Monday 5 February 2024

Life on The Weald -January 2024

Life on The Weald - January 2024

and at Home and in the kitchen 

I no longer need a sling but with my right hand in plaster there will be limited opportunities to do much on the plot in January!

1 - 2 January
The year started with more heavy rain and the arrival of Storm Henk. My son, Damien, and daughter-in-law, Sharon were down from London but it was too wet and windy to venture down to the beach, as we usually do, to see in the New Year, so we celebrated at home. 

We did manage a brief visit to the plot on 2nd January to lift some Jerusalem Artichokes and pick some Kalettes for them to take home. It was very, very wet underfoot and the rain was to continue for a few days.

7 January
We didn't visit again until Sunday 7 January.  At last it was dry and sunny, but as there was a very cold wind we didn't stay too long.  

7 January - Plot 247b looking north

7 January - from the plot looking east

7 January - from the plot looking west

Sylvi fed her worms as we had rather a lot of kitchen scraps and I picked a good supply of Cavolo Nero.  We also removed the fleece from the broad beans that had been sown in 1 December. and were just coming through.

7 January - Broad beans sown 1 December

So far, the November sown broad beans seemed to have survived the storms....

7 January - November sown broad beans

...and the garlic was doing well too.

7 January - Garlic

One of the purple sprouting broccoli has produced its first floret, the rest look a few weeks behind.

7 January - purple sprouting broccoli

The leeks looked healthy enough but sadly, when we lifted some it became obvious that they had been infected with alium leaf miner and had split below the surface.

7 January - victim of leaf miner

We lifted a few more Jerusalem artichokes - all things in moderation - for dinner that night.  They were delicious but I have written before about the down-side of Jerusalem artichokes and their effect on digestion

7 January - Jerusalem artichokes

8 January
The clear weather was not to last, however, and we had more rain and heavy sleet showers - not a day for venturing out!  Fortunately the south-east did not suffer the havy snowfall and floods that were being experienced in other parts of the country.

8 January - heavy sleet on loft windows

11-12 January
Thursday 11 January was another bright sunny day but very cold with overnight temperatures down to -4C.  But according to the weather forecasters we can look forward to milder weather and hopefully next month the ground will have dried out a little.  On Friday the seed potatoes arrived in the allotment shop and hopefully the onion sets will follow soon. 

12 January - arival of potatoes

14 January
At last a bright, dry Sunday and I had a chance to inspect the rhubarb which I had covered with inverted recycling boxes to force it.

14 January - forcing the rhubarb

I lifted the covers and was pleased to see some progress.  Hopefully some will be ready for picking later in the month.  I crossed my fingers and replaced the boxes.

14 January - rhubarb

14 January - rhubarb

We picked some Cavolo nero and our first purple sprouting broccoli as well as a few rather small purple brussels sprouts. I visited the allotment shop and bought some First early Red Duke of York potatoes and some Second early Charlotte. It's a little early to start chitting so I will keep them in a cold dark room for a while.

15 January
There was no problem finding a cold room for the potatoes as we don't have the heating on in the upper bedrooms! On Monday 15 January the outside temperature
was zero at 7am and dropped an hour later to -1C, reaching a maximum of 3C in the afternoon.

21 January
At last the onion sets and shallots had arrived at the shop.

21 January - Onions and shallots had arrived

21 January - The Weald Shop - ready for Spring

It was relatively mild and we managed to do abit of general tidying up.  We emptied the contents of the compost tumbler which had not yet fully composted, as it contained a lot of fibrous material from the squash vines, but we decided to pile it on the open ground where we will be planting out in the spring and let nature take its course.

24 January
We spent some time digging out couch grass and bind weed from the area where the potatoes will grow.  This was the area where the squashes had grown lasy year and where we had laid a layer of cardboard covered with compost and manure 15 months ago.  The soil was very friable and had drained well and it was relatively easy to pull out tufts of grass and weeds that had seeded and grown there.  We did need to do a bit of more physical digging however towards the boundary path where couch grass and bindweed had spread.   It might be necessary to dig out some of the fruit bushes, where bindweed and couch grass had invaded and replant them as the roots had become entagled.

In December I had emptied one of the compost bins in a pile near this year's brassica patch and we were able to spread this with a rake.

24 January - preparing a brassica bed

24 January - pile of partially rotted compost from the tumbler

26 January - 28 January
Friday morning was sunny with a temperature of 9C and no wind, rising to 13C in the afternoon - a perfect day for being on the allotment - but we were away for the weekend in Sheffield. Sylvi's family are all Wednesday supporters and had tickets for the FA Cup match at Hillsborough that evening, so I joined them, and Sylvi's son, Luke had a ticket for the Brighton & Hove Albion FA Cup match against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Saturday.  It was a good excuse to spend a weekend "up-north" and visit family there.

Family Friday night at Hillsborough

Given the weather of the past few weeks we thought we might encounter floods or snow, but not only was it unseasonably warm when we left Hove on Friday morning but the weekend in Sheffield was positively spring like on Saturday and we had to shed several layers.  Some areas in the north and Scotland recorded record high temperatures for January!

January has been a month of contrasts and extremes as temperature and rainfall have seen large fluctuations with mild wet weather interrupted by cold dry spells and significant floods and snow in some parts of the country.  

We have had 3 significant storms on top of each other during the month causing major disruptions, HenkIsha and Jocelyn.

Surprisingly, however, the average mean temperature and rainfall for the UK as a whole have been near average for the time of year.  After a very wet December the break from the rainy autumn and winter was welcome as the wet conditions have hindered preparations for spring.  Generally gardeners favour a cold, but not bitter January.  Too warm a January encourages early growth of seedlings, and premature flowering of fruit trees and bushes, which renders both vulnerable to frost damage.  We are hoping for a dry, bright, albeit chilly February and more settled conditions.

John Austin

Hove, January 2024

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