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

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