Friday 12 January 2024

Life on The Weald - December 2023

 Life on The Weald - December 2023

It was a very cold start to December with the first really heavy frost. Nevertheless I went to the plot to sow some more broad beans, where the red cabbages had been growing, and then covered the area with fleece.  With freezing fingers I decided not to stay too long.

1 December - a new row of broad beans

2 December
As the cold weather continued, I decided to stay at home and spend some time in the kitchen.  I removed the seeds from the bulbous end of one of our butternut squashes and stuffed and roasted it.
2 December -  butternut squash

2 December - roast, stuffed squash
6 December
The cold spell continued and I had to scrape the ice from the car windscreen and despite the cold visited the plot. The temperature rose to 3C

6 December - a frosty morning

I removed the fleece from the garlic which now appeared to be firmly rooted.  The fleece was more to protect the cloves from being pulled up by birds rather than to protect them from the cold.  Garlic does well if it has two months at 0-10C.

6 December - garlic

6 December - garlic

I found some netting to put loosely over the broccoli that was outside the netted cage.  The ground was quite hard on the surface but with all the rain we had recently was soft underneath so I thought digging out some couch grass and bindweed might keep me warm. This is the area where either the potatoes or brassicas will go next year.

6 December - couch grass removed

Back at home, it was clear that Christmas was on its way as the Schlumbergera (Christmas flowering cactus) was in bloom.

 6 December - Schlumbergera 

That evening there was heavy rain and several flood warnings.

7-14 December 
The rain and stormy weather continued as Storm Erin arrived, followed by Storm Fergus  and there was heavy flooding in the Midlands, the North and Scotland.  We escaped the worst but it was miserable weather and not conducive to gardening.

15 December
There was a break in the rain so i paid a visit to a very wet and waterlogged plot.  I had collected a lot of cardboard and laid this where the brassicas will go and covered it with the contetnts of two compost bins.  The compost was not fully rotted but I am relying on the worms and fungus to do the rest. i did then cover the area with tarpaulin as more rain was threatened and I didn't want it to get too sodden.

I also managed to pick a lot of perpetual spinach for a warming sag aloo (spinach and potato curry) over the weekend

27 December
On my last visit of the year, I noticed that the rhubarb was beginning to show through, so it might be time to force it by covering with an old recycling container.

29 December
After many months of delays and cancelled appointments, I eventually had surgery on my right hand to correct Dupuytren's contracture - (a thickening of tissues in the palm of the hand causing one or more fingers to curl towards the palm, restricting certain functions).  Whilst am pleased to have had the operation at last it might curtail my allotment activity for weeks and possibly months.

29 December
The sling comes off in a few days, but it will be a week or so before the dressing and plaster come off and the stitches removed but I will have very limited use for about a month and it will be longer before I can drive or do strenuous physical activity - but hopefully back to full activity for the spring.

John Austin

Hove, December 2023

Friday 5 January 2024

Life on The Weald - November 2023

Life on The Weald - November 2023

- and distractions

1 November
November started with a rainy morning and a maximum temperature of 14C with the wind getting up in the afternoon and after Storm Agnes and Babet, in previous months, we were advised that Ciarán was due to strike that evening.

2 November 
The wind was very strong in the night and a lot of the beach ended up on the promenade

4 November
The strong winds persisted although there was little damage from Ciarán in the south east compared to the rest of the country.

4 November - Hove beach

5 November
The damage on the allotment was minimal.  Most of the covering on our derelict greenhouse had been blown away and the panels for our replacement shed had blown over but everything else was intact.

5 November - greenhouse

5 November - the shed

We found a good home for the Halloween pumpkins - the compost tumbler. They look happy there.

5 November - farewell Halloween

After a stormy night, it was a bright clear day and I lifted some of the Jerusalem artichokes

5 November - Artichokes

5 November - Artichokes

The broccoli was growing taller than the cage so i raised the netting to accommodate it.

6 November
Sylvia began to re-cover the greenhouse (which is just used as a storage area) and deal with invading brambles whilst I raised the netting over the kalettes which, like the broccoli, had outgrown the cage.

raising the netting over the kalettes

In raising the netting, I disturbed the whitefly which flew around in clouds.  I decided to spray all the brassicas with an emulsion of natural oil and water with a little added soap.

I had a plentiful supply of fresh farmyard manure that our grandson, Jerome, had delivered from our allotment shop and I spread some of this on the raised beds where the onions will go in the spring. 

I am supposed to be shedding responsibilities in retirement but have recently taken on the role of communications officer on the Allotment Association Committee and am responsible for its website and social media. 

fresh manure

the onion beds

The newly sown broad beans were just beginning to germinate, so for a protection against slugs and snails I sprinkled a mixture of crushed eggshells and coffee grounds on the bed.

Broad beans beginning to sprout

I then cleared another raised bed of weeds, by hand weeding, (no digging) and laid cardboard ready for a layer of manure.

8 November
At home on a cold, dreary November day, I was wondering what to do with tromboncinos.  We have tried them roasted, in risotto, in soups, with pasta - and then I remembered I had a recipe for a Courgette Lemon Drizzle Cake so I decided to try it using tromboncino instead and I'm pleased to say it worked well.

Tromboncino Lemon Drizzle Cake

11 November
Jerome delivered another 3 barrow loads of manure, Sylvi continued to tackle invading brambles and I dismantled the bean and cucumber frames.

more manure

the old climbing bean frame

At home we decided to try one of the Crown Prince squashes

Crown Prince squash

The broad beans that we had sown in modules had sprouted and would soon be ready for plantiong out.
Broad beans

12 November
Taking advantage of the sunny weather I hand weeded another of the raised beds laid cardboard and covered with manure.

hand weeded raised bed

raised bed with layer of cardboard and manure

We harvested some red cabbage and beetroots...

red cabbage and beetroots

..... and I picked the remaining tromboncinos.

My efforts to tame the tromboncino!

13-18 November
13th and 14th were bright sunny days and ideal for gardening but unfortunately I was otherwise engaged!  The following days were not so good but I was still busy with non-allotment issues and at the weekend my eldest grandson, Felix, and his partner came down for the weekend as Felix was running the Brighton 10k on the Sunday.  It was a tough run with some rain and howling gale force winds.

Felix flying home

A first 10k for Felix

24 - 25 November
It had previously escaped my notice, but one of the trailing Crown Prince  squashes had attached itself to a low branch on the apple tree and had climbed up about two metres!  Now that the tree had lost its leaves, I discovered that the squash had fruited and there was a large one lodged in the branches!

Crown Prince  in the apple tree

Crown Prince  in the apple tree

With some difficulty I rescued the squash from apple tree...

Squash safely landed!

... and having got it home, it weighed in at a magnificent 4.5kg

4.5kg Squash

I sowed some more broad beans directly into a raised bed - you can never have too many and they freeze well. 

26 November
I continued weeding around currant bushes and where the red cabbages had grown.  I had intended to plant out the broad beans grown in pots at home but at midday the rain came down and I left the beans for another day.  Heavy rain continued for the nexty couple of days.

29 November
At last there was a brtight clear sunny morning which enabled me to plant out the pot-grown broad beans

30 November
The last day of the month was also dry but the temperature dropped to zero overnight and by mid-morning it was only 3C in the morning and cloudy and I decided to stay at home in the warm!

John Austin

Hove, November 2023