early growth...

A range of interconnecting factors governs the growth of our crops. Is there enough daylight for the crop to produce plenty of energy for growth, through the process of photosynthesis? Is the soil warm enough for the soil microbes to be able to break down organic matter to release nutrients for the plants to feed on? Is there enough organic matter in the soil for the microbes to process to make sure the crop doesn't go hungry?

During the dark days of December and early January plants, microbes and most insects embark on a sort of hibernation. For plants there isn't enough daylight to support continued growth and there isn't enough soil activity to provide adequate food. So instead crops such as over wintered cabbage will do just enough to stay alive while not dedicating any precious resources to growth. Insects do the same. For them it's a process called diapause - a sort of bio-stasis that ends when the air temperatures increase and the days begin to lengthen.

As we head into February the effect of the increasing day length will start to be noticeable. At the moment the over wintered cauliflower is all leaf with not even a golf ball sized head to be found in the crop. Likewise the purple sprouting broccoli has tiny side shoots developing but nothing really distinguishable as the final tender stems that we will harvest in February.

The growth of these crops in the coming month will not be at lightning speed as the soils haven't warmed up enough yet for the microbial factory to be churning out plenty of plant available nutrients. Instead the crop will call on the reserves it has stored over winter to make its early bid to reproduce.

Last of our UK apples

Some of last week's fruit boxes used the last of the local apple crop. We try hard to use apples from our local growers for as long as possible but I think in hindsight we pushed this one week too far as the apples tend to become a little bit pappy towards the end of the season. Please accept our apologies and let us know if any

apples you received were not quite up to our usual standard.

Rob Haward