Whilst we may not be growing a lot at this time of year, there’s still plenty to do. Our farm manager, Andy, provides an insight for you about what happens during January to ensure we can continue to bring you tasty veg boxes throughout the year.
Andy is ably assisted by John, our Organic Apprentice and Atanas, our field worker. All are incredibly hard working and do a fantastic job in all weathers. They are regularly helped by our 12 regular volunteers who come up during the week.
January on the Farm
January is the month in the year when we can turn some of our attention in the field to matters other than vegetables. It is a month to reflect on the previous season, fine tune plans for the next season and do some much needed work on infrastructure.
All the planning for the 2012 growing season was carried out in December, so January is when we make sure we have all the necessary raw materials to carry out these plans. This includes placing orders for all our seeds and compost. We also carry out repairs to equipment and ensure we have a good supply of that all important resource farmyard manure! A resource, I hasten to add, that is becoming harder and harder to source. This is because the relentless increase in fertiliser prices has meant that manure once viewed as a waste product by some intensive farmers is becoming once again more and more valued.
We have a lot of infrastructure projects on the go at the moment, including installing a new irrigation tank and pipe network, building a staff room at the farm, constructing some heated propagation beds, installing mains electricity and trying to bring the general presentation of the site and facilities up to a grade that is suitable for us to engage with a wider section of the community, especially schools and the less mobile.
The pigs on the holding are now starting to really earn their keep clearing up all of last year’s crop residues and preparing this year’s growing areas. There are many advantages to using the pigs for initial ground preparation:
- They are out preparing ground now when it is far too wet to consider taking a big heavy tractor onto the field as it would cause a lot of compaction damage to the soil.
- They do not need diesel or wages to do there job instead they survive off waste veg and a bit of bought in feed!
- They also fertilise the land as they work and eat a lot of weeds including the dreaded couch grass. This allows us to get crops planted much earlier in the growing season than we would otherwise.
The weather has been keeping us on our toes a bit. With what had been an incredibly mild winter now looking like it might have a serious bite in it’s tail, with today’s forecast showing night time temperatures possibly plummeting to -10 degrees C. As a grower I am delighted to see a proper freeze coming, although unpleasant for staff it provides a vital role in killing off pests and diseases. It halts the breeding of wildlife such as rats and rabbits. It speeds up the decomposition of last years crop residues and can kill off some perennial weeds or at least halt there growth.
Another valuable role of the cold is regulating growing patterns in some plants. The mild weather has caused all sort of strange things to happen within horticulture this winter including stories of blossom coming out on apple trees in November, growers planting carrots in January (he’ll be regretting that decision now). For ourselves, oddities seen in the field have been globe artichokes coming out in January, asparagus trying to put up spears too, and fennel re-growing in December off last years stumps.
As always in farming, the rough and the smooth tends to equal each other out so where we have lost some crops due to massively increased slug populations, other’s have flourished. We harvested outdoor lettuce in December, the purple sprouting broccoli is going on and on and on all through the winter providing us with record harvests of this crop.
So eyes firmly focussed on the growing season ahead I hope next month’s weather is kind and allows us to start ground preparation early and we can encourage more of you out to the field soon to help us get next season off to a flying start.