Well, the wheat ears are ripening. We have had the driest summer since the 1960’s (or so they tell us on the telly) and the parched grass is certainly evidence of that. We watered the wheat sparingly at the beginning of its growth and it hasn’t had a water for a few weeks now. We have been lucky to have had a few rainstorms during a few nights in the last couple of weeks which has just about kept the garden ticking over.
I am wondering if we will ever get to harvest the wheat though. This dry weather has meant there is very little food for the deer that roam locally and the other night they found our borlotti beans and stripped them off to as far as they could reach. As soon as I discovered this I reinstated the collie disruption mechanism , now renamed the deer disruption mechanism. I seriously doubt that it will really stop a hungry, marauding deer, but it makes me feel a little more reassured that I might yet harvest enough for a loaf. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
The wheat has come up! I was nervous for a while that it wasn’t going to do anything. I was like a mother hen checking for her babies. Each time I passed the garden, which is a fair amount of times a day, I would inspect for signs of growth. Nothing. Then on Wednesday of last week I could see the first tiny shoots. Then on Thursday it looked like this:
First signs of wheat 3rd May 2018
How exciting! Then on Sunday:
Shooting up Sunday 6th May 2018
(I can see from this photo that there is a rogue borage seedling in there. I will be tackling that later. If I don’t get it quick I start to feel bad about uprooting it as the bees love it so much. I must be ruthless! )
Once the wheat starts you can almost hear and watch it growing. Here it is this morning:
The wheat patch Wednesday 9th May 2018
I am a complete amateur so I have no idea how healthy this patch looks with an experienced eye. I wonder if by broadcasting the seed I have grown them too closely together? Will the wheat tiller* if it is spring grown? Or is tillering a feature of winter wheat only? Is it too close for tillering?
I am just very happy to see it come up and grow, especially as whilst the Collie Disruption Mechanism (the poles and string) are working and stopping the dog from digging it isn’t stopping the cats from enjoying the occasional roll on the cool soil or indeed having a scratch about.
*tillering in wheat is when it grows more side shoots (I have seen it mentioned by wheat experts on twitter and I have googled it. Thanks must go to Mark Lea @GreenAcres_Farm and Edward Dickin @naked_barley from whom I am learning vicariously via the magic of Twitter).
I have had the Veg Patch Loaf Project in my mind for the last year or so. The idea is that I will plant wheat in our veg patch next to our bread kitchen. This wheat will grow, (unfettered by bad weather, pest, disease or squirrel) and at the end of this year I will bake a loaf from home-grown wheat.
Well, I have finally managed to plant my wheat seeds today. I had hoped to plant some winter wheat seeds in the autumn last year, but with life being busy I didn’t get round to it somehow. I thought that perhaps I had missed the boat. Then, I was reading the latest copy of True Loaf magazine from The Real Bread Campaign and an article reminded me of The Brockwell Bake Association and their project to encourage allotmenteers, schools and community projects to grow heritage wheat. I visited their website and was very pleased to find that I could still order some spring wheat seeds from them. I know that I am far behind most farmers and growers but this is my first time attempting to grow wheat so even though I am really hoping I will get a small crop my expectations for success are fairly low. I am just going to give it a go and see what happens.
Brockwell Bake Association sent me 40g of April Bearded seed.
Here is the planted plot and how it looks today:
The wheat patch at Veg Patch Kitchen
The plot is roughly 3m x 2m with a path through the middle so I can get in and weed. I broadcast the seeds randomly, raked them in and then used a large piece of cardboard (a Shipton Mill delivery box as it happens) laid on the soil to tread the seed in. The canes and string are there as a collie disruption mechanism, in other words to stop our collie, Rascal, from digging up my seeds. For some reason his favourite game is to dig large holes in this particular patch.
I am an erratic gardener. I try my best every year to be better than the last. We always have a degree of success and a fair few meals from our garden every summer and autumn, but my gardening leaves a fair amount to be desired. Inevitably the weeds get the better of me. I hate pulling up self-seeded borage, nasturtiums and poppies because the bees and other pollinators love them so much. As a result our veg tends to be a little drowned out by these. Only the very strong wins through. I am going to try my hardest to be a diligent weeder of the wheat patch and I am hoping that the squirrels and pigeons give me a break when it comes to harvest time (if the crop survives that long). I will report the progress of the Veg Patch Loaf throughout the season. I very much hope I will be able to post a loaf that uses at least a bit of the wheat later in the year. Watch this space.