Riverford Wicked Leeks

short, hot and dry

Monday 10th May 2010

We base our planting dates and selection of varieties on experience built up over two decades in Devon, tempered by local knowledge and a bit of guesswork. Norton is 100 miles east of Wash Barn and more removed from the influence of the Gulf Stream and westerly air flow off the Atlantic. Summers are typically hotter and drier with more sunshine but without the long mild autumn that keeps our crops in Devon growing right up to Christmas. The shorter more intense summer should benefit strawberries, onions, sweetcorn, squash and pumpkins and we hope that in normal years the drier air will make it easier to control fungal disease.

The Norton winters are significantly colder with much more frost, making it too risky to grow tender crops. Over the last two weeks we have been busy planting the cauliflowers in the coastal field along the south coast of Devon which will supplement the local Norton crops in your boxes this winter. Without the benefit of the long autumn, winter crops like leeks and cabbage need to be planted at least a week earlier in the central south to reach maturity before the temperature drops

There is a strip of mild coastal land running east from Portsmouth known as the Chichester Plain which is blessed with wonderful soils, water for irrigation, good sunshine and, by virtue of the maritime influence, mild winters and an early spring. This is where Jon Langmead is growing onions for your boxes. He did everything right and we were all keen to see him succeed and expand his growing in the spring but he has suffered the wettest June since 1914 which has brought in the dreaded mildew early. We are trimming off the affected leaves for the onions that are in the boxes this week but it remains to be seen whether the bulbs will reach maturity and form the sealed neck which allows them to be stored.

Guy Watson

We should have another crop of strawberries coming through now but I