planning the box....

As I sit at my desk in the dying days of 2004 planning the boxes and cropping for next season I thought I could let you in on how we plan for the vegboxes throughout the year. We plan the planting at this time of year for the boxes to arrive at your doorstep in May, while all the produce in your boxes from now until May was planned last November. Here are a few predictions from May 2005 to April 2006.

May sees the last of the Winter's cauliflower, leeks and purple sprouting broccoli (PSB), hand over to new season salads, onions, garlic and rhubarb and we'll see the very first of the strawberries in the last week. Strawberries really hit their stride in June, and we sneak in a fortnight's gooseberry season in the middle of the month. At the same time new Devon spuds, courgettes and bunched carrots add to the mix as well as basil and mint.

Sugar snap peas replace the broad beans in July and with courgettes and marrows coming out of our ears we hope lots of calabrese will erase the memories of last years poor crop.

French Beans and fennel feature in early August, with runners and sweetcorn, at the end of the month, plus a few leeks thrown in. On top of all this, a few Devon melons (fingers crossed!)

As the children go back to school in September, our boxes have to straddle the line between the 'Indian' and 'British' summers, or the classic 'salads Vs. veg' argument - our boxes will have both of course with the first cauliflowers and hard cabbages appearing.

Brussels sprouts, bunched beetroots, squashes and baking potatoes mark the start of October and Autumn with the last lettuces, celery and pointed cabbages holding their own against the aphids, high winds and lowering light levels.

The cauliflower season officially opens in November, when calabrese bow out and the first parsnips hit the boxes.

You'll see cosmos potatoes for Christmas in December, sprouts on stalks and more leeks than last year.

The first variety of sprouting broccoli arrives in January, frost permitting, while alpen cauliflower and the last of the stoned squash maintain the variety in the boxes.

February has a roots theme with cara potatoes in the boxes and major quantities of swede, celeriac, beet and parsnips.

March sees us planting lettuces and cabbages for the summer, tonnes of leeks and PSB rolling in and the last of our local carrots.

April closes our cropping year, stores are empty, cauliflower fields are at their maximum yield, with a mad rush to pick the leeks and broccoli before they go to seed. Lettuces in the tunnels and bunches of onions add freshness at the end of a long, long winter.

And that is how it happens........

Andy Johnson