Vital Veg, organic farm, seed potatoes

Newsletter 29 March 2021

On the farm
Almost T-shirt weather on the farm today in the sunshine! Looks like it may be a lumpy start to spring though, with freezing nights and even some snow in the forecast over the next 10 days. As always, we will see what happens!

In the field – we are gearing up to potato planting! Our seeds are all graded and in trays ready to go. This week we will be getting our trusty tractor out of its winter hibernation and cultivating the plough to make ready for planting. Our plan is to have the potatoes in the ground by the end of the first week in April. It’s a compromise – we don’t want to plant too early because we risk the leaves of newly emerged potato plants being caught by a late frost. This can set the crop back. On the other hand we want to plant as early as we feel is safe so that the crop gets a good amount of growth under its belt before there is a risk of blight (a fungus that causes potatoes to rot). Blight starts appearing from mid-July onwards, and makes the leaves go brown. We grow blight resistant varieties, and plant the most susceptible on the leeward side of the field. Eventually all the leaves can become affected, and if this looks like it may happen we take the leaves off the potato plants to prevent the blight getting into the tubers. Without the leaves to capture sunlight to turn into sugars and starches to build potato tubers, our plants would give us a very small crop indeed! So, strong early growth, not hampered by frost is our goal. Crystal-weather-ball where are you….?!

The warmer weather and longer days are prompting the vegetables that we planted last summer to begin to flower. Our kale is starting to form flowers at the tops of the stems. These buds are tender and sweet, so we are beginning to harvest the whole top of the plants rather than picking individual leaves. You will find the first of these whole kale tops in your boxes this week. Depending on the weather (!) we could have these for two or three weeks. Once the flowers open we will go back to picking leaves unless the crop is all eaten by then!

Carrot tops
You might find that the tops of your carrots are cracked. This is where they have been sticking out of the ground and have been frosted. The cracked bits can be somewhat dry and not great to eat. The lion’s share of the carrot has been safely in the ground and will be fine to eat. We have increased the weight of carrots the boxes and for any special orders to cover any bits that you need to cut off. As always, if you discover anything below standard just let us know.

This weeks’ potatoes
The potato in this weeks’ boxes is Setanta (in the larger boxes) or Bambino (in the smaller ones). Setanta, with the red skin, is an all-rounder in the kitchen. Bambino is a bit more waxy and great for boiling, though you can use it for roasting too.