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Raindrops keep falling on my veg!

04/05/2012

Whilst we had a bit of noise about the UK asparagus season starting early this year, the wet weather has put paid to much of the volume we might have expected to see. For outdoor crops of asparagus (not the stuff in the cosy polytunnels) it's all about soil temperature to get the crop moving. Well, temperatures are currently around 12 degrees, but the spears need about 14 degrees to really get a shift on. They're growing, but they're growing slowly and they're looking a bit purple tinged as a result. Having tried some last night Mr Veg also declared that he was surprised by its tenderness still though - despite the slow growth the spears aren't woody at all.

Looking back at last year, by this time in the season we'd had about a quarter of the outdoor crop already but this is looking like a very traditional asparagus season with the real volumes just starting to come through after the first May bank holiday. May the gras be with you...

For summer vegetable crops and peas and beans in particular, the rain is causing a few irritations for growers. Mainly that they can't get into the fields to drill. (Not that they'd particularly want to put new seed out in these conditions anyway!) The early plantings are in the ground and growing, albeit slowly. Mr Veg has seen some hail damage and pigeon attack on peas just lately. He reckons that things are growing very slowly at the moment and where the plants usually outgrow the rate of pigeon attack so it's not much of an issue, the pigeons are coming off the oil seed rape (they can't get to the leaves when it's in flower so they try their luck elsewhere) so they're merrily chomping away on the peas at the moment. As an aside and a little personal observation, he was also pleased to note a proliferation of hares around the fields this year.

If you're interested in timescales, at the current rates of growth we're looking at mid-May for the first UK broad beans which were sown last November, with UK peas coming at the end of the month.

Runners beans are doing OK this year, largely thanks to the stable temperatures. The young plants are all in the ground and protected under little French tunnels to help keep any risk of frost away from the delicate little things. They're doing well partly thanks to the lack of sunshine. Growers often have to slash the tunnel coverings to prevent the plants from cooking in the spring sunshine so fingers crossed for a bumper crop.

Dwarf beans might be a bit late this season as all this rain isn't good for drilling, with a similar story for courgettes. Mr Veg tells us that some early plantings have apparently been frosted off and given the courgette plant's dislike of puddles, the rain is causing headaches for courgette growers at the moment. Expect UK courgettes around the 3rd week in June - behind where we were last year.

It's all going perfectly to plan on UK marrows, by the way. So you can sleep soundly if marrows are your thing.

The quality of the stored crop of UK-grown celeriac is holding up really well and should only come to an end sometime in late June but the new season will begin to come on stream in July.

For the more unusual vegetables, English pak choi is behind thanks to the poor light levels, but the early crop of fennel is looking surprisingly good. Globe artichokes have their first flower heads forming now, so you have about 5 weeks to look up recipes and work out what to do with one of these beautiful things before the English season starts.

That's about it for the round-up from Mr Veg for now. Feel free to ask us any veg-related questions via info@thinkvegetables.co.uk or follow us on Twitter @thinkveg for more.

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