Riverford Wicked Leeks

doom, mud and potato blight

Monday 10th May 2010

The ground is truly sodden and, at a time when we should be working all hours to keep up with the planting, we have planted very little for three weeks. For every three strawberries picked two have to be thrown away and our potatoes are succumbing to blight. A year that started so well with a glorious April and early May, is rapidly descending into disaster. If the rain carries on for much longer the winter crops will also be affected because we are now so far behind with our planting. It is vital that we keep to our planting programme through July to give us the leeks, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and broccoli for the boxes during the winter.

The weather forecast is so unrelentingly gloomy that we have even postponed our staff party, planned for this weekend. Despite the mud, blight and meteorological doom there is an admirable, obstinate determination to make the best of any chances we get; as I sit moaning away over my laptop, lettuce plants are on their way to the field in an impressive display of optimism over experience; at least some may be puddled into the mud by hand. Should we get a break next week the boxes will not be too affected and, with some long days, we should be able to catch up.

But no one will starve.

One or two of the earlier varieties of potato have now been hit with blight. The only hope is to burn them off in an attempt to prevent the tubers from being infected. It is not all bad news; many of the later varieties have good resistance and are holding up well. Hard as the last three weeks have been it is nothing compared to the Irish potato famine of the 1840s when blight (phytophthora infestans) first arrived in Ireland from the potato