Making hay in July

You will have heard the phase: “train, eat, sleep, repeat”. Well, here on Rookery Farm, and on our sister farm in West Norfolk, it is a variation on that theme: “Farm, eat, sleep, repeat.”

It really has been all go here with an amazing variety of crops being harvested and ground prepared for new planting.

One of the things that always amazes visitors to the farm is the diversity of crops that we grow but it is essential for farming’s future that we grow as wide a range of produce as possible. Diversity is important economically but also for the health of the soil. Growing just a limited number of crops would soon suck all the goodness from the land. It is for that reason we consider our crop rotations so carefully.

Flower picking on a grand scale

Harvest has been in full swing, starting with Gladioli and Tulips. It is always lovely to see the elegant heads of the Gladioli Flowers swaying in the breeze but these are now being collected in and packed off to buyers. We have also just finished the tulip bulb harvest.

The tulips look lovely in the fields but we actually cut the blooms off before they have fully opened as this enables all the sun’s energy to be pushed into growing a better bulb.

Making hay while the sun shines

Hay bales are a common sight across the county at the moment and we have some fields that are currently down to grass. It has been a good year for making hay although the baling process took place in between rain showers, which made for some nervous moments. But the grass dried out and the bales are now stacked, so all is well.

If you buy your carrots from Lidl or Tesco, then there is every chance you are eating carrots grown on this land. As reported in an earlier issue, these carrots have been lovingly tended since they first emerged through the soil and now they will be turning up in local supermarkets.

Creating energy with rye

The destination for our West Norfolk grown rye was the biogas plant outside Swaffham, which produces green energy for thousands of homes and businesses. This is a recent venture but, in line with our own commitment to the environment and sustainable living, we are delighted to be able to participate in the production of renewable energy in this way.

A word about rye: Maize has always been the main crop grown for biogas but recent studies have suggested that rye – particularly new hybrid varieties – can yield as much fresh matter as maize and with fewer inputs. With rye being harvested in June and early July, it means farmers can get early entry of the following crop – or in our case, give us a chance to plant some soil-enhancing cover crops.

Radishes are the answer

To enhance the quality of the soil we have planted a radish cover crop where the rye was growing. This helps to reduce soil compaction as well as returning nitrogen to the soil. The land on which the tulips were growing will hold a heady mix of clover, phacelia and buckwheat ahead of winter rye sowing in October.

We are already preparing the land for the planting of spring barley and winter wheat. Drilling will commence at the end of the month. It really is a never-ending cycle!

A lot of our guests to Rookery Farm Barns mention how wonderful it is to be staying on a  working farm. We have a lot of footpaths that will allow you to see for yourself some of the work we do on the farm. Please feel free to ask any questions, we are always happy to share our ideas and experiences of farming, environmental issues and conservation – all areas about which we feel very passionate.