The hot weather has really brought everything forward on the farm; we’ve had courgettes for about a month now, and they are just flying at us. We had to pull the picking team out of a field for a few days, because we were picking more than we could sell. It’s steadied a bit, but we’re still picking around 150 trays full a day. Courgettes are our biggest crop, then we have runner beans and French beans both about a week away. Runners in particular enjoy humid, muggy weather, so it’s perfect for them right now. I also can’t remember the sweetcorn ever looking as great as it does this year. As a semi-tropical plant, it has really enjoyed the hot weather; my only worry is that it will all ripen at once. It will be available about a month from now, and hopefully it will be a bumper crop.
At the moment, I’m busy planting buckwheat in between the rows of beans. It works as a ‘cover crop’ to prevent the soil from going bare, and mops up some of the excess nitrogen that the beans release into the soil. In autumn, when the buckwheat sheds its seeds, it’s also a really nice source of bird food. We’ve always had cover crops like that. When you’ve got broad beans that finish in June and there isn’t another crop on there until next May, it makes sense to grow something to protect and nourish the soil. For us, that’s its main purpose, as well as being a handy sacrificial crop to tempt the deer away from the beans. We have a massive deer problem in this area, despite the farm being surrounded by a six-foot fence.
The biggest challenge we face is really these long, dry periods. We have a reservoir, and can extract from the river, so water isn’t usually a problem for us; we can irrigate. But that’s almost a full-time job for someone, and I’d say these droughts are getting more frequent. There’s no way I’d want to be growing salad in this weather; our neighbour grows salad, and they’re out there picking at three or four in the morning before it gets hot. Luckily for us, a lot of the crops we grow are deep rooting, so they can reach the moisture in the ground.