The UK veg season has been delayed by up to six weeks after an unseasonably cold May and torrential rain delayed plantings and halted growth.
New season British courgettes, broad beans, sugar snap peas, spring onions and summer greens are among those delayed, as the wet weather left fields waterlogged across the South and South West of the country.
The first homegrown crops are eagerly anticipated after the Hungry Gap, a period in the seasonal growing calendar after the winter UK crops have finished and before the new season arrive. This period is usually filled with imports from Europe, where French and Spanish growers begin their harvests of broad beans, asparagus, salad veg and fruit ahead of Britain.
Weather has varied across the UK but most regions have seen heavy consistent rain across May. In Devon, a typical rainfall during the month reaches 40mm compared to this year’s 160mm. The Met Office said that April 2021 had the lowest average minimum temperatures since 1922, while the end of May saw weather warnings for strong winds issued for much of southern England.
Devon courgette grower Lloyd Stone said he has lost 50 per cent of his courgettes before they were planted out as they had to be left in trays under cover due to heavy rain. “We had a dry spell so we were hoping for a bit of rain, but then it all came at once. Mine are still in the shed and 50 per cent of them have died. I’ve had a second delivery now and I’m hoping to get them in by the end of the week.
“Overall I’ll be three weeks late, which isn’t too bad, but the number of plants is down and it’s too late to get more,” he said.
Growers who have attempted to plant out during the recent weather have had protective fleeces torn by the wind and blown away, with crops left without protection, Stone added.
“It’s not what you expect at this time of year,” said veg grower Cathy Case, whose farm at Bigbury-on-Sea produces cauliflowers, and a range of other brassicas. “For us it was the drought and the low temperatures that delayed everything for us. We should be preparing the ground and planting, but you can’t drive on it.”
A range of new season veg will be delayed for customers of organic veg box company Riverford, which grows its own veg as well as buying from grower partners across the UK.
Sugar snap peas will be two weeks late, courgettes by up to five weeks, while French, broad and runner beans have also all been affected.
For crops grown under cover, new season English lettuce and cucumbers have been held up due to low light levels and temperatures.
In fruit, the UK gooseberry season has been delayed due to the weather, but in better news, the British strawberry season is poised to begin.
There is also good availability of seasonal favourite asparagus, albeit with thicker stems than usual due to recent cold temperatures, while Spanish blueberries and tomatoes are in good supply with excellent flavour.
With a warmer weekend forecast for much of the country, there are hopes a dry June could reduce delays and the overall impact of a poor May for weather.