Trill Farm seed field lab in leafy Devon

Trill Farm - 31 May 2013

My first visit was on Tuesday 21 May to record the progress of seed varieties, donated by various vegetable seed breeders. The trial is managed by Ashley and Kate Wheeler at Trill Farm near Axminster Devon. Ash and Kate are running their own business within a larger 300 acre organic farm on a level site of yellow clay loam incorporating several multi-span poly tunnels. Their main crops are salads intended to local restaurants and shops, including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Café in Axminster.

The trial comprises of tomatoes, leeks, carrots and parsnips. Brussel Sprouts had been donated but Ashley had decided not to sow these as that crop was not one that fitted his growing and marketing plan. Ash sows into West Riding module compost and pots out into same brand potting compost.

Tomato varieties:

  • Jens Tangerine
  • Ildi
  • Britain's Breakfast
  • Rosella
  • Bloody Butcher
  • Harbinger
  • Black Russian
  • Stupice
  • Chocolate Cherry
  • Galina
  • Matina (control)

Sowing was on 30th March and all showed very good germination. Five plants of each variety will be planted out with his commercial crop (Matina).

Leek varieties were sown 27th March into modules. The control variety did not germinate. Two to three seeds were hand sown into each module. Germination % follows name:

  • Toledo 80%
  • Blue Solsaise 40%
  • Winter Giant 80%, leafy
  • Northern lights 60%, patchy, could be due to uneven warming cables
  • Long De Mezieres 70%, promising.

Carrots sown outside 3rd April with hand pushed Earthway seeder; germination % follows name:

  • Early Market 60%
  • Amsterdam Forcing 20%, patchy
  • Amsterdam Forcing (Maxi 2) 65%
  • Chantenay Royale 20%
  • St Valery 75%

Control varieties

  • Bambino 80% sparse at one end due to couch grass
  • Napoli 70% due to slugs next to grass border.

All gaps were re-sown by hand.

All parsnip plots were sown by hand mixed with radish seed. While the radish had emerged well the parsnips were only just beginning to show. Varieties sown are:

  • Student
  • Imperial Crown
  • Hollow Crown
  • Tender and true (control)

Trill Farm is a 300 acre mixed organic farm set in the rolling hills and woodlands of east Devon, close to the Jurassic coast. Romy Fraser and her family bought the farm in 2008 with the aim of developing an education centre, and community of small businesses based on the farm, working together to use resources of the diverse landscape. Ashley and Kate came to run the vegetable garden in 2010 and began selling to local restaurants, specialising in salads.

The seed variety field lab is looking into Open Pollinated (OP) seed varieties available to non-organic growers and trialling them in organic systems with a view to either creating a demand for them organically or saving them on farm for use in subsequent years. The field lab is part of the Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme which is aiming to improve productivity, quality and environmental performance in organic and low-input agriculture.

Galina 32.jpgHarbinger and Black Russian 029.jpgIldi  025.jpgJenRosella 027.jpgStupice 030.jpgCONTROL Matina 034.jpgBloody Butcher  028.jpgBritains Breakfast 026.jpgChocolat Cherry 031.jpg

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Peter Brinch
17 July 2013 11:23

Hi Laurence,I expect the tomatoes are moving a pace now. Any chance to forward you sowing and planting dates of your tomatoes? We didn't include in the record sheet anything on first and last harvesting dates. This information would be useful to assess earliness of varieties and duration of picking. season. Would you be happy to note down this info too?Many thanks Peter

Laurence Hasson
10 June 2013 15:54

Hi Peter, thanks for the comments about the Trill farm trial. I'm facilitating this trail and will be going down there again either end June or early July to check on progress of the crops and I'll ask Ashley about his plant populations then. 5 plants each of the tomato varieties have been planted out along side the control (Matina). The leeks are still in modules. I'll post up to date info as soon as possible. Regards Laurence

Peter Brinch
09 June 2013 22:53

Hello Ashley and Kate,That is a fantastic trial program. I am interested in the your plant population numbers or size of trials. Would you have a moment to share that when trials get more established? Your germination rates look pretty interesting. Toledo promising. Winter Giant is always good. I am surprised about Chantenay Royale and Amsterdam forcing's low germination. Could be poor seed with too much old seed in the mixture. Who knows. At another opportunity and where possible a couple of repeat trials would be useful. I'll let Ben know.Hope the parsnip germination turns out well and look forward to developments. Need that big star out there called our Sun to get through properly.Best regards Peter

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