Winter – what happens on the farm?

This is a question I am often asked. The growing year is at its quietest ebb from about November to February, as the land rests and days are relatively short. This is also a relief for us growers as the spring and summer are quite intense with very little downtime. Everyone and everything needs time to recharge.

The main winter tasks are getting seaweed on the land and cutting hedges. We get seaweed off the Lawrences beach, just a stone’s throw from the farm. The trailer is loaded by hand (about 1.5 tons at a time) then taken to the farm. We’ll use around 65 trailers a year. It’s spread out on the fields and left to rot down for 2-3 months. The aim is to complete everything by early January. It provides a great boost of organic matter for the soil, as well as trace elements, to support next year’s crops.

Seaweed

Hedges are a main component of the farm, providing fantastic shelter from the ever present wind. Not least in winter, when conditions can get pretty lively!

Most of the hedges are either Pittosporum or Euonymous. They can be cut once every year, but I choose to leave them for about three years. Whilst it’s a bigger job to cut each one because the growth is more, only one third needs doing each year. Plus I think it gives more structure for nesting birds in the spring and summer.

They’re all cut by hand, then the cuttings are generally either fed to sheep (they can eat the leaves) of chipped in to a big pile of woodchips, which is used around the farm.

As the hedges grow so fast, they are also fantastic carbon sinks.

Hedges

Other jobs that needs doing in winter are clearing the polytunnels, pruning apples, grapes and peaches, making compost, ordering seeds, planning crop rotations, doing paperwork, grafting fruit trees, clearing back field edges, maintenance, and much more.

So whilst winter is a quieter time, it’s definitely got plenty to keep me occupied. But it’s also a nice time to plan forward to the next growing season and trying to kick things off nicely for when the bust sowing, planting, weeding and harvesting routine kicks back in again.

Jonathan Smith

I started Scilly Organics in 2003, and it was the first certified organic farm on the Islands. We continue to supply the highest quality fruit and vegetables, available fresh on our stall and at certain eateries on Scilly.