There was a time last month when I started to wonder if we would ever experience summer again. Under the prevailing gloom and continuing deluge, accompanied by an almost eerie absence of birdsong and insects, one could easily lose faith in the perpetual return of life to our fields. Without the enlightenment of the Met Office, one might consider appeasing angry gods by the sacrifice of a virgin, a goat or at least Owen Paterson. After two weeks of glorious sunshine, the grass is finally growing, the hedges are bursting with life and we are enjoying the last flush of old season crops, while we hectically plant, and believe it or not, irrigate as fast as we can pump the water.
Hurrah! In a triumph for bees and the independence of science, our Environment Secretary and the chaps from Syngenta were defeated last week by an EU commission vote, which will now restrict the use of neonicotinoids on flowering crops. To descend to the Defra position, where nature is expendable unless it can be demonstrated incontrovertibly that it is worth saving on economic grounds, would be hugely depressing. It makes me ashamed to be human and even more ashamed to be British. Thankfully there was more enlightenment elsewhere in Europe – as well as a great number of passionate Brits campaigning here.
This will be the last week for cauliflower, leeks, old season potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli. These crops have been growing or in store for almost a year; our plant breeders have done their best to delay the rush to seed, but with lengthening days and rising temperatures, nothing can restrain the desire to procreate. The new season crops are doing well under fleece and under the tunnels we have been busy planting tomatoes, cucumber, basil and beans. The first of the cucumbers and rhubarb will be picked this week.