Gozo Growing #8 : The Heat Is On…

We are well into another Maltese summer, with daytime temperatures regularly in the low 30’s. Spring seems like a lifetime away and it hasn’t rained since I don’t know when. The fields have that parched, burnt out look to them and the only green to be seen are from those tough plant survivors – Prickly Pear, Carob, Olives, Fennel, Pomegranate, Naspli (loquat), Plum and Almond trees along with shrubs like Wolfbane and Tamarisk.

The wild asparagus are also still putting in an appearance round our plot and the surrounding fields are full of fennel. (there’s a nice blog post about this important nectar- rich plant and food source for Maltese Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars here)


On our own plot, we have no direct supply of water, so we harvested and then cooked/bottled/froze the earlier “glut crops” such as  broad beans, courgettes, garlic, purple climbing french beans and lots of tomatoes – some of which are safely in the freezer in sauce form. Our salted lemons  and capers are rather nice and go very well with locally produced peppered sheep cheese or home-made ratatouille.

It’s probably best to view the summer here as our “winter” with little to sow or grow in such tough conditions. It still seems strange to see straw and hay bales appearing in neighbouring fields at the beginning (rather than the end) of summer. Plants here need regular watering, shade and also protection from the intense sun and strong northerly / southerly winds. Despite our use of spring water and grey water it’s very difficult to keep things going without a lot of early morning or late evening watering stints. I am focusing my efforts on looking after the newly planted fruit trees and vines and so far, they seem to be coping reasonably well with the hot conditions. [Read more…]

Visit to Lauriston Farm, Goldhanger, on Saturday 28July 2018

Situated right on the Blackwater Estuary,  just outside Goldhanger in Essex, Lauriston Farm’s 210 acres  are managed using Biodynamic techniques and philosophy inspired by  Rudolph Steiner’s Agriculture Lectures from 1924. The farm is home to  rare breed Shetland cattle and North Ronaldsay sheep, bee hives, laying  hens, vegetables, woodland and a strong social farming impulse. Eighty-five percent of the farm is designated as a Site of Special  Scientific Interest.  Within this, there are also two listed ancient monuments.  They produce Demeter certified beef, lamb, vegetables, fruits and meadow hay  and organically certified knitting yarn, sheepskin rugs and throws.  The farm’s May newsletter reported an unpredictable spring this year and that they have come and gone from what feels like winter straight into summer a few times already.  Much of these sudden leaps have given a fresh impulse for their work such as the cold snap in March which allowed interior building work to be completed and then the balmy heights of mid-April which saw a sudden rush of lambs, with half their lambs born in three days. … [Read more…]

Visit to Monastery of St John the Baptist, Tolleshunt Knights, near Maldon

We decided it was just too hot for us after a little while, so we decided to stroll down to the village Church, which in 1958 was sold by the Church of England to the Greek  Orthodox Church who have carefully restored it as a chapel attached to  the Monastery of St John the Baptist, which they established in grounds around the Old Rectory. You can read  ‘A Brief Introduction to “The History Of Tolleshunt Knights” at this link. … [Read more…]

A School Garden – Why?

Presented by Kulvinder Kaur Johal  (CSciTeach), Assistant Head Teacher/Science Co-ordinator, Specialist Lead in Education (SLE) at Northbury Primary School, Barking, Essex.   Kulvinder talked about her school garden and what a difference it brings to the pupils of their large multicultural school. The school has over 900 pupils, speaking over 45 languages between them. Many of them have no garden or green space to call their own. Children share a play space with each other but nothing of their own. Their school garden has been a focal point for them so much so that they have achieved an RHS level school award.     (You can scroll through the presentation using the bar on the right; or your spacebar.) All was almost lost when they suffered an arson attack last year, but they now have their thriving garden back.   Follow this link: HRH Prince Charles celebrates Food for Life with Northbury Primary School at Soil Association 70th Anniversary Event … [Read more…]