WORD ON THE GROUND by Roger Welberry

Vegetable grower Roger Welberry musing on autumn.
Vegetable grower Roger Welberry musing on autumn.

AN ODE to autumn by John Keats: Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; conspiring with him how to load and bless with fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run.

In my last article I talked of growers moaning about the drought, and after March and all through this summer,

I bet a lot of them would have liked to be still moaning about the drought.

The amount of rain we have had and the damage it has caused has far surpassed what a drought would have done.

I don’t think there is any crop that has not been affected, from cereals with poor yields and mean grain, to potatoes with flooded areas, blight and small tubers.

Peas do not like ‘wet feet’, consequently yields have halved. Sugar beet is variable on good land and I bet the sugar levels are low due to lack of sunshine.

Vegetable growers suffered wet areas in their crops, taking out 15 to 20 per cent, and broccoli especially contracted spear-rot.

Even my old favourites, sprouts, have not come through unscathed, with low areas showing stunted growth, so I am expecting yields to be down.

Fruit also is affected: we have very few plums, pears, eating apples and cookers; very few walnuts and hazelnuts. No conkers and no sloes, so we could be short of sloe gin – what a shame.

I read that even the British vineyards are late maturing and grapes are small.

A good friend of mine is into straw and hay contracting and he tells me that he still has first cuttings of grass to go and has baled about half his crops.

Another disturbing thing he said was that of all the areas he had cut, he had not seen one nest of pheasants or partridges, and as you drive around the countryside you do not see the young chicks about.

All the wet has drowned the nests and the chicks have died of chill and lack of insects for food.

Likewise our swallows, swifts, house martins and sand martins have not been so prolific, again because of lack of insects. I have read they are going home early and who can blame them?

Well, it’s autumn now, as John Keats wrote, a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.

Let us all enjoy it, and the rest of the year.

Remember to eat your sprouts.