What do you do with land that is waterlogged and difficult to deal with? Well we have found an excellent plant with many useful applications that thrives in this challenging soil – Hemp!
While travelling around Europe as part of an EU funded project called TRADEIT, we saw hemp hemp growing successfully in similar conditions. The process to get started was long and unwieldy with excessive paperwork and checks to ensure that we were growing it a building material and not for illegal purposes.
In fact the variety that we grow is actually the same plant as cannabis, which is a controlled substance, but with less than 0.2% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), and is legal to grow, albeit with restrictions.
We needed a cover crop that would rejuvenate the land and produce a yield. Something to cover the weeds and break the substructure. We could have put in grass for silage, but we’ve loads of grass – hemp was the perfect solution!
The really exciting part about this plant is that our coastal location has kept the plant alive, with a sea mist most mornings. Once the rain comes it grows rapidly and rain is rarely in short supply. Once fully grown the plant begins to flower which produces organic hemp seed, another useful sustainable product.
Before harvesting a process known as retting occurs – essentially the weakening of the cell tissues to separate the fibres from the stem. After this, a crop will go in for the winter.