The weather was fine for the 2021 Potato Harvest at Bennison Farm.
Lots of members came along to help bring in the potatoes and see the tractor in action!
Many hands made light of the work, and we were able to lay down a store of nearly three tonnes of tats. Plenty to keep us going through the winter, with several different varieties to add some diversity to our dishes. The potatoes grown this year were Twinner, Heidi (the red fleshed potato), Sarpo Axona, Carolus and Alouette. They even have a new home for the winter, in the form of an old lorry container.
We hope those of you who made it along had a good time – we certainly had one happy young member, who’s mum emailed us to say;
‘A wonderful morning that my 2 year old is still talking about!!! It was wonderful helping to harvest, seeing the tractor, and then best of all bring a few of these yummy spuds home. Thank you so very much’ – Abbie Cole
We’re already looking forward to next years harvest, and hope to see lots of you there!
Mixed salad leaves are a mainstay of the winter veg shares at Bennison Farm. You may think of salads as a summer crop but many salad leaves are better suited to cool conditions as they run to seed very quickly in the hot weather and can suffer more pest damage such as flee beetle in the case of the brassica family.
The polytunnels provide them with protection from the elements and ensure high quality leaves. We sow at the end of the summer to plant in early October and harvest from November.
The salads will stay in the ground until they start to flower in early spring when they are taken out to make way for the first plants of the new season.
The types of leaves you can enjoy over the winter include Mizuna, Purple frills and Golden frills mustard, Tatsois, Lettuce, Endive, Bucks Horn Plantain and Winter Purslane.
By the end of November we’re in a position to pass judgement on the the successes and failures of the growing season. The main crops are either in the store or if hardy enough, left in the ground waiting to be harvested, so by and large we can now see what we’ve got to play with over the winter.
This is where the principle of a ‘veg share’ is put into practice, as the crops are shared out between the members on our winter veg share plan. We have to strike a balance between the quantities we give and how long we want the crop to last and this determines what you will get in your weekly veg share. Having finished the winter veg share plan the good news is we feel confident that we have enough to keep our members fed through the winter months.
The over riding feeling is that the 2021 season was a good one. On the whole the weather was in our favour. For once we had a reasonable amount of rain. The onions and Brussels sprouts went through the whole season watered only by the rain and are the best examples we’ve ever grown. We’re really pleased with our main crop carrots which seem to have evaded the worst of the carrot root fly – their nemesis – to give a lovely crop of perfect sized carrots which we hope will see us through until April. We’re equally happy with our beetroot and leeks which we will rely on as we head into the hungry gap in late spring. In spite of the rain there was enough sunshine to give us a healthy squash crop – we particular love the long stripy Delicata squash which for all you sweet potato fans is the best alternative we can grow here in the UK. Butternut, the most well know of the squash, also did really well and next year we’ll mainly grow these two as they are always the most reliable.
Of course it’s never perfect. Sadly neck rot has meant we’re losing a lot of our fantastic onion crop in the store. We think the thick necks and large amount of foliage meant the crop took longer than expected to cure and went into the store too early. Hopefully a few tweaks to our post harvest handling of the crop will ensure this a less of a problem next year. Celeriac were a wonderful size but around a third of the crop were affected by violet root rot which may have been exacerbated by damp conditions in that part of the field. Savoy cabbages are a little sparse after being hammered by slugs as young plants but this should be balanced out by other varieties we’ve planted.
The CSA model means that we don’t put all our eggs in one basket. We can’t expect every crop to be successful every year but by growing a range of types and varieties we insure there is always something to eat. Every year there are lessons to be learnt. The timing of our autumn crop this year was out, with some too early, some too late and some which we didn’t find time to plant. We’re determined next year to nail this and provide plenty of broccoli, cauliflower, salads and leafy greens next autumn which will help us save our winter crops for a bit longer. No doubt there will be new lessons to learn, which I will be sharing with you this time next year, but as 2021 draws to an end we can feel happy that we gave it our best shot and got some great results. Thanks so much to our great team of staff and volunteers who work so hard to bring us our weekly veg shares.