Hawkwell Herbology: April at Home Farm

Hawkwell Herbology: April at Home Farm

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Life here at Home Farm House is kicking off big time!

First – we have a new dog.  Maddie. A rescue. Chuck has had his nose pushed out of joint and you can tell that he is not that impressed with yet another female dog in the house, and this one is bigger, and bouncier, than he is!  Aggie, our tiny little elderly dog just pootles about as usual, ignoring Maddie, going for her food, her bed, her everything. And Maddie just lets her. 

The hens and ducks are still in Avian Flu lockdown but we are hopeful they can be ‘released’ this month. Keeping them occupied whilst penned in has been interesting. Cabbages on string, brussels sprouts ‘football’, yoghurt which they get stuck on their beaks. Scooby the mallard has tried very hard to escape and to let his two ladies out with him. Ducks are not made to be penned in. Scooby is at his most masculine right now as it is mating season. As the two lady ducks are a different type of duck and are much bigger than he is, good luck to him I say!

As for the bees, well right now the Queen will have thought to herself: "What is the weather like? Enough for plants to start providing us with pollen (food for the young) and nectar? If so, I will plan when to start laying my eggs so we have enough forage for them." The Queen's ability to read the weather is critical; as is our ability as gardeners to plant appropriately so that the bees can maximise their foraging. You can imagine how the margin for error with weather predictions might lead to devestating effects on the hive - once the queen starts to lay eggs, the workers must venture out to find food for their young, but if the weather turns bad or their isn't enough forage to be found, the hive will suffer. Climate and forage are so important to our colonies.

As for the herbs, do NOT rush to sow seed. Even in a protected greenhouse, frost and cold can still hit little seedlings. I have found that herbs catch up if sown later.  More to the point though is what are you going to grow?  You need to think about your Herb Larder. What flavours do you like? Grow spicy, citrussy, raw, cookable, ingredient substitutes (sugar, cucumber, lemons – honestly you can get herbs to replace many ingredients you may not have to hand).  My Youtube channel takes you through some of the things to think about.  For example, like oranges and lemons?  Think about those flavoured herbs. Some guidance here:

So take your time.

I have spent the Winter months cleaning out my Rhino and the windows have been washed.  I did not clean out all the nooks and crannies as many little buggy beasts like to have the greenhouse as their home too.  And now I find I have plenty of little ladybirds coming out to eat any greenfly which have the temerity to have a go at the plants in there! Here's a video with some tips to cleaning your greenhouse.

And finally my big project – the compost heaps! I have just plonked on too many large branches without breaking them down.  So I have what looks like a bonfire heap instead of a compost heap… It doesn’t take long.  I have two large compost heaps, four plastic (closed) bins, here at the farmhouse. And then four at the allotment. It is free soil and nutrition AND protection for plants. It breaks my heart when I see people lugging bags of compost about when they have lovely areas to make compost. Even worse when it is not peat free. We underrate the power of leaves, twigs, cabbage leaves, chicken manure etc to provide good stuff for the plants!   I shall set myself the task of reporting back to you how that is going (hopefully has gone) next month…

So. Greet the new days of Spring with anticipation. Plan your herbs. Plan your cooking! And, if like me you have a project you have been putting off, get on with it…

Author: Sara Dixon

Find out more about Sara and Hawkwell Herbs by going to her website - https://hawkwellherbs.co.uk/ - or finding her on social media - FacebookTwitterInstagram

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