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.
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!
We’re delighted to announce a new programme of seasonal and sustainable workshops for children and for adults, to give people the chance to get in touch with nature, recycle old furniture and decorate their homes. Take a look at our events page to see what’s on offer, and get in touch if you are a course provider looking for an inspiring eco venue to host your courses.
Today BBC Breakfast used Hockerton Housing Project (HHP) as the backdrop to their coverage of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report.
The IPCC has found that climate change is having a bigger impact than previously expected, and that temperature rises continue though they are slower than expected.
Science aside, HHP was delighted to be asked to show why sustainable living makes sense whatever your views on carbon and the climate.
The live broadcasts featured the zero carbon homes and renewable energy systems to show how action on carbon helps reduce energy bills, aids energy security, and galvanizes community spirit.
Simon Tilley talked through life at Hockerton Housing Project, “Our mission at HHP is to bring sustainability to life and what better platform than BBC Breakfast with its 7 million viewers? We were probably chosen because our homes look and feel different but the reality is that every home can become more sustainable: our approach to energy efficiency works in a townhouse, as seen in Southwell’s autonomous house; renewable energy is now more accessible thanks to the feed-in tariff and local community schemes; and it has been fantastic to see the resurgence of food-growing and the allotment movement.”
His daughter Naomi gave the most powerful line though. When asked by the presenter if she felt confident about the future, she replied “I’m not confident, I’m scared”. She later admitted that part of the fear was down to being interviewed live on national TV, but the line helped the coverage look beyond the current ‘debates’ to what we need to focus on – the legacy we leave for our children.
This week Kevin McCloud returned to the Hedgehog Project in Brighton on Grand Designs and showed how that housing co-operative has moved on from being an innovative self-build to building roots in the community – reflecting our experience here at Hockerton Housing Project.
We are hoping that the planners at Newark and Sherwood will have been watching, as a plan for a new self-build partnership in Hockerton is now under consideration. The plan is to demolish a redundant industrial building and replace it with five two-storey homes (up to 3 bedrooms) and two one-storey, one bed homes.
Hockerton Housing Project is supportive of the plans for a number of reasons:
The energy efficient design will deliver 80% less carbon and 60% lower running cost than homes built to today’s minimum standards.
Each dwelling will have a share in Hockerton’s community-owned wind turbine to ‘offset’ the carbon content of remaining energy use.
Rainwater harvesting and water efficient appliances will limit demand for mains water, and a reedbed will be used to avoid nasty odours from sewage.
Affordable housing allows people with a wider range of skills and expertise to live in rural areas.
The co-operative nature of the development, both in its build and its maintenance, means pride will be taken in the quality of the work on buildings and landscaping.
The more people resident in the village, the better for local businesses such as the farm shop, the pub, restaurant and ice-cream parlour.
Self-build partnerships are rare, but offer many benefits, so let’s hope the planning officials see the merit of putting brownfield land to better use as a site for new affordable homes in Hockerton, further strengthening the village’s reputation as a hub of innovative and affordable energy efficient homes.
If you are interested in understanding how we developed our self-build at Hockerton Housing Project, and how the co-operative works in practice, make a new year’s resolution to come on one of our Sustainable Living Tours – the next one is 19 January 2013.