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