It was freezing on the allotment last Saturday & only the hardy were evident on the site. Yet, the weather was glorious. Our allotment is on the edge of the South Downs, is west-facing & the perfect place to catch the winter sunshine. However, the bottom can be a frost pocket, while the hillside suffers from the wind whipping up the valley from the sea.
Our brassicas are currently in beds along the bottom of the site & are suffering from the recent cold spell. 2 years ago we almost lost all of our kale in the early November snows & I had to strip off the frozen outer leaves that had collapsed as they thawed into green mush. They did recover & put on lots of growth in the spring, but it demonstrated to me how much more resilient the smaller leaves are than large tough outer leaves.
However, one crop that won’t recover so well is our chard, although, again, the smaller plants are surviving better than the larger specimens, & the Sybilla chard with thick white ribs has virtually disappeared. The problem with chard in very cold winters is its water content; the thicker the ribs & larger the leaves the more likely it is to just disintegrate. The most resilient specimens are the red & yellow varieties & the smaller plants.
We’ve also lost most of our lettuces because I forgot to cover the salad bed with fleece, relying on builder’s netting alone – a mistake! The endive & radiccio have shown their cold resistance, though. The seaweed we covered the Asparagus beds & this year’s potato beds with is nicely disintegrating into the soil. I’m also pleased that I had the foresight to cover the early Broad Beans with a double layer of builder’s netting – it’s not only protected the bed from the recent snow, but also against marauding mice & rats.