Thursday 10 May 2012

Matthews Blog - When It Rains!

 Over the past month the rooks have started to move away from the cereal fields and are beginning to cause a few problems at Wildfields.
To begin with they were hunting out freshly drilled seed within a day or so of planting. As soon as the wind was calm enough crop covers were applied to try and keep them out. They then started following the drill up the field, removing the sunflower and bean seeds nearly as fast as they were going into the soil. In some places they have even started punching holes in the crop covers to get to the seed.

When they are not feeding they sit in the trees looking at the pea crop like a vulture waiting for its prey to become weak, patiently waiting until the pods are full of succulent peas.

The much needed April showers arrived right on cue, the intermittent showers at the beginning of the month had enough drying time between them to enable most of the backlog of planting, caused by the dry weather in March to be dealt with. Parsnips, broad beans, shallots, parsley, celery, rocket, radish, french beans, cabbage, lettuce, beetroot and calabrese have all made their way into the soil just as the sky darkened, I look back at that busy weekend satisfied that 90% of the planting made it in before the heavy rains came.

Since then the heavy rain has been much more consistent and no planting or drilling has taken place for the past two weeks.

Last week I returned from a sunny few days on the south coast to find that some parts of the farm had been under water as large parts of the county experienced flooding. My celery had been completely covered and now looks a little yellow but I am hopeful it will recover. Roy has been busy digging trenches and pumping water out of the potatoes (a complete role reversal from last year). Once again we have a backlog of planting with more plants due next week.

The two plots of carrots that were drilled in February and March are looking well after a good old-fashioned hand weed to remove the established mayweed and grass, unfortunately because of the weather the third drilling planned for April was missed. As soon as I get chance I will drill two lots and try and stagger them by covering one with fleece.

The runner beans sown in modules have now reached 40cm in height and are in desperate need of transplanting outside, I think I will give it one more week and then hope we don’t get any more frosts.

The early garlic is looking well; with the first harvest of large green garlic expected in early June. I am hopeful that a return to warmer weather at the end of May will help to push the main storage crop on to a decent size.

On the down side the weather has not been kind to the French beans, the first drilling was a bit of a gamble at the end of February and although they germinated well under fleece they have now stood still and are gradually being picked off by slugs. The second drilling has failed to germinate due to the colder wet weather and will probably have to be re-drilled.

The first broad beans are now full of bloom and are regularly visited by bumble bees.

On the harvesting front spring cabbage, leeks and rhubarb are still doing well with the later responding well to the rain.
The beetroot in the polytunnels are nearly ready but were set back slightly as the floodwater moved sideways leaving the soil more like porridge for a couple of days.

The long range forecast is predicting longer spells of dry weather for June so as soon as possible we will be planting and drilling again, making the most of the soil moisture while we have it!!!

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