Tuesday 20 June 2023

Life on The Weald - May 2023

Life on the Weald - May 2023

and in the kitchen and garden

1-5 May
The early part of the month was mainly cloudy but dry with a maximum daytime temperature of 13C so it felt a little early to be planting out.

1 May - looking West from Plot 247

1 May - looking East from Plot 247

1 May - redcurrants 247b

The broad beans planted in November were now in flower and on those sown in October the pods had begun to set.

1 May - Broad beans in flower

The First early Duke of York red potatoes, planted at the end of February were looking healthy and the Nicola second earlies, planted in March looked even better.
The Nicola and Charlotte planted later were just showing through.

1 May - Duke of York on the left, Nicola to the right

1 May - later planted Nicola and Charlotte

There was a new supply of woodchip which I collected and with help from my stepson, Luke, and a neighbouring plotholder, Steve, we loaded several barrow loads of stable manure.  I had laid cardboard where the new growing beds were to be located.

At home, some of the later tulips were looking magnificent

2 May - tulips

2 May - tulips

2 May - tulips

On the allotment we saw the first signs of blackfly on the broad beans but luckily we also had ladybirds who will help to minimise damage.

2 May - broad beans and ladybird

At home the tomatoes were looking a bit sad but I felt it was too early to plant them out.  They had been kept outside during the day and put in the mini-greenhouse at night.

2 May - tomato and other seedlings

In the garden there was a prolific flowering of our Snow Bells, sometimes called wild leek.  

They are a member of the Allium family which includes onions, leeks and garlic and all parts of the plant are edible with a taste of mild garlic or spring onion.  The green leaves and stems can be used as wild garlic and the flowers, white with distinct green lines, make an attractive garnish or addition to salads.

It is important not to confuse it with white blue bells which like their blue varieties are poisonous.  The flower of the snow bell is quite distinctive with green stripes.

Snow bell (allium triquetrum) flower 

Their botanical name is Allium triquetrum, and they are also known as tricorn or three-cornered leek which refers to the triangular shape of the leaves and flower stem in cross-section. In New Zealand it is known as onion weed !

2 May - Snowbells (Allium triquetrum)

There were quite a few distractions in the first week.  At home we were having roof repairs carried out and I had a pre-op assessment at the Princess Royal for a hand operation to remedy Dupuytren's contracture which has been causing me some inconvenience.  I have had a minor operation on the left hand to release the tendon with a needle technique but require more complex surgery on the right hand.  I also had my Covid booster vaccination, my 6th Covid jab!  The first weekend was the Coronation of King Charles and we took off to spend the Bank Holiday with friends in Ramsgate.  It wasn't possible to entirely avoid the Coronation as we discovered at a coffee break en route.

6 May A coffee stop en route to Ramsgate

The town was quite lively...

6 May Ramsgate

...but we had a very relaxing weekend... 

6 May - Ramsgate

6 May Ramsgate

...and some good food, including scallops at The Brasserie a "shabby chic" restaurant in a converted part of the old harbour control building.

6 May - Harbour wall/East Pier, Ramsgate

6 May - The Brasserie, East Pier, Ramsgate

6 May - Scallops teryaki at The Brasserie, Ramsgate

9-12 May 

Sylvi was growing some potatoes in a grow-bag at home which need constant watering but are looking good.

 potatoes at home

And there are still late tulips to enjoy.

 garden tulip

The weather is now consistently warm but I still feel it is too early to start planting out, especially as we currently have no water supply on the allotment.  A new water sytem was being installed as the old one had acquired a number of leaks.  The work was due to have been finished mid-May but due to delays and complications it is unlikely to be ready until June.

9 May - apple tree in full bloom

Our shed,  which was falling down, has now been cleared and we have acquired a second-hand one from another plot but it may be some time before we can put together a team to take down the old one and erect its replacement.  In the meantime, Sylvi has provided a temporary storage area for tools etc in our derelict greenhouse, protected by tarpaulins.

9 May - the old greenhouse, now temporary store

13 May

At home the garden is looking colourful. In addition to the tulips - and the hellebores which are still in flower, the Weigela, mock orange (Philadelphus), Bowles's Mauve (Erysimum) and Ceanothus  are blooming.

Weigela, mock orange, Bowles's mauve and ceanothus

On the plot the blueberries are flowering, but were engulfed with weeds in and around the containers.  I hand weeded the pots and topped up with ericacious compost and laid cardboard under and around the pots to be covered with wood chips/cuttings.  We will need to provide some netting before the fruit ripens.


The installation of the new water pipes and standpipes now seems complete but we are not yet connected to the supply!

The new standpipe

On Saturday 13 the temperature reached 18C and I risked planting out a Marina de Chioggia squash and a tomato plant, Ananas, both grown from seed at home. I hope I don't live to regret it.

14-16 May

On Saturday 14 May the organic gardening group had a plant swap and sale so I was able to give away some of my surplus tomato plants, mainly yellow perfection and Marmande.  I did buy a rather loveley apricot coloured Geum (sometimes called Avens) which I will try in a container in the front garden.

Over the weekend I bought 3 tomato gro-bags  and decided it was time to plant out tomatoes.  I have planted some in containers at home and the rest in the gro-bags and some pots on the plot.  The varieties planted - all grown at home from seed are Marmande, Rainbow plum, Tres Cantos, Yellow Perfection, Sungold and Corazon,
I was also given an allegedly "blight-free" variety by one of the plotholders, Helen, so we will see if that fares any better than mine.

17 -18 May

The time was spent potting up various seedlings but also planting out the butternut squashes.  There was a supply of woodchip at the allotment so I collected a couple of barrow loads.  I was tempted to pick some broad beans but because of the drought and the irregular watering due to the absence of a water supply I thought I would leave them a little longer in the hope that they might swell.

18 May - broad beans

19-22 May

The plot took a back seat for a few days due to London Marathon meetings followed by a visit for the weekend by relatives, my sister-in-law and nephew, Siew and Gregory, which of course meant a trip to Marrocco's

Siew & Greg outside Marrocco's

It was also good to get down to actually see the sea.

Hove, actually!

21 May

At home interesting things were happening.  Our cactus which was suffering erectile dysfunction, was flowering but had also developed interesting appendages!

Cactus - new developments!

Cactus in flower

22 May

Having acquired more woodchip, I began putting a layer of cardboard around the apple tree and covering it with the chippings whilst preparing the adjacent area for another "no-dig" bed

22 May - "No-dig" work in progress

I couldn't resist the temptation to pick a few broad beans - absolutely delicious - but decided to wait a few days before carrying out a major harvest.

22 May - a few broad beans to sample

25 May

Most days the temperature had been in the mid-twenties but today it rose to only 17C with a chilly wind which made it feel much colder. I decided it was time to pick some broad beans.

25 May - Broad beans

In clearing the old shed we removed a storage unit, an old kitchen dresser, and behind found a pile of plum stones, all with a hole where the kernel would have been removed -  I'm assuming the shells would have been too tough for mice so perhaps it was rats or squirrels!

25 May - plum stones

27 May

The weather improved and there was a temptation to just sit back, relax and enjoy the ox-eye daisies.

27 May - Ox-eye daisies

But there was work to be done - not least removing some of the bindweed which was choking the raspberries, just as they were beginning to flower.

Raspberries choked with bindweed

There was also work to be done finishing the new "no-dig" bed by covering the cardboard, which I had laid previously, with stable manure.

"No-dig" in progress

And with the spare wood chippings I continued to restore the footpath.

27 May - renewing the footpath

28 - 30 May

At home, the Weigela and Philadelphus were now in full flower and probably at their best
28 May Weigela and Philadelphus

28 May - Weigela

28 May - Philadelphus

I'm afraid there were more distractions over the late May Bank Holiday weekend, Sylvi's sister, Janet, coming to stay; the Ride London cycling festival in London - its 10th anniversary; a family 80th birthday party - and then Sylvi and Janet were off to Wembley for a momentous and historic, astonishing League 1 play off between Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley which saw The Owls (Wednesday) promoted to the Championship.

28 May - Ride London - the women's Classique

Whilst Sylvi was at Wembley, I did manage a visit to the garden centre up by the racecourse. 

It's the garden centre of course!

I bought six purple tepee French bean plants to supplement the directly sown ones which had not yet made an appearance and some sugar snap peas and then planted these out.  I also bought some purple sprouting broccoli, cavolo nero and purple brussels sprouts plantsI had some seedlings at home which were not looking too good and all of the brassicas directly sown in the outdoor seedbed, that I had painstakenly created, had been eaten by slugs and snails, so these were replacements.  I didn't want to risk planting these out yet, so re-potted them in larger pots ready to be planted out next month.

None of my earlier sown courgettes had survived, so on the last day of May I sowed some more.  There had still been no rain since the beginning of the month and there were further delays in connecting the new water supply and the only way of watering was carrying watering cans from a 1000 litre tank that had been installed by the Council as a temporary measure about 150m from our plot.  We are desperately hoping for rain and/or for the water to be connected, otherwise a lot of crops will be ruined as my arms have had it!

John Austin

Hove, May 2023

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