Satisfied that on a hot day veg could be suffering, we asked The University of Exeter to work out how much of the year this would be a problem. The results came in and we had a summer of covering veg boxes in everything we could think of that might keep things cool without using refrigeration or ice. A quick poll of customers, franchisees and office-staff generated a fairly long list of things to try out:
In our efforts to keep veg top quality we covered boxes with wet towels, newspaper, last weeks Riverford box, wooden planks, bits of slate, bits of slate painted white, silver foil, insulation, survival blankets of all sorts, white cardboard, reflective insulation…we even built an evaporative cooler that was effective but not very practical.
One idea that wouldn’t go away was putting boxes in a hole in the ground; not very practical but not a bad idea in terms of low-energy, effective solutions (soil temperature varies much less than air temperature). We came up with the closest practical alternative to encouraging our customers to dig holes in the garden for their boxes, which was included in our trials.
After a fairly exhaustive period of trials we came up with some interesting results; most of the solutions we tried out didn’t work, some just trapped more heat in the boxes.
A seemingly obvious outcome was that shade is the best option. A truly north-facing wall, preferably damp and part of a large building provides good quality shade. Under a garden bench does very little other than take the edge off.
As good shade can be hard to find, we narrowed our solutions down to the most effective, practical solutions and having prototyped them this spring, we have them on offer to customers now.
This lightweight elasticated blanket performed extremely well in our tests, reflecting sunlight away from the box to keep temperatures down. Although not quite as effective as the eco-cool safe (below) the blanket keeps veg up to 5°C cooler and has the added bonus of keeping off rain as well as sunlight. It’s also easy to use and doesn’t take up any space when your box isn’t there.