If you listen to the weatherman, then March is, technically speaking, the first month of spring. Though it’s difficult to believe that after the last week of snow blizzards, bitterly cold days and nightly frosts. The days may be getting longer and brighter, but the winter is still reluctant to leave.
Here at The Farm, we’re busy getting the fields ready to put in the first plantings of spring crops. Apart from a bit of remaining purple sprouting broccoli, all our outdoor crops finished a few weeks ago. The last of our leeks were harvested in mid-February. The kale and cavolo nero did well for us over the winter but has started to flower now, which means the end of the crop. It’s time to mow the brassica stumps and plough the ground ready for the new season. We’ve still got the winter salad in the polytunnels growing strong, which will keep going until early April.
In terms of what UK growers have to offer, we’re now moving into the leanest weeks of the year, the 'hungry gap’ that starts in March and continues throughout April and into the first weeks of May. There is little or nothing left in the field from last year’s plantings, and even staple crops from storage such as UK potatoes, carrots and onions start to run out in April and May. The first of the new spring crops are only just being sown and won’t be ready until May and June.
There are a few crops that you can grow over winter for a spring harvest, such as onions and broad beans, but in this country, the only reliable way to plug the hungry gap is by growing under the protection of polytunnels and glasshouses. At The Farm, we fill our limited polytunnel space with winter salad leaves and lettuces for a bit of freshness. If we had more tunnels we could grow a wider range of crops for March and April.
Fortunately, we’ve built strong links with some amazing local growers so we can find you the best local produce to put a bit of seasonal variety in your boxes during the hungry gap. We get our amazing cauliflowers and spring greens from Francis Sampson in Cornwall. Francis grows on land right on the coast, near Lands’ End. The area is very exposed to harsh sea winds but is virtually frost free. The produce Francis grows on this mild coastal strip is invaluable at this time of year.
For both suppliers and seasonal eaters, this can be a tough time of year. You may be feeling frustrated by another week of cabbages and roots, but please be patient just a little longer as there still aren’t many other UK vegetables about. Alternatively, you can switch to a Veg Variety box - we import some Mediterranean produce to liven up this box during the hungry gap.
We’re an open farm and welcome visitors on our land. There are lots of opportunities to join us on the fields this spring. Please take a look at our website for details www.thecommunityfarm.co.uk
Ecowild mindfulness - Mondays
Practice mindfulness outside in nature with woodland skills and crafts.
Indian plot to plate cookery day – 17 March
Cook up an Indian feast in our yurt kitchen with crops you’ve harvested fresh from the fields.
Half-term farm and forest school – 5 and 6 April
Let your kid’s get muddy with pond-dipping, wood crafts and farm and forest frolics!
Family foraging – 21 April
Earthwise is joining forces with expert forager, Martin Bailey for a seasonal Pick and Cook Day on the wild side! Available for ages 2-7 and 8-16 plus an accompanying adult.