stalled growth + early plantings

We’ve had ten days of easterly winds, bringing us dry and bright days, some sharp frosts and finally a very welcome cessation of growth, perhaps giving us a chance to catch up. We have some wonderful winter crops but with many of them four to six weeks ahead of schedule, we’re buried in greenery. The worry is that we’ll be out of cauliflower, cabbage, purple sprouting broccoli and leeks well before our new season crops are ready.

Elsewhere on the farm some of our better drained fields had dried enough for us to start ploughing last week. After a few days of further drying we were able to work the upturned furrows into a seed bed and plant the last of the Aquadulce broad beans in perfect conditions. They were immediately covered with nets to protect them from crows; even then our irritatingly clever carrions have been known to peck right through and find the seedlings as they emerge. We’ve also managed to lift parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes from some of our sandy soils. Whereas carrots and potatoes are best lifted in the autumn and barn stored along with a small amount of soil to keep them moist, parsnips are frost tolerant, have delicate skins and quickly dehydrate after harvest so are best left where they grew and lifted regularly, when conditions allow. These windows of dry weather are essential to keep a supply going for the boxes.

250 miles south, on our farm in the Vendée region of France, we planted the first lettuce last week and immediately covered them with mini tunnels. They should be ready in late March. Lacking our strong moderating maritime influence, it is only very marginally warmer there than in Devon at this time and I am bemused by why growth is so much stronger; I can only attribute it to the much better light levels.

Guy Watson