Saturday, 18 June 2022

Life on The Weald, May 2022

Life on The Weald - plot 247 - 

and in the Kitchen & Garden, May 2022

Ceanothus early June

The garden at home was coming alive with colour but we have rather neglected the allotment this month.  We were up in London at the beginning of the month for the Westminster Mile and the London 10k.   Both events were taking place for the first time since Covid lockdown in 2020. Mo Farah was returning to running for the first time since his pre-Tokyo Olympics injury.  He returned to the streets of London to defend his title - but it was not to be, and he was beaten to second, outsprinted at the finish, by a relatively unknown club-runner, Ellis Cross from Aldershot and District Club.

Eilish McColgan powered home to win the women's event (beating her mum's Scottish record) and only 2 seconds outside Paula Radcliffe's 19 year old British and European record.  The reigning wheelchair champion, Danny Sidbury, won the men's wheelchair race with a dramatic and close fought battle for second between David Weir and JohnBoy Smith.

As we come out of the worst of the Covid pandemic we are beginning to welcome visitors to Hove and we were pleased to welcome my sister-in-law,Siew, and my nephew Gregory later that week - we had a great couple of days visiting the beach and the Downs but it did, of course, keep us away from the allotment.

On 8 May I managed to directly sow some Purple French beans (Tepee) which had done so well last year.  I will do successional sowings this year to avoid the sudden glut that we had last year.

On inspection, the parsnips appear to be doing well above ground! And the peas are beginning to flower. 

8 May - Parsnips

8 May - peas

I hadn't provided any sticks for the peas, which were said to be self supporting, and they looked rather tangled and untidy but it is too late to separate them..

One of the beds where we had grown Kale last year was now completely overgrown with weeds, mostly Blistery Ox tongue. Fotunately it is relatively easy to pull up (with a good pair of gloves as it is rather prickly).  It does take time, hand weeding, however, to ensure there aren't any roots left behind which can grow again.

8 May - a weed infested bed

I was tempted to pick a broad bean to see how they were doing.

8 May - October sown broad beans

They looked fine and the ones sown in the autumn will be ready for picking in a week or two.  Sadly, however, there were signs of blackfly.   Normally the autumn sown broad beans mature before the blackfly arrive - but not so this year.  One way to deal with them is to regularly hose down the plants to wash them off - but this is wasteful of water and provides only a temporary relief as they soon return.  As we don't normally use pesticides, spraying with a solution of soapy water usually does the trick for a while.  This year I followed advice on a gardening internet site which suggests adding a few drops of vegetable oil to the soapy water spray. Any vegetable oil will do and you can buy special horticultural oil but it is expensive.  Strong smelling oils are recommended such as rosemary or lavender oil or clove oil. As I had some culinary mustard oil in the cupboard I tried this and it was 100% successful.

At home, I sowed some more borlotti beans, courgettes and cucumber (Ataki) seeds.

On 12 May, I planted out some Patty pan squash (Sunburst) plants grown from seed at home.
For some reason one of the plants was dug up each night, I think by a squirrel, possibly looking for something in the soil.  I replanted it three times, moving it slightly each time until the problem was solved.  The seeds were left over from last year and I was pleased they had germinated but I had none in reserve in case the seedlings I had planted failed - or were destryed by squirrels! So I bought a new packet and sowed some more seeds in pots indoors.  I also sowed some Crown Prince squash.

All the Kalettes that I had grown from seed had been eaten and earlier I had bought some plugs from a garden centre which I had potted up. These now looked ready for planting out and a moved and re-erected a net cage to protect them from the pigeons.  I also moved and re-erected a second cage in preparation for planting the purple sprouting broccoli  which I had grown from seed but which did not appear to be thriving.

At the garden centre, I bought a variety of chilli plants in small pots which seemed a bargain at 5 for £7.  I have potted these into larger pots ready to be transferred to the mini-greenhouse when it is finally erected and I also bought a couple of Jerusalem Artichoke tubers (Fuseau) which I directly planted.  I did give in to temptation and bought a White Iris water plant which was in the sale and have placed this in the pond.

12 May - Kalettes

12 May - Kalettes

The front and back gardens at home were showing some spring colours and on 13 May the Paeony and the Irises in the front garden was in full flower.

13 May - Paeony

13 May - Iris

The temperature had been a regular 15C for days and the heavy winds had subsided so we thought it was time to re-erect the mini-greenhouse which would give us an opportunity to clear the bedroom shelves and the table in the conservatory of the many seedlings.

13 May - the greenhouse is up!

There is a constant supply of rhubarb and Rhubarb & Ginger Yoghourt cake  is part of our regular diet!  We assume we can burn off the extra calories by our physical activity at the allotment!

14 May - Rhubarb & ginger yoghourt cake

14 May - Rhubarb & ginger yoghourt cake

In the back garden the clematis, Hot Lips (Salvia),Weigela & Mock Orange blossom (Philadelphus) were all flowering.

16 May - Clematis

16 May - Salvia (Hot Lips)

16 May - Weigela

16 May - Philadelphus

There had been a long period without rain. The weekend 14/15 May was very sunny and 16C + during thew day but Sunday evening brought very heavy rain. The sunny weather returned Monday and Tuesday 16/17 May  with a temperature of 20C on Monday and 18C on Tuesday but breezy.  It clouded over in the evening with showers just as we were about to go away again!  We had asked Luke to water whilst we're away but it wasn't necessary as the UK experienced a prolonged rainy spell.  We made a final check that all was well before leaving.

18 May - peas

18 May - peas are flowering

18 May - spinach

18 May - Butternut squashes

18 May - Patty Pan squash

18 May - Red Gem lettuce

The Asparagus bed that we had created two years ago was in a sad state as it had been invaded by raspberry  canes which spread from underground suckers.  Only three of our six plants had survived.  I'm not sure haw we can stop further raspberry invasions so we may have to move the asparagus elsewhere which means waiting another two years for them to establish themselves and produce 😒. We did manage to pick another 8 spears and they were superb.

Before we left we harvested some broad beans (about 5kg) which when shelled produced over 1kg of beans which we have frozen.  Broad beans are one of the few vegetables which freeze well.  In fact we have only recently finished last year's crop.

18 May - Broad beans

18 May - Broad beans

On the day of our departure, I made a quick visit to check again and was delighted to see that the Patty Pan was flowering (just one male flower but it's a start!)

19 May - Patty pan in flower

We were in Spain from 19-27 May which, after weeks of rain, was experiencing a heatwave with temperatures in our part of 30-35C but they were approaching 40C in some places but we were pleased to have missed all the wet weather in UK.

On our return the weather was much more seasonal, regularly 15-20C and very little rain.  I was pleased to see that the plum trees were fruiting, but suspect we will lose quite a few in the June drop.

28 May - plum tree

There was a plentiful supply of broad beans and we picked another 5kg.

28 May - Broad beans
And the directly sown borlotti beans and climbing French beans  had germinated during our absence.

28 May - climbing French beans

The pond was surrounded by Ox-eye daisies (which were not there last year) and Love in a mist (Nigella) which had self-seeded.

28 May - Ox-eye daisies

At home the Basket of Fire chillies had produced loads of chillies. This was a plant grown from seed indoors last year and then planted in the open ground in the summer.  I had dug it up and put it in a pot which I brought indoors in October and it survived through the winter and is still producing flowers and fruits!

28 May - Basket of Fire

We hadn't yet managed to move all of the seedlings from indoors

more seedlings

Out on the plot, the love in a mist was now flowering

28 May - Love in a mist (Nigella)

Although most of the spinach beet and chard had gone to seed, there was still a lot to be harvested. 

Silver Chard

Despite our neglect, there has been a good supply of produce and a promise of more to come over the summer months.

John Austin

Hove, May 2022

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Life on The Weald, April 2022

Life on The Weald - Plot 247

(and out and about) - April 2022

A few days away at the beginning of the month................

Parque Natural de las Salinas de Santa Pola - 3 April

We returned from our brief break on 7 April and thankfully all the seedlings indoors  at home had survived.  We had been worried that everything on the allotment might dry out as rising temperatures had been predicted, with no rain expected. Whilst we had been away, however, temperatures had fallen with some heavy frosts on occasion.  There had been snow in many parts of the UK and Hove had experienced sleet and strong winds.  The following day I went to review the possible damage at the allotment.

Fortunately, the broad beans had withstood the wind and the autumn sown ones were in full flower.  The only real damage was to the Duke of York first early potatoes which appeared to have been caught by the frost.  This is how they looked when we left them a fortnight earlier:

Duke of York 17 March

...and this is what they looked like on our return

Duke of York - 10 April

The wind or the frost had blackened and killed off some of the leaf growth but thankfully there were signs of new growth.  I think the mulch of grass cuttings that we had applied last month might have helped their survival.

We gave the potatoes a good watering and earthed them up hoping the Duke of York would recover.  The later planted Nicola & Charlotte  did not appear to have been affected by the weather.

There was a lot of rhubarb waiting to be picked.

8 April - rhubarb

The peas were coming along nicely altough there were some gaps. 

Mangetout peas - 8 April

I sowed some more mange-tout in some guttering at home so that I could fill the gaps later.  Some of the spinach was going to seed but there was lots to harvest and we were also able to pick a good supply of purple sprouting broccoli.

There was also the first sign of blossom on the plum trees

Plum tree in blossom - 8 April

The temperature was not wonderful the following week. On 19 April the temperature rose to 15C, but with a chilly wind, and was down to 6/7C at night.

I did take a risk, however, of planting out some patty pan squashes as I was running out of space at home and in our mini-greenhouse in the garden.  We also managed to pick five spears of asparagus and a good supply of the last of the broccoli.

At home I sowed some Crown Prince squash in pots but discovered I only had two seeds left from last year, so will have to buy some more seeds or buy some plants from the garden centre - unless someone on the allotment has some spares.  I also sowed one giant pumpkin seed.  We are limiting ourselves to one plant this year as we had a surfeit last year - and still have one at home!

One of last year's pumpkins

The autumn sown broad beans were now in full flower and, fingers crossed 🤞, are free of blackfly.

Autumn sown broad beans in flower -10 April

Autumn sown broad beans in flower -10 April

At home the front garden was a riot of colour with tulips and anemones

Tulips at home in April

Anemones in the front garden - April 2022

In the backgarden the Snowbells seemed to have taken over a corner of the garden.   

Although it has been with us since the 1700s, the Snowbell (Allium triquetrium) is classified as a non-native species in England and Wales and since it can outcompete native spring plants such as primroses and violets, it is illegal to plant it in the wild (Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act)  It appears to have taken over one of our border beds and has now spread to the lawn! But it is very attractive and All parts of the plant are edible (leaves, roots, flowers): it has an oniony/garlic smell and tastes like chives or young spring onions. The flowers look very attractive in salads or as a garnish.  It is also known as “three cornered leek” (the leaves in cross-section are triangular), “onion grass” and “onion weed”.  It  tastes like chives or young spring onions. The flowers look very attractive in salads or as a garnish.


Snowbell flower

At home, the spare Charlotte potatoes, planted in a growbag have just appeared above the surface.

Although I have managed to increase the "no dig" areas on the allotment, there is a long way to go.  I had allowed the area where the brassicas are to go to become somewhat overgrown in the autumn but had largely cleared it of perennial weeds and had emptied one of the compost bins on the area and had left the pile over the winter.  On 16 April I spread the pile and begun to lightly fork it in. 

Preparing the brassica bed

This year's brassica bed

Last year's Rainbow Chard had survive the winter and was puttig on new growth but was showing signes that it was about to go to seed.  Neverthe less there will be pickings for some weeks to come.  Some of it was self-seeded - often in inconvenient places - so it will have to be removed but whilst it is still producing leaves, I am happy for it to remain.

19 April - Rainbow chard

More Rainbow chard

We were away for a few days towards the end of the month and when we returned on 29 April we were pleased to see that we could probably look forward to a good crop of broad beans but sad to see that the blackfly had arrived.  Usually the autumn sown crop matures before the blackfly arrive - not this year it seems!

29 April - the first Broad beans

29 April - the dreaded blackfly

Blackfly on our broad beans

We are trying to avoid the use of pesticides, so I started by hosing down the plants to wash off as many blackfly as possible and then sprayed the plants with soapy water, including the underside of leaves.  I had read that the addition of a few drops of pungent natural oil such as rosemary, peppermint or clove oil to the spray was effective - apparently almost any natural oil will do.  I had some mustard oil in the kitchen cupboard which we use in Indian cuisine, so added a few drops.  So far it appears to have been effective.

On the last day of April, I noticed that the redcurrant bushes were fruiting so the time has come to repair the cage and replace the netting if we are not to lose the entire crop to the birds.

30 April - redcurrants

30 April - redcurrants

The potatoes seem OK, particularly the Nicola and Charlotte second earlies. The First Early Duke of York, which were planted perhaps a bit too early have not yet fully recovered from the late frosts, but we are still hopeful.

30 April Potatoes: Charlotte & Nicola in foreground

The sugar snap peas were looking good but will need some support - another job for next month!

30 April - Sugar snap peas

It was also time to start thinking about climbing beans and some repairs were needed to the frame.

Preparing a frame for the climbing beans

The planting season was now in full swing and we have picked the last of the purple sprouting broccoli as well as a few more spears of asparagus.  Just hoping that May will see some higher temperatures and that the cool wind will disappear.

John Austin

Hove, April 2022