Seasonality is so intrinsic to what we do that our work changes a lot throughout the year. Spring is the time of year that I start having a bit more energy after the winter hibernation.

It is also the time of year that we start sowing a lot of seed. We sow over 300000 seed a year, the majority of which is sown into trays in the propagating tunnel and planted out by hand in the field or other polytunnels. Although this may sound like a huge amount of seed to sow each year, it is worth considering that a dock can produce around 60,000 seeds annually, so its only 5 dock plants worth of seed! 

We have heated benches which are made by running heat cables through a bed of sand. These are connected to a thermostat that can then be set for whatever temperature the seed requires for germination. This varies from crop to crop, with preferred temperatures ranging from around 12°C for broad beans up to around 24°C for aubergines. We have different heat benches for the warm loving crops, and the other heat benches are set around 20°C for a wide range of crops.

One of the keys to growing crops continually without big gluts or gaps in production is through successional sowing. We crop lettuce outdoors from around mid-end April until end October continually, from sowing six batches from mid February until mid June. We sow around six batches of spring onions to spread the harvest, and six lots of radish. Whilst we do multiple sowings of many crops, some are just sown once a year. For these there is much pressure on the seedlings to germinate and grow well, as there is often only one opportunity to sow them to allow enough time for them to reach maturity in our climate. For tomatoes and peppers this is the case, and if we were caught out with a late frost and hadn’t provided enough protection for them, we would have to buy in plants and have fewer varieties to choose from.

During March and April, the propagating tunnel fills up with trays of seedlings, and it is a daily effort to juggle trays on and off heat benches, making space for newly sown trays requiring heat, slowing plants down if it is looking likely to be too wet outside to plant for a while (which is often the case at Trill with our poorly drained soil). When it does eventually dry out it will be a rush to prepare beds and plant out thousands of plants under fleece to protect from the cold winds and frost. 

Ash and Kate have created a vegetable growing enterprise, Trill Farm Garden at Trill Farm, supplying the Old Dairy Kitchen as well as neighbouring restaurants with fresh, seasonal, varied produce.