This has been a pretty poor season on the plot. The weather started well, June was amazing with hot sunshine from cloudless skies. Then came July and monsoons, August was pretty wet too. We had a little flurry of sunshine at the beginning of September but not enough to recover.
At the same time, we caught Covid. That’s despite being vaccinated and on a high vitamin supplement regimen. We were pretty rough but more worryingly have been lacking in energy ever since. Friends who have suffered the same say it will past but can take months.
Now factor in that my back is, despite the best efforts of an excellent osteopath, still giving problems. Time to accept that it is not going to be what it was again. Tasks like hoeing and cultivation can be difficult.
Adding weather, Covid and my back problems has meant that things have got out of control on the plot. It’s heartbreaking and embarrassing to see the weeds beating me but we are where we are.
At points I’ve felt like just giving up. Selling up for a seaside flat and sitting on a balcony looking out at the sea has an appeal. It’s not realistic, for a start what about our cats? I know I’d be bored and growing something after a few weeks.
I don’t want to give up for many reasons but these are the top three.
Firstly, when I’m coping, I really enjoy growing my own.
It’s so satisfying providing wholesome food from the earth. Tiring and hard work at times, certainly, but nothing worthwhile comes without effort.
Second, safe provenance.
I know where our veggies are from and what has been used to produce them. The amount of chemicals that infiltrate our food is scary. It’s not just the herbicides in the growing process, much of those don’t come through to the shop shelf.
Cereals routinely sprayed with Glyphosate as a desiccant. Pesticides used to prevent insect damage and rot on fruit and veg in store. These linger on in the produce on our shop shelves. In the past we were told to cook and eat potatoes unpeeled. The vitamins are said to be there and the fibre content is highest.
The last advice I heard was not to eat potato skin due to the residues from the sprays used by non-organic farmers against blight. With our home-grown potatoes, not only am I happy to eat the skins but also to let my grandson eat them.
Thirdly, personal food security
I’m sure we are going to hit some serious supply problems with our food supplies in the future. I know some people think I’m a bit daft over this. When people as diverse as the UN, Barclays Bank and the World Bank talk of their concerns about food supplies, it may be foolish to ignore the threat.
We’re not ‘preppers’, stockpiling supplies to ride out the apocalypse. Although I will admit our store cupboards were filled to the brim just before the Covid pandemic got going. However, it’s good to have an insurance policy. If things get difficult we’ve a buffer. Not just the land we’re actively growing on, but land in fair condition that could easily be brought into production at short notice.
Just Cut Back?
I had thought to just cut back on my growing area but that’s not going to be enough. I need to consider my ongoing back problems. Getting down to ground level for cultivating is just too much.
Answer – raised beds.
If I’m to carry on growing I need to make it easy for me. The answer for me has to be to move mainly to raised beds.
I’ve always felt raised beds have their place although too often new growers jump into raised beds for no real reason. However, defined beds are psychologically easier to control. Rather than being daunted by a large area to weed, you can take it a bed at a time.
Raising the beds means hand cultivation is a lot easier with a bad back.
I’ve raised beds in the field plot but they’re needing repair and replacement. They’ve lasted fairly well for over 10 years but in hindsight I would have been better using thicker scaffold boards. At the time I couldn’t find a local supplier so it wasn’t an option.
Happily for me, I was moaning to a pal about things. He came over and harvested the bulk of the potatoes for me. I’ve still got the Sarpo Mira to come up but we’ve got two full wheelbarrows of main crops.
The whites are Orla which are a versatile potato. They’re an early but can be left to just grow on and treated as an early maincrop. They have a level of blight resistance and store well. A pretty good yield, too. The odd tuber has some insect damage but only a few. Both varieties have had some damage by Benjamin Bunny and his pals. Annoying little divils.
The reds are Sarpo Axona. Oddly, they’ve got some blighted tubers unlike the Orla. I think the Orla haulm died off before the blight arrived which protected the tubers. I should have cut the haulm off the Axona when I saw they were getting blight but I didn’t. Not my finest year as I’ve said.
Sometimes people email me saying “You said Sarpo don’t get blight and mine did” The fact is that Sarpo resist blight better than many varieties but resistance is not immunity. Also, the specific strain of blight varies year to year. Like flu, some years it’s a bad one and other years hardly a bother.
Anyway, I think we’ve ended up with about 80 kg of maincrops and still have the Sarpo Mira to come and they’re very heavy croppers. This year I’ve definitely over-produced potatoes despite everything. Funny old world.