And at the risk of destroying any residual reputation I might have for competence, it really did arrive in style. When we went to bed last night it was snowing gently and the forecast was for nothing too much. However when we woke up, the view from the flat told a different story and it was clear that around three or four inches had fallen overnight, with more falling out of the sky as we watched. With the number of nets we’ve got up this was always going to present a problem and so I went up to the allotment before breakfast to see what the damage was. When you think about it it’s obvious that the larger the horizonal area of a net, the quicker it will collapse under the weight of the snow. The fruit net was the worst casualty with a couple of feet of snow inside which had torn the net wherever it was supported. My brilliant idea of a tall pole with a football on top was a complete failure – it just ripped a football sized hole through the net. So that’s one that needs a redesign and some new netting. The other two 10′ square nets were buckling under the weight, but I got there just in time to shovel most of the snow out before too much damage was done. The stars of the show were the home-made nets made from water pipe bent into the shape of a Roman arch – there’s one in the top photo. They at least were able to move in the wind and their more flexible structure had enabled them shed the snow as it built up. All they needed was a vigorous shake to clear them completely. There was one hoop net that fared less well because of its flatter shape. So heres a good rule for snowproofing nets – forged through exprience.
Semi-circular nets on hoops seem to do better than anything else in the snow.
I didn’t touch the cloches because they were obviously capable of carrying the snow without deforming because they were so much smaller in surface area. The last unknown is the area covered with fleece. Whatever was growing underneath has been pressed into the ground, but hopefully the plants will recover as soon as the snow melts.
The weather stats for this week have been pretty severe. We’ve had the coldest night in years and today the highest snowfall as well. It was 1C out there when I was shovelling snow, but with the windchill it was more like -6C. I belatedly discovered that my raincoat was leaking somewhere and as soon as I came indoors and thawed out I realized my clothes were wet through to the skin. Snow has the most amazing ability to penetrate your clothes. If there’s the smallest crack the snow will find a way in.
As I left I met two other allotmenteers at the gate and both were suffering from the same problem – overloaded nets. But there’s a large resident pigeon population on the site and if they spot any brassica leaves in weather like this they’ll strip them to the ribs. So there’s no alternative to nets if you’re cropping all year round. I could see, though, that we were all secretly enjoying the challenge. That’s the spirit, there’s no such thing as a cockup, just a learning opportunity. In my heart I knew yesterday that the fruit cage was vulnerable, but it would have been hard work to take the net off on my own and so I didn’t. My fault entirely.