This year we’ve planned a more diverse planting scheme in our polytunnel, and it’s paying off. For the past 8 years we’ve had two tunnels, with a rotation of tomatoes in one and a range of vegetables in the other; but a poor tomato harvest and a new year’s resolution led to a review of our approach.
The ‘tomato tunnel’ was always a sight to behold: two narrow paths leading through a veritable jungle of yellow and red fruits, large and small. But last year the plants suffered from mildew, affecting both the yield and flavour. As we are organic we don’t use fungicides, and as we can’t control the heat, the only solution open to us was to see if we could improve ventilation by increasing the distance between plants.
Our planning in early 2014 was also affected by a new year’s resolution to make more of the tunnels, having moved them next to each other within easier reach of the homes. We wanted to extend the season for peas and beans, and see what impact the extra warmth could have on a range of brassicas and celeriac.
So far, so good. The tomato tunnel is in full production: it is still a jungle but with more shafts of light and that all important air flow. We also found room for a cucumber plant or two, and the additional spacing has left room for underplanting of peppers and chillis, celeriac and a mix of herbs, most notably basil.
Tunnel two has gone through the greatest change. We’ve learned that the tunnel extends the broad bean season from a fortnight glut to four productive months, and harvested onions, garlic and a range of brassicas, impressive in size, looks and of course taste.
With those early crops now cleared as outdoor planting takes over, we are starting to harvest the first of the sweetcorn and are gearing up for winter with more peas, beans, brassicas, and carrots. So much for August being the month you just sit back and enjoy your garden!
If you’re thinking of getting a polytunnel or are reviewing your planting, we recommend taking a look at First Tunnels, their monthly planting advice is particularly helpful. And for organic seeds and seedlings, try Delfland Nurseries. The ability to book deliveries months in advance is particularly useful if you have limited time, space or patience to raise seedlings, particularly the trickier ones!
And if you fancy visiting our tomato jungle, along with a tour of one of our eco-homes and the wider site, please join us on our next Sustainable Living tour on 20 September.
On 27 February we are holding our one day masterclass on the experience and learning from the development of Hockerton Housing Project.
The day offers a unique and practical insight into the delivery of the Project, covering its efficient design, energy systems, autonomous water services and proven performance. You can find the booking form at the bottom of this post, or here.
Why should you attend?
This event will be of particular interest to developers, self-builders, landowners, planners, architects, buildings services engineers, and other building professionals.
Delegates will gain:
an appreciation of the practicalities of building sustainably.
an understanding of strategies and technologies for ultra low energy building and ‘zero heating’ design.
a comprehension of the differences between high thermal mass build and lightweight timber frame construction.
knowledge of the potential solutions and strategies for delivering a zero carbon and autonomous development through renewable energy technologies, and water systems (collection and waste), and how they can be incorporated into buildings.
an insight into what it is really like to live in eco homes and to live sustainably.
Attending this event can contribute 6.0 hours towards your CPD requirements.
Introduction: Objectives for the day and introductions
Hockerton Housing Project – Sustainability by design Simon Tilley, HHP
The construction process and practicalities Nick Martin, HHP
Tour of one of the Project’s eco-homesNick Martin & Simon Tilley
Lunch & networking
Tour of the Sustainable Resource CentreNick Martin & Simon Tilley
Developments inspired by HHP Nick Martin, HHP
HHP autonomous services (including renewable energy & water systems)Simon Tilley, HHP
Discussion session: Taking sustainability forward Nick Martin & Simon Tilley, HHP
A lunch is included, please let us know any dietary requirements when booking.
Nick Martin (BEd), a founding Project member, has a unique experience and knowledge of energy efficient housing. Nick led the build of the home of Prof. Brenda and Dr. Robert Vale, an autonomous townhouse with ‘net zero CO2’ emissions, delivered through low embodied energy, power from photovoltaic arrays and passive solar heating. Nick Martin then commissioned Dr. Robert Vale to design a rural hamlet of 5 earth sheltered sustainable dwellings to similar energy and environmental performance standards. Nick supervised this self-build project from August 1996 to Sept 1998.
Nick Martin now undertakes a range of related consultancy work, including new designs for ultra low energy housing and performance monitoring, as well as being directly involved in new eco-building projects. He is currently developing a 7 home ultra low energy affordable housing scheme in Hockerton.
Simon Tilley (M Eng, C Eng, M I Mech E) joined the project in 1995, after a background in Mechanical Engineering. This included spending two years in working for Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in Namibia.
He manages the HHP water & energy systems, including most recently the installation of an additional 6kW solar PV array. He lead the development and installation of the village Vestas v27 wind turbine and currently manages its operation. He undertakes a range of consultancy work and leads the Project’s educational work. Simon was also an Open University Associate Lecturer for the “Energy for a Sustainable Future” course and now lectures for Nottingham Trent University on Innovations in Energy.
I thoroughly enjoyed the day and it was very encouraging talking to people who had practical experience rather than just a grasp of the theory. Simon’s presentation on the principles was as clear as any I’ve seen, and the detailed discussion about construction and procurement challenges from Nick gave a practical edge to the day that you rarely get at other events.
Rob Annable, Architect, Axis Design Collective
The response was overwhelmingly positive. All felt that they had learned a great deal, it was great to see how enthused the staff members in the party were.
Paul Ellis, Chief Executive, Ecology Building Society
My main reason for visiting was that it’s easy for us industrialists and academics to sit behind our desks pontificating on low-energy housing,but to visit the people who have actually DONE it is invariably refreshing,and is always a good thing to do as a ‘professional sanity check’.
Dr Neil Cutland, Cutland Consulting Ltd
Terms and Conditions
Terms and conditions can be viewed on our website.
We are often asked why we settled on a group of five homes when planning the development at Hockerton. There are practical reasons such as the size of the plot available, and planning requirements such as the need to incorporate street lighting in larger developments. But there is also a social reason. The following excerpt from OpenLearn LabSpace on team dynamics is a helpful summary…
How many people in a team?
Does the task need a lot of people doing the same task (for example, an advice centre) or a small, expert team addressing different parts of the task (for example, writing new information leaflets)? The size of the team needed will be an important consideration. The larger the team, the greater the potential variety of skills and knowledge, but as the size of the team increases each individual will have fewer opportunities to participate and influence proceedings. The size of a team is therefore a trade-off or balance between variety and individual input. A team of between five and seven people is considered best for the effective participation of all members, but to achieve the range of expertise and skills required, the group may need to be larger. This brings with it the challenges of how to manage and supervise a large team. In health and social care, multi-organisational teams may be large given the need to ensure representation from different organisations required to plan and deliver a particular service or address an individual service user’s case.
Homogeneous groups, whose members share similar values and beliefs, may be more satisfying to work in and may experience less conflict, but they tend to be less creative and produce greater pressures for conformity. In contrast, heterogeneous groups, whose members have a wider range of values and beliefs, are likely to experience greater conflict, but they have the potential for greater creativity and innovation.
Our shared values and beliefs certainly deliver less conflict, but we’ll leave it to you to decide whether it also means we are less creative!