My greens have caught cold!

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.

It’s freezing out there!

It was so bright & sunny on Friday afternoon, & we’d both worked late the previous day, so we felt we deserved a trip to the allotment. Our green waste bin also needed emptying & we were completely out of fresh veg – a treat & a necessity at the same time.

No chance of digging as the ground was frozen; I did dig up a patch of leeks but turned over great clods of frozen earth; quickly replaced as the worms about 6 inches down were still active & I  didn’t want them to freeze.

The kale looked unhappy with the cold; all but the Vate’s Blue Curled had drooped with the freezing temperatures. I picked lots of kale & it all revived once in the house, or rather the kitchen extension, only marginally above freezing.

The chard looked healthy in the winter sunshine, but some varieties were surviving better than others. The Sybilla Chard had succumbed to the low temperatures & the largest leaves were disintegrating into mush; the most resilient of the Chards were the dark green & deep red varieties, with the yellow & orange varieties a close second. The pattern seems to be that the more highly bred & specialised the variety,  the less able they seem to cope with low temperatures.

Vate’s Blue Curled Kale looks bright & springy

The Asturian Tree Cabbage  looks unhappy, but the smaller leaves seem to be ok

The Madeley  & True Siberian Kale are also withstanding this cold weather. Surprisingly, the Tuscan Kale isn’t very happy, although there’s evidence of sprouts appearing in the leaf axils, same with the cabbage plants I decapitated last week.

Here’s the Sybilla Chard, looking decidedly unhappy, the rest of the bed sparkling in the late winter sunshine .