26 February 2023

The Cusp of Spring

It’s still pretty chilly in Cornwall as we write this but there have definitely been glimpses of our old friend spring on her way. March is when our season starts, in the sense that the odd bloom here and there gives way to a flurry of colour and as such, we hope to have our Spring Selection Boxes available from the 20th (you can now subscribe to these here). Ahead of that, there’s plenty to be done and our wonderful new Field Manager, Becky, is doing a fantastic job of making sure the team knows exactly which tasks need to be done when. She brings with her a wealth of knowledge from her time at Heligan and she’s already started a wormery so we can use worm castings, which make an effective, gentle and natural fertiliser. They are loaded with nutrients and beneficial bacteria and improve soil structure by increasing aeration and improving drainage, while allowing plants to more easily and effectively absorb nutrients that water would otherwise wash away. Worm poo for the win.

The tulips and narcissi are shooting up and we’ve so far spotted one lone bud on the ranunculus – these won’t be as fast to bloom as last year, when we had a really mild winter. As a result, our ranunculus went boom and bust in March last year so this time we’re sowing them in successions to lengthen their season.

Our first autumn planting of ranunculus are already in the polytunnel (the ones which we’ve spotted a bud on) and the second lot which we sprouted in January were planted outside last week – these were a bit hit and miss when we sprouted them so time will tell how these get on. We’ll start soaking the corms for the third succession this week, to plant out by the end of February. These ones are a bit of an experiment to see how late we can have ranunculus blooming. There is a bit of a flower gap (which we’ve written about previously here) between spring bulbs such as ranunculus and poppies and the first hardy annuals and biennials, such as cornflower, foxgloves and campanula. Although the exact timing of this gap is dependent on the weather, for example, a really warm spring might bring all the spring flowers on early and bring the gap forward, it tends to be around May/June. We need enough elements (flowers of different shapes, sizes and textures) to make bouquets, so with this third succession, we hope to have late ranunculus as a focal flower is that gap. Ranunculus are very intolerant to warmth, so how late we can push them will depend on how mild our spring is.

We’ve seen about 5 poppies bloom so far but they’re all still a bit short. There’s been a bit of a delay with these blooming as the mice have been busy eating a lot of them. We’re doing lots of soil blocking for all our February seeds – phlox, tabacco flower, rudbekia, asters and we’re doing achillea for the first time which will be interesting as we never had much luck with it from the auction, it used to go floppy very soon after arriving in people’s homes. We’re also planting out cold-tolerant hardy annuals to field – campanula, digitalis, corncockle/agrostemma and larkspur.

You may have seen our big news that we have just received our B Corp Certification. This means we meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. In some more exciting news, Petalon is working in partnership with Forest For Cornwall to plant over 1000 trees and shrubs to increase biodiversity in our valley, provide new animal habitats and to create shelter belts for our cut flower crops. The first phase of planting will take place over the next few weeks and though these will be slower to mature than our flower crops you can expect to see our own cut foliage in our products in the next year.

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