Friday 1 September 2023

Life on The Weald - July 2023

Life on The Weald, July 2023

 1 July

The month began with rain in the early morning and the rest of the day was dreary, cloudy and overcast, but I did venture out to plant some leeks that had kindly been given to me by a neighbour.

2 July
I replaced the purple sprouting broccoli and the Brussels sprouts with some spare seedlings that I had saved.  Although the plants had suffered from both changeable weather and pests, the weeds were thriving!

I shouldn't use the term weeds. Weeds are basically wild flowers and plants that are growing where you don't want them, otherwise they're just flowers or plants!  We have a number of wild flowers which self-seed and provided they're not harming a vegetable patch they are probably helping the general health and balance of the plot by being food for insects such as bees and butterflies which may be useful for pollination or keeping unwanted pests under control.  Our "weeds" include wild mustard, blistery ox tongue, Ragwort (stinking Willie) and of course dandelions and groundsel.

Wild mustard

Blistery Ox-tongue

Stinking Willie

In the herb garden, many of the herbs were flowering and, hopefully, will attract the bees.

Thyme in full flower

And there was an abundance of apples.  The heavily laden branches were weighed down and encroaching on the vegetable cage below.


3 July
I set out for the plot with all good intentions but, almost there, turned round and  returned home due to a sudden downpour of rain. The rest of Europe seemed to be experiencing a long dry heatwave, but not in Hove!

4 July
I planted out some more Blue Lake climbing French beans to replace the ones that had been eaten or died and directly sowed some more.  In an attempt to control the growth of grass and annual weeds, I strimmed around the raised beds, but with all this rain, it's a losing battle!   Today should have been Wimbledon but it was a washout but we were fortunate to have only light showers in Hove.

At home the hydrangea was now in full flower.


5 July
At home I had a couple of months of "no-mow" and several flowers had self seeded, or had survived previous mowings, including the dandelion-like, but more elegant, flatweed.



7/8 July
The Globe thistles on my neighbour's plot were looking magnificent and were a magnet for bees.
Globe thistle

I sowed some more purple French beans, Teepee, and boltardy beetroot. I removed some of the Chard plants that were going to seed.  We collected as many of the good leaves as possible but the rest went straight to the compost bin.

9 July
I was busy in the morning with the Big swim in aid of the local hospital Friends - not in the water!  I was helping out with the organising on the beach and remained firmly on dry land. The actor Kirsten Callaghan was one of the participants.  She had starred as Merecedes Gleitze  in the film Vindication Swim. Mercedes, born in Brighton, was the first woman to swim the Straits of Gibraltar and the first British woman to swim the English Channel.  The film was written and directed by one of my neighbours, a very talented 23 year old, Elliott Hasler.

In the afternoon I managed a visit to the plot to tie up the cucumbers - they didn't seem to know they were supposed to climb and had trailed along the ground.

Ridge cucumbers

The English, outdoor ridge varieties were doing well but the Spanish, pepinos, were still only tiny seedlings.  I also tried to train one of the squashes over a frame.

An attempt to train a squash

10 July
I lifted some of the red onions and took them home to ripen and removed some of the new raspberry canes that had invaded the raised beds on the western boundary of our plot but I know they will be back.   It was a relatively dry day with light cloud.

10 July looking east

10 July looking west

The Cavolo nero was looking very healthy and was much earlier than usual.  It tastes better after the first frosts, but I can't wait that long; and the beauty of this variety of kale is that it is "cut and come again". Picking the outer, lower leaves encourages new growth.

Cavolo nero 

13 July
Following the Allotment Association AGM I have been given the task of updating the alllotment association website, WAGA which has been neglected for two years, so I took some new photos, including the site shop, to add to the website.

Inside the site shop
I checked on my squashes and was pleased to see that, with the recent rain, the Crown Prince had put on a lot of growth.

Crown Prince squash

15 July
There was a weather warning and winds of 50-60mph were predicted so I made sure the tarpaulin covering the old greenhouse was secure, but fortunately we were spared the full force of the winds.

16 July
I lifted the red onions, Electric and Winter Red - the Electric variety were on average larger, so I will certainly grow them again.

Electric onion and a size 9 (43) shoe!

Onions drying on the garden table

17 July
It was also time to lift the shallots.

Shallots ripening

18 July
Having lifted the onions it was time to start sorting them - some for immediate use and the larger ones to store.
Onions ready to be stored

At the end of June, I stood down as a Trustee of the London Marathon Charitable Trustafter 27 years and 11 months on the Board, far longer than is recommended by the Charity Commission!  It was a real privilege to have been part of the journey that the London Marathon has been on - not only is it the best marathon in the world but its runners have ensured its place in the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest one-day charitable fundraising event.  Last year the runners themselves raised over £60 million for good causes, and any trading surplus from the Marathon itself is gift-aided to the Trust (now the London Marathon Foundation) which to date has made grants of over £100 million for community sporting and recreational activity.

In recognition of my long service I was kindly given a garden bench, which I have just assembled, and screwed on the inscription plate. I now need to decide where it goes in the garden.

21 July
I picked some yellow tomatoes and chilli peppers grown in the garden in pots.

Yellow Perfection tomatoes

Home grown chillies

22 July
I began to lift some of the Nicola second early potatoes and was pleased to see that we had ladybirds.  They appear to be the 7 spotted variety, the most common in Europe, and their main diet is aphids, which is why they are popular with gardeners.

7 spotted ladybird

Nicola potatoes

Nicola potatoes

23 July
I spent some time tidying up on the allotment and storing the onions at home. Sylvi had a great idea for hanging and storing them in old tights.

Onions ready for storing

25 July
In the morning, I took Sylvi to the hospital for her long awaited hip replacement operation and, apart from visiting, spent the next few days at home getting ready for her discharge and the arrival of visitors at the weekend!

26 July
I harvested some tomatoes from the containers in the garden and watered the plants.  Early morning is the best time for watering tomatoes, aiming for the base and avoiding the leaves.  The advantage of early morning watering is that any splashes on the leaves or stem will soon evaporate, reducing the risk of fungal growth.

A selection of ripening tomatoes

27 July
I found a space to hang the garlic and the onions in the garden workshop.



Onions safely stored

28 July
Sylvi was home from hospital in the evening (on crutches) and the following day nephews, neices, great-nephews and great-neices arrived, together with neice's in-laws, for their summer Hove holiday! So there will be little work in the garden or on the allotment for a few days - and the family had brought the bad weather with them from Sheffield!

30 July
A brief respite from the rain and an opportunity to try out my new bench - I need the rest as there is so much work to be done next month.

Time for a rest!
John Austin

Hove, July 2023