Friday, 1 September 2023

Life on The Weald - July 2023

Life on The Weald, July 2023

 1 July

The month began with rain in the early morning and the rest of the day was dreary, cloudy and overcast, but I did venture out to plant some leeks that had kindly been given to me by a neighbour.

2 July
I replaced the purple sprouting broccoli and the Brussels sprouts with some spare seedlings that I had saved.  Although the plants had suffered from both changeable weather and pests, the weeds were thriving!

I shouldn't use the term weeds. Weeds are basically wild flowers and plants that are growing where you don't want them, otherwise they're just flowers or plants!  We have a number of wild flowers which self-seed and provided they're not harming a vegetable patch they are probably helping the general health and balance of the plot by being food for insects such as bees and butterflies which may be useful for pollination or keeping unwanted pests under control.  Our "weeds" include wild mustard, blistery ox tongue, Ragwort (stinking Willie) and of course dandelions and groundsel.

Wild mustard

Blistery Ox-tongue

Stinking Willie

In the herb garden, many of the herbs were flowering and, hopefully, will attract the bees.

Thyme in full flower

And there was an abundance of apples.  The heavily laden branches were weighed down and encroaching on the vegetable cage below.


3 July
I set out for the plot with all good intentions but, almost there, turned round and  returned home due to a sudden downpour of rain. The rest of Europe seemed to be experiencing a long dry heatwave, but not in Hove!

4 July
I planted out some more Blue Lake climbing French beans to replace the ones that had been eaten or died and directly sowed some more.  In an attempt to control the growth of grass and annual weeds, I strimmed around the raised beds, but with all this rain, it's a losing battle!   Today should have been Wimbledon but it was a washout but we were fortunate to have only light showers in Hove.

At home the hydrangea was now in full flower.


5 July
At home I had a couple of months of "no-mow" and several flowers had self seeded, or had survived previous mowings, including the dandelion-like, but more elegant, flatweed.



7/8 July
The Globe thistles on my neighbour's plot were looking magnificent and were a magnet for bees.
Globe thistle

I sowed some more purple French beans, Teepee, and boltardy beetroot. I removed some of the Chard plants that were going to seed.  We collected as many of the good leaves as possible but the rest went straight to the compost bin.

9 July
I was busy in the morning with the Big swim in aid of the local hospital Friends - not in the water!  I was helping out with the organising on the beach and remained firmly on dry land. The actor Kirsten Callaghan was one of the participants.  She had starred as Merecedes Gleitze  in the film Vindication Swim. Mercedes, born in Brighton, was the first woman to swim the Straits of Gibraltar and the first British woman to swim the English Channel.  The film was written and directed by one of my neighbours, a very talented 23 year old, Elliott Hasler.

In the afternoon I managed a visit to the plot to tie up the cucumbers - they didn't seem to know they were supposed to climb and had trailed along the ground.

Ridge cucumbers

The English, outdoor ridge varieties were doing well but the Spanish, pepinos, were still only tiny seedlings.  I also tried to train one of the squashes over a frame.

An attempt to train a squash

10 July
I lifted some of the red onions and took them home to ripen and removed some of the new raspberry canes that had invaded the raised beds on the western boundary of our plot but I know they will be back.   It was a relatively dry day with light cloud.

10 July looking east

10 July looking west

The Cavolo nero was looking very healthy and was much earlier than usual.  It tastes better after the first frosts, but I can't wait that long; and the beauty of this variety of kale is that it is "cut and come again". Picking the outer, lower leaves encourages new growth.

Cavolo nero 

13 July
Following the Allotment Association AGM I have been given the task of updating the alllotment association website, WAGA which has been neglected for two years, so I took some new photos, including the site shop, to add to the website.

Inside the site shop
I checked on my squashes and was pleased to see that, with the recent rain, the Crown Prince had put on a lot of growth.

Crown Prince squash

15 July
There was a weather warning and winds of 50-60mph were predicted so I made sure the tarpaulin covering the old greenhouse was secure, but fortunately we were spared the full force of the winds.

16 July
I lifted the red onions, Electric and Winter Red - the Electric variety were on average larger, so I will certainly grow them again.

Electric onion and a size 9 (43) shoe!

Onions drying on the garden table

17 July
It was also time to lift the shallots.

Shallots ripening

18 July
Having lifted the onions it was time to start sorting them - some for immediate use and the larger ones to store.
Onions ready to be stored

At the end of June, I stood down as a Trustee of the London Marathon Charitable Trustafter 27 years and 11 months on the Board, far longer than is recommended by the Charity Commission!  It was a real privilege to have been part of the journey that the London Marathon has been on - not only is it the best marathon in the world but its runners have ensured its place in the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest one-day charitable fundraising event.  Last year the runners themselves raised over £60 million for good causes, and any trading surplus from the Marathon itself is gift-aided to the Trust (now the London Marathon Foundation) which to date has made grants of over £100 million for community sporting and recreational activity.

In recognition of my long service I was kindly given a garden bench, which I have just assembled, and screwed on the inscription plate. I now need to decide where it goes in the garden.

21 July
I picked some yellow tomatoes and chilli peppers grown in the garden in pots.

Yellow Perfection tomatoes

Home grown chillies

22 July
I began to lift some of the Nicola second early potatoes and was pleased to see that we had ladybirds.  They appear to be the 7 spotted variety, the most common in Europe, and their main diet is aphids, which is why they are popular with gardeners.

7 spotted ladybird

Nicola potatoes

Nicola potatoes

23 July
I spent some time tidying up on the allotment and storing the onions at home. Sylvi had a great idea for hanging and storing them in old tights.

Onions ready for storing

25 July
In the morning, I took Sylvi to the hospital for her long awaited hip replacement operation and, apart from visiting, spent the next few days at home getting ready for her discharge and the arrival of visitors at the weekend!

26 July
I harvested some tomatoes from the containers in the garden and watered the plants.  Early morning is the best time for watering tomatoes, aiming for the base and avoiding the leaves.  The advantage of early morning watering is that any splashes on the leaves or stem will soon evaporate, reducing the risk of fungal growth.

A selection of ripening tomatoes

27 July
I found a space to hang the garlic and the onions in the garden workshop.



Onions safely stored

28 July
Sylvi was home from hospital in the evening (on crutches) and the following day nephews, neices, great-nephews and great-neices arrived, together with neice's in-laws, for their summer Hove holiday! So there will be little work in the garden or on the allotment for a few days - and the family had brought the bad weather with them from Sheffield!

30 July
A brief respite from the rain and an opportunity to try out my new bench - I need the rest as there is so much work to be done next month.

Time for a rest!
John Austin

Hove, July 2023

Monday, 10 July 2023

Life on the Weald - June 2023

Life on the Weald - June 2023

and in the kitchen and garden

The dry weather continued into June with no rain forecast until the middle of the month.  This is causing a real problem because the new water supply, which should have been operational in May is still not completed. Some emergency water tanks have been installed but these are 150m from our plot so it is difficult to ensure that young plants get enough.

1 June

Another distraction from the allotment at the beginning of the month!  We had friends from the North East staying with us so, instead of working on the allotment, we took them on a visit to Devil's Dyke.

1 June - Faries Wood, Devil's Dyke

1 June - Devil's Dyke

2 June

In the morning I potted on some seedlings at home, including Cavolo Nero. The afternoon temperature rose to 18C and despite my earlier decision I risked planting out some Borlotti beans that had germinated at home. There was a lot of watering to do as we had not seen any rain since 6 May.  Everyone had the same idea and our temporary water tanks soon emptied!  All of the butternut squash and courgettes that I had planted out had either died or been eaten or were very shrivelled. 

3 June 

At home, I sowed some more courgettes and butternut  squash (Hawk and Waltham varieties).  I'm waiting until the water is restored on the plot before planting out any more seedlings. They continue to occupy our garden table.

3 June - seedlings at home

I had recently seen a fox on the plot in the evening.  The fox was not at all timid and came up close and stared at me.  It didn't look very healthy and appeared to be losing fur.  I assumed it had either been in a fight or more likely had mange.

3 June  - our fox

3 June - the fox - summer moult or mange

Sylvi put down a dish of water which seemed to be appreciated.  I read up on mange which can be fatal. It causes foxes to be less timid and eating can be difficult and painful.  I consulted the RSPCA and other plotholders, one of whom, Sue, told me that adding garlic to food can help prevent mange, and get rid of the mites that cause it, as they don't like garlicky blood! We thought we might give that a try.

4 June 

At home, the Paeonies were flowering.  So too was the lemon scented geranium that our friend Jana had given to us on our trip to Ramsgate last month.

4 June - Paeonies

4 June - geranium

Normally, I would not advocate feeding wild animals but if they are poorly perhaps it's right to make an exception.  We are reluctant to put food down in case it attracts rats etc but Sylvi prepared some table scraps, some bread and lamb dripping mixed with lots of fresh garlic to take to the plot in case we encountered the fox again.  We did.  Sylvi put down some water and the food.  The fox drank some water then picked up the dish of food and dragged it to Viv's plot, next to ours, and had supper there!  Viv says she is happy to host.

5 June

Our visit today was confined to watering - a tiring, laborious process carrying watering cans 150m from the temporary tank to the plot.  Priority was given to watering the young seedlings.  Despite the lack of water the 2nd early potatoes seemed to be surviving the drought but the 1st earlies were dying back without having flowered.

5 June - 2nd Early potatoes

And I was fearful that the garlic plants would die back before the bulbs had swollen.

 5 June - Garlic

The recently transplanted Borlotti beans had survived - I had put some lambswool around them to deter gastropods! It seems to have worked.

6 June - Borlotti beans

7 June 

The Ox-eye daisies around the pond were looking very attractive.....

...and the Love in a mist was also flowering

9-10 June

I planted out a few more Borlotti beans and Cobra French beans that I had grown from seed at home but had little time to do more as we had more visitors for the weekend - which meant the obligatory trip to Marrocco's

On Saturday I got up early, before our guests, to do a bit of watering and also to plant out some of my Spanish cucumbers (Pepinos) grown from seed - two Ashley and two Marketer varieties and also to plant out purple sprouting broccoli, kale & purple Brussels sprouts. 

The plums were looking good and the apples were just beginning to set.

10 June - 7am - Plums

10 June 7am - apples

I was pleased to have done some early morning watering as it turned out to be the hottest day of the year - perhaps not the ideal day to take our guests on a 3 mile walk from Beachy Head to Birling Gap

10 June 1pm Beachy Head

10 June - 1.30pm approaching Belle Tout lighthouse

We did manage a trip to the allotment later when we picked about 3kg of broad beans.  I also managed to find a couple of larger pots to house surplus Marmande and Tres Cantos tomatoes.

Some of our fellow plotholders seem to be having problems using the new standpipes so one of our plotholders, Helen, has made a very useful video.

12 June 

My daughter, Zoe and a friend came down for a couple of days and she helped to pick some chard and about 4kg Broad beans. I lifted a couple of the dying plants of the First early Duke of York potatoes, just to see how they were doing.  They were a lot smaller, and less plentiful than last year and yielded about 1kg.

One of our neighbours on the site, Sophie, gave me a butternut squash and courgette which she had to spare, and I planted these out to replace ones that I had lost.

14 June 

We did some late watering and Sylvi fed the fox. 

14 June Feeding time

It was still light at 9pm and still 20C!  During the day it had been 26C.  We had some of the Duke of York potatoes, roasted in their skins then finished with a coating of grated Parmesan - they were scrumptious!

15 -16 June

Thursday 15 was much cooler and cloudy but Friday was another hot day with temperatures in the high twenties. We planted out some Patty pan squashes (Sunblest), courgettes and Blue Ballet squash. I was pleased to see that some of the directly sown purple dwarf French beans were beginning to come up.  Sadly this was not true of the Cobra climbing French beans, so I sowed some more.

The Crown Prince squash seem to be doing well....

16 June Crown Prince squash

....and the red onions will be ready for lifting soon.

16 June - red onions

We picked the last of the late autumn sown broad beans which had suffered from the blackfly invasion.

16 June - Broad beans

18 June

We picked most of the remaining broad beans and dug up some of the chard which was beginning to go to seed.  I laid cardboard around the frame which I had constructed for the tromboncinos and covered this with worm compost and planted out 3 tromboncino plants that I had bought from a garden centre (my own home-sown ones having died).  In the pond, the water lilies were beginning to flower but the water level was very low.

18 June - water lilies

Just as I was finishing, the sky clouded over, followed by heavy rain which, hopefully, will replenish the pond.

19 June

I planted out some Cavolo Nero  but one of the purple Brussels sprouts planted earlier had been eaten and the purple sprouting broccoli had also been attacked. I also planted out the two remaining Hungarian Blue squashes, a butternut squash (Hawk) and a courgette.  

19 June - planting out squashes

19 June - planting out squashes

Normally, I would plant out squashes when they are more advanced but it is getting late in the season and these were recently sown to replace lost ones.

There was more rain overnight.

21 June

The butternut squashes and courgette, planted out before the rain came down, have survived but the sole remaining Brussels sprout plant has been eaten!  The tromboncinos seemed to be surviving and I planted out some more Patty pan - this time Custard white variety.

21 June - tromboncino

21 June - tromboncino

21 June - Custard Patty pan

22 June

A neighbour, Roz, had given me a Kuri squash which I planted out and I replaced the two Brussels sprout plants that had been eaten and covered them with a bottle cloche.  I directly sowed some more Cobra  climbing French beans and some Borlotti.

At home the chillies were ripening

22 June - Habanero

22 June - Basket of Fire

23 June

The forecast was for another dry hot spell with temperatures around 25C and possibly 29C at the weekend so I did some early morning watering around 7am and I sowed some Blue Lake climbing French beans in the gaps between the growing ones.   I also lifted a few Duke of York first early potatoes and some of the garlic.

23 June - First early Duke of York

23 June - Garlic

26 June

We cleared the remaining broad bean plants and planted out a couple of courgette plants and purple sprouting broccoli to replace the ones that had died or been eaten.

27 June

In the morning I sowed some purple French beans, where the broad beans had been and sprinkled some coffee grouts and crushed eggshells as a slug/snail deterrent.

27 June - ready for sowing

beans sown and dusting of coffee & eggshells

Last month when cleaning out the old shed we found a stash of plumstones each with a neat hole.

A stash of plum stones

A closer examination showed that the hole had been neatly chiseled, probably by sharp incisors to extract the kernel. 

27 June - plum stones

My initial thought was rats, but then I wondered if they would create a stash and probably they would just crush the nuts open.  Could it possibly be squirrels with such a neat crafted hole?  A neighbour suggested field mice.  It is still a mystery.

I strimmed around the apple tree and laid cardboard in anticipation of the arrival of some more wood chippings.  In the evening we strengthened the frame and put netting over the red cabbages, which were beginning to heart up.  We covered the blueberries with loose netting and picked some raspberries and a few peas - some mangetout, some sugar snap and some ordinary peas.

27 June - a variety of peas
29 June

We managed to pick the redcurrants and some raspberries before the rain came down again.  The redcurrants are fine, just not very many and the raspberries are very small.  

29 June - Redcurrants

29 June - redcurrants and raspberries

It may be that the redcurrants are having a rest this year, having been prolific last year, or it may be that the bushes are now very old and perhaps need replacing.  Maybe we'll just see how they do next year.  I put the poor raspberry crop down to the May drought.  After the prolonged drought, we have had some rain and the water supply is now working, so hopefully most of the plants will recover and we might see some progress in July.

John Austin

Hove, June 2023