after a slow start...
After a slow start to the year we now very busy as we start picking more new season crops. A few casualties to the cold spring are still being missed, but the boxes are looking much better. The next six weeks are the busiest of the year as picking gets going in earnest while we are still planting our winter crops and trying to stay on top of the weeds.
Over the last twenty years I have twice sworn never to grow strawberries again. I can remember, after one particularly dreadful year in the 80's whooping with joy as I ploughed them in. That time I was brought to my knees by an unreceptive market for the berries I had sweated blood and tears to produce. On the next attempt it was fungal disease that defeated me. They are a crop normally left to specialist growers and, with 100 other crops to tend, they stretch us to the limit at the busiest time of year. Despite this, June would not be the same without them and we are definitely getting better at growing them so I think they are here to stay this time.
Most growers have been busy squeezing more and more plants into each acre, drip feeding soluble nutrients and most recently growing in those plastic tunnels that Monty Don gets so upset about. Many have even abandoned the soil and are growing in peat bags or even hydroponically on tabletops. True to our maverick style, on our third attempt, we have moved in the opposite direction; we are growing our plants further and further apart on large ridges which keep the air moving insuring that morning dews and showers dry quickly as a means to combating fungal disease.
Without tunnels to keep the rain off and fungicides to keep botrytis at bay, we are at the mercy of the weather so supply can be unpredictable. The first variety, in the boxes at the moment is the very early Honoye, which won us some awards last year. This will be followed by Alice, Symphony and finally my favourite, Florence which will finish the season in late-July. By then we will be picking tayberries, raspberries and currants. If you are able to make it to the farm for one of our tours in the next 6 weeks, there is normally the chance to pick your own at the weekends.