Surfing & cauliflowers

We opened the large tunnels fully last week and just let the gale blow through. No flimsy polythene was going to stop that wind. The tunnels survived and the winter salads looked a little windswept but none the worse for the experience. A smaller tunnel was shredded but we are counting ourselves lucky.

Outside, we have given up harvesting roots until the deluge abates. Boxes are being filled from store using roots scheduled for later in the winter. Harvesting above ground, the green stuff is challenging enough – just getting the crop to the field gate is taking determination and ingenuity. The greatest merit of a tractor this year seems to be how high the air intake is and what depth of water it can tolerate before sucking it in and dying. To see an extreme example, visit the Riverford Facebook page where there is a photo of our neighbour and co-op member, David Savage making sure savoy cabbages make it to the veg boxes. I reckon I could surf on the bow wave from his tractor.

When the rain stops I am still heartened by how quickly our fields drain and become passable again provided we have not damaged them by travelling in the wet. Organically farmed land will normally have a better, more open structure which allows water to percolate down to the subsoil more quickly. The channels left by earthworms help tremendously.

The crops themselves are not looking so bad and our cauliflowers are finally getting going. Local wisdom says they hate having ‘wet feet’ but, although they are smaller and later than usual, they look like they will make a fair crop. Traditionally, winter cauliflowers are grown on the coastal fringe of the South West, where they are protected from winter frosts by the moderating influence of the surrounding sea and are fertilized with seaweed dragged off the beaches below. Different varieties are triggered by a mixture of day length and temperature to switch their efforts from leaf to curd. The result is that, though we plant all our cauliflower in July, we cut them over eight months from October to early May.

Guy Watson

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