Life on The Weald - August 2023
and in and around Hove
We've just gone through the driest May, the hottest June and the wettest July! It's a miracle anything has survived. But I can't sit around thinking what might have been, there is work to be done for the next season! But not until the visitors have gone.
Of course there is the obligatory visit to Marrocco's whenever guests are with us!
I managed to fit in a brief visit to the plot, which was just as well as there were cucumbers to be picked!
|Outdoor grown ridge cucumbers
The garlic chives were now in full flower and a great attraction for bees.
Between showers I managed to take our guests to Shoreham and a visit to see the quirky houseboats.
Size isn't everything! It's the flavour that counts. Fortunately our English ridge cucumbers and the smaller Spanish pepinos are full of flavour.
|English and Spanish cucumbers
Today was more like summer with the temperature above 20C and sunny. I planted out some lettuce seedlings that I had grown from seed, covering them with bottle cloches to protect them from slugs/snails and also put cloches over the few beetroot that had survived. There was still a plentiful supply of purple French beans to be harvested. And at home we were picking cherry tomatoes every day.
|9 August - Cherry tomatoes from the garden
The larger varieties seemed to be doing well but far too many were being attacked by snails and once the skin is broken, wood lice make their home in the hole! Sylvi has suggested that next year, apart from removing the lower leaves and branches, I should put vaseline on the stems. One of the problems, however, is that several are growing up against the garden fence which the snails can use to climb up. Thankfully we have been able to harvest a few by picking them as soon as they start to change colour and continue ripening indoors.
|9 August - Marmande tomatoes
On the plot the red cabbages (Drumhead) looked very healthy. I have not grown red cabbage before and was not sure when to harvest them. I looked it up and found that they mature app 100 days after planting and the seed catalogues say that spring sown cabbages can be harvested from late summer. They can be left in the ground for a while but if left too long they may get hard and woody and there is a risk of splitting - and the familiar threat from slugs and snails.
|9 August - red cabbage (drumhead)
The Crown Prince squashes are looking good but need to be left until the foliage has died back. If they are to be stored, they will need to be left until the stem, where the fruit is attached, has dried out completely.
The apple tree is laden this year and some of the branches are now touching the ground and others are resting on the vegetable cage where the broccoli is growing. Some heavy pruning will be needed in the autumn.
10- 11 August
At home, the winter savory was in full flower and attracting the honey bees.
Saturday 12 August was a very windy, blustery day. Sunday was sunny but still with very strong winds, but it was then a very dull, wet day on Monday.
In the garden, I spotted a red-underwing moth, sleeping/resting. Their camouflage is excellent - but not when they are sleeping on a white window sill. So I woke it up to encourage it to find somewhere more protected to spend the rest of the daylight hours.
If we had been in Spain, it would have been a public holiday with lots of fireworks! As it was Spanish weather here at home we decided to have a holiday too and a little trip into foreign parts - West Sussex. Not quite Santa Pola, but the view from Worthing towards Brighton and the Seven Sisters was a little reminiscent of the view across the bay from Guardamar.
|A view from Worthing
It was a clear day with a good view of the Rampion wind farm.
|The Rampion wind farm
On our way back, we stopped off at the New Port Inn, formerly the Pebble on the Beach, at Southwick which had undergone a pleasant makeover, but sadly the food did not impress.
|The New Port Inn
|Shoreham port and marina
The evening, saw the return of our regular fox on the plot.
Sadly, the Corazon tomatoes are showing signs of blossom end rot and a number of plotholders have reported the same. The usual cause is lack of calcium but it can be made worse by irregular watering drying out and too much fertiliser/nitrogen both of which may prevent calcium being absorbed. Although there is nothing you can do to save fruits that are already affected, the parts not affected are still edible and you can prevent new fruits being affected by giving a calcium boost and keeping the soil moist. I have added crushed eggshells to the soil and also ground some very finely in a coffee grinder and mixed with water to apply around the roots. Foliar sprays containing calcium are not recommended as most will be taken up by the leaves and not reach to fruit. Dampening the leaves can also encourage fungal growth.
|Blossom end rot
|Blossom end rot
As blossom end rot is physiological, ie nutrient deficiency, and not a disease, the plants can be composted at the end of the season.
Our French beans had a bad start with the early sown ones being destroyed by drought, slugs and snails and rodents but I had re-sown and re-planted successively in the hope of defeating the enemy. The result is that we have fewer plants than usual or intended, but those that have survived produced heavy crops.
We have been picking the dwarf purple French beans (Teepee) almost every day for a couple of weeks and now the climbing beans, Blue Lake and Cobra are producing prolifically.
|Purple French beans - Teepee
We have also had a few early plums, but there are now masses ripening.
We picked some of the early ripe plums and although a few had been infected with plum moth, the majority were either pest free or had limited damage.
|Early crop of plums
In addition to plums and beans we also harvested Cavolo nero, cucumber and more tomatoes.
Apart from the French beans, the Borlotti were doing well. At home we have just finished the dried crop from 2021 - cooked with our Cavolo nero in a delicious Tuscan Ribollita . There are so many recipes on the internet that you can follow any of them - or as we do, make it up as you go along. Often we leave out the stale bread and just have the soup served with fresh crusty bread - not authentic but delicious.
|Borlotti beans ripening
|Climbing French beans, Blue Lake
|Cobra, Teepee & Blue Lake beans and courgette
|More ripe plums
|an unknown squash
But we will be picking courgettes (some of marrow size) cucumbers and Frencxh beans for days to come.
It was time to do something with the plums, apart from putting some in the freezer; we decided on an upside-down plum cake.
Good news on my birthday! Whilst some of the Marmande tomatoes have fed the slugs and woodlice, a number have survived and have ripened on the vine. Others we have picked after they have started to turn colour and will ripen them indoors.
Once tomatoes have begun to change colour and the ripening process has started they are no longer needing to feed from the plant and chemical processes have started, with the production of ethylene, to ripen them. Once picked, putting them in proximity to a ripe banana (which also gives off ethylene) will hasten the ripening process.
I took a stroll to the local shops and there were amazing cloud formations.
|Amesbury Crescent, Hove - 21 August
|Portland Road, Hove - 21 August
There was more produce to harvest......
|more cucumbers, beans and plums
....and I had also given the composter a lick of paint, ready for the winter.
We were still picking tomatoes daily - especially the cherry ones - faster than we can eat them (despite giving loads away)
The Habanero chilli peppers were also doing well in the garden.
Yet another upside-down plum cake 😄
The Borlotti beans were looking better every day......
A simple open sandwich with fresh tomato....
We made a delicious open tomato "tart/pizza" using cherry tomatoes on home made flatbread.
In the evening we saw our fox. Her fur still showed signs of mange but she was surviving and hopefully our feeding her with garlic has helped.
Our tromboncinos were also doing well.
I spent some time on the much long awaited pond clearing. It had become choked with couch grass, which I removed with a rake, but unless I clear the surrounding area of couch grass and bindweed, it will be a continuing problem. So I made a start.
The month ended with a Supermoon (i.e. when the Moon is at the closest point in its orbit to the earth coinciding with a full moon) making the moon appear larger and brighter than usual. But this was not just a Supermoon; it was also a Blue Moon which occurs about every 2 - 2.5 years (hence the expression once in a blue moon) when there are two full moons in the same month. So this was a Super Blue Moon which won't happen again until 2037!
After a very clear night, the month ended with more rain and it was a very cool 15C!
It felt like Autumn was on its way.