And so another growing year comes to an end here at Coleshill Organics.

All the summer crops have now been removed from the tunnels and fields. We picked the last of the chillies and red peppers at the end of November; before them, the tired tomato plants and their last green fruits that were destined never to ripen made an appearance in some of your boxes. The soil in the tunnels has either been sown to next year’s crops (such as early carrots) or planted with a green manure to hold on to soil nutrients and build soil organic matter over the winter months.

A (Generally) Positive Seasons

Talking to fellow growers, it seems the general consensus is that 2019 was a good growing season. On the negative side, the cold June meant that early crops were rather late coming on, while the apples in our orchard were hit by a cold and blowy spell when the blossom was first forming, leading to smaller fruits than average.

However, after that, we had a steady supply of warm sun and rain which resulted in a steady supply of veg throughout the summer that we were able to keep on top of and utilise fully in your veg boxes and at the market stalls. We didn’t seem to have any of the sudden gluts of veg or the constant, endless need for irrigation that we experienced in 2018.

Personal highlights for me were the early Milva potatoes and the early polytunnel crops – the beans, radish, carrots. They are always such a treat after the winter months! Another favourite of mine are the borlotti beans, always short-lived but so wonderful while they are here. The sweetcorn was shockingly good, too: on one Saturday we sold out at Stroud farmers’ market in a matter of minutes!

Smaller than usual apple in the Coleshill Organics orchard

You win some… We think a very cold spell during blossom set resulted in far smaller fruits in the orchards this year

Although we will miss the summer’s bounty, we can look forward to some earthy winter veg

Although we will miss the summer’s bounty, we can look forward to some earthy winter veg; the coming frosts will sweeten and intensify the flavours. Celeriac, swedes, parsnips, leeks and a multitude of brassicas for the winter soups, stews and roasts. Our squash and onions are safely stored and we will continue to harvest roots from the fields, as needed. We’ll take no risks with frost and will shut the tunnel doors over the winter months, protecting our valuable salads and early crops.

National Trust award

A huge summer highlight was being awarded with a National Trust Fine Food Award in August (below left). We’re ever so proud to display the symbol, which highlights all the effort we go to here to farm in an environmentally friendly way. It was also brilliant to set up our second stall at East Oxford Farmers’ & Community Market (below right), run by our head grower, Matt, and his team on a fortnightly basis.

Sonia Oliver receives a National Trust Fine Farm Produce award

Sonia receiving a National Trust 2019 Fine Farm Produce Award

Our new stall at East Oxford market

Our new stall at East Oxford market is already proving extremely popular!

Playing Host

We were also delighted to have eight students join us this year to work and learn in the garden: three from Estonia and five from France. It’s fantastic to be able to offer a place of learning and, hopefully, a positive cultural experience. (If any of you are reading this, many thanks again for all your hard work!)

Over the winter months the garden itself inevitably takes up less of our time. Matt will reduce his days and spend three days a week here; the rest of the time he works with Rupert at Tiddlypommes, juicing apples.

2020: The planning begins…

But there is no rest for the wicked. Later this week, Matt and I will once again start laying out all the latest organic seed catalogues, with all their tempting new varieties, and begin the process of planning our cropping for the 2020 season. It’s no mean feat: we’ll need to plan exactly what crops and specific quantities we will need to harvest each and every week throughout the year to ensure your boxes (and the Stroud and East Oxford market stalls) are once again overflowing with fresh, tasty organic vegetables and fruit. And if Matt gets his way, we’ll throw in some surprises this year, I am sure!

Wishing you all the best for 2020 — and thank you all for your continued support.

Sonia

Packets of various organic vegetable seeds