Confusion – The pigeons nesting on top of my outside loo are already on their second brood; I feel something akin to a grandparent’s vicarious broody pride and have given them sole use for the summer. Outside the ash is finally in full leaf, almost a month after the oak. Folklore would have us believe “oak before ash, in for a splash; ash before oak, in for a soak” so we should be in for a dry summer, though personally I will not be counting my squab before they hatch.
A little woe – The mixture of precocity and tardiness is more likely down to confusion caused by wildly fluctuating spring temperatures. Under our crop covers it was bright and tropical by day bringing on rapid growth, but also stress when temperatures dropped and we struggled to keep up with the irrigation. Plants didn’t know whether to be a conservative ash or an adventurous oak. As so often happens when you stress a plant, some cash in and go to seed prematurely; we got a spinach crop but had to pick early, accept a reduced yield and spend a lot of time sorting. Pak choi did the oak thing, growing so fast under the covers that their roots couldn’t keep up. The result was that, just as we started to harvest, a proportion developed base rots (perhaps boron deficiency) and had to be discarded. Our final woe is weeds in the salads. We make ‘stale seedbeds’, typically three weeks ahead of sowing, in order to let weeds germinate and be killed (by a burner or shallow cultivation) ahead of our crop emerging. With scarce rain we had little pre-germination and have some weedy rocket, mustard, beet leaves and mizuna. Rather than abandon the crop our salads team spend their afternoons hand weeding to clear the area for harvest the next morning.
But still mostly good – So a near-perfect year so far has given us a few problems, but the dry weather has allowed us to plant on time and in good conditions, so though early crops have been the mixed bag they invariably are, the crops further ahead are looking excellent. Like my pigeon tenants, I remain optimistic.