Riverford Wicked Leeks

chalk, cheese and carrots

Monday 10th May 2010

With the exception of some runner beans, your summer crops are surviving the weather well and most of the winter crops were planted on time and have benefited from the rain. It is a rare July or August when farmers are grateful for the porous chalk that extends from Salisbury Plain under much of Hampshire. Normally it robs the ground of moisture, as any rain quickly disappears into subterranean aquifers, leaving us dependent on the moisture held in the topsoil to keep crops alive until the autumn rains.

Typically, grass on the chalklands succumbs to drought in the summer, which explains why there are so few cows in the region. Before the widespread use of artificial fertilizers in post war years, soil fertility was maintained using a combination of sheep grazing, clover leys and turnips, within a four course rotation. Cheap oil, and consequently cheap fertilizers, have led farms to abandon balanced rotations in favour of continuous cropping with crops like wheat, barley and rape that can go through a combine harvester.

The Janaways are converting the land at Norton Farm using clover leys; these are either grazed by a neighbour