Tag Archives: spring

guy’s newsletter: bucking cows, smoke-belching old timers & happy field workers

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The muck is flying, the furrows are turning and every functioning tractor is hitched to something. Even the neglected and otherwise abandoned, smokebelching old timers get coaxed back to life to haul plants, seeds and crop covers to the fields.

With sun on their backs, our field workers once again consider themselves lucky; the hours are long as we struggle to catch up but everyone likes to see jobs done well. All of this is so much easier when the mud stops sticking to boots and wheels, and soil works easily into seedbeds that invite young plants to grow. Who wouldn’t be a farmer when the weather is with you.

In France we have finally planted the cabbage and kohl rabi (five weeks late), and are planting the last lettuce before moving on to courgettes, sweetcorn and turnips.Meanwhile in the polytunnels we are preparing to cut the second crop of lettuce before immediately replanting with peppers. A month ago with so little sunlight and fungal disease running rife I thought they were a write off; we lost a third but the survivors rallied remarkably as soon as the sun showed, and there will be a fair crop for your boxes over the next two weeks.

The signs are that it will be a long hungry gap after a warm, if wet, winter. Most of our leafy crops will finish early and a wet spring has delayed planting so there will be a shortage of green veg over the next two months. I can only lament the day last November when my sister’s cows broke through the fence to munch through our young spring greens. It has left a big hole in our plans, which the weather has conspired to make larger. Yesterday, after four months indoors and a diet of ten tons of silage each (broken only by the occasional grade out banana), our cows were happily bounding around the fields enjoying the taste of fresh grass. As the yard gates open even the older cows skip and buck their way up the lane. Any remaining sombre dignity is abandoned as they get to the field and cannot decide whether to eat or charge around, throwing double footed kicks high in the air. All being well you’ll be able to enjoy the spectacle too as we plan to film the turnout, and share the video on our website and Facebook page soon.

Guy Watson

guy’s weekly new: asparagus, optimism & relief

A cool May has restrained the flowering urges of our purple sprouting broccoli, leeks and cauliflower, giving us the bonus of an extra two to three weeks’ picking. With the barns empty and the last of 2012’s crops ploughed over, we can finally say our annus horribilis is over. Hurrah! I haven’t been happier to see a plough in a field since I ploughed in my first disastrous strawberry crop back in the 80s. I remember whooping from the tractor seat. 

Looking forward, most of spring has gone well. There has been enough dry weather to create good seed beds and plant in the right conditions, with rain for germination and establishment. The persistent cold means that most crops are running two to four weeks late, but the prevailing feeling among growers is one of optimism: a strong, healthy crop is the best way to banish memories of last year. This week sees the first Devon-grown little gems, wet garlic, pak choi, salad onions and salad leaves in the boxes. The cold has meant a slow start to our asparagus and rhubarb season. Asparagus is a hard crop for organic growers: all the weeding has to be paid for from a very short harvesting season, which ends in late June to allow the plant to recharge its roots. Two weeks lost at the beginning will be hard to make up. Rhubarb loves cool, damp weather and we are now into the thick of the crop. It will be available to add to your order and occasionally in the boxes through to the end of July.

As I type, my son is grilling me about us pre-empting the UK season with asparagus from Pepe, our grower near Granada in Spain. When did this seventeen year old become such a purist? Logically, based on carbon footprint, I have no trouble defending working with Pepe. He is a small, highly committed grower, cultivating the same fields farmed by his family for generations, which are irrigated using snow melted from the mountain surrounding his farm. We like him and the quality is always good, but is there something iconic about English asparagus? Should we make you wait? Thoughts to spanishasparagus@www.riverford.co.uk/blog or comment on here.

Guy Watson

Penny’s gardening blog – preparation tips for spring

Spring is finally here and although it has been rather wet and cold, we are now approaching the busiest time of year in the garden. 

Feed your soil: The most important task in any garden, be it a vegetable garden, herb garden, ornamental, cutting or even a container garden, is to look after the soil. I am totally insistent on composting in all the gardens I work in, mostly for this very reason, but also as it provides an area to recycle waste from your garden in the form of your lawn clippings, weeds, leaves, some paper and cardboard too, plus kitchen waste such as veg and fruit peelings and puts it all to really good use. All this, if managed properly, will make great compost to feed your garden with and improve the structure and fertility of your soil.

 

I won’t bore you too much as I have already written a blog about composting (see here), but if you are keen to start composting, or want to improve your techniques this link will help you gain more knowledge. I have known Nicky Scott for about thirty years, around here he is renowned as being the ‘Devon Composting Guru.’ He is also an accomplished musician and I remember being very impressed when I noticed a large sticker on his guitar case promoting composting. This is my kinda guy!

Weeding: If you already have a compost heap, this is the time of year to empty it out and feed your soil with it. 

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Digging compost out of the heap, ready to spread

 

Before spreading your compost, it is essential to thoroughly weed your beds, digging out any perennial weeds.

Dig between existing plants looking carefully for weeds, such as bindweed, buttercup, couch grass and nightmare of nightmare, the worst of all, in my eyes…. the dreaded ground elder. I have some appearing in various areas of my garden and am slightly obsessive about weeding it out. Once it gets a hold you are done for. Time to sell the house and move elsewhere!  I spent a couple of hours digging it out, lifting clumps of perennials and teasing it out. 

Becoming familiar with these weeds is a good idea so here are some pictures of just a couple of the worst. In my next blog I will add more:

Know your weeds!

Bindweed roots

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Ground elder

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Growing veg?

If you are growing veg this year you need to prepare the ground. Some of you have ordered our veg, herb or flower grow your own kits to kick start the season.  If you are still thinking about it, hurry, do not procrastinate and avoid disappointment as we have limited numbers. The veg box to grow starts being delivered on the 21st April, so now is the time to get busy.

Feeding the soil is key to your success in growing anything.  Weed your beds and apply compost from your heaps and for extra fertility, some well rotted organic farmyard manure. This is particularly important to growing veg and should be spread a few weeks before planting and sowing. Chicken pellets can also be used.

If you’d like to ask me any questions, comment here and I’ll get back to you.

Penny

In my next blog I’ll be sharing tips on how to divide perennial clumps and what to plant now for summer flowering, check back here or look out for news on our social media.

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Busy at last

Spring has arrived and, after a frustratingly dormant winter, the farm is once again a hive of activity. Brought on by the sudden rise in temperature, the last of the overwintered crops are rushing to maturity giving us a late flush of cauliflower, leeks, purple sprouting broccoli and greens plus the wild garlic from our woods. The lengthening days are telling these plants it is now or never for procreation, so our mission is to get them harvested before they rush to seed. You may find an emerging bolt in the centre of your leek; given a chance this would extend to a metre in just a few days to carry the star burst flower typical of the allium family. Our rule is that if we see it poking out of the shank we have missed our chance and it stays in the field. In the early stages the bolt is fairly tender and digestible but if it offends you, slice the leek lengthways and remove.

Meanwhile we are harvesting the first salad onions and the first few sticks of rhubarb for the Field Kitchen; they should be available to buy with your regular order at the end of this month and in the boxes from May.

Apart from the picking we are busy preparing ground (muck spreading, ploughing and cultivating) ahead of a busy planting schedule; early lettuce, chard, spinach, cabbage and carrots are planted under covers and most of the potatoes are now in the ground. We have even started irrigating the shallow planted crops like lettuce which need help getting their roots out and down to the moist soil below.

help us celebrate our first year working with Send A Cow

As we continue our partnership with Send A Cow, supporting sustainable farming in Africa, we want you to get involved and be part of our efforts. We kick off a fortnight of Send A Cow events hosting a special African-themed supper (£20 each) on Thursday 29th April, with guest speaker Margaret Kifuko (Ugandan farmer). We’ll be discussing the similarities and differences of farming in Uganda – if you’d like to join in give us a call to book your place. Then, on Monday 3rd May we open our gates for an African inspired family day out – see the workings of an African farm, chat to Margaret, learn about keyhole gardens and say hello to the goats! Places are limited so you’ll need to book. Call us on 01803 762074.