Farm News Autumn/Winter 2022

Giving thanks for our borehole!

The timing couldn’t have been better for installing our new borehole last May. Soon after the installation it stopped raining for the whole summer and it wasn’t until the middle of October that we had a half decent amount of rain. Of course we’re used to dry summers in this part of the country but this summer was exceptional. Goodness knows how big out water bill would have been without the borehole.

The borehole is essentially a narrow well – a six inch diameter perforated pipe sunk into the ground with a pump in the bottom. Ours is 7m deep and sits in the sand and gravel which holds the ground water. We weren’t sure if there would be enough water to see us through the drought but we were pleasantly surprised that even after a dry winter and summer the borehole was still flowing.

In spite of a free and plentiful water supply it was still a real struggle to keep on top of the irrigation, and not all crops got enough water to achieve their full potential. Inevitably we prioritised some crops and unfortunately dropped the ball on others. Our main crop beetroot was pretty patchy which might have been partly due to inadequate moisture during germination. Brussels sprouts missed out on irrigation and so never quite reached their full size and yields were also low for some of our potato varieties.

On other crops pests got out of hand, perhaps favoured by the warm conditions or due to a lack of natural predators which may have suffered in the drought. Swede were completely decimated by flea beetle who love the hot and dry weather and some of the broccoli and cabbages took a big hit from aphid. Normally these are controlled by the larvae of parasitic wasps but as the adults feed on pollen and nectar I wonder whether the drought could have had an impact on their food source and ultimately their numbers.

On the whole though we faired pretty well. Heat loving crops such as squash, tomatoes and aubergine we’re exceptional. Aubergines were staple in the veg bags for most of July and August, tomatoes were beautiful and in abundance and squash were large and plentiful giving us a bumper harvest for Autumn and early Winter. We’ve also had plenty of carrot, leeks, parsnips, celeriac, Savoy cabbage, and winter greens to see us through the colder months. Other veg that worked well have been a selection of lovely herbs, greens and salads in the polytunnel. So we’ll eat well this winter. As always you win some and you loose some but we plant enough of a variety of crops to make sure that even if some don’t do as well as others there is still plenty for the veg shares.

Now our thoughts are turning to the next season. We are putting up a new polytunnel for propagating our seedings. Until now we’ve had to buy in any plants which require additional heat to get started. Now we have electricity on site we’ll be able to build a heated propagation bench to give our seedlings a head start. This will be particularly useful for our first early plants which we’ll be sowing in January and February and also for the heat loving crops such as tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, cucumber, courgettes and French beans. We’ve also being working on next years cropping plan and tweaking our crop rotations to maximise productivity and keep the veg shares as varied as possible through out the year. It’s now time to order seeds and then it won’t be long before we start sowing again and so the never ending cycle continues!

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