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So I've Acquired a Big Field...


 
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chipclub
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 3:05 pm    Post subject: So I've Acquired a Big Field... Reply with quote

...now what do I do?

Here's the story. A relative has given me a field, approx 100m X 70m, to do with as I please. Consider it an early inheritance for the field is now essentially mine. I am not completely clueless and do have a decent knowledge of horticulture but have never tackled anything more adventurous than a few basic vegetables in the back garden.

I aim to grow fruit and vegetables, devoting as much space as is practical. Enthusiasm is plentiful but time is limited to weekends. I have great visions of an orchard nestling beside fruit cages and rows of every vegetable known to man. There will be compost heaps, a cosy shed, perhaps a nice hammock strung between two trees...you get the idea. Sadly I'm also a realist and accept that this unlikely until I win the lottery and retire to the good life.

The field is currently used to grow dock, nettle and buttercup with a token plot of potatoes that I set myself this year. A local farmer will occasionally graze sheep to keep the grass down. There must be 100 years of weed seed lying in that soil for every turned sod is quickly swamped. The whole site gets full sun all day long but wind is a big proble as it is exposed to a prevailing S to W wind that ranges from a slight breeze to something capable of bending the steel frame of a polytunnel. Did I mention the tunnel? There is a tunnel frame in the field but no cover.

My main concern right now is getting the groundwork done and some fruit trees and bushes planted but I do not know how much ground to work with.

What sort of area is practical/desirable for vegetable production? I could get a tractor and work an acre but what is the point? One man and his wife can only eat so much.

Same question for fruit. How many raspberry canes and gooseberry bushes are useful? How many fruit trees do you plant before they become unmanageable and the crops surplus?


Then there is the wind. It is relentless at times meaning a barrier is essential. Has anyone got experience of a blackberry hedge? I am thinking that a post and wire system around the perimeter of the fruit and veg area could produce good crops while providing a windbreak. Is this nonsense or a viable option?

Apologies for the very long first post! I promise I put as much effort into my gardening. I would get stuck into it this weekend but appreciate that it needs planning and would love to hear any advice that anybody out there has to offer.
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kindredspirit
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 4:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would start small because remember Rome wasn't built in a day (but my uncle used to say, that was because he wasn't there! Laughing )

Then you can expand a bit at a time. Take on too much and you'll maybe lose your resolve.

A Hawthorn hedge or a Willow hedge sounds like a good idea. Willow's faster to grow, a doddle to plant and easier to train.

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gardenman
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 5:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great to see someone getting into things with the spirit of conquest, but kindredspirit has it sussed! Try and do too much at once and it will break your spirit faster than a twig in that wind!
First things first, get a soil test to sus out your pH, Nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium. Local Teagasc offices can do this for about €28. If there is a lot of nettles I'm guessing N will be sky high.
Next thing is to get the windbreak sorted. There won't be much to eat if they are all flattened by a gale.
The best windbreak to use is a natural one - lasts way longer and is way cheaper!
For this Alder is the one to use, glutinosa or cordata would probably suit. They can be kept tightly clipped (<50cm) and allow approx 50% of wind through when done like this. This is the appropriate amount of air flow required. Any more blocked than this will cause a lot of turbulence on the leeward side of the windbreak thus causing even more damage than if there was no windbreak at all!!
Alders are the windbreaks chosen for commercial orchards just for these reasons.
The area of protection given will be about 15-20 times the height of the windbreak. So a 3m windbreak will give 45-60m protection.

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medieval knievel
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2011 10:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

if it were me, i would put half of the field under trees. 100mx70m is almost two acres, and trying to manage even one quarter of that as a veg patch or similar would be back-breaking.
That said, that assumes you'd have a use for the wood from the acre; it'd be a source of firewood in a few years time.
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chipclub
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2011 1:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks guys. The advice is appreciated and you are all correct, I need to reign in the ambitions and first concentrate on making the place fit for purpose. A windbreak is essential. There is already a well established field hedge (hawthorn, blackthorn, crab apple etc.) around the perimiter but I swear it makes no difference. The evidence is there in the steel polytunnel frame that bent in a gale.

At the moment I am considering a new hedge strung across the middle of the field to effectively split it. There will be 1/3 for my mini Kew Gardens and the remaining 2/3 for the sheep to graze or, god forbid, a pony should my daughter ever get the urge. What concerns me is the maintenance. Alder was mentioned but doesn't this grow into a monster? I'm looking at glutinosa with apparently a 21m ultimate height. That's going to need some amount of pruning.

I am also going to look into setting it with trees as suggested. Fuel for the boiler and a windbreak all in one. I'm sure it's easy when you know how...
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silvercrest
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looks like im in the same predicament as chipclub, but have less land to work with. I will take the advice about soil testing, and also try to not take on too much straight away. I on the other hand have plenty of free time at the moment and also my brother wants to help out, so it wont be just me. Cool
One more question to add to the origional post and that is this,
When should I start to turn the virgin soil. ??
As far as I know it has never been ploughed or used for anything except cattle grazeing before. Would first week in January be the right time.??

Any advice would be appreciated.
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