Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cold dry Spring brings problems

Isn't it wonderful weather people who aren't growing food often say to us. Well yes, it has been cold, dry and sunny for a very long time. But it's doing no good to our orchard blossoms, our newly-planted fruit bushes, our veg sowings and - most of all - our tomatoes. We had to plant out some nearly a week ago because they were so tall and beginning to flower. Then the night time temperatures really took a nosedive. Last night, the forecast was for -3 degrees!

Tomatoes can't stand less than about +5 degrees. Of course, the polytunnel offers some protection but we have had to devise a special tent (pictured above) made out of lengths of fleece suspended from the crop wires and pegged together with clothespegs to try and protect the poor plants. Look inside the tent (second photo; click it to make it bigger). Along the centre of the rows, you might notice a line of candles - we were getting desperate! - and a max-min thermometer. The idea was that  lighting candles overnight inside the tent would raise the temperature a degree or so. In fact, counterintuitively, it didn't; the temperature dropped to just under 5 degrees. Conclusion: convection currents set up by the candles sucked in cool air from outside the tent.

 Apart from the cold (which meant covering all the emerging potato crop with fleece), we have really been troubled by the virtual drought we've had since the start of April. There's been about 15mm rain in 6 weeks, mostly as scattered light (near useless) showers. The water tanks for the polytunnel irrigation, normally full at this time of year, are almost empty and we are having to hand water all the outside bushes, sowings and transplants. Goodness knows what our resulting crops will be like for our group members but we are doing our best. Rain is forecast for tonight...