Well we have had some nice sunny weather in May & June, so I can’t really complain; although we do seem to have an establishes pattern now of hot and dry early summer, followed by cooler and wetter late summers. This is all fine if you can get all your irrigation sorted for the first part of the season, and have all the ground prepared for when you can’t get on it later on. However, it’s rather a pain when it comes to clearing early summer crops and trying to put early autumn produce in: also for getting on top of the weeds, as the buggers keep rerooting and reseeding, and if we spend too long weeding in the wet, we’ll trash the ground. Hey ho, and hurrah for polytunnels…
Meanwhile the crops are actually doing very well; as well as some lovely sunflowers, zinnias, gypsophilia and cornflowers, we’re now picking salads, fennel, courgettes, chard, spinach, kales and perennial herbs outside, as well as tomatoes, climbing beans, basils (check out our gorgeous Thai basil photo!), coriander, chillies, peppers and cucumbers inside. The cucumbers were almost a disaster following the destruction of the first lot by woodlice, but fortunately we’d sown a back-up second lot, and then quickly sowed a third lot too, so they are just a bit behind but catching up now.
At least the rain means time for catching up on paperwork, and blog posts!
Ah the bleak days of January and February ahoy: at this time of year it’s all about finishing off the crops from the year before, where your hard work of the summer and autumn will come to fruition (or not). Fortunately the pak choi and mixed salad leaves in the polytunnels are still going strong, despite the many nights of -5C recently; and the longer days are encouraging more leaf growth and regrowth too which is great for the plants that have already been picked. All four larger tunnels have had salads in them over winter, and there’s just a of strips that haven’t been picked at all yet; the rest are the faster growing brassica leaves that should be able to stand another month or so before bolting, so we can get at least another pick off them.
There are still a few last leeks out in the field, and a couple of rows of parsnips that still need to be dug up; but other than that, there’s not much going on at the moment. The kale has pretty much been picked out for the time being, so will have a couple of weeks off. However, looking on the bright side, we have already started our sowings for 2017, woohoo! We’ve sown lettuces, spring onions, rocket, beetroot and spinach in modules, and in the next week or so will be filling our hot bed (hot box really) with fresh horse manure, and using the heat to get some tomato seeds off to a good start.
Meanwhile I’m enjoying checking in with WildCam as I move it around the fields: always good to catch a sneaky fox up to no (some?) good…
Thank you to those who made it to our pumpkin picking party yesterday: we’ve made a great start picking all the hundreds of pumpkins from the field, and transferring them to the Elephant tunnel (where the climbing beans used to be), to sit in the warm and finish off their ripening, away from the wet and cold of the fields, and attentions of slugs and badgers. We’ve probably picked around half or more of the pumpkins now, and will finish them off next week, then turn our attention to their neighbouring squashes: Crown Prince (my favourite, such dense sweet flesh), Uchiki Kuri, Green Hokkaido and knobbly but tasty Marina Chioggia, followed lastly by the butternuts that always seem to need a couple more days in the sun to set their hard skins and turn golden yellow. Having all the squashes and pumpkins ready picked also means an easier time when it comes to fulfilling orders, as you can see exactly what you’ve got and how many of each variety are left.
While picking the pumpkins, we could really appreciate the beauty of the clovers that were undersown in July and wheel-hoed in (broadcast using the Earthway bag seeder); as well as the usual red clover and yellow trefoil (not yet flowering, they’ll do their thing more next year when this patch is left to rest), I also threw in to the mix some pretty annual Persian clover with sweet-smelling star-like pink flowers, and crimson clover too for a change. I think crimson is my new favourite: I love the shape as well as the colour, and the late-foraging bees seem to be especially grateful for this bounty of flowers to help them keep going over winter.
We are also starting to pick some roots such as mixed coloured beetroot, and lovely delicate turnips; as well as the endless field of leeks (will we actually get through the whole field we planted I wonder?) which means that it really does feel like autumn now. We’re saying goodbye to the summer as the courgettes slow right down, cucumbers need clearing from the polytunnel, and tomatoes won’t be too far behind. However, at least there’s the prospect of leek & potato soup, roast beetroot & turnips, curried squash and pumpkin pie to console us!