The lanes around the farm are now lined with daffodils, primroses and the fresh growth of nettles and cow parsley. The blackthorn and hazel hedges surrounding our fields have new buds forming and the pussy willow trees are blossoming with their yellow catkin flowers. After the long, dark days of winter it’s reassuring to see these hopeful signs of what’s to come.
On the farm too the change in seasons is showing. The longer daylight hours encouraging re growth on our overwintered crops such as chard and salad brassicas and everything is just looking a lot happier. All our outdoor brassicas have done very well this year from the calabrese broccoli in the autumn last year to the kale and purple sprouting broccoli now, abundant great quality produce. This has a lot to do with the green manure that was grown before the brassicas. Green manures are fertility building crops that add organic matter and improve soil structure. We always precede brassicas with a green manure as they are a hungry crop. Last year the green manure was field beans, a member of the legume family. Legumes fix nitrogen from the atmosphere in a symbiotic relationship with certain bacteria in the soil. In return for sugar excreted by the plant through its roots the bacteria stimulate the formation of nitrogen nodules. This nitrogen is then made available to subsequent crops. It’s nature’s way of fertilizing. Our over wintered leeks have done well too and you’ll be receiving the last of these over the next few weeks.
In our covered cropping areas we are busy planting and have peas, spring onions and salad leaves already in with more coming on. In the propagation house we have heated benches which allow us to get crops going early such as our tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, beetroot, kohlrabi and even our first batch of courgettes. We are drilling (drilling is the term used for seeding directly into a bed) multiple beds of mixed salad leaves and kale which are growing and are now cropping well with regular hoeing to keep the weeds at bay.
Other things to look forward to in your box are spring greens, spring onions, green garlic, rhubarb and for those that fancy something a little more unusual our forced sea kale. We have a permanent strip in one of our glasshouses. It grows wild along the beaches near us in Sussex and was popular in the early 19th century apparently served at the Pavilion in Brighton by the Prince Regent, George IV. At the start of each year we put bins over the plants and insulate with straw encouraging them to produce these tender, blanched shoots. We will be offering it as an extra to any of our customers that fancy something a little different. Although the hungry gap is on its way, which is the period when overwintered crops finish and we await the freshly planted produce of this year, we are busy sowing and planting and will endeavour to keep your boxes as exciting and interesting as possible. It’s all looking rather encouraging and is making us feel excited about the coming year.