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News from the farm   |   Farming

June brings a hive of activity

Generally speaking, it’s been a good spring on the farm – largely dry but, unlike 2018, nice and cool. The dry conditions allowed us to prepare the ground in a timely way, and by using sprinkler irrigation to encourage weed growth we created a good ‘stale seed bed’ (where weeds are germinated then killed near the surface of the soil) to plant the baby leaf salad into.

We’ve also enjoyed the recent rainfall, which has replenished soil moisture levels and topped the reservoirs up. It’s always fine margins in veg production, though; we’ve had enough rain for the time being, and would like a bit of sun and some warmth now. Bloody farmers are never happy!

We’ve had a great start on the new-season salad, with good quality and relatively weed-free crops meaning the team have been picking about two to three tonnes per week. The mix at the moment contains True spinach, mizuna, ruby chard, Golden Streaks mustard, pak choi and rocket.

On a wildlife note, I’ve noticed lots of bees enjoying the flowers on the comfrey plants, swallows swishing over one of our fleeced fields (more insects there maybe, unable to settle on the crop?), and last week the first of thousands of baby frogs migrating out of the irrigation reservoir into the surrounding fields and hedges.

Ed and his polytunnel team have started picking the first cucumbers, and the crop looks good, but the first cotton aphid has arrived; a very damaging pest. We are experienced with this problem, and Ed increases biological controls (releasing lacewing larvae and parasitic wasps, natural aphid predators) and picks off the most infected leaves to keep on top of it.

Aphids on leaf
Cotton aphids are a pest that attacks cucumbers.

Ed also informs me that his trial of mini aubergines, coloured white, purple, stripy and lilac, is nearly ready. He also has a new lime green mini cucumber called ‘Poona Kheera’– they have little spines and look horrible/interesting, but have a good taste and a firm texture.

June is always a busy month here on the farm. What with the start of harvesting, in conjunction with lots of planting, drilling, mechanical weeding, hoeing and hand-weeding, side-shooting tomatoes, moving covers, irrigation and cultivations, there’s never a dull moment.

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    John Richards

    Senior farm manager John is a Riverford veteran having joined the company in 1988 when organic farming in Britain was in its infancy. He met Guy and was shown around what was then the main field, with 30 different types of veg. Nowadays, he remains a fount of Riverford knowledge and farm history, and is still out in the fields as much as he can. 

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