Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Our 2014 Growing Season

Breaking Ground - March 2014
As we come to the end of our first year I thought it would be a good time to review what we have achieved at this year and what we are planning for next year.

It is just over a year now since we held our first public meeting at The Grove in Burscough and it seems so long ago. At that point in time we had no idea if anyone in Burscough and the surrounding area would be interested in the project that we were proposing. We were pleasantly surprised that so many turned up and then so many stepped forward to become members of the steering committee.

Community Growing

This first growing season has been a real steep learning curve for most elements of the project from growing veg on a large scale right through to organising volunteer days. As the season progressed we quickly fell into a rhythm of planting and weeding and stuff just grew and grew. We had some failures, but on balance we had more successes. Rabbits and weeds took their biggest toll but we soon developed ways to cope with these and as our skills improve we should have even more success.

As the summer came along some members became regular volunteers and friendships started to form. When harvesting began we tried to make sure that all members, whether they could make it down to the field or not, got at least a taste of our fantastic produce. It gave us a great sense of satisfaction to see people going home with arms full of beautiful vegetables and then, later that night, get pictures of what they had cooked with them emailed back to us.

Members Facebook Page

We couldn't have wished for a better growing season weather wise. Each time the crops looked like they were suffering from the dry weather a helpful day or two of rain would bring some relief and keep things going.

Not getting permission for us to put up our small barn and poly tunnel was a disappointment and severely restricted what we could grow this year. We now need to apply for planning permission for these.

Bees on the Field

A local bee keeper asked if he could put a hive on the field and so we duly had our own colony of pollinator's helping out from June. Honey from the field has proved very popular with our members. It's anti-allergy properties will be useful for anyone who is working on the field and in the local area.

The Forest Garden and Shelter Belts

One of the first things we did last winter was to plant the hedge alongside Meadow Lane. 100 metres of native mixed hedging went in and is growing strongly with only a few losses.

The self seeded Alder trees on site are thriving on the wet side of the field, with 12 inch saplings that we re-planted in March now up to 5 and a half feet tall. Standing amongst them in September whilst they were still in full leaf gave the feeling of standing in woodland and these trees are just in their second summer, it is really inspiring. We cannot take much credit for this, nature did it herself. However, what is reassuring is that the saplings we did move are growing as strongly as the ones left where the seeds fell.

The Forest Garden has started to take shape and we didn't expect to get any fruit in this first year, but it was nice to wander down there on a hot afternoon and graze on a few Strawberries, Blackcurrants or even the odd Mulberry. Next year should hold more promise and we will be planting many more fruit trees, nut trees and soft fruits this winter.

Funding and Support

I am pleased to say that we had great support from many this season with funding support by many including the following:

Villages In Partnership
Burscough Parish Council
West Lancashire Borough Council Community Chest
Lancashire County Council (via County Councillor Cynthia Dereli local members grant)
Green Partnership Awards

Some of our members have also been very generous with money and time and we wouldn't have reached where we are without them. I thank you all so very much.

If you are interested in joining Organic Veg Club please take a look at our membership page here.

Neil Hickson

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Bringing it all back home.

Mike heading home on sustainable,climate friendly transport with his share of the crop from a harvest day.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

We need your vote...

... and your neighbours...and anyone else with a Burscough post code.

We have now launched our Burscough Biodiversity Project (AKA  Birds, Bees, Bats and Bugs, and we need votes to make it happen. Each year Burscough Parish Council hold the Annual Parish Assembly Event. It is to be held on Wednesday 16th of April (next week as I write this). During the event starting at 3pm until 7pm at The Grove Youth and Community Centre  (between Tesco's car park and the train Station), votes will be taken for the 'Participatory Budgeting Award'.  worth up to £10,000.

This is for new projects benefiting Burscough residents that otherwise wouldn't happen. We have applied for just over £9,000 to make our Biodiversity Project a reality.

We want the money to boost wildlife in and around our project because being organic farmers we need a pool of natural pest predators to keep our growing ecosystem in balance. It is much bigger than that though. In an area of intensive monoculture agriculture these creatures need a place to be and a place to breed.

If we can prove that our type of sustainable agriculture works, others will adopt our practices. We believe that our approach to biodiversity, ecology and sustainable food growing will benefit the residents of Burscough; it is part of our constitution to educate others in these practices.

Come along yourself and get any Burscough resident you know to come along and see our exhibition stand, have a chat over free tea or coffee and hopefully give us your backing. Please spread the word.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Birds, Bees, Bats and Bugs - our 'Biodiversity Mission'

Birds, Bees, Bats and Bugs - our 'Biodiversity Mission'

Because we do not rely on insecticides to deal with creatures that want to eat our crops we have to have other means to ensure that there is enough left for us to eat. Here we take our lead from nature. 

In natural balanced ecosystems one species rarely gets chance to take charge and eat everything. However, this is what happens in the human world. In nature each species has something that either competes with it or eats it; things are in balance. If the numbers of any one species are increased because of favourable conditions, another species that eats it will also increase its numbers to take advantage of the bounty that nature has presented for it, thus restoring the balance. In human agriculture, in order to feed ever greater numbers that live far away from where their food is grown, to cover losses in waste, 3 for 2 offers and stuff that just didn't get eaten by the sell by date, we have come up with industrial systems of growing massive mono cultures of certain species of plant. We create massive imbalances which insects would take advantage of if left unchecked. This 'checking' is only possible by using chemicals and other un-natural means to control their numbers. This is compounded by the fact that the act of spraying with insecticides also kills off the natural enemies of these so called insect 'pests', so there is nothing around that could naturally control pests either.

In organic farming we look to nature to do much of this for us and we aim to create an environment rich in biodiversity so all the 'pest predators' can get on with their work. A few billion years of Research and Development by Mother Nature beats anything that we can make in a lab; we just need to sneak some veg of our own in amongst it all for us to eat. I am over simplifying now, but I hope you get the point.

It is not only dealing with so called pests that we rely on nature. We also need to encourage insects for pollination through bees (both honey and wild) and other pollinating insects.

Our Birds, Bees, Bats and Bugs 'mission' is our answer to create a bio-diverse growing oasis in the middle of a monoculture industrial farming landscape. We need to set up our own local environment with woodlands, meadows and wetlands to put some balance back. 

We need to create our own local habitats for these creatures which is why we will have planted over 1000 trees and hedgerow plants on our small site this winter and early spring (2013/14). But we need to do much more. We need to plant more trees, dig some habitat ponds, plant and sow wild flowers. We need erect a building to provide nesting sites as well as our human needs for storage. We need the means to propagate plants that will help us on this mission.

Our whole approach is to integrate our own needs for providing food for our community with the needs of nature in a sustainable way. Using areas of our land as natural habitat is not seen as wasted and unproductive, it saves buying fuel and agrochemicals; the ultimate in 'local' solutions.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Thursday Workday 13th March 2014

Thursdays Volunteer Day started with an introduction to hedgelaying by Ben Basson. Ben showed us the basic principles of hedgelaying on a small section of our hedge. We are going to assess how this mature hedge responds during the next growing season and look at the best method of restoring it next winter. We sowed lots more seeds and after a some problems getting the BCS tractor started due to a flat battery after a long winter rest, I finally started to work up some ground ready for sowing Broad Beans and Peas.

It was Gaynor's birthday so lunch included an extra bonus of cake which went down well.

Neil Hickson

Twitter: @organicvegclub

Friday, 21 February 2014

GROWL Seed Event with Laura's Organics

Our 'haul' from Laura's Organics.

Organic Veg Club's haul

GROWL (Grow Organic West Lancashire) held a seed 'swap and buy' event on the 20th of February. Some of us from OVC went along to see what was on offer and came away with an exciting array of organic seeds for planting this coming growing season.

Laura's Organics hosted a stall at the event with a massive range of reasonably priced organic seeds. Laura's Organics is a small family business run by Laura Novak and further information can be found at

Neil Hickson

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Fancy a bit of Hedgelaying?

We are excited about an opportunity to learn about hedge laying on the field. The old hedge that runs along Meadow Lane is well overdue for some remedial work to help it renew and rejuvenate itself. One of our steering group members Caroline Bulcock, has managed to persuade some of the rangers from Beacon Park to come along and give us some instructions on how to get this started. The date for the session is 13th March at 10am. If you cannot make that date but still want to get involved, the following Sunday 16th of March is a volunteer day so we could continue with the work then.

Inaugural General Meeting - Wednesday 19th February 2014

It is less than one week now to the Inaugural General Meeting of Organic Veg Club. The meeting is to be held at 7pm at The Grove Youth and Community Centre, Station Approach, Burscough, L40 0RZ

We will give an update on what the steering committee has been up to and how we see Organic Veg Club running in this first growing season. We also want to share how we see OVC developing in the future. We will give a presentation detailing the following:

  • Update of what has happened on the land
  • Announce our plans for the 2014 growing season and into the future
  • Membership fees
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • The opportunity to sign up and join the Organic Veg Club on the night

We will also be asking for your opinions on what OVC are doing and should be doing.

To cover costs we will be asking for a donation of £1.00 per person to cover costs and refreshments for the evening.

If you haven't already responded to our earlier email about this meeting please can you let us know by clicking onto our response form below.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The Forest Garden starts to take shape.

Rows of top fruit trees and soft fruit bushes interspersed with 3m wide strips of mulch mat form the basis of our Forest Garden design. The mulch mat will be down for a year or so to kill off grasses and weeds, we will then take it up and establish our ground cover plants. The trees and fruit rows run north to south to make the most of the sun and prevent too much shading.

Some of the mulch mat had worked loose in the recent storms and with another on the way tomorrow, I had to brave the hail and sideways rain to re-bury sections of it.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Look who is hiding in here.

It seems that the tree spirals for our hedge plants are acting as nice cosy homes for our ladybird community to get out of the wind. I discovered a few basking in the cool winter sunshine as I walked down the line of trees; it's already acting as a haven for some of our pest predators and the trees haven't even started growing yet.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

The Hedge Planted At Last

We are pleased to say that the last of our hedge planting was completed today. A small bunch of our steering committee volunteered to give us a hand. We also planted some trees generously donated by Gilly from her own garden.

The next steering group meeting will be held at Burscough Cricket Club on Thursday 9th of January at 7pm.

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