Pampered Potatoes!

Written by Pete Richardson. Posted in Latest News

Why organic tomatoes are simply better

Written by Pete Richardson. Posted in Latest News

Tomatoes - on the vine

Tomatoes on the vine…

The organic tomatoes are really coming into their own just now. The recent hot weather has helped to intensify the flavours – they’re absolutely delicious!

We grow a number of different varieties to ensure we have a steady supply of organic tomatoes throughout the summer for our vegetable box scheme, including Sakura (cherry), Sungold (yellow cherry), the beefier Velocity, as well as many heritage varieties, such as Black Russian and Aunt Gerties Gold.

Why choose organic? Well, the avoidance of pesticides is one (very important) reason. We rely on developing nutrient-rich soil to grow strong, healthy plants that are able to ward off diseases, as well as choosing varieties that are naturally resistant to pest and disease. We also encourage pest-predators to help control pests. Following the Soil Association’s organic standards also means that we don’t use artificial fertilisers. Instead,

Transplants and modules? What have they got to do with organic vegetables?

Written by Pete Richardson. Posted in Latest News

Westmill 7 - propagating Pete Richardson

A transplant – red cabbage, I think!

I mentioned ‘transplants’ and ‘modules’ in my last blog, which has raised a few questions out there! What have they got to do with organic vegetable production?! Well, the photo (right) is just one of the many thousands of individual transplants, grown in modules, that we will sow and plant out throughout the year.

Sowing seeds into modular trays, rather than directly into the soil, means we can ensure our organic plants get the best possible start in life under the controlled environment offered by the polytunnel. It can be pretty tedious hand-sowing a single seed into literally thousands of individual modules at a time, but it means we can germinate crops much earlier in the year than if we sowed directly into the cold soil. Plus we can minimise exposure to poor weather and potential pests and diseases at this highly vulnerable stage of the plant’s life.

Remember the cold weather we had earlier this year? The vegetables haven’t forgotten…!

Written by Pete Richardson. Posted in Latest News

The courgettes are running a little behind schedule...

The courgettes are running a little behind schedule…

With the glorious sunny weather we’re all having, I suspect the long, cold spell we had earlier this year will be a distant memory for most. Unfortunately, plants are a little less forgiving. Despite the fine weather, one or two crops are still running a good week or so behind schedule, knocked back by the very cold weather and late spring. According to our cropping plans, our first courgettes and potatoes should have been ready for your boxes this week, but they are still not quite there yet. The broad beans we included in last week’s boxes were a little on the small side, but we knew we could include them because they were so sweet and tender. But that’s not something we’re prepared to do with our courgettes and potatoes, so we need to ask for your patience a little longer. They’ll taste all the better for it, I can promise you that.

While the sun is shining on our backs as we water, plant and pick, extended periods of hot, sunny weather can cause their own headaches. We planted 10,000 cabbages last week and I spent the entire weekend irrigating the crop to stop them from dying! Like most growers, we sow many of our seeds into modules (effectively trays with lots of small pots), rather than directly into the soil. This means our seeds germinate and get a good head start in the warmth and protection offered by the polytunnel, before they are planted en mass out in the fields. While this approach offers many advantages, the new plants can suffer from something called ‘transplant shock’, and it takes them a good few days to settle into their new home and for their roots to start growing again. In hot weather, transplant shock can be devastating and irrigating is absolutely essential to avoid significant losses.

We’re currently planting out 60,000 leeks. Looking at the glorious forecast, we’re going to need to irrigate again to ensure they make it to your boxes later in the year!

Organic strawberries – in time for the Wimbledon finals weekend!

Written by Pete Richardson. Posted in Latest News

Just a quick update to let you all know that we should have our first organic strawberries ready for your boxes next week – perfect for the Wimbledon finals weekend!

Don't worry - the strawberries you'll receive will be slightly riper than these!

Don’t worry – the strawberries you’ll receive next week will be slightly riper than these!

We grow a variety called ‘Elan’, mainly because of its superb flavour, but also because it’s an ever-bearer – meaning the plants should (hopefully) continue to provide a steady crop through to late September. We think – ok, we KNOW! – you’ll notice a big difference between our organic strawberries and those you’ll find on the supermarket shelves. Supermarket buyers generally instruct their growers to use only specific varieties which have characteristics that make them more suitable for transporting via lorries and lengthy storage, rather than for their taste. As a result, they’re almost inevitably rather bland and ‘robust’ in texture! Our fruits may not last quite as long before they start to perish, but the flavour is just brilliant. Plus you can rest assured that, as we’re Soil Association-certified, we haven’t used any chemical insecticides whatsoever. Not to mention the many miles that supermarket strawberries will have travel to get to stores across the country…

Westmill Organics strawberries are picked and on your plate with a day or so, and travel from our farm to your door. A quick wash and they’re delicious as they are – or with a splash of organic cream and a dusting of sugar…

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