Glorious sunshine over the last week may have seen us shedding the layers as we basked in positively balmy daytime temperatures, but for professional growers the unseasonably warm weather brought a chill to the heart.
The problem, glorious though the early sunshine is for us humans, is that it’s setting Nature up for a false start. Concern about crop resilience is rising in direct proportion to the increasingly close intervals in which meteorological records are being broken. This time last year we were facing into the bitter chill and heavy snows brought by the Beast from the East and the detrimentally wet early spring that followed, only to be hit by a scorching, arid summer that saw bore holes running dry and annual crops fighting for survival.
This latest record-breaking warm spell could lead to wide-ranging uncertainties and impacts across the natural and farming worlds. Early blossom, if damaged by a subsequent cold snap, could reduce fruit yields. British strawberries are heading for supermarkets even as I type this, but have they had time to develop flavour? And what will it mean for strawberry crops come Wimbledon? If the sunshine and warmth trick pollinating insects into too-early action, will there be enough food for them and will they survive a return to winter temperatures? If pollinator numbers are reduced by early heat followed by plummeting temperatures, the knock-on effect on insect-pollinated food crops could be significant. What will it mean for food prices and availability?
Flower farming (like all farming) requires a nimble business sense and a practical flexibility: both are tested regularly. One day we’re grappling with the challenge presented by an anticipated key early crop coming up as an entirely different, unexpected and frankly less useful variety. The next, our t-shirt clad team gently perspire as they debate how to best support a crop at risk of heat wilt in February. But we relish a challenge and our work is never dull and always rewarding – any career-changers out there who have a yearning to work with the soil and Nature can learn how on our 3-day grow your own cut flower business course in June.
Here at Organic Blooms we may be growing a luxury rather than an essential crop, but we still have employees who need to make an income and trainees who rely on our business to support and train them. Our anemones, grown in the ground in our polytunnels, have had to deal with temperatures fluctuating from sub-zero at night right up to 30C during the warmest part of the day. So far they’ve made it through and we’re making sure to give them a good long drink in a cool place immediately after cutting. As more usual seasonal conditions are resumed, it remains to be seen whether this particular crop will hold up for as long as we’d hoped. For now they remain gorgeous and are the star of our pretty posies hampers.
In spite of it all we retain an outlook as sunny as the February weather. They may not always be the planned variety at quite the right time, but one thing we can be certain of is that, come the summer season, our cutting fields will be a sea of buds waiting to burst into flower – come and see for yourself at one of our events. In the meantime, just to cover all eventualities, please keep your fingers crossed for us and our beautiful blooms!