Thursday, 25 May 2023

Life on The Weald - April 2023

Life on The Weald - April 2023

- and in the garden and the kitchen (and out and about in Brighton, Dieppe and London!)

1 - 2 April
I had not been to the plot for the last few days of March and there were yet more distractions at the beginning of April with the Brighton Marathon Weekend. As a Trustee of the London Marathon Foundation I was in Preston Park on the Saturdayto start some of the waves in the Mini Mile involving over 1,000 young people and on Sunday at the Finish line for the Marathon to present the medals to the winners in the men's and women's races.

2 April - Hove Lawns

2 April - Hove Lawns

4 April
At home, the Basket of Fire chilli, which had been kept going for three years, was in full flower and the Patty pan seedlings and parsley also appeared.
4 April Bsaket of Fire

On Tuesday the temperature rose to 10C but it was very sunny with no wind and it felt much warmer. On the plot, I removed the fleece from the new seed bed and all the brassica seeds that I had sown in the new seed bed, red cabbage, broccoli and kalettes, had germinated except the Brussels sprouts, of which there was no sign.

4 April - brassica seed bed

The autumn sown broad beans were in full flower - fingers crossed that we don't have a hard frost.

4 April - Broad beans in flower

It was probably too early, but I decided to sow some Cobra climbing French beans outdoors.  I picked some kalettes and purple sprouting broccoli.

Just before we left, Sylvi spotted a patch of Wood Sorrell on the haulageway

4 April - Wood sorrell

Back Home I potted up some seedlings of red cabbage, kalettes and chervil. 
The Tres Cantos tomatoes were looking very leggy and unhappy so I decided to put them outside in the sunshine for a few hours and then in the mini-greenhouse in the garden. They're a heritage variety from the Canary Islands so might not be too happy with our climate.

4 April - Tres Cantos tomatoes

5 April
The temperature reached 11C.  The First early Duke of York potatoes were emerging so I earthed them up.

5 April - 1st early potatoes

We also directly sowed some Alderman peas two inches apart in rows 9 inches apart in what is to be the brassica bed and hopefully they will have finished producing by the time I need to plant out the kale and broccoli.

6 April
I sowed some squashes indoors, Crown Prince, Tromboncino and some Custard White Patty Pan.
7 -12 April
The Easter break is usually a busy time on the allotment with much needing to be done but we neglected our duty and went off to France for a break.

7 April - leaving Newhaven

Having left Newhaven we found ourselves in an Airbnb in Dieppe with little over 20miles on the car mileometer.  Had we been at home Fish would have had our custom but we had the Dieppe fishmarket on our doorstep and enjoyed some locally caught Gurnard (or might it have been caught offshore in Brighton?)

8 April - oven ready Gurnard

8 April - 2 whole roast Gurnard

Whilst there's a lot to be said for home cooking, we just had to venture out to one of the many quayside restaurants for a plateau de fruits de mer.

11 April - my main course

11 April
my daughter-in-law's and grandson's shared starter

Apart from an occasional shower the weather in France had been very good and so easy to get there from Hove - a short drive to Newhaven a leisurely lunch on the ferry and an Airbnb on the doorstep of the quayside and bustling town centre.

Unfortunately the journey home was not so simple - storm force winds in the channel caused our ferry to be cancelled which necessitated a 2¼ hour drive to Calais and a further 2½ hour drive from Dover to home! 😞

13 April
Back on the plot, the shed had taken a battering and the doors were off again!  The crops, however, fared better.  The first early Duke of York  potatoes had put on some more growth and I gently earthed them up a little, and I picked some rhubarb.

13 April - 1st early Duke of York

13 April Rhubarb

I moved the frame from where the kalettes had been and laid down some cardboard, ready to prepare a new "no-dig" bed for the squashes.  There were intermittent showers and strong blustery winds, which continued throughout the following day.

15 - 16 April
On Saturday, the winds had subsided and my step-son kindly collected a few barrow loads of stable manure for the new bed, and Sylvi and I concentrated on the climbing bean frame.

a new no-dig bed for the squashes

more no-dig where brassicas will go

15 April
The local fishing crews had been out and returned with a successful catch of Black Bream, so it was down to FISH in the morning.

Black bream - fresh from the Channel

Black bream - ready for the oven

16 April
There was a lot of uncultivated ground close to the apple tree and I thought this had room for another no-dig bed.  I think true "no-diggers" would have just laid cardboard over the weeds but I decided to try to remove as much of the couch grass and bindweeds as possible.

16 April - overgrown with couch grass

16 April - couch grass mostly removed

We also made a start on levelling out the new no-dig bed for the courgettes and squashes and put the final touches to the climbing bean frame.

16 April - preparing the squash bed

16 April - climbing bean frame

At home, I sowed some Spanish cucumber (Pepino), Marketer and Ashley varieties, and some climbing French beans (Cobra), Borlotti beans (Lingua di Fuoco - Firetongue), courgettes and Hungarian Blue squash (from some seeds bought in Dieppe).

We began preparations for making some rhubarb gin by chopping the rhubarb, dusting with sugar and leaving covered in a bowl overnight, ready to be immersed in gin the following day and hopefully ready for filtering and drinking in about 4 weeks.

rhubarb dusted with sugar

18 April
I continued preparatory work for the new no-dig bed near the apple tree.  It was a glorious sunny day and the plum trees were in full blossom.

18 April - preparations for a new bed
19 April
Work continued with the no-dig beds.  Thanks to help from my stepson, Luke, and fellow plotholder, Steve, I had a plentiful supply of stable manure as they had transported several barrow loads. The bed, intended for squashes (where last year's kalettes had been grown) was nearing completion.  The frame beyond still had some purple sprouting broccoli and would be the next target for a no-dig bed.

19 April - first bed for squashes completed

The area by the apple tree was ready for a layer of compost.

19 April - progress near the apple tree

I also planted out some of the perpetual spinach plants which I had grown from seed at home and tackled the wilderness where the collapsed greenhouse had been.

After a lot of heavy work, I deserved a rest,

19 April - relaxation time

20 April
At home the tulips were in full flower and I always marvel at the beautiful, intricate patterns.

20 April - tulips

21-23 April
Another weekend of neglect for the plot as the London Marathon beckoned.  The reception for elite runners was held on Friday at Tower Bridge.  Despite having lived in London for seventy years, I had never before been inside the bridge or on the upper walkway.  It was a remarkable experience with great views and an amazing glass floor!

21 April - sunset from Tower Bridge

21 April - standing on the glass floor

21 April - Tower Bridge
The glass floor viewed from below

Saturday was a busy day as I was one of the official starters for the Mini-Marathon when 10,000 young people ran either 1 mile or 2.6km from Horseguards Parade finishing past Buckingham Palace in The Mall.

22 April - ready for the next wave

22 April - some of the 10,000 runners

The actual Marathon on the Sunday was breathtaking with several records tumbling. It was amazing to get a bird's eye view of the finish line.

25 April
Back on the plot, the plum trees had been in full blossom for some days but now the apple tree's flowers were beginning to open.

25 April - Apple blossom

25 April - Plum blossom

29 April
I finally cleared the area where the broccoli had been growing and moved the netted cage, laid some cardboard and covered with manure and compost.  This would be the second squash bed this year. There were still some spinach andchard plants that had survived the winter, so I left them in situ.

29 April - the first squash bed with the second one behind

We were now fairly prepared for the planting out that would be done in May and June.

John Austin

Hove (and a few other places) April 2023

Thursday, 6 April 2023

Life on The Weald - March 2023


Life on the Weald - March 2023

and at home in the kitchen and the garden

1 March - Hellebores in the front garden

Wednesday 1 March
On the first day of March, the Hellebores in the front garden were in full flower, as well as one of the Camellias. The daffodils are just beginning to bloom, a week or two behind the primroses, and the celandines are just beginning to show their faces. And indoors, some of the recently sown seeds were sprouting.

1 March - Kalettes

1 March - Red Cabbage - Drumhead

1 March -Spinach beet

Thursday 2 March
There was another bright sunny day, with the temperature reaching 10C in the afternoon providing an opportunity for more tidying up.

2 March - Plot 247 looking west

2 March - plot 247 looking east

Saturday 4 March
More cardboard has been acquired, but more is needed if we are to complete the no-dig beds.

4 March -more cardboard

It was another fine day and I took the opportunity to plant a half row of Nicola 2nd Early potatoes.

In the newly created no-dig bed I sowed dome Kelvedon Wonder peas, Boltardy beetroot, and Rainbow mix  beetroot.  We were also able to harvest some more Kalettes.

The first few days of March have been very mild with daytime temperatures well  above 10C

Sunday 5 March - Wednesday 8 March
It was perhaps too good to last. Sunday started at a chilly 3C and rose to only 6C in the afternoon and the forecast was that even colder weather was on the way.  On Monday morning I travelled to Yorkshire for a funeral, where it was cold but sunny and bright, whereas Hove it was very wet and remained so until Wednesday.  Much of Sussex had snow on Wednesday but we escaped it on the coast.

Thursday 9 March
At home the Yellow Perfection tomatoes sown in February were sprouting.

9 March - Yellow Perfection tomatoes

Saturday 11 March
During the week, work had started at the allotment to install a new water supply as the old one was prone to leaks.  This is good news, except the council failed to tell plotholders and I could only reach mine with difficulty and some of my near neighbours couldn't get to theirs at all.

new water supply - works in progress

new water supply - works in progress

new water supply - works in progress

Sunday 12 March
On Sunday I planted the remaining Nicola second early potatoes, digging a shallow trench, lining with old cardboard egg boxes, half filling with compost, then planting the potatoes and replacing the soil from the trench.

12 March - trench for potatoes -
lined with egg boxes

12 March - trench partly filled with compost

12 March - Nicola 2nd early potatoes

We managed to pick some of the early purple sprouting broccoli and some kalettes

12 March - Rudolph  purple sprouting broccoli

 12 March - Kalettes
Monday 13 March
I think the shed has finally had it.  I arrived to find that the door had collapsed completely and the shed was at a jaunty angle! I attempted some temporary repairs to the doors.

13 March - the shed!

I know that I've converted to "no-dig" but it's a slow process and I'm still adopting Hugel culture as I have loads of logs/branches etc from drastic surgery on the apple tree and removing plum trees, so I think it's OK to dig a few trenches to bury this organic matter under my new "no-dig" beds.

13 March - the trench

13 March - filled with wooden branches

I had some partly rotted compost and rather a lot of shredded paper (as I had been clearing out the office) so I mixed this together and covered the logs in the trench.

13 March - part filled with organic material

Once the topsoil from the trench had been returned, I laid some cardboard and topped this with well rotted horse manure.

This is the area where I will be growing cucumbers and beans.

Tuesday 14 March
The front garden at home was looking colourful and we had sight of our first tulip.

14 March - mini-daffodils and pansies

14 March - Hellebores

14 March - first tulip

Wednesday 15 March
Another fine day so I directly sowed parsnips and silver beet chard in one of the raised beds.

15 March - bed ready for parsnips & chard 

Thursday 16 March
Another bright sunny day with only a light breeze and afternoon temperature reaching 14C.  My temporary repairs to the shed doors had failed completely!

16 March - the shed doors

Back at home I sowed some Corazon F1  tomato seeds left over from last year and some Cavalo Nero (Nero di Toscana - black Tuscany kale) and some early purple sprouting broccoli (Rudolph) also left over from last year.  Interesting that we are just harvesting the Rudolph  broccoli sown last year.

Friday 17 March
Another sunny day had been expected but instead there was heavy rain overnight and in the morning, so I stayed at home and did some more sowing and potting up. I potted on some of the perpetual spinach and red cabbage (drumhead) and sowed some Brussels sprouts, F1 Brigitte, in pots.  By the afternoon the rain had stopped, the sun came out and the temperature rose to 14C but it was St Patrick's Day so there were other priorities. Happy St Patrick's Day to you all...

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh

Sunday 19 March
Although I had sown several brassicas in trays indoors, I decided to sown some outdoors, as the weather was quite warm for the time of year, but for this I needed to create an outdoor seedbed.   I decided that a good location was in the main bed where some of the brassicas will be planted out later in the year.

I made a temporary frame lined with newspaper and then filled it with John Innes No 2 compost.  My daughter-in-law's mother had given me a lot of compostable wool packing material which she gets with a regular home-delivery and which can be added to the compost bin. It can also be used around plants as a mulch and to deter slugs/snails so I decided to lay it around the new seedbed.

19 March - beginnings of a seed bed

19 March - seed bed ready for sowing

Once created, I directly sowed in this bed Brussels Sprouts (Brigitte F1), Red Cabbage (Drumhead), Kalettes (mixed) and Cavolo Nero (Tuscan Kale).

It had been a dry sunny day with a temperature of 14C but with a chilly wind which made it feel much colder. 

Monday 20 March

It was certainly getting colder so I made a brief visit to cover the newly sown seed bed with some fleece.  I had almost given up on the broad beans that I had sown recently to fill gaps but was pleasantly surprised tp see that they were now coming through.

20 March - Broad beans appearing

Wednesday 22 March
The Conservatory at home is rather full with a lot of tomatoes as well as brassica seedlings and, and they take up even more room when they are potted on - so I have moved several to the loft extension under the skylight, hoping some can go out into the mini-greenhouse to harden off some time next month.

22 March Tomatoes, red cabbage and spinach in the loft

22 March - Tomatoes, red cabbage and spinach

Sylvi has volunteered to help the "Community Fridge" which is run by people on our site and is open to the public on Thursday and Sunday. This evening was her first outing on the supermarket run to collect food nearing its sell-by date for distribution the following day.

Friday 24 March
Another cold, wet day, so I stayed at home and potted on the Rainbow plum tomatoes and also sowed some Patty Pan summer squash (Sunburst) and some purple sprouting broccoli (Claret F1) plus two remaining seeds of butternut winter squash (Butterfly F1) left over from 2021. I have doubts whether the latter will germinate, but am keeping my fingers crossed 🤞

Saturday 25 March
There was bright sunshine but very strong, chilly winds. I planted two half-rows of Charlotte 2nd early potatoes but then gave up as it was not pleasant in the wind.  I have enough chitted seed potatoes for another 1 - 2 rows which I will now leave until next week.

I was very pleased, however, to see the first signs of the Duke of York 1st early potatoes which I had planted in late February.

25 March Duke of York 1st early potatoes 

25 March Duke of York 1st early potatoes 

And there was more good news.  The Kelvedon Wonder peas sown on 4 March were just beginning to appear. The old greenhouse shelf seems to have kept out the squirrels or whoever usually eats my directly sown peas and beans.

25 March Kelvedon Wonder Peas

Before leaving, to escape the wind, I picked some of the remaining Kalettes. Last week I had picked out the tops and this had resulted in new shoots appearing.

I also had a reasonable harvest from the early (Rudolph) purple sprouting broccoli.

25 March - Rudolph purple sprouting broccoli

Back home, I sowed some Blue ballet squashes and some flat leaf parsley from seeds left over from last year.

26 March

It rained most of the morning with the temperature reaching a maximum of 8C by the afternoon.  It was breezy although yesterday's heavy winds had subsided but I decided it was still a day to stay indoors!  The Corazon Tomatoes had germinated and I potted on some Kalettes.

26 March - Marmande tomatoes

26 March - Kalettes and Corazon tomatoes

26 March - Yellow Perfection tomatoes

27 March

The weather forecast for Monday 27 was sunny but cold and getting colder with a max of 8C expected in the afternoon. We went to the plot in the morning and I had put on several layers of clothing as a precaution.  I don’t know what the actual temperature was but it felt more like 15C than 8C and I stripped down to my shirtsleeves planting the remaining Charlotte potatoes.

I also sowed some carrots (Flyaway F1) in a container that I had filled with a mixture of peat-free compost and horticultural sand and then covered the container with fleece.

After my failed efforts, Sylvi did some emergency repairs to the shed which hopefully will keep it watertight until we replace it. We also effected some repairs with “chemical metal” to our tumble composter which was showing signs of rust and a split at the seams. We repaired the frames for climbing beans and cucumbers and spread some of our worm compost (Sylvi is in charge of the wormeries) with some partially rotted compost on an area where the beans will be planted next to the cucumbers.

The rest of this side of the plot will be home for the courgettes and squashes once the kalettes and broccoli are finished.

27 March - compost from the wormery

27 March - some of Sylvi's worms

Sylvi's attempts to make the shed watertight seemed to be successful. We will keep our fingers crossed as this is probably our last visit this month.

27 March - shed repaired!

28-31 March
I had a meetings on Wednesday 28 and on Thursday headed to my old patch in Greenwich for a Town Hall function and meet former colleagues.  Thursday proved to be the warmest day of the year with temperatures in excess of 17C in some parts of the country.  On Friday the temperature had fallen to a more normal 12C but I had a hospital appointment for a minor hand operation which may put me out of action for a few days.

With all these seedlings to deal with, April looks like a very busy month.

John Austin 

Hove, March 2023