Skip to main content
Menu

News from the farm   |   Farming

Swallows return to a perfect spring

A month of clear skies and easterly winds have left light frosts in our protected valleys most mornings, soon melted by a sun rising earlier and higher every day. The accompanying dry weather has allowed us to spread muck, plough, create seedbeds and plant, on schedule and in ideal conditions.

The cold nights have held back growth of early crops, but have also delayed the end of over-wintered crops, which are now hellbent on running to seed in the lengthening days. Those with livestock to graze might bemoan the lack of grass (too cold and dry), but mostly farmers are happy with two near-perfect springs in a row. 

Will it be too dry for too long? Already our irrigation team is working flat out; partly to help newly planted lettuces and cabbages get their roots down, but also to germinate weeds, which will then be killed by thermal or mechanical ‘weed strikes’ before the salads growing from seed emerge. This technique, known as creating a ‘stale seedbed’, is a great way of reducing the need for hand-weeding without using artificial herbicides.

Reservoir
Irrigation is under way at Riverford's Wash Farm in south Devon. 

With leeks, cauliflower, purple sprouting broccoli, the salad in our polytunnels, and spring greens all rushing to seed – along with potatoes, carrots and onions, even in their dark, cold stores, sensing spring – we are entering the Hungry Gap: the lean few weeks on UK farms after winter crops end but before the spring harvest arrives.

Sadly, we will have to suspend our increasingly popular 100 per cent UK veg box throughout May (stopping on the 1st, back on the 31st), because there is not enough variety of homegrown veg. But thankfully, we have our farm in the Vendée region of France; the site carefully chosen because the light and rainfall bring spring crops into season a few vital weeks ahead of the UK, while being fewer road miles from our Devon farm than the Lincolnshire Fens.

The team in France are enjoying a great start to the season, despite the challenges of the post-Brexit export paperwork. Over the next few weeks, they will keep us well stocked with lettuces, cabbages, chard, summer turnips and broad beans.

We will cut our first lettuces in Devon in mid-May, followed by salad, pak choi, summer greens, then new potatoes, basil, peas, strawberries, courgettes and broad beans as we move into late June and July, and the bounty of summer. After 35 years, the prospect is still exciting.

    Comments

    Guy Singh-Watson

    Guy Singh-Watson has over the last 30 years taken Riverford from one man and a wheelbarrow delivering homegrown organic veg to friends, to a national veg box scheme delivering to around 80,000 customers a week. Tired of meetings, brands and the assumption that greed is our predominant motivation, Guy converted the business to employee ownership in 2018, using the proceeds to buy a small farm and return to growing organic vegetables. In common with many of Riverford’s new co-owners, Guy is an advocate of using business to shape a part of the world, however small, to be kinder, more considerate and sustainable; more like the world most of us want to live in.  His weekly newsletters connect people to the farm with refreshingly honest accounts of the trials and tribulations of producing organic food, and the occasional rant about farming, ethical and business issues he feels strongly about.

    Wicked Leeks is out now

    With a focus on regenerative farming, a cover interview with ethical restaurateur Asma Khan and we answer your questions on price, plastic and organic farming. Plus the joy of seasonal summer eating.

    Read more

    Leading the Veg Revolution

    Shop seasonal organic veg boxes or explore Riverford's recipe hub, for veg help and foodie inspiration.

    Go to Riverford

    How to cook with a veg box

    From meal planning to unusual veg: food writer Stacey Smith talks through how to cook with a veg box.

    Read more
    Spread the word

    The twin crises of climate change and biodiversity losses will be the defining stories of our future, but it is not too late to change direction. 

    Here at Wicked Leeks, our mission is to help inform and inspire positive change. Our journalism is free to all because of this, but we want to reach as many people as possible who share our desire for a better world. We know our readers are some of the biggest advocates of sustainable living, and you can help us grow this movement by sharing this article widely, with your friends and on social media. Now is the time to act.