inside or out + saving the soil

I am on our farm in the Vendée region of France, picking the last of the peppers and chillies and planning the crops for next year. The peppers recovered well after the wet July and August when over half of the fruit rotted on the plants, but they will certainly make a loss. The waste is heartbreaking and local advisors tell us we must put up polytunnels to get a profitable and reliable crop even though, with the faster growth, the flavour is not as good. Is it better to be reliably average? I'm reluctant to accept it. Coping with the unpredictability of the outdoor crop has proved very hard, but we will persist for another year outside.

Meanwhile the chillies, tomatillos (tart green tomatoes for authentic Mexican salsa verde) and Cape gooseberries did very well despite the weather, so there will be more weird stuff in your boxes next year. For the first time we’re trying some autumn-sown carrots, spinach and chard, covering them in mini tunnels to keep the worst of the winter weather off. They should come two months before the UK spring-sown crop, but then again the tunnels might blow away, the crops might be frozen or go to seed, and there is probably some new pestilence I don’t even know the name of, waiting to ruin my plans.  

Back at home we’re harvesting the last of the lettuce and tidying up the farm for winter. Any land that we cleared before mid October has been sown to a ‘green manure’ of Vetch or Grazing Rye, which we’ll plough back in come spring to boost soil fertility. The idea is also to ensure that there is no bare soil between now and late January; not only will the winter rain destroy the structure of unprotected soil, it will leach away the precious nutrients as well. Anything cleared beyond October will be left unploughed; the crop stubble plus the inevitable weeds create their own cover...they have their uses after all it seems.
Guy Watson

pumpkin day saturday 29th october, 11am-4pm – free entry
wash farm, devon + hartley lands farm, kent
Join us here on the farm for our big autumn celebration. Carve your own pumpkin, have a go at apple skittles, string some chillies (makes for a quirky Christmas present), enjoy some tasty organic food and drink, and try our Christmas range, all in a family-friendly atmosphere. See our website for more details.