other half of the bulbs were planted up using a mix of Lakeland Gold and Wool Compost™. The pots were then sunk side by side in a sand frame.

    Now we are in the middle of the snowdrop flowering season and it is possible to see how the plants are doing. So far there is no significant difference though just possibly the plants grown in the Dalefoot composts are slightly ahead in size, perhaps reflecting the higher nutritional content of the mixture. However the real test will come next year and beyond when we see how the plants perform in their second and subsequent growing seasons.

  • 20 December 2016

    SOWING THE SEED.........

    Caption: “The love of gardening is a seed that once sown never dies, but grows to the enduring happiness that the love of gardening gives”. Gertrude Jekyll

    The noise of the seed catalogue landing on the mat casts light on the darkest of winter days. Sitting with a cup of tea, soaking in the colours and scents and marvelling at the new Sweet Pea or Nigella seeds and where you can fit them in is an abiding pleasure for most gardeners.
    There are many reasons that gardeners grow from seed. Whatever your reason, Dalefoot Wool Compost for Seeds has been developed to provide the best possible medium for sowing and also growing on from seed.

    We have listened carefully to our customers and have developed the perfect start for seeds.

    Tips for growing from seed. You may want to grow all your vegetables from seed saving on the cost of plug plants and allowing for a greater variety of successional sowings
    • Shallow containers are best for seeds. Seed trays, small pots, egg boxes and yoghurt pots work well. All containers must have holes in the bottom to allow for good drainage. Re-used pots must be clean and sterile.

    • Do not use garden soil when sowing seeds.

    • Fill the clean container with Wool Compost for Seeds. One bag is sufficient for 2 standard full size seed trays. Gently tamp the compost down, sow the seed lightly and cover it with the seed compost.
    A gardening rule of thumb says the larger the seed the more deeply they are planted. The seed packet gives all the information you need about the planting depth, when to sow and the estimated time before germination.

    • Wool Compost for Seeds contains wool. It is not essential to soak the trays before sowing the seeds because of the way the wool fibres hold water. Mist the trays with a spray remembering that the seed compost needs approximately 50% less watering, depending on the temperature the seed trays are kept at. We recommend that you water to touch and lifting the seed tray to gauge its weight will give a good idea of how much water is in the compost.

    • Keep the seed trays warm by putting them in a greenhouse, in a propagator or even an airing cupboard. Remember to keep the seed trays out of the direct sun if under glass.

    • Top dressing the seed compost with some vermiculite or fine grit helps prevent crusting. This also helps to maintain the moisture and minimises damping off.

    Pricking Out
    When the seedlings are well grown gently separate and prick out into Wool Compost which has all the nutrients the plants need for the entire growing season.

    "I have never seen a root ball like it. The fibrous root system was denser, much more developed and uniform producing the best tomato plants I have grown" – Terry Marshall professional tomato grower grew from seed in Dalefoot Wool Compost for Seeds and moved on to Dalefoot Wool Compost for Vegetables and Salads 2016

  • Site visit to Roudsea
    Caption: Conference delegates on site visit to Roudsea Mosses
    Jane Barker at Cumbria BogLIFE Conference
    Caption: Jane Barker at Cumbria BogLIFE Conference

    As well as making peat free compost, we restore peat bogs across the UK and recently took part in an event aimed at highlighting the work being undertaken to protect these precious landscapes.
    Read Natural England’s press release about the initiative:

    “Lowland Raised Bogs are one of Europe’s most important and threatened habitats, with many having been damaged beyond repair. Pressure on them continues across the continent, as they are drained and ‘improved’ for agricultural land, forestry, or cutting peat for use as compost. Cumbria is a very important county for raised bog habitat, holding around half of all that is left in England. Natural England and Cumbria Wildlife Trust are leaders throughout the world in restoring these habitats and held a conference to share our knowledge with others from across the UK and continental Europe.

    Healthy peatlands are home to some amazing specialist wildlife, such as the four spotted chaser dragonfly that thrives in them, but they are also critical for the health of the planet. Their peat depths store huge amounts of carbon, locked up over thousands of years since the last ice ages, but damaged bogs quickly release this carbon back into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

    This conference, ‘Restoring Peatlands – The Development of Best Practice Techniques’, organised by the Cumbria BogLIFE project, brought together leading professionals from across the UK and Europe, showcasing 30 years of development. Speakers involved in peatland restoration projects from across the UK, Sweden, Estonia, Lithuania and Denmark shared their experiences. Site visits to some of the most important sites across the county will give delegates an opportunity to observe the variety of restoration techniques used.

    John Dunbavin, Cumbria BogLIFE Project Manager says “Natural England has been working closely with our partners over the last 30 years in developing new and innovative techniques that ensure that these rare and wonderful sites are fully repaired for future generations to enjoy. We are therefore delighted to have had the opportunity to share this wealth of Cumbrian peatland knowledge with other professionals from across the UK and continental Europe”.

    Simon Bland of Barker and Bland Ltd, sister company of Dalefoot Composts, based in the Lowther valley added: “Getting together with peatland restorers from across Europe enabled us to share knowledge, experience, expertise and learn what works elsewhere. It was a fantastic opportunity to showcase the innovative approaches we are employing in restoring degraded bogs here on Cumbrian sites.”

  • Grace in restored pinfold
    Caption: Grace in restored pinfold
    Planting containers
    Caption: Planting containers

    A 12-year-old from Wensleydale in Yorkshire has transformed a local ‘pinfold’ into a blooming community garden, with a little help from Dalefoot Composts.

    Grace Morris noticed that her local pinfold – a traditional village enclosure or pound for sheep – needed some TLC. The pinfold had been originally restored by the Parish Council in 2008 and Grace helped to weed the pinfold when she was younger. However, two floods in the village had left the area in need of care and attention.

    After presenting her case in person to the Council and raising local funds, she enlisted help from her garden centre, builders merchants and Dalefoot Composts, and over two days gave the pinfold a new look.

    It now boasts three planters filled with Wool Compost; one containing herbs (for smell), one containing grasses (for touch) and one with flowers (for sight) to attract bees. She has also placed a bee hotel on one of the trees and a bird bath near the seating area.

    Grace, whose aunt had met the Dalefoot team at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, said: “Since we finished the project all the plants are doing really well. I'm sure it's because of the compost. I think that the fact it's wool compost is perfect for the pinfold!”

    And here’s how the local paper reported Grace’s kind deed – click here.

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© Barker and Bland Ltd t/a Dalefoot Composts 2014 - 2017. All rights reserved.
Barker and Bland is a limited company registered in England and Wales. Registered office: Dalefoot Farm, Heltondale, Nr Penrith, Cumbria, CA10 2QL. Registered number: 8312959

This project is supported by the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) for which Defra is the Managing Authority, part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas.

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