May is a lovely month on the farm as the weather warms up and the
countryside comes into its own – the animals are all out in the fields, the sheep are being sheared and everything is greening up as crops really start growing. Except, as usual, the Great British weather has meant things haven’t gone quite to plan….
We are a little different to the rest of the population, in that instead of hoping for sunny weather for the May Bank Holidays we were doing a rain dance. The weather has been especially dry this spring – in April the country had 35% of its normal rain fall which isn’t ideal for crops. Crops need water to germinate and grow so some of our crops looked like we farmed in the sub Sahara as opposed to Yorkshire! We were very grateful when the rain arrived, even if, typically, it was on a Bank Holiday Monday. Everything is now greening up and growing nicely, though we had a few anxious weeks!
With the rain combined with the welcome increase in temperature the crops really took off, however the slight snag is when the crops start growing, everything starts to grow, including the weeds. Weeds compete with crops to take vital nutrients and moisture, leading to reduced yields. A good crop should look clean – ie it should all be a similar colour and height, anything that looks out of place probably is! We use a process called “Integrated Farm Management” to manage weeds, pests and diseases in our crops. This uses crop rotation, cultivations and thresholds to target inputs; when necessary to produce sustainable and environmentally friendly crops!
Rob likes to define weeds as anything growing where it shouldn’t be. Taking this at face value I’ve decided to grow nettles in my vegetable garden – they’re supposed to be delicious in soups and if I’m growing them on purpose then they can’t be a weed! It’s great to be eating the first produce out of the vegetable garden, mine was spinach, tasty and healthy! I need to keep on top of rowing up my potatoes – when the potatoes are exposed to sunlight they go green, which means they’re poisonous! To avoid this exposure to sunlight potatoes are grown in heaped up rows, but mine being done by hand, as opposed to with the tractor, the rows need a bit of topping up. I love spending time in the garden but with everything else to be done on the farm and with Quoats the only time I get round to it seems to be 9:30 on a Sunday night!