The Sleeping Year

The prolonged period of snow and ice have served to enforce the short days’ reminder to gardeners and growers that this is the time to rest, reflect, take stock and make plans for the future.

Such a sentiment would have raised a few wry smiles at the Organic Producers’ Conference I attended last week, where many had been up all hours harvesting frozen produce from the fields in order to skid vegeboxes around rural ice tracks. And, whilst at such conferences people are often curious and baffled by the notion of being a grower in London, this is a case in point for the urban growers’ vision of “garden cities and eco-villages” being a sound one for rural, as well as urban, development.

I read recently that in Tudor times Norwich was described as “either a city in an orchard or an orchard in a city”, and this sounds to me like an appealing landscape for all kinds of reasons. To this day, Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City  retain much of that aesthetic, if not productive, quality. Surely a sustainable, fair society would be characterised by such  gently peopled landscapes, not our current extremes of rural isolation and urban density?

As for immediate plans, Hawkwood being a new site, we’ve got them in spades: the trick is going to be to bite off as much as we can enjoyably chew this coming season. We may be in the depths of winter but the time for ordering bulk seed potatoes is rapidly passing. Meantime, I am struggling to work out how to triangulate walking tractor width with wheel hoe blade length with plant spacings in order to arrive at the optimum bed widths for the Entrance Field, and thence how many spuds we are going to plant. At the same time, the plan to excavate and build/ sink beds for salads on the West Terrace remain resplendently on the drawing board.

On the positives, we have opened up more ground in the glasshouse, so there’s room for more than one four-course rotation, meaning that we can grow tomatoes AND peppers for the stall and box scheme. Maybe that will make up for the lack of early East London spuds.

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