Saturday 10 December 2022

Life on The Weald - November 2022

Life on the Weald - November 2022

and in the kitchen and garden

1 November - Storm Claudio arrives in Hove

The month started with temperatures still above the seasonal average but very, very wet and with storm winds as Storm Claudio struck Brighton and Hove.

Ther was a break in the rain on 2 November so a visit to the plot was needed to check on any damage.  The table and chairs had been scattered and the storage box which had been damaged in earlier storms is probably now a write-off.

2 November

2 November

2 November

On Friday 4 November there was a brief respite from the wind and rain. I planted out the broad bean seedings (Aquadulce) that I had grown at home and sowed some more directy into the soil. I aso planted some more red winter onions where the patty pan squashes had been.

Broad beans

red winter onions

The Aquadulce broad beans sown in October and the garlic had survived the storm quite well.

Broad beans and garlic

I also lifted the last Charlotte potatoes

Last of Charlotte potatoes

Over the weekend the rain and high winds well into into Monday.  Rain was forecast al day for Tuesday 8 but there was a brief period of sunshine around mid-day

Friday 11 I planted more broad beans (Bunyard's Exhibition) in the space next to the parsnips. Normally, at this time of year, I sow Aquadulce as I find these the best for autumn sowing but everywhere seemed to be sold out and Bunyard's can be sown either in the autumn or February-March.

Saturday 12 I cleared weeds from the second hugel bed ready to sow more broad beans but we had a relative staying for the weekend so it was a brief spell on the plot. It was a glorious weekend, misty mornings followed by sunshine and blue skies. On Sunday morning we had a stroll around Devil's Dyke on the South Downs.....

13 November - A misty morning at Devil's Dyke

13 November - Sun breaking through on the South Downs

13 November - a stroll through Devil's Copse

.....and a drive through West Sussex country lanes and then to Worthing.

13 November - Herring gulls on Worthing beach

Monday 14 was a bright autumn day which would have been ideal for work on the plot but instead we had another day out in the East Sussex countryside.  Before leaving, however, we did manage to clear the front path area at home of fallen leaves before visiting Birling Gap and East Dean....

Looking East from Birling Gap

Severn Sisters from Birling Gap

.... and then watched the sun setting at Rottingdean beach before heading home.

Sunset Rottingdean beach

On arriving home I collected more fallen leaves - in total I now had 7 large sacks, full and ready for use as a mulch and to compost.  As the weather was good I was planning to plant some more broad beans on Tuesday 15 once our visitor had left, but the return of heavy rain and gusty winds kept me at home.

Wednesday 16 was another wet, windy day, but around 11am the rain stopped and the sun came out, so I dashed to the allotment with my 7 bags of leaves, 2 sacks of dead tomato plants and other green material from the garden and 3 caddies of vegetable kitchen waste for the worms.  I also hoped to sow some more broad beans, but as soon as I had unloaded the sacks of leaves the sun disappeared, the clouds returned and as I added the kitchen waste to the wormery, the rain came down with a vengeance and I was back home by midday, somewhat wet, only one hour after setting off.

At last on Thursday 17 I managed to sow two double rows of Broad Beans (Bunyard's Exhibition) in the second Hugel bed. I also planted out some remaining shallots (Jermor).  On Friday 18 I added some of my autumn leaves to the compost bins and the rest I spread on the vacant Hugel bed (where 2023 brassicas will be planted).

Applying a layer of autumn leaves

Everything looked well - until I inspected the leeks.  The bad news - the dreaded allium leaf miner had struck.

Leeks infected with allium leaf miner

Saturday 19 I began to tackle the problem of raspberries invading the rhubarb bed and the asparagus.  This did involve a lot of digging out of the invasive roots and also removing quite a lot of bindweed.  In this process, I was lifting bluebell corms and daffodil bulbs that would need replanting in f
ront of the rhubarb, by the public footpath.

In this crazy climate, the rhubarb was already sending out fresh shoots.  I covered the whole area with a thick mulch of autumnal leaves after replanting the bluebells and daffodils.

The temperature was now definitely dropping to a more seasonal daily 10C but, with strong winds, it felt more like 6C.  There was a great joint effort on Sunday 20.  Armed with a chain saw, Sylvi's son, Luke, set about removing the lower branches on our very old apple tree which enables us to tackle the brambles that were engulfing them.  We also began to remove some of the plum trees - we have a dozen and really only need two or three.  Sylvi was busy tackling the brambles and also laying a tarpaulin over the large Hugel bed which had been covered with another layer of leaves.  Sylvi managed to buy some organic Super Aquadulce broad beans at the allotment shop and I returned later in the day to sow two double rows in the bed that had grown the patty pan squashes. I put a layer of mature compost between the double rows of broad beans and planted out the remaining Electric Red Onions.  I put a layer of grass clippings over the area where the beans had been sown and then covered the bed with fleece.

The following week remained very wet with a daytime temperature around 10-11C with very strong winds. There was a brief respite on Friday 25 when I made brief visit to plant some more daffodils. It was black Friday (another American tradition that has found its way into the UK) and our local Homebase was selling daffodil bulbs at halfprice with a large bag reduced from £5 to £2.50.  I couldn't resist so I started to clear the area by the redcurrants, at the front of the plot, from invading couch grass and bindweed to plant the bulbs.  Daffodils are among the first plants to flower and bring a warm feeling that spring is at last on its way.   The respite was shortlived, however, and the rain returned.  

I had planned a long session on the plot for Sunday as the forecast had been good but there was a sudden change and heavy rain was predicted all day so I took advantage of a clear period on Saturday 26 and made a brief visit to pick some Cavolo Nero, which was healthy and abundant, and lift some of the remaining leeks, most of which had to be discarded due to the allium leaf miner.  I did manage to sow the remaining broad beans and covered with a mulch of leaves and wood chips before covering with fleece.

Mulch covering a further sowing of Aquadulce

26 November - Broad beans showing through

The beans which had been sown at home and planted out were looking rather battered by the strong winds.  

I had a chat with one of my near neighbours, Steve, who kindly offered to transport 3 wheelbarrow loads of manure/compost from the site shop for me.  I had also collected a lot of green material, mostly tomato plants, from Luke that morning which I added to the tumble compostor which is over half full.  I think I will now stop adding to it to let it mature and start a new compost bin.

The weather forecast was accurate and Sunday 27 was another very wet miserable day. One note of cheer was that the Cavolo nero picked the day before was excellent and had done surprisingly well this year.

freshly picked Cavolo nero

Sadly the rain clouds persisted all day on Monday with intemittent heavy rain and a top temperature of 11C.  The month ended as it began with very heavy rain.  After the dry summer the rain was very much needed but we hope the weather in December will be a little drier and more stable.

John Austin

Hove, November 2022