Tuesday 9 July 2024

Life on The Weald - May 2024


- and other distractions

We celebrated May Day on a city break in Krakow where the temperature was in the upper twenties during the day - we did visit the famous salt mines to cool off - returning on Friday 3 May

4 May
It seems we brought the sun back with us, as Saturday was a bright sunny day.  At home I sowed some butternut squash, Cobra French climbing beans, Blue Lake French climbing beans, Teepee purple dwarf French beans. I  took the tomato seedlings out of the mini-greenhouse and put them on a table in the hot sunshine. I took them in overnight but they were now getting too tall for the shelves, so would need to be put out permanently soon.

4 May - tomatoes basking in the sunshine

In the garden our Serbia Gold quince, in its third year, was flowering fo rthe first time so I am hopeful that we might get some fruit this year.

4 May - Serbian Gold quince
And on the allotment the broad beans were filling out.

4 May - broad beans

The sweetcorn had germinated and I hope it will be OK, but I planted it later than my neighbours who already have plants in the ground 8-10 inches tall.

4 June - first sign of sweetcorn

5 May
Sunday morning morning started off cloudy but dry with a drop in temperature from Saturday, but I put the tomatoes out again and also peppers from the conservatory, as they need to harden off.  There were new fruits on the Habanero and Cheyenne chillies that I had saved from last year.  I had taken them indoors last autumn.

I was pleased to see the odd bumblebee on the plot.

There was a light drizzle later, but I began to clear the bindweed and couch grass from the brassica patch (where last year’s climbing beans had grown), and then laid cardboard and contents of 3 bottom layers from worm bins.

6 May
A message arrived on the allotment WhatsApp group that a plotholder had dismantled their greenhouse and was disposing of the polycarbonate panels.  It had long been Sylvi's plan to restore our greenhouse which had been devoid of any glass since we took on the plot many years ago.  The only problem was that the rain was absolutely teeming.  But an offer like this was too good to miss though and we were sure the panels would soon be taken.  We braved the weather, got absolutely soaked but we claimed the precious prize.

There had been heavy rain through the night and I received a message on WhatsApp which read “Over night we have had 16.5mm of rain (58mm for whole of April as comparison) Regards Peter the Weatherman”  The ground was waterlogged and I wondered if any of our plants would survive these conditions.

7 May
Tuesday was cloudy with occasional bright sunny periods.  I had bought a strip of Green Shaft peas from the garden centre to replace the Kelvedon Wonder that I had previously sown direct but which had never appeared - either they had been eaten or just rotted in the very wet wweather.

7 May - Green shaft peas planted out

The crop that looked really healthy with all the rain was the potatoes, Red Duke of York first earlies and second early Charlotte.
7 May - potatoes

We had bought the last few remaining Pink Fir apple potatoes at Seedy Sunday and I planted these in a potato growbag .  I then sowed some Cobra climbing beans on the western side of the bean frame, despite there being no sign of the Borlotti previously sown on the eastern side of the frame - but I live in hope!  

I bought some Purple sprouting broccoli plants from a garden centre to replace the ones that I had grown from seed, all of which had been eaten by slugs and snails.  Everyone on the site has had the same problem and we seem to have more slugs and snails than anyone can remember. I strimmed some of the grass that was encroaching the footpath, sowed some basil in a large pot and pulled up lots of goose grass from around the raspberries, which went straight into the compost bin.

8 May
At home I sowed some Kelevedon Wonder peas in trays and also some squashes, courgettes and cucumbers.

10 May
I planted out the chard seedlings which were grown at home and also directly sowed some Boltardy beetroot.

12 May
A neighbour kindly gave me some spare Cavolo Nero seedlings to replace the ones I had lost and I potted these on before planting out.

13 May
The Heavy rain that had been forecast for Monday never arrived but it was a cloudy overcast morning with occasional drizzle.

15 May
Sylvi began the task of cutting the polycarbonate sheets to fit our derelict greenhouse and I created a frame for netting the redcrurrants.

The redcurrants and frame

The redcurrants and frame

At home we seem to have acquired a fox that thinks our garden is its home!

The Weigela and mock orange blossom are in full flower


Philadelphus, mock orange

19 May
On Sunday I planted out some of the squashes, in front of the climbing beans, two courgette plants and a Crown Prince at the back and 2 butternut squash and a Blue Hubbard  at the front.  Blue Hubbard is new to me, and I bought a seedling at the plant sale.  I am told that the Hubbard squash has an extremely hard outer shell and can, therefore, be stored for long periods of time - up to six months. Apparently the green to gray-blue shell isn't edible but the orange flesh inside is said to be delicious and nutritious.

I also planted out the Cavolo Nero  plants that I hade been given, spreading Strulch (mineralised straw) around them to ward off the slugs and snails.  I put plastic bottle cloches over them to protect from pigeons and will soon have to put a net over when the cloches are removed.

There were signs that the Cobra French climbing beans had germinated but no sign yet of the borlotti.

19 May - Cobra - French climbing bean

19 May - Cobra - French climbing beans

19 MaySquashes planted in front of the beans

20 May
Our plans and the weather never seem to be in sync!  We were booked to see the National Theatre performance of Nye at the Depot  in Lewes - not the best day to be indoors as is was one of the the sunniest and hottest days of the year.  Before we went, however, and rather belatedly, I sowed some kalettes in seed trays at home to replace those destroyed by slugs!

21 May
The weather on Tuesday was quite different - early morning drizzle and for the most part a cloudy, overcast day.  We did spend some time on the plot, however, and Sylvi continued her labours to restore the greenhouse. I commenced work on my experimental 3 sisters bed. This is a system iof companion planting - in this case one from indigenous North Americans - and I would be planting sweet corn, climbing beans and squashes.

21 May -preparing the 3 sisters bed

22/23 May
My plans were thwarted on Wednesday by very heavy rain but on Thursday I began to mark out and begin planting the sweet corn for the 3 sisters bed
I mapped out the area according to this plan:

By the afternoon the sun was shining

23 May - looking West

23 May -Looking East

Plot 247b - looking north

23 May - Rainbow Chard

Clearing area for kalettes and purple sprouting broccoli

23 May - Cobra

24 May
On Friday I was pleased to see that 4 tromboncino seeds had germinated. On the plot I continued marking out the 3 sisters bed

24 May - 3 sisters bed

24 May - peas

24 May - red flowered heritage broad beans

Sylvi was making good progress with the greenhouse, which now has a roof!

24 May - The greenhouse - a work in progress

24 May - The greenhouse - a work in progress

24 May - a watertight roof on the greenhouse

The water lily was beginning to flower.... 

24 May - water lily

...and there were lots of broad beans (aquadulce) to be hervested.

24 May - broad beans

25 May
On Saturday I began removing the scapes from the onions before they had a chance to flower.  I left the odd one as the bees seem to be fond of the flowers. Some people throw the scapes away but they are edible and very good for example in stir-fries.  You need to remove the scape so that energy and nutrients go into swelling the bulb and not producing flowers but the drawback is that breaking off the scape can lead to ingress of water which can either cause rot or will result in them not storing so well.  It seems that this year's weather has caused much more of this problem.

25 May - Onion scape

This is very much the broadbean season and there were more to pick.  It is better to pick them young - not only because they taste better but picking encourages more to grow.

25 May - broad beans

There was still chard to be harvested from last year's sowings

25 May - Chard

26 May
Sunday was a glorious sunny day but it was also the last day of
Ride London  and we were off to see the final stage of the Women's Classique
Here's a brief clip from the end of the first of eight laps

and the Finish

27 May
On Monday we began to erect the walk-in fruit cage that Sylvi had bought me for Christmas.  We erected the frame but haven't yet put the netting on. I won't be using it for fruit, however, and once erected I planted out 3 purple sprouting broccoli and my one surviving kalette plant which I had grown from seed.  I also planted out some red cabbage seedlings.  I put plastic bottle cloches over the seedlings and surrounded them with a mulch of strulch to try to ward off slugs and snails.

28-31 May
Tuesday was another cold, wet, windy day with a high temperature of 14C so another day indoors! Wednesday was a cloudy, damp start to the day and we decided on a visit to the garden centre up on the Downs where the sun was shining! I bought 3 outdoor cucumber plants to supplement the three I had grown from seed.

Thursday was another cold wet day and on Friday I did visit the allotment but for a meeting with committee members to discuss our future plans.  We have a bulding on site which houses the Allotment Association Shop and our Community Food Project.  The building has been there for years, is structurally sound but in need of repair but we are a voluntary unincorporated organisation with no proof of ownership.  We have plans to become a incorporated body and take out a formal lease of the building (from the Council who own the land) and refurbish the building for more social and community use - as if maintaining an allotment plot in itself wasn't enough to do!!!

Just hoping for more seasonal weather in June.

John Austin

Hove, May 2024

Friday 24 May 2024

Life on The Weald - April 2024

Life on The Weald - April 2024

and other distractions

1 - 5 April
Easter Monday (1 April) was another rainy day. Our biggest distractions this week are having the builders in to create a cross-over and parking area in the front garden plus a visit from our tree surgeon to drastically pollard the eucalyptus in the back garden and cut back the Leylandii and a day out in London for a visit to the theatre to see Standing at the Sky's Edge.  

2 April - opening the front door!

2 April - That was the garden that was!

Jody, a neighbour at the allotment, had severely pruned her olive tree and I had brought home several branches which, between the other distractions and the rain showers, I managed to put through the shredder. 

The week ended with sunshine which continued into the weekend.

6 - 7 April
It would have been good weather for gardening but it was the Brighton Marathon weekend which kept me away from the allotment.  On Saturday, I joined David Weir for the Start of the various races for the children's and community one mile events in Preston Park.

6 April - The Community Mile

And on Sunday, I was on duty with the presentations for the Brighton 10K and the Brighton Marathon.

7 April - The Winners of Women's Brighton Marathon

Walking along the course, I found volunteers from the Plumstead Runners (my old manor) who had been staffing one of the water stations and I met up with a former running companion, Gina Little, from Greenwich. Gina had just completed the Marathon at the age of 79 and would be running the London Marathon - her 39th London - in a few weeks.  In all she has run more than 600 Marathons! (She was usually faster than me back in the 80s and 90s) and was part of the team that forged links with the runners in Reinickendorf (Greenwich's twin town in Berlin), a link that continues to this day, and we had run several Berlin Marathons together.

7 April - Hove seafront with Gina Little

I had been joined at the Brighton Finish by my grandson, Felix, who had been due to run the 10k as part of his preparations for the London Marathon, but had to withdraw due to a knee injury sustained the previous month in the Kingston 20miles.

7 April - with Felix on the Finish line

9 April
Back on the allotment and with the improvement in the weather, I removed the fleece where the mangetout peas were just showing through, and there were signs that some of the red flowered broad beans had germinated too.

9 April - Mangetout peas 

Luke had come round to saw up the trunk of the old fuchsia tree for his mother-in-law's wood stove and the branches which were too thick for my wood shredder.

9 April - my old Fuchsia

The rest, I shredded and used to extend and renew the path on the plot.

9 April - path renewal

I picked purple sprouting broccoli and the few remaining Kalettes, removed a few weeds from the shallots and cut a few rather wonky asparagus spears.

9 April - Asparagus

I was pleased to see that the Duke of York first early potatoes were all up and looking healthy - must be all that rain! To deter the snails and slugs, I spread some crushed egg shells around the shallots.

9 April - shallots

The plum trees were in blossom and the broad beans in flower...

9 April - Plums blossoming

9 April - broad beans flowering

...and the flowers on the Rosemary were attracting honey bees.

11 April 
The rain returned just as the work on the front garden had finished.  It looks very tidy but rather bleak. It will soon be brightened with various pots and planters.

11 April - what was the front garden

At the back of the house there is a profusion of flowers and the Three cornered leek (Snow bells) have taken over a whole corner.  It is considered by some to be an invasive species and shouldn't be planted in the wild, where it could overcome the wild garlic, but it can be contained within a garden and all of it is edible - tasting rather like a sweet spring onion.  The flowers look amazing in a salad.

11 April - Lady among the Snow bells

11 - Snow bells

12 April 
It was time to start potting up the home sown tomatoes. I had a plentiful supply of Marmande, Yellow Perfection and Sungold.  I have already given some to the organic gardening group (BHOGG) and I will have some more surplus to swap for other varieties or other plants.  I will need some swaps due to the poor performance of my brassicas!

13-14 April
A couple of days of bright sunshine!  

I had used some wood chippings to mulch the asparagus bed to try to keep the weeds at bay and was pleased to see some new asparagus spears showing through.

13 April - Asparagus

13 April - Asparagus

The mulch had served a useful purpose as a barrier to annual weeds but nothing could not prevent the spread of the raspberries from a neighbouring area or the bindweed.

In the potato bed the first early Duke of York were putting on growth.

13 April - Red Duke of York potatoes

14 April
With help from Sylvi, I managed to renew the frame for the climbing beans.

14 April - a bean frame

With a fresh supply of woodchip, I continued to renew the footpath.  The Broad beans were now quite tall, so I spent some time placing some stakes and string around them to keep them upright.  In the tidying up process we also moved the compost tumbler to a less intrusive position.

15 April
Another change in the weather brought some very strong winds.  I had tied up the broad beans just in time, otherwise they would have been flattened.  I carrried out some repairs to the compost tumbler, patching up the rusty parts of the drum.

At home I sowed some marigold seeds which will be planted out as companion plants for the beans.

17 April
The marigolds sown only two days earlier showed signs of germinating! The day started bright and sunny and now that the eucalyptus has been pollarded and the Leylandii cut back, we can actually see the sky from our patio.  With the sun shining I set off for the allotment.

17 April - the back garden

But the sunshine was not to last - as soon as I reached the allotment the rain started - I hurriedly put a chair in the shed....

17 April

....and settled in until the rain stopped.

17 April

When the rain finally stopped, I potted up one of my two jostaberry plants.  It won't be fruiting this year but I will need to find a suitable place to plant them out and am hopeful for next year
17 April - Jostaberry re-potted

18 April
There had been a fresh delivery of woodchip, so work contnued on the path.

18 April - the path progresses

19 April
At home, several Zimbabwe Black chillies had self seeded in the pot where the parent plant was growing so I decided to prick them out and pot on.

19 April - Zimbabwe black seedlings

The parent plant was now in full flower.

19 April - Zimbabwe black chilli
19 April
This would be another weekend when the plot would be neglected as it was the London Marathon weekend.  On Friday, the welcome reception was held in Frameless the immersive art gallery in London.

20 April
On Saturday, I joined Trustees of the London Marathon Foundation to help with the various waves of young runners doing the mini-Marathon - either 1 mile or 2.6 km
Around 10,000 young people participated!

20 April - Start of the Mini-Marathon, Horseguards Parade

20 April - Start of the Mini-Marathon, Horseguards Parade

20 April - Start of the Mini-Marathon, Horseguards Parade

20 April - Start of the Mini-Marathon, Horseguards Parade

21 April
Sunday saw the real Marathon, with many records broken. Felix and his partner, Lauren, joined me at the Finish.  Hopefully he will be fit and running it in 2025. I was able to introduce him to running and hurdling legend, Alan Pascoe

21 April - on the Finish gantry with Alan Pascoe and Felix

22 - 27 April
Another week when little was done on the plot apart from a bit of maintenance and tidying up, and meetings in London kept me away.  I was pleased to see that the Serbian Quince at home was flowering for the first time.

23 April - Quince - Serbian Gold

27 April
More distractions at the weekend as Felix and Lauren came to visit. It gave me an opportunity to recreate my classic Moroccan tagine.  I had carried the two tagine pots back from Morocco several years ago in my suitcase.

27 April - guests waiting in expectation

27 April - Chicken and Vegetable tagines

28 April
On Sunday Felix came up to the plot and we were pleased to spot some bees.

28 April - Buff tailed bumblebee on the Borage

28 April - honeybee on the Rosemary

29 April
A very wet month ended with more spring-like weather and blue skies.

29 April

I planted a few marigolds as companion plants near to where I sowed some dwarf French beans. Last year the slugs devoured the marigolds in days, so it will be interesting to see what happens this time.

30 April
There is a lot to be done on the plot, and there have been rather too may distractions this month but nevertheless we're off fo a few days to Krakow to celebrate Sylvi's birthday.  Hopefully we will return to sunshine with renewed energy!

John Austin

Hove, April 2024