Tolly’s rambles

So, spring has sprung! Swallows have turned up (only one so far) and the days get longer, and so do the work hours. This year has been an opposite of last year in terms of weather, very warm, extremely sunny by UK standards and altogether most agreeable. I am having to resist the temptation to start banging on about climate change and weather stuff at this point. The floods have finally receded and we can at last get onto all of our land, it having dried enough to work. During the four decades that I have been involved in agriculture, and all but three years as an organic grower, I have seen many changes, but the changes in climate have to be the most profound so far followed by the threat of GMOs getting a hold of our food production systems.

Spring has to be the highlight of the farming year. The glare of the sun driving away the dark cold wet days of winter, the optimistic hopes for the coming growing season lengthen along with the days. So far we have achieved a good deal of productivity on the land, having planted over 20,000 potato tubers (all our own saved seed) on 1.5 acres. They are up already and looking very good too, fastest I have ever seen spuds pop their heads above ground. They usually take around 4 weeks, last year it was almost six weeks due to the cold conditions, but this time just three weeks to emerge. Soil conditions are good, thanks to some great green manures and compost over the past few years and a very warm soil this spring.

Another big job done was the planting of 50,000 onions. Sounds a huge task but actually it took just three of us 4 hours sat on the tractor. Spuds even less time as I now have fixed up a fully automatic planter. All I have to do is fill it up with fresh seed every few rows and drive it carefully and very straight along the field. I am now working at getting several acres of land ready for the rest of the field crops.

In the Walled Garden we have some storm damage to tunnels and have had to replace four covers this spring. Sowings that were done back in mid-February are now being planted out. Tomatoes are now in their final resting place and will be coming into flower in a couple of weeks. All the tunnels are now almost completely full with crops and as soon as one is finished another crop is instantly planted in its place. We have a fantastic selection of salads available again this year.

The Hungry Gap is well and truly with us now and we will be waiting for the first spuds to come as well as the carrots sown 11 weeks ago as these crops are so important to our customers. We are anxiously waiting to see how our first strawberry crop grown in over 20 years is going to fare, so far it looks good and we are less than two weeks from the first ripe fruits, it’s a risky crop so we are keeping our fingers crossed.


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