It’s taken a little time, but we’re now closing in on the dream where the harvesting schedule is an endless, effortless relay, one seasonal delight pouring forth just as one fades away. This year the rhubarb has run over to the spring garlic; up sprung the asparagus, and as their shoots leave, in stream the strawberries. In the near distance be the broad beans; on the summer solstice horizon, Bulls Blood beetroot; then we’re into the glowing days of abundance, then the autumn harvest festival, then the winter brassicas: all underpinned by year-round salad leaves.
It is the first year of cropping asparagus, but the strawberry fruit are on their way to becoming a familiar feature. On Friday, on cue – two weeks after laying the mulch, one week after netting, almost as if we’d planned it – the first ripe pick. Forty mph winds lashed the rain against us, a far cry from the good day sunshines of fruit picking memory. A third of the crop had to be chucked or consumed at point of pick: slugs and botrytis all too active in this weather, which has also watered down the flavour somewhat. Still, after the storm, what a gift: crates of bright red summer stacked in the warehouse, reeking of goodly sweetness. I was found with my head over the punnets, snorting them: Stefan suggested charging ten pence a sniff. They’re probably worth more.
The perennials and glasshouse crops are growing apace, but these long cooling off periods are stalling the outdoor delights. Field cultivations continue to be aborted as heavy rain makes the soil unworkable. The Entrance Field has been a meadow or pasture for at least two and a half centuries, probably more: it is likely part of the medieval halke – nook or enclosure – in the wood, that gave Hawkwood its name. The Field and its company of grasses are old old friends, and it will take us many carrots and sticks to persuade it that flowering plants are generally preferable. Weeding the grass out of the Field is, at the best of times, the horticultural equivalent of painting the Forth Bridge. Right now from our place of resignation, it’s more like the Bridge of Sighs.
That’s the thing about old relationships: they take a long time to make, and a longer time to break. The strawberries are nippers to the grass, but they are already beginning to belong here. The fan trained peaches and gages are starting to fit, and tomatoes and beans form the default summer skyline. The community market garden is coming home.