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

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