Sunday 16 February 2020

Life on the Weald - January 2020

Life on the Weald - January 2020

Tuesday 7 January was a dry bright day, so I took the opportunity to do a bit of tidying up and began to clear some of the area where brassicas had been growing, as this will be the main site for my potato crop this year. 

7 January - making a start in clearing the brassica bed

7 January - perhaps enough space for a couple of rows of potatoes
I was still harvesting Brussels sprouts, kalettes and some cavolo nero but have now cleared the purple curly kale plants and we have had our last picking.

I'm afraid a lot of perennial weeds have taken hold around the sprouts.  They should have been hand weeded in the summer but were neglected and became too big to remove without damaging the brassicas.

The ground was very heavy to dig as we have had so much rain.  I also lifted a few leeks but they were all infested with alium leaf fly.  I suppose I was able to salvage about one third of the edible parts.

7 January - infested leeks
The broad beans sown in October (Aquadulce) were doing fine....

7 January -  October sown broad beans

7 January - October sown broad beans
.... but mice (or some other invader) have dug up all the ones sown in November and December.  The mice seem to wait for the seeds to germinate and just start sprouting when they dig them up, taking the bean leaving the nibbled off shoots on the ground.  I had covered one of the raised beds with fleece but this was no deterrent and the beans suffered the same fate.
7 January - stolen beans sown Nov/Dec
To prevent future loss in this way, I will sow the seeds in pots and plant out once they are established.

On Wednesday 8 January I started chitting my first early potatoes, Red Duke of York.  This variety had been so successful last year and I am hoping for similar results this year.  I could do this in the comfort of home as the heavy rain has returned.  I started the chitting process indoors and then moved them to chit in the garden shed - I say shed but it is an adapted concrete garage with good windows and a large dry, airy space.

8 January - Duke of York (red) starting off in egg boxes

On 12 January, the rain had eased off and I tackled a bit more clearing of the old brassica bed.  I also lifted the remaining leeks, most of which had some levels of infestation alium leaf fly, but about a third of the crop was edible.  It is advisable to take all the plant material off-site as the pupae can survive over the winter in the ground or in the compost heap and obviously crop rotation is important to avoid future problems.  The fly can infect all aliums and once infected there is no remedy. Fortunately, this year, the onions escaped.

12 January - last of the leeks 
In addition to the brassica bed, we had planted a couple of Brussels sprouts plants in one of the raised beds and these were ready for harvesting.
12 January - Brussels Sprouts
I was also able to pick a reasonable quantity of kalettes

12 January - kalettes
I had made a start clearing the area around the pond.  We have an Iris plant next to the pond and water Irises growing in pots in the pond. A water lily placed in the pond last year is growing some leaves that have almost reached the surface and it was time to remove some of the dense pond weed that was covering the surface and to cut back the papyrus.

Mid January
We intend to create a sitting area adjacent to the pond and to plant some ground covering plants between the sitting area and the pond and to plant some traditional wild flowers on the opposite side.

The allotment shop and the local garden centre were out of Aquadulce broad beans (which are most suitable for autumn and winter sowing) so I bought Bunyard's Exhibition and sowed them in pots at home.  Within a week they had germinated and were showing through by 14 January - just before we were about to take off for a week in search of some sunshine!

14 January - Bunyard's Exhibition broad beans

14 January -  Bunyard's Exhibition broad beans

We took off for Spain in time to catch the Santa Pola Half Marathon which was dry with clear blue skies for the elite runners.

16 January Santa Pola Half Marathon
Shortly after the elite runners were home, however, the sky darkened, the wind got up and we were treated to several days of storm force winds, thunder and lightning and really heavy rain.

Back home the weather was calmer, but colder.  In the few days we had been away, the broad beans had grown considerably and needed to be put outside to harden off.

21 January - Bunyard's Exhibition broad beans
We harvested the last of the Brussels sprouts

22 January
Over the weekend, I managed to get some help from Luke in removing couch grass, bindweed and invasive brambles on the soon-to-be potato patch.

25 January - Luke hard at work
And on 27 January, I planted out the broad beans that had been growing at home.

27 January - Bunyard's Exhibition broad beans
The autumn sown Aquadulce were doing well and some were beginning to show the signs of flower formation - just hoping we don't get a sudden frost.

27 January Aquadulce broad beans (October sowing)

27 January Aquadulce broad beans (October sowing)

Back at the house it was time to start chitting the first of the second early potatoes.  Again I chose a variety, Charlotte, which had been so successful last year and which produces tasty, waxy new potatoes.  

28 January - chitting Charlotte second early potatoes
I feel we have made some progress this month despite the bad weather and we have still been picking chard and spinach - so more Spanakopita (Greek Spinach and Feta pie)!

The month ended very wet and I'm afraid the weather forecast for February indicates more heavy rain.

John Austin

Hove, January 2020