Every bird seems to have a twig in its mouth and some have already laid eggs, but spring has yet to arrive with any conviction in our fields. Making use of breaks in the weather we have sown carrots, planted the early potatoes, the first lettuce, chard and pak choi but it will be a long wait before there is much to pick. Welcome to the hungry gap; the scourge of every gardener, box scheme and die hard localist.
Out of the wind and rain in our tunnels we are busy picking a late rally of rocket, land cress, claytonia, mustard, salanova lettuce and dandelion greens to make salad bags. The first salad onions and tomato plants are ready so, as soon as the last pick is taken, it is a scramble to clear, spread compost or manure, cultivate and plant; sometimes all with 24 hours.
Purple sprouting broccoli is approaching the end of a short season and it is the last week for kale, but leeks seem to be held back by the cold and look likely to run to the end of April. Last month it finally came dry enough to lift the carrots trapped in the ground by a wet winter, but they had already started re-growing and putting their stored energy into throwing a seed head, making the roots dry and woody. It is painful to walk away from a crop that has been painstakingly nurtured, but it would be a lot of work to lift and sort only to produce an inferior carrot. Sadly we will be on Italian carrots (actually they taste OK) until early June when we hope to harvest the first spring sowings.
My children, nephews and friends are busy picking wild garlic in the woods, but with school and exams beckoning and the trees above coming into leaf this will be their last week. If we can organise some other pickers it will be on the extras list for another month. For culinary adventurers who share my taste for the bitter earthiness, cardoons will also be available for a few weeks complete with recipes; they are the best I have ever grown but numbers are limited.