Crop and Other News - April 2017

CROP NEWS
Spring so often catches me unprepared. Going from a Winter routine of harvesting, planning and repairing to Spring/Summer ground preparation, planting and suchlike requires a change of mindset.

Fortunately, the weather is making it relatively easy, with dry conditions making the soil easy to prepare seed beds.

All the plants grow rapidly this time of year, whether it is ‘weed’s or ‘green manures’ or cultivated crops. I visualise the carbon that is being captured by the green leaves and turned into healthy organic matter feeding the soil organisms, which feeds the next crops.

We try to leave a small window of time (if feasible), between topping and mulching an old crop or green manure before establishing a new crop. Leaving ‘weeds’ to go to flower has an extra benefit of providing a valuable nectar source for bees, wildlife and many insects. Some of our fields are ablaze with vibrant colours as the Winter crops, including; Brassicas, Kales and Purple Sprouting Broccoli, have finished being harvested and are left to go to flower. 

Harvesting wise we are entering a difficult time, the ‘Hungry Gap’, meaning most of last season’s crops are bolting and going over, whilst the new season crops are not ready.  We are buying in potatoes from Culm Valley Growers, we have been harvesting our own fresh carrots each week, but they are now finished and Culm Valley Growers have supplied us with their last ones.

Leeks have been fantastic this year and are still growing! The Purple Sprouting Broccoli finished in early April. We have fantastic Cauliflowers and Chards, Spring Greens and Hungry Gap Kale, which will keep going for another 3 or 4 weeks.

The Bulb Onions are finished for the season so now we move onto the overwintered onions. We start with Spring Onions and then move onto the Green Onions. The whole of the green and the bulb is good for cooking

We have planted up our tunnels and early ‘No-dig’ area with a range of produce - Broad Beans, Sugar Snap Peas, Lettuce, lots of Rocket and Radish.These are exceptionally early this year and will help us through the Hungry Gap. We have also planted lots of Calabrese, Kales, Kohlrabi and Turnips for harvesting from June onwards.
~ Author: Martyn Bragg

PACKAGING RESEARCH
Currently, I am charged with the task of sourcing recyclable, or even better, biodegradable, packaging for Shillingford Organics. To date; I have several companies helping me with pricing, availability, raw materials and all the other things we need to take into consideration.

My first major setback is the large quantities we are expected to order, namely a pallet’s worth! In view of this I am trying to link with local, like-minded companies who may want to share a pallet with us but firstly I need to establish what suitable products are available and how they are made.

I have already discovered a high percentage of packaging is made using corn starch, and if it comes from outside the UK there is the added risk it may be sourced from GM Crops, which is a definite NO for us! We would absolutely need a 100% guarantee that any raw materials used have not been obtained from GM crops of any description.

I also need to establish the shelf-life for biodegradable packaging and whether there are special storage requirements, especially if we are expected to order bulk quantities. Please do bear with us as there is still much to do. Thank you for caring about our environment and I look forward to the day I can tell you we are using ALL biodegradable packaging.
~Author: Bridget Rendall