August on the farm

Sweetcorn growing in the fieldsAugust is the afternoon of the summer fruit season: the earlier cropping strawberries and gooseberries are coming to an end, the later raspberries and currants are fruiting with gusto, and we’re busy preparing the farm for its winter hibernation.

Blackcurrants growing on the bushFruiting crops

The late raspberry variety, Octavia, fruits until late August, and the black and red currants until mid-month. Our customers at this time of year are hardcore fruit lovers – stocking up to make jam and freeze fruit to last through the rest of the year.

Although we warn people that the earlier crops are finishing, some customers like to glean the strawberries and gooseberries anyway. They walk up and down the fields to find the last berries, made exceptionally sweet for having the most warm weather.

One out, one in

We continue tidying up the strawberry plots that have finished fruiting. During this time after harvesting, they build up the crowns ready for next year’s crop.

There is always one strawberry plot in the farm’s crop rotation cycle that has come to the end of its life. Removing the crop and all its trimmings is quite a job. We pull out the irrigation dripper lines from under the plants, then chop the plants up with the rotovator. We sow a green manure such as buckwheat, leaving it growing until it the ground is ready for ploughing in the winter. We then deliver the plastic irrigation dripper lines, along with any of our other farm plastics, to a depot which specialises in recycling farm plastics.

Meanwhile, we also look after the ‘maiden’ strawberries that we planted earlier in the year ready for their first crop next year. We regularly walk through the plot and cut off any new runners which have grown out from the plants. We monitor pests and diseases, and keep weeds to a minimum.

Mow and prune

As the early raspberry varieties finish fruiting, we prune out all the old fruiting canes and tie the new canes to the support wires ready for next year. We take special care of the new canes, as the buds are carrying next years potential crop. We feed the raspberry canes through the autumn and try to keep them free from pests and diseases.

We mow off the later crops of broad beans as they finish or become too mature to eat. We then subsoil or cultivate the ground and sow a crop of green manure, usually buckwheat. Buckwheat fixes phosphate in the soil, which helps with good root growth. Green manure also helps to suppress weeds and provides habitats for beneficial insects.

We now have a beehive on the farm, and the bees are glad of any pollen so they are also glad of the flowering green manures.

Juicy sweetcorn

The sweetcorn is usually growing fast at this time of year and the cobs start developing. In dry years, we have to irrigate the crops but so far this oh-so soggy year, we have hardly needed to irrigate any of the crops. This has given us an opportunity to spring clean the irrigation water holding tank, removing the sludge that forms at the bottom from falling leaves.

And then there were none

By the end of the month, we have usually said goodbye to the bulk of our customers and seasonal staff in the shop. It is always sad to see everyone go after such a short, intense burst of a season together, but many of the customers and several of the staff return every year. It doesn’t seem like any time at all before they are back again next season.

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