Between Seasons and Soil

Between seasons and soil

Harvesting of winter vegetable crops continues despite the inclement wet weather. Every winter differs from the last. This winter has been a real challenge for farmers and their pickers with the constant wet and windy storms coming off what was a wet soggy autumn for getting their crops off the field and into the packhouses. This poses risks to soil health and the carbon locked up in it.

Small scale, regenerative farms and market gardens which supply our Harvest Farm Shop prove to be quite resilient due to their scale and diversity in what ever the elements sends their way, in extremes of wet weather, fewer nutrients are leached from organic rich soils and they are able to infiltrate more rain water due to greater numbers of earthworms which make their burrows deep into the soil profile which helps mitigate flooding.

Climate change news has been hitting the headlines now for some while and is one of our greatest concerns for our future. There are many ways we can all do our bit to combat climate change, our food choices are one of them. What we put on our plates 3 times each day has a direct impact on how much carbon is stored or lost from soil. When consumers source food produced by organic and regenerative farming methods, they are helping keep and take down carbon from the atmosphere into the soil. The more organic matter (om) soil contains, the more life is supported and carbon is sequestered.

The least soil is disturbed from ploughing, rotavating, harrowing, the more carbon they can hold onto. Heavy soil cultivation and compaction damages soil structure and the balance of life within the soil. The more soil is disturbed, sprayed and artificially fertilised, the more carbon is lost to the atmosphere and nitrate pollutants are lost down river. No dig/till and regenerative farming is showing it has the solutions to locking and holding much more carbon than any conventional system which continues to degrade soil. Two of our local suppliers have been 100% No dig/till farmers from the outset, Hilltown Organics and Down farm, our other organic local suppliers Shillingford Organics and Bishops farm practice minimum till and some No till on their poly tunnel crops, never ploughing and leaving soil bare over the winter which is the worst thing that can happen to soil.

The weather has severely impacted the 2019 end of season potato harvest, one of our potato suppliers Shillingford Organics has part of their crop still in the ground to harvest which is usually out of the ground and in storage by October. Shillingford are currently supplying us Orla and Red Rudolf, both varieties are multi-purpose and have outstanding taste. They are firm or slightly waxy suitable for roasting, baking and boiling but equally good for chips or in salad.

Carrots and parsnips have been coming from bishops farm who pull by hand which minimises soil damage. Big scale operations dependant of large scale heavy mechanised harvesting severely damages soil which lose large amounts of carbon and nutrients to the air or down stream.

Still very much in season, delicious and in the shop are Leeks, Swede, Parsnip, Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Cauliflowers.
We still have Jerusalem Artichokes in stock which is something unusual to many but favoured by those who cannot eat potatoes, they are a tuber harvested from the soil during the winter and related to Sunflowers. Make an alternative root mash using some Jerusalem Artichokes, Swede and Parsnip.

As we head toward spring, the vegetable growers are planning their next crops and usually start sowing their first seeds in propagating houses around St Valentines day, that s when the days start to get significantly longer and warmer.

The No Dig farmers don’t have to wait for the soil to dry out to start planting and seeding as they don’t have to plough or cultivate, their previous crops are removed and composted and they can get straight on with the planting at the right time. They can do this because they are not running over the ground with heavy machinery which compact and damage soil structure and they don’t allow weeds to grow. The beauty of No Dig is when soil is left undisturbed, the weed seeds all remain in the ground out of site of daylight so over time, there is fewer and fewer weeds. The compost made from crop residues are applied to the surface of the soil in the winter further protecting the soil.