Now autumn is really with us – with the usual, and for some, welcome bright chilly mornings - crop picking is in full swing.
At Berryfield plotholders have an unofficial swapping session going on – a glut of one crop on one plot is swapped with a different glut on another. This means that the year’s failures, either mistakes earlier in the year, or just the capriciousness of nature, can be jettisoned and replaced by a better crop from a neighbour. So berries are swapped for brassicas, late salad crops for apples and so on.
Whilst the berry crops have been brilliant, unfortunately the same cannot be said for the harder and stone fruits (apples, pears, plums, cherries). These have cropped both brilliantly and awfully in a random fashion all over the site – plotholder Caroline’s ‘Discovery’ apple, a local cultivar, is groaning under a heavy healthy crop, but plotholder Laura’s Victoria plum, usually as reliable as Christmas, has one, yes, just one, fruit this this. Likewise the other Peter’s Bramley – a show winner last year, also had just one lonely apple this year.
There’s no specific reason for the patchy crops, certainly no increased disease or pests have been seen, so the talk at Berryfield centres around a warm April which brought out the pollen, followed by a cold windy May which both kept all but the hardiest bumblebees snug in their nests, and also blew away most of the flowers on the trees.
Now that all the peas and a lot of the beans – another fine crop this year – have been picked, the jury is still out as to whether or not to leave the roots in after removing the dead and dying foliage – some claim the roots help fix nitrogen, and others disagree. Runner beans are still prodigious but they are about the only legumes left, seemingly undisturbed by the brisker autumn weather.
Another plant that seems to shrug off the cold is the sweet pea. All over the site these continue to flourish, and new buds continue to appear. The only difference now is that the fragrance is neither as strong nor as long lasting. But they look pretty good all the same and brighten up both the site and, when cut, the home.