when is a back end too long?

Many years ago, about this time of year, I picked my London and Northumbria raised, wife to be, up from the Paddington train at Totnes station. I took the scenic route expecting her to be impressed by the scenery, only to hear her sigh as she gazed out of the window and exclaimed "god, its so bloody green".

Much as I love my native Devon, I do concede that there is something almost indecent about the persistent verdure that stretches almost to Christmas, such as our autumnal mildness. Farmers describe it fondly as a "long back end" referring to the way that plants will carry on growing right up to the shortest day in the more sheltered fields. The green gets a slightly faded and washed out tone, but it is often January before we get our first real frosts that finally bring the season to an end. This is even more the case with organic farms. Our plants miss the kick start of a dose of soluble notrogen fertiliser in the spring but once the soil has warmed up and our soil bugs have got busy recycling nutirents they keep going until the soil temperature dips around Christmas. This can mean that our cows are out grazing for weeks after non-organic cows are brought back in for the winter to be fed silage and grain. It is often the mud rather than the lack of grass that makes us abandon the pastures.

The last few weeks have been warm even by Devon standards. Planting of the last of the lettuce was delayed by wet weather in August and I never expected them to make it to maturity but here we are in November still harvesting with resonable quality. The cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, chard and spinach show little sign of slowing down. The problem for us is that crops, which we had planned for your boxes in the winter, will be mature and have to be cut early. This means that we are inundated with these greens now but are liable to be short in January and February. Like our fields, the boxes will be fairly green for the next month and will then become more rooty as the winter progresses; That is unless we are inundated with moans about greens in which case the cows will enjoy some of them.

Guy Watson