Warm Month, Shortages, Raspberries, Brassicas, Polytunnel

Unseasonably Warm

It’s been quite warm for February. With the cost of heating the house being incredible, thank goodness! The bad news is that the parsnips thought it was time to grow again so had to be processed and frozen. The good news is we’ll have some nice daffs around for St David’s day.

St David’s day, 1st March, is when people in Wales buy little plastic daffodil badges to wear on their coat from the filling station. (JOKE!) When we came to Wales getting our daffodils flowering for St David’s was very hit and miss but here we are with a week to go and some are out, others about to flower.

Daffodils in full bloom already here.


Weeded around the rhubarb and planted three raspberry canes behind them by the fence. The soil is quite rich but a little acid, so a good sprinkling of lime to sweeten it.

I chose Joan J from Suttons. They’re one of the best raspberries for my money and they have the RHS Award of Garden Merit which is always a good recommendation.

Polytunnel Centre Bed

The centre bed of the poly is where I’ll be growing sweetcorn and climbing French beans. Sweetcorn is a pretty hungry crop so needs a rich soil. Topped up the bed with a couple of inches thick layer of the well rotted sheep manure.

Before spreading the manure opened the soil with a fork. Just push the fork in and rock back and forth to hump the soil and make cracks. The manure will percolate down over the season.

Polytunnel Centre Bed topped up and ready to go.

Brassica Tunnel

Beefed up the brassica tunnel to stop the rabbits getting in as they did last year, eating nearly all my Brussels sprouts. Run rabbit, run rabbit..

Salad and Egg & Meat Shortages

At times I do wonder at the British media. They’re so busy grinding political axes that actual truth is often hard to hear in the noise. The truth is we’re going to have tight supplies of salad crops until mid-April. That’s assuming the fools who think it clever to panic buy lettuces don’t!

Greenhouse Crops

The fact is that producing greenhouse crops like tomatoes in the UK in winter requires heating and lighting. Energy prices shot up but the government decided not to subsidise the growers. The supermarkets refused to pay high prices for the produce as they could buy it much cheaper from Morocco and Spain.

So the British growers decided not to grow crops they would lose money on and didn’t plant anything. Then a really cold winter strikes North Africa and Southern Europe with snow cutting off dozens of villages in Morocco. Oops – sorry British supermarkets, there’s no cheap salad crop coming.

Interestingly some countries like France apparently have little shortage but on average they’re paying €3.81 (£3.35) per kilo against the UK’s £2.17 when available. So our food is cheaper, but you can’t get it!

Eggs and Chicken Meat

With eggs and chicken meat it’s a perfect storm. Increased feed costs and avian flu problems have pushed a lot of farmers into giving up. High risks with no profit to be made even if things go well. Once again the supermarkets’ attitude was to think they could buy in cheaply from abroad but this problem is global. Oops.

Unlike a salad crop that goes from seed to plate in weeks, ramping back up egg and meat chicken production takes years. The whole supply chain has contracted so before we get eggs someone has to supply hens. And the hens need fertile eggs which means breeding hens need to be bred.

This commercial arable farmer explains it rather well. Follow this link to a video from Harry’s Farm on Youtube– it starts at 9 minutes in when he reaches food shortages.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
5 comments on “Warm Month, Shortages, Raspberries, Brassicas, Polytunnel
  1. Doreen says:

    We live in northern France. No shortages of salads at the moment but twice as dear as UK prices. Typically the French at least pay far more for fresh vegetables than British. In season foods are the way to go!!

    • John Harrison says:

      I’m afraid part of the price we pay in the UK for cheap food is our food security. I totally agree about seasonality – Fresh toms and cukes in February? Not even in the sunny south east of England.

  2. Brian Cheer says:

    I am nearly 90 so can remember during the war and afterwards the only time we had salad items was for Christmas Day tea with salmon. It was very expensive but a lovely treat. I suppose the cost of energy and food items is the reason supermarkets won’t buy expensive salad crops from abroad as they may not sell them all. My grandfather, who lived just outside Reading in a village called Three Mile across never had a greenhouse in an acre of garden he did have many cold frames and he was an expect in predicting frost and covered the frames with sacking he had very early crops by this method Never went to a greengrocer but always produced enough throughout the year, with chickens and pigs not problem with the soil plenty of manure from the farm opposite. Everything from seed Sutton’s he knew a foreman there who got him to trial new varieties they never had chips just vegetables from the garden my grandmother attended to the fruit which she bottled for the winter time plenty of apples plums pears cherries and all the soft fruits. The moral of this was they lived, my grandfather was 96 and my grandmother just over 100 she died in 1986.)

  3. Lesley Rose says:

    I live in Brittany , and enjoy very much your weekly newsletter and blog. Thank you.
    On shortages , we pay 3.99 or 4.99 for cauliflowers and €2 per kilo for carrots , expensive I know , and we don’t have an exhaustive supply of veggies that are not in season , but the French have always been prepared to pay more for good food , paying on average 25% of disposable income on food. When European countries pay higher prices to the producers than British supermarkets do , coupled with problems with ferries and customs the problems will be likely to be around a long time . Growing your own fruit and veg is always the best option.

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