Sunday, 15 May 2022

Life on The Weald, April 2022

Life on The Weald - Plot 247

(and out and about) - April 2022

A few days away at the beginning of the month................

Parque Natural de las Salinas de Santa Pola - 3 April

We returned from our brief break on 7 April and thankfully all the seedlings indoors  at home had survived.  We had been worried that everything on the allotment might dry out as rising temperatures had been predicted, with no rain expected. Whilst we had been away, however, temperatures had fallen with some heavy frosts on occasion.  There had been snow in many parts of the UK and Hove had experienced sleet and strong winds.  The following day I went to review the possible damage at the allotment.

Fortunately, the broad beans had withstood the wind and the autumn sown ones were in full flower.  The only real damage was to the Duke of York first early potatoes which appeared to have been caught by the frost.  This is how they looked when we left them a fortnight earlier:

Duke of York 17 March


...and this is what they looked like on our return


Duke of York - 10 April

The wind or the frost had blackened and killed off some of the leaf growth but thankfully there were signs of new growth.  I think the mulch of grass cuttings that we had applied last month might have helped their survival.

We gave the potatoes a good watering and earthed them up hoping the Duke of York would recover.  The later planted Nicola & Charlotte  did not appear to have been affected by the weather.

There was a lot of rhubarb waiting to be picked.

8 April - rhubarb

The peas were coming along nicely altough there were some gaps. 

Mangetout peas - 8 April

I sowed some more mange-tout in some guttering at home so that I could fill the gaps later.  Some of the spinach was going to seed but there was lots to harvest and we were also able to pick a good supply of purple sprouting broccoli.

There was also the first sign of blossom on the plum trees

Plum tree in blossom - 8 April

The temperature was not wonderful the following week. On 19 April the temperature rose to 15C, but with a chilly wind, and was down to 6/7C at night.

I did take a risk, however, of planting out some patty pan squashes as I was running out of space at home and in our mini-greenhouse in the garden.  We also managed to pick five spears of asparagus and a good supply of the last of the broccoli.

At home I sowed some Crown Prince squash in pots but discovered I only had two seeds left from last year, so will have to buy some more seeds or buy some plants from the garden centre - unless someone on the allotment has some spares.  I also sowed one giant pumpkin seed.  We are limiting ourselves to one plant this year as we had a surfeit last year - and still have one at home!

One of last year's pumpkins

The autumn sown broad beans were now in full flower and, fingers crossed 🤞, are free of blackfly.

Autumn sown broad beans in flower -10 April

Autumn sown broad beans in flower -10 April

At home the front garden was a riot of colour with tulips and anemones

Tulips at home in April

Anemones in the front garden - April 2022

In the backgarden the Snowbells seemed to have taken over a corner of the garden.   

Although it has been with us since the 1700s, the Snowbell (Allium triquetrium) is classified as a non-native species in England and Wales and since it can outcompete native spring plants such as primroses and violets, it is illegal to plant it in the wild (Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act)  It appears to have taken over one of our border beds and has now spread to the lawn! But it is very attractive and All parts of the plant are edible (leaves, roots, flowers): it has an oniony/garlic smell and tastes like chives or young spring onions. The flowers look very attractive in salads or as a garnish.  It is also known as “three cornered leek” (the leaves in cross-section are triangular), “onion grass” and “onion weed”.  It  tastes like chives or young spring onions. The flowers look very attractive in salads or as a garnish.

Snowbells


Snowbell flower

At home, the spare Charlotte potatoes, planted in a growbag have just appeared above the surface.


Although I have managed to increase the "no dig" areas on the allotment, there is a long way to go.  I had allowed the area where the brassicas are to go to become somewhat overgrown in the autumn but had largely cleared it of perennial weeds and had emptied one of the compost bins on the area and had left the pile over the winter.  On 16 April I spread the pile and begun to lightly fork it in. 

Preparing the brassica bed

This year's brassica bed

Last year's Rainbow Chard had survive the winter and was puttig on new growth but was showing signes that it was about to go to seed.  Neverthe less there will be pickings for some weeks to come.  Some of it was self-seeded - often in inconvenient places - so it will have to be removed but whilst it is still producing leaves, I am happy for it to remain.

19 April - Rainbow chard


More Rainbow chard

We were away for a few days towards the end of the month and when we returned on 29 April we were pleased to see that we could probably look forward to a good crop of broad beans but sad to see that the blackfly had arrived.  Usually the autumn sown crop matures before the blackfly arrive - not this year it seems!

29 April - the first Broad beans

29 April - the dreaded blackfly

Blackfly on our broad beans

We are trying to avoid the use of pesticides, so I started by hosing down the plants to wash off as many blackfly as possible and then sprayed the plants with soapy water, including the underside of leaves.  I had read that the addition of a few drops of pungent natural oil such as rosemary, peppermint or clove oil to the spray was effective - apparently almost any natural oil will do.  I had some mustard oil in the kitchen cupboard which we use in Indian cuisine, so added a few drops.  So far it appears to have been effective.

On the last day of April, I noticed that the redcurrant bushes were fruiting so the time has come to repair the cage and replace the netting if we are not to lose the entire crop to the birds.

30 April - redcurrants

30 April - redcurrants

The potatoes seem OK, particularly the Nicola and Charlotte second earlies. The First Early Duke of York, which were planted perhaps a bit too early have not yet fully recovered from the late frosts, but we are still hopeful.

30 April Potatoes: Charlotte & Nicola in foreground

The sugar snap peas were looking good but will need some support - another job for next month!

30 April - Sugar snap peas

It was also time to start thinking about climbing beans and some repairs were needed to the frame.

Preparing a frame for the climbing beans

The planting season was now in full swing and we have picked the last of the purple sprouting broccoli as well as a few more spears of asparagus.  Just hoping that May will see some higher temperatures and that the cool wind will disappear.

John Austin

Hove, April 2022

Monday, 18 April 2022

Life on The Weald - March 2022

 Life on The Weald - March 2022

(and in the Garden)

Hellebores in the front garden 14 March


My first concern on returning home, after almost a fortnight away, was for my tomato seedings and fortunately they had all survived and were looking healthy.

Tomato seedlings indoors - 2 March

A visit to the plot on 3 March revealed little damage as a result of the February storms and all the plants had survived, although the kalette and broccoli stems were all at a jaunty angle as a result of the strong winds.  As expected, our plastic storage box was beyond repair and although the shed had survived, it was already in a poor condition and we had planned to replace it this year.

3 March - Broad Beans (Aquadulce)

November sown Broad Beans flowering


The garlic was looking healthy, both the Vallelado, planted in November and the Eden Rose, planted in January

Eden Rose Garlic (planted January) - 3 March 

Vallelado Garlic (planted November) - 3 March

The Mehnir shallots were also showing signs of growth and should be ready for harvesting in August/September.

 Mehnir Shallots (planted January) - 3 March

There was a good crop of purple sprouting broccoli to be picked.

3 March Purple sproting broccoli

3 March - a good head of PSB

3 March - Broccoli harvest

We removed one of the covers from the ruhubarb and were able to harvest a crop of well over 1/2 kilo and leave sufficient for another picking.  We decided to leave the other cover on for a few more days.

Forced rhubarb - 3 March


On Sunday 6 March I decided to plant a second row of Duke of York potatoes. 

6 March - second row of  Red Duke of York

Conventional advice is  that the the date for planting Red Duke of York potato seed should be calculated on the basis that seed potatoes will take four weeks before they appear above ground. Given that you want them to appear above ground only when the danger of frost has passed (the last week of April is the UK average) the last week of March is considered about the right time to plant them.  I took into account that we are in the south east of England, one of the mildest areas, that most historical advice has not taken global rising temperatures into account and past experience of early planting.  I planted one row of Duke of York as early as February and the second row, one month later.  If there is any threat of frost after the foliage appears, I will earth them up i.e. cover with soil.


Sylvi provided me with some good compost from the wormeries and I spread this over the area where the next lot of potatoes will go.

6 March - compost from wormery

Loads of happy worms - 6 March

On Monday 7 March I took a further risk and planted a row of Nicola First Early potatoes. 

Nicola on the left, 2 rows of Red Duke of York on the right

I also removed the covers from the rhubarb

Forced rhubarb - covers removed


I directly sowed 3 double rows of peas in raised beds, Oregon Sugar Pod, a mangetout variety, Hurst Green Shaft and Kelvedon Wonder, and covered the beds with sheets of horticultural fleece.  I also sowed a row of mixed varieties of "Rainbow" beetroot. 

The following day I spent at home and potted on the tomato seedlings which had been growing indoors in trays - these were all beefsteak varieties.

There was also time to make a Rhubarb and Ginger Yoghourt Cake 

Rhubarb and ginger yoghourt cake



On 9 March I planted out a row of Charlotte First Early potatoes. There was no evidence that the parsnip seeds I had sown a month earlier had germinated so, the following day, I bought a small tray of seedlings from the local garden centre and planted these out where the seeds had been sown.  I also sowed some boltardy beetroot.

I have not had much success with carrots in previous years but on 12 March I sowed some Carrot Flyaway F1 in a container hoping that theu will be at a sufficient height to avoid carrot fly.  The Flyaway variety is said to have low levels of the chemical that attracts carrot fly.  We shall see! 

We continued to harvest the forced rhubarb on a regular basis but with the covers removed have left the rest to nature.

The last of the forced rhubarb

At home we were beginning to see signs of germination.....

13 March - Kalettes

And the Basket of Fire  which had been grown in the open last year and potted up and brought indoors in the autumn was now flowering. 

13 March - Basket of Fire

Whilst this year's kalettes were germinating, we were still picking many from last year's crop.
13 March - harvested kalettes

14 March 
At home I had some garlic cloves left over from earlier planting so I have now planted these in a container in the garden.  I have also sown some mangetout peas in a length of guttering in the garden and several varieties of Basil in pots on the kitchen windowsill. I had a packet of Sweet Pea patio mix left over from last year and sowed these in a container in the garden. Instructions are to sow indoors from January to April or from mid-April outdoors as they are most likely to germinate with temperatures of 13-15C.  As it was a sunny day and 12C with temperatures in the next week predicted to be above 13C I decided to take the risk.
I also had some Jacaranda  seeds that I brought home from Spain last year so sowed a few in pots indoors.

In the garden, the true Quince, Serbian Gold, that I had planted in the autumn was beginning to come into leaf.

Quince - Serbian Gold - 14 March

On the plot there was still plenty of purple sprouting broccoli to be harvested.

Purple sprouting broccoli - 17 March

Purple sprouting broccoli - 17 March

The Duke of York  potatoes were beginning to show so I earthed them up slightly.  I had cut the lawn at home for the first time this year and I used the grass mowings to provide a mulch for the potatoes.  No rain is forecast over the next week and it has been very warm and sunny, so the ground is very dry.  The mulch will help conserve water.

Duke of York potatoes on St Patrick's Day

Two days later, I spotted a Peacock butterfly and what I think was a Tortoiseshell competing for the nectar on a dandelion, but the Peacock won and the other flew off and I couldn't be sure if I had identified it correctly.

19 March - two butterflies and a dandelion

19 March

It is certainly a colourful time of year


In the front garden, the tulips were just beginning to flower

Tulips - 22 March

Things were also happening in the animal world - frogs had been busy as there was now a lot of frogspawn in the pond.

Frogspawn - 22 March

And the worms in our wormeries had also been busy, producing lots of compost which I spread in some of the rasised beds.

Worm compost - -24 March

I was beginning to lose track of what I had sown or planted - I had some scribbled notes but decided to get more organised and created a table:


Sowing schedule March 2022

Date

Seeds

Indoors/

Outside

Seedlings/plants

Expected date for harvest

6/3

 

Outside

Potatoes

Red Duke of York (chitted)

 

7/3

Peas

Oregon sugar pod

Outside

 

 

 

7/3

Peas

Kelvedon Wonder

Outside

 

 

7/3

Peas

Hurst Green Shaft

Outside

 

 

7/3

 

Outside

Potatoes

Nicola (chitted)

 

7/3

Beetroot – Rainbow

Outside

 

 

8/3

Tomatoes

Yellow Perfection

Indoors

 

July/September

8/3

Tomatoes

Chocolate  Cherry

Indoors

 

July/September

8/3

Tomatoes

Crazon F1

Indoors

 

July/September

8/3

 

Indoors

Tomatoes

Tres Cantos

Potted on

July/September

8/3

 

Indoors

Tomatoes

Super Mama

Potted on

July/September

8/3

 

Indoors

Tomatoes

Marmande

Potted on

July/September

8/3

Kalettes (mixed)

Indoors

 

October/March

8/3

Cavolo Nero

Indoors

 

October/March

9/3

Purple sprouting broccoli

Santee

Indoors

 

September/March

9/3

Purple sprouting broccoli

Rudolph

Indoors

 

October/April

10/3

Beetroot – Boltardy

Outside

 

 

12/3

Carrots – Flyaway F1

Outside

In container

 

July/October

12/3

 

 

Potatoes

Charlotte (chittted)

 

14/3

 

 

Garlic – Vallelado

In patio container

 

14/3

Peas – Mangetout

Sweet Horizon

Outside

In rainwater guttering

 

June/July

 

15/3

 

Butternut Squash

Hawk F1

 

Indoors

 

September/October

15/3

Butternut Squash

Harrier F1

Indoors

 

September/November

15/3

Sweet Peas – mixed

Outside

Patio pot

 

Flower June/September

15/3

Tomatoes

Summerblast

Indoors

 

July/October

15/3

Basil – Red Rubin

Indoors

 

July/October

15/3

Basil – Thai

Indoors

 

July/October

15/3

Basil - Lemon

Indoors

 

July/October

23/3

 

 

Asparagus

Pacific Purple

Gijnlim

Connover’s Colossal

Next year (April/June)

or 2024

23/3

 

 

Little gem lettuce

 

23/3

 

 

Jerusalem Artichoke

Fuseau

4/6 weeks after flowering

23/3

 

 

Potatoes

Salad Blue (chitted)

September


Having got everything in order it was time for our trip to Spain.  I watered the allotment in case there was no rain in the following week and i put al the pots with seedlings in bowls or trays of water, hoping that they would survive.  There is nothing more that I can do except cross my fingers and hope.

John Austin

Hove, March 2022