“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better”— Albert Einstein
This year has been a different one on Plot 106 compared to the previous ones. My not being there. I am just completing a ten week spell of full time work at a local school that has restricted available time. Combined with my leg injury in the March to May period affecting by stretching and reaching abilities, I have the perfect excuse for a rather haphazard and slightly unkempt appearance on the plot
Half a dozen or so two hour sessions over the next week will get me back on track. And a reminder that I have had help from fellow allotmenteer Frank and Layla, Ian and Tom. Thank you
So what happening on 106? The first thing to say it is doing much, much better than 2021. I remember last Spring and early Summer as being particularly cold, dark and wet. Although we have not had sustained periods of warm weather, in fact it continues to be cold at night, all grows well. Climbing beans, sweet corn, summer cabbage and globe artichokes look good. Both early and late potatoes are flowering well. I will be lifting some Charlotte potatoes this week to see how they are doing. Tomatoes are beginning to fruit and leeks are growing apace. I will be putting out lettuce, French beans, beetroot and Pak Choi over the next month
In my first year, I planted half a dozen top fruit trees, they are growing superbly and have crops. I think that 2023 will be the first year of full production from them. The autumn fruiting raspberries look terrific so here is hoping for a bumper crop
Of course it is great to have food to pick, not least in the current inflationary times but as you know there are other factors for me, at play on 106
Best illustrated by simply sitting on the bench to observe the blackbirds, Robins and Comma butterflies in situ. That is a big benefit, a grounding, the reality that despite all the hustle and bustle of life that it is necessary simply to be still and drink it all in....
"Our bodies are our gardens, to which our wills are gardeners.”— William Shakespeare
People in my generation are still likely to divide up the seasons by the equinoxes but overall it is four blocks of three months. 1st December to 28/29th February is Spring, 1st March to 31st May is Spring, 1st June to 31st August is Summer and 1st September to 30th November is Autumn
Spring here on the Sussex coast has been very dry and until recently cold with some frosts to worry gardeners. But the last week has seen a dramatic change to warm and sunny weather, very welcome
Back in February we had a couple of named storms, Dudley and Eunice. The later hit our parts on Friday 18th February, not a day I will forget. About fourth miles away from my home the highest wind speed recorded in the UK was 122mph near The Needles on The Isle of Wight. But that isn't what I will not forget, it was severe sciatic pain in my left thigh! I took basically a rest cure of seven days total relaxation (including limited internet) and a course of anti inflammatories took away the pain, aided and abetted by the TLC of my family. I could not move very much at all
Right now I am pretty much back normal with added occasional discomfort, nothing serious and I am attempting to build resilience. But having that time was quite an usual experience as I tend to be pretty full on most if the time. And of course taking stock I did have to think around numerous "what ifs", primarily around work but also around my gardening activities. Gardening, mmmmm
All that was about six weeks ago and I have adapted, am very positive about everything. Last week I popped down to Plot 106 to tinker around, mechanisms are in place to help and support me there, I am blessed. I am about a month behind but that is all relative. The sun is warm on my face, the pears and apples blaze with blossom, the artichokes rise rapidly, the bulk of the potatoes are in, the robins and blackbirds sing away, the Brimstone and Peacock butterflies go past. I am back. I will succeed. I am home ....
"08 01 22 Hope Springs eternal, as do the Rhubarb crowns, Globe Artichoke offshoots and the Autumn Raspberry canes"
In the poem "Essay on Man" Alexander Pope wrote that "Hope springs eternal in the human breast". Turning the padlock key to plot 106 at Lancing Manor Allotments certainly made me feel like an apostle to that thought. As with much of the current winter here down on the Sussex coast, it is raining, it is dark and it is windy. Gingerly picking my way along the sodden grass path so as to avoid the worst of the puddles and mud was a bit like a game of hopscotch. My plot is very close to the gate, good planning there and, although hardly need probably until about May, right next to a water trough and tap. Clever selection of what was available on my first look on taking out the plot now three and a half years ago
I do include in my conversations, at work, on social media or at a community group I am a member of, what I regard as a very important boost to my wellbeing, having an allotment. I am quite certain of that and I bless the day I became the new tenant of 106. It certainly ticks all the important boxes. Exercise, fresh air, a connection with nature, friendships, tranquility and the bonus of food
Whenever I take that walk down there, it takes about three minutes my mind is already clearing of what I have left and anticipating what is to come. On arrival I feel the lift, perhaps a movement into my persona? So much to take in and so much to see. Whether it is two minute or a two hundred minute visit I always end it in the same way, by sitting on the bench. Be is snow falling, blazing sun, heavy rain or fog. In thatmoment I am part of nature, part of the bigger picture, part of a deeper World
I think that the poet Pope frequently went into those places. He was a gardener. On the grand scale, famously designing a Roman garden near The Thames
Surely he would too with all that, recognise as I did today the hope coming from the emergence of Rhubarb leaves, of leaves on the Autumn Raspberries and the wonderful offshoots on the Globe Artichokes ...
here to edit.
"One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." ... William Shakespeare
This morning, Christmas morning there is actually a semblance of the dawn chorus here on the Sussex Coast. Our shortest day has gone and although damp and dark there is the sound of birdsong. Regrettably nothing like the wonderful sounds of my childhood but none the less here
We have a Poundstretcher store in the village and I reckon that wild bid food in all its forms must be a best seller there, the number of people that I see coming out with items for them. And how lovely that is
Birdsong is but one of the many gifts that we are given by Mother Nature. Gardeners and growers are especially grateful to her. She brings light, and warmth and rainfall and optimism. So whilst we literally have all the tools we need, the plants, the trees and the seeds our biggest gift is Mother Nature who is at the centre of all we achieve ...
A Merry Christmas to you
About a mile inland with lovely views over The Channel, the gardens are on land that rises up to become what is now the South Downs National Park. And the key is that this is a garden made on chalk.
It was begun over 100 years ago by Sir Frederick and Lady Sybil Stern whose wealth financed the gardens, the staff and created plant hunting syndicates who travelled the World to bring plants to Highdown. There was more than a hint of science here too as laboratories were created to catalogue and explore cytology that led to plant hybridising and planting. Recently National Lottery funding and continued support from Worthing Borough Council (who were gifted the gardens by The Sterns) has produced a marvellous visitor centre, new structures and features. A very important aspect in our post Covid world is that these gardens reward the visitor with and fresh air, beautiful plantings and a real sense of tranquility. There is no entrance fee but you can easily leave a donation
I noticed several staff working away in the greenhouse area and in the borders, they seemed very content. What a great office to work at!
The range of plants even at this season is clear and how very lovely to see large trees and hear the birdsong from them
A Spring visit for me is on the agenda and perhaps for you too?
"Autumn…the year’s last, loveliest smile. ―William Cullen Bryant
The really good run of weather continues deep into Autumn down here on the Sussex coast. The warmth of September has continued and I think our sunshine hours will be recorded as being high. Recent mornings of high wind and heavy rain have merged into calmer and sunnier afternoons.
The adage about treating October as the start of the gardening year comes into play too, especially on the allotment and food growing areas we have. I do not direct sow due to mice attack but early Peas Douce Provence https://johnsons-seeds.com/product/pea-douce-provence/
and Broad Bean Aquadulce Claudia
https://www.organiccatalogue.com/.../broad-bean-seeds... have been sown in the cold frame. I have planted out garlic and shallots and am quite sure that the moist, warm conditions are promoting root growth. But there are also some remnants of the 2020/1 season around. The gaunt vines of Lancing Longpod runner beans, the marvellous heads of the flowered globe artichokes and the collapsed once glorious courgette plants
I am pleased with the cauliflowers, they are variety "Boris" (really) https://www.thompson-morgan.com/.../cauliflower.../tm54711TM
November awaits but it is good to enjoy what warmth there is left before the onset of winter....
"Our love of what is beautiful does not lead to extravagance; our love of the things of the mind does not make us soft." ... Pericles
Just about everyone will have heard about " The Cottage Garden " even those who do not garden themselves. It has become an important name for a type of garden that, despite, the best efforts of some, retains its enduring appeal
What is a Cottage Garden? I am going to go with my own definition, "an informal group of plants chosen for their colours, shapes and usefulness ". Would be interesting to hear yours. The key word is I think, informal
There is a romanticism connected to the Cottage Garden that might be misplaced. One theory is that Cottage Gardens came about as a result of the Black Death in the 14th Century. These gardens surrounded cottages, small buildings with perhaps no back garden as we understand it, simply a front garden. And the romanticism might be tempered by the probability that those living in the Cottage were on low income and downright poor. So for them the luxury of separate beds for vegetables, flowers and fruit bushes and trees was never an option. The Cottage Garden was a reduction of those beds into one area for everything, together, jumbled up
Industrialisation, the growth of towns and a relative rise in income meant that by Victorian times increasing numbers were buying rather than growing food and so there was increasing space available to growers but the old necessity to get as many plants into the space as possible also continued too
Gentrification and to 20th Century meant that Cottage Gardening became a movement, a style that continues today, right across the globe
So, what are the main aspects of a Cottage Garden?
“Happily we bask in this warm September sun, Which illuminates all creatures…”— Henry David Thoreau
September, the greatest month, certainly been a beauty this year. How imperious this month can be! Summer months of June, July and August are supposed to be the times of light, of heat and of needing shade. September tries to mimic and often goes does well for ten days or so. But not 2021 here on the Sussex coast with those summer months. September served up 20 plus days of temperatures in the low 20s and oodles of sun. Imperious
The growth and splendour of the Home Garden! Rampant Canna lilies, tower like gladioli, Salvias a haze of bees, luscious roses and the Dahlias and Cosmos. Until three years ago I had never grown either. But, as you already know I did not garden at all in this thoughtful way until three years ago
Cosmos is a superb tall growing plant that is very easy to grow from seed. Large flowers in so, so lovely colours. A mass planting produces a sensational effect. Whilst I adore that effect I grow the white Cosmos 'Psyche White' https://www.thompson-morgan.com/.../cosmos.../4580TM as a "dot plant " in one of the borders, it is a fine sight. I sow Cosmos seeds in late April and by late May they are hardening off in individual 3" pots. They are contemporary in my gardening diary to squashes and marrows. They go on and on right to the damp and cold of late Autumn. Grow them. Cosmos as defined by Pythagoras two and a half thousand years ago, is an " orderly or harmonious universe ". Contemplate that as you peer at the mass planting
In my first year of growing Dahlias, 2018, I did so only in 10" pots using 50% home made compost and 50% bought peat free compost. The results were good and collected together it was a splendid corner. The same the next year but not so good. This year I put them into a border and the resulting growth has been exception even in this strange weather year. The flowers, and there are masses tower over four feet. They are well mulched with home made compost and are tough plants that have not needed staking. I now have perhaps another month to enjoy those flowers and to ponder whether to lift them and store them dried out indoors or cut hem back, mulch again and leave them in situ. Your thoughts and ideas on that welcomed
Next Wednesday is Saint Michaelmas Day, the end of the Harvest period that began on 1st August. As I look down the Home Garden past these ranks of Cosmos and Dahlia flowers I can see at about forty foot distance the instantly recognisable form of the Michaelmas Daisies. A sort of gateway leading from this marvellous September into the more vague and unknown places of late Autumn ....
" I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house." Nathaniel Hawthorne
My my, Sussex gardeners, have you noticed the effects of our recent sunshine? Exciting and brilliant, literally. After so many weeks without it how the Home Garden adores the rays of warmth. And are responding. Growth, flowering and colouring up are combining in a superb resurgence of pure energy and beauty. Plants that have been waiting for it are enthusiastically plunging in. The Brimstone, Blue, White, Red Admiral, Peacock and Painted Lady butterflies promenade in the great heat
Conversly, the slugs, snails, slow worms, beetles and some other creatures keep to the damp, to the shade to their comfort zones. The creatures I do not see but know are around, the voles, the mice, the frogs welcome the camouflage and sanctuary. The twilight flight of the bats seems longer and they are more numerous. And then there are the late birds home to roost. How their number decline in the Home Garden!
Already I am writing about the end of the day but I have the anticipation of the new one. And that is everything to do with my favourite month, September. In September the sun is retreating southwards, becoming lower in the sky, you will have noticed this. No longer directly above with its brilliant light but now at an increased angle that creates an aura, softening the light and hence the colours in the flowers. And how they shine those colours! And how that sun warms in a different way...
" Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence"
I have been told that the average tenancy at Manor Allotments is three years; if it is, then it would not be a surprise to me
Farmers and growers have a reputation for calling out the weather. Too dry. To hot. Too windy. Too wet. They might be forgiven for what Mother Nature has provided so far this year in a ( not so) Sunny Sussex. A very wet turn of the Year became from mid February until April a drought against a set of generally much colder than average temperature days and the high winds and named storms of April and May. A four day " heatwave", actually about 23 Celsius here, against a very sunless, moist and generally cheerless summer! You will have noted that I am indeed calling out the weather!
So the ideal circumstances for bumper numbers of slugs, snails, damping off and blight. Which were delivered!
Plot 106 has not been as productive as last year. I am delighted to have had potato, broad bean, runner bean, sweetcorn, courgettes and marrow crops plus the settling in of grape vines, raspberries, strawberries and blackberry. There will be winter crops of sprouts, leeks, cabbage and broccoli to enjoy. The top fruit trees have put on growth too, some with a very light crop
Compared to last year I have done much smaller amounts of writing down on 106 and that is the bigger loss to me. I had more work than was anticipated and I am full on with the Home Garden. That said it is now September, my favourite month of the year so I will top up with the wellbeing. My autumn work schedule is going to be rammed and there are signs of an exciting 2022 on the horizon. More reason then to sit back to look at the Red Admirals , the swelling fennel plants and the now very apparent chip chip of Robin redbreast. Much to savour....e to edit.
" Great things are done by a series of small things brought together" Vincent Van Gogh
I am devoting most time to this year to the Home Garden unlike last year when it was Plot 106. Lucky to have those two choices
I have very definite plans for Home Garden albeit with flexibility as it develops. I am mindful about using walls, fences and dividing structures that will deepen and enhance the rhythm and harmony that will be projected. All in order then
But I really did sit up and take notice when one of the correspondents to the "Thoughtful Gardening with Andy" website told me about a very different type of garden, forced and structured by space. A high rise flat balcony, a keen Gardener and ambition to grow vegetables. Et Voila, a planter, a 3 Tier planter that grows all the salads, the leaves, tomatoes, cucumber; even the celery from mid June until September. I was impressed by the use of space and determined to emulate. So one of my fellow Shedders ( https://meninshedslancingandsompting.weebly.com/) Jock built me a 3 Tier planter using repurposed wood. It is brilliant and until I emulate next summer with the salads it will be used for herbs. In the shorter term it is a haven of Cannas, Aubergines, Morning Glories, Dahlias, Sweet Peppers and Black Eyed Susies
So a consideration and a challenge for me here as a part of that flexibility. To use the space across the entire Home Garden differently, more compact, more generously? Let us see
" A tree with strong roots can withstand the most violent storm, but the tree can't grow roots just as the storm appears on the horizon." Dalai Lama
Storm Evert came crashing along the Sussex coast with heavy squalls and winds of 50mph plus. Dark clouds scurried across the sky and thoughts centred around " I hope that there is some good weather in the next week or so". Gardeners are patient and resilient types and would happily wait a week for a couple of good weather days to get outside on the plot. But there is a difficulty here. Storm Evert arrived in late July. The time of year associated with cooling sea breezes, hot sunshine and dry spells with an outside chance of a thunderstorm crossing the Channel from a baking Europe that quench the thirst of man and fauna. Evert damaged a number of plants in the Home Garden despite my best efforts of using supports, canes, obelisks and arches to support the taller ones. I think they will mostly recover
Without a hint of irony as the storm going on it provided an opportunity to read the latest Met Office report noting that " Climate change continues to be evident across the UK " you can too at
What I took away from this report was that " These climate variables all have an impact on UK wildlife, with 2020 seeing notably early first leaf dates and also earlier bare tree dates across the UK of four common shrub/tree species: Elder, Hawthorn, Silver Birch and Pedunculate Oak. Elder first leaf was the earliest in its series (15.9 days earlier than the 1999-2019 baseline), occurring in late February. Oak first leaf was also the earliest in its series (8.9 days earlier than the baseline) ". Sobering reading
The next morning I was out early to get the photos to go with this Blog and although battered, Home Garden was certainly not beaten. The butterflies were out and the calmer air was cooler but fresh, a morning to be busy
The photos show that my 2019/2024 renovation of Home Garden goes well both in terms of structure and plantings. Structure. I consider my willingness to change long held ideas and plans when the need arises to be a personal strength. Leaving something behind that once seemed essential is no issue or better still realising that a new addition makes such sense is a good strategy. For example despite have an allotment I created another one within Home Garden for those who live in the annex. The trampoline of youthful pursuits will be replaced by an Eco building that is being created specifically as a place for writing and hopefully drawing and painting. More about that it a future Blog
It is pleasant to see the beautiful Dahlias, the beans, the Sweet Williams, Acanthus and roses this morning. To stop and look is an important thing to do in a garden. And recognise that as in gardens, as in life. Storms never last, only memories ....
" If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness ... " Therese of Lisieux
There is little doubt that wildflowers are "in". Some statistics though about wildflowers and wildflower meadows, it is not good news. In the UK Kew Gardens report that we have lost 97% of uk wildflower meadows since the 1930s. If it were the loss of aesthetic matters relating to that such as beauty and harmony it would be bad but of course it is also the loss of the shelter and food for pollinators like bees and the creatures that eat pollinators too. Birds, hedgehogs and bat are endangered too
The development of land for housing and changes to farming methods are the most important reasons for wildflower meadow decline. But there is also another reason, albeit smaller, and it might be a little uncomfortable to take it in, gardeners and home owners. The later in modern times are more likely to have decorative plants chosen for colour and their beauty that do not attract pollinators. Hedges, grasses and native flowers are less on trend
Of course the increasing awareness of the wildflower decline is spurring many to plant them and community groups and organisations are being formed to grow and sustain wildflowers. Local authorities are getting in on the act by reducing the frequency of roadside, verge, park and open spaces cuttings. This is not popular with everyone and some folk like to be tidy but there is certainly room for compromise here by not cutting everything back. And that is what is happening
I am going to point out a couple of examples of Lancing wildflower areas. It would be lovely if you can let me know about more
Inside the Lancing Manor allotments a number of plot holders spent the Spring clearing an area and planting it with wildflowers. It looks spectacular and everyone is appreciating it, especially the pollinators
The community group Keep Lancing Lovely recently won an award for their two wildflower gardens at Lancing Railway station
It gets better, The Adur and Worthing Wildflower Trail, a community led programme set up by Adur and Worthing Councils goes from strength to strength as it encourages more though and action about wildflower areas https://www.thewildflowertrail.org
Want to plant up some wildflowers? There are suppliers of wildflower turf online here is a good example https://www.wildflowerlawnsandmeadows.com and to grow your own wildflowers here are some suppliers
" There are good and bad times, but our mood changes more often than our fortune.." Thomas Carlyle
It is certainly the case that gardeners, growers and farmers have a bit of a reputation for not being happy with the current or recent past weather. Too cold! Too dry! Too hot! You will know what I mean and just like me plead guilty with mitigating circumstances
Met Office forecasts are looking promising if you like warm, dry and sunny weather over the next week to ten days. The magical 32 Celsius ( 90 Fahrenheit figure is likely to be reached)
But what a different story three or four months ago here on the Sussex coast with exceptionally dry, cold and sunless times. This is only my second full season on Plot 106 so it is much too early to be able to talk in terms of "normal" or "trends" to describe and explain what is happening or how things grow in comparison to earlier times. But it was noteworthy at least
And the results were considerable difficulties with planting out, growing or harvesting crops early on. Actually for about six weeks nothing really happened in terms of plant growth, they just stayed there. A May storm (winds gusting towards 60mph) destroyed a neighbour ploy tunnel and blew it onto 106 and many of my plants were ruined. Some were retrievable in that I could resow and I did, many were not
Anyhow where are we right now? Crops are vein picked and the outlook is promising. Broad beans have done well. Sown on Christmas Eve and planted out late February they area treat. We talked the smaller whole pods for stir fries and leave the rest for shelling. This time we have created home made " humus" too. Rhubarb has done brilliantly. The crowns are into their first proper season as I only picked lightly in their first summer. Early and second early potatoes are being lifted and at this stage the lush green halums bode well for the main crop too. Garlic is good, I have lifted about fourty bulbs. Onions are very hit and miss, they are grown from sets and number quite a few bolsters. Tomatoes set and growing well. Sweet corn well on the way to a good harvest. Cauliflowers, cabbage and brocoli are so, so, they seem to have been most affected by that weather referred to. Over the coming month the leeks will be out and I will be looking for early squashes to pick. About a quarter of the whole plot will be green mabred once those early potatoes are taken
I look forward to the lazy days of summer on 106. The days of promise and expectation...
" Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life " –John Updike
Rainwater is an essential for good plant growth and the heavens have been very open from May until early July here on the Sussex coast. That dampness produces lush green growth in the Home Garden creating a blackcloth to the wonderful blooms. Equally it gives a sense of freshness, excitement even to the canna leaves
High winds again visited the area last week, as many now in Spring and Summer as Autumn and Winter! Damaging to just about any plant outside or even to trees and shrubs. My studious staking, preparation for adverse conditions and preventative action has eased a real buffeting in the Home Garden
I was up very early and
awoke to light rain in still, calm conditions. Soft air in fact and how rather lovely everything was looking. I took out the camera to capture that. Perhaps you agree ....
Field bindweed and gastropods thrive in the dull and damp Sussex coast summer... but the first potatoes are lifted
They come in threes. The weather. A mild dark and somewhat wet Winter gave way to a cold, windy and very dry Spring and now we have a cool wet and dark summer in progress. Of course there have been bouts of five or six days of dryness and sunshine, early June was like that but they are at an absolute premium
Gastropods are are very large group of creatures and the two of most interest to gardeners are snails and slugs Boy have they been busy. Virtually all allotment ewers is mentioning them and how not just brassica and the like are falling to them but also sweetcorn and tomatoes
But tge good news, I took a look at the first early potatoes and was sighted. The variety is Rocket https://www.thompson-morgan.com/p/potato-rocket/zww5094TM
Three roots came in at 2 4kg, excellent, pass me the parsley please....
" It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons " Johann Friedrich Von Schiller
My father died shortly after early retirement so I did not have the " later life " conversations that some have. That my father was also a quieter man than I will make many of my friends smile because that is probably not an inherited characteristic of mine
A couple of years ago I revisited my birthplace and walked the garden that is still there. Of course many changes have been made but there are still some items from those days of the past. My father really did get the Rose "bug" and planted up dedicated beds of the Floribundas type. He even began experimenting and grafting to find that special one
I have to say that until I began the renovation of the Home Garden that roses were not high on my radar. Whilst I do appreciate the marvellous colours, fragrances, form and style they were not really me. They are now though! It is in my renovation work that I came to conclusions about how much would be missing and how much it could be gained. Some gardeners speak in terms of the " rhythm and harmony " within their planting scheme and I now " get that ". Roses are now central to mine and I have taken up that thinking, particularly by the planting of shrub, climbing and rambling roses. My choices will almost certainly be noted by rose lovers as I explored the catalogue. " Mme Alfred Carriere”, " Zéphirine Drouhin "," Albertine " and " Rambling Rector " are some
The recent warmer weather has boosted growth and flowering and it looks like June will become my month of rose enjoyment, Dad would approve....
" I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June."
― L.M. Montgomergy, Anne of Green Gables "
Early summer heat is always welcomed but particularly this of 2021 after the cold April and May we endured. It is a truism that a few warm days means you forget about the previous cold ones, or in this strange weather year, the months of cold ones. Let us leave it at that
On plot 106 it is all go and growing. Not everyone had fruit trees on their plot and those that do tend to inherit them from previous tenants but I put in half a dozen very early in my time. Apples, plums and pears are growing away very well now and carrying some fruit. I anticipate losing some at " June Drop " time but equally have my fingers crossed for some in the fruit bowl come Autumn. As well as a personal benefit the planting of these trees will, albeit on a small scale help absorb CO2 from the atmosphere
Until a few weeks ago I thought that the broad beans were going to be my first crop failure of this growing year. Sown over the Christmas period and planted out in late February, they just stayed and stayed hardly seeming to grow. Those weeks of cold and wet did not good but now you would not know it. The warmth and dryness has done them wonders and they ate now showing pods .... and the first sign of black fly
I have just begun planting out what we might consider as tender vegetables, climbing beans, tomatoes and now courgettes. Over the coming weeks squashes, sweetcorn and herbs will follow
Potatoes look very, very good. Flowers are showing along the trenches and that indicates just how far we are into the year
The first White butterflies are on the wing along with Brimstones still, Painted Ladies, commas, Common Blues and Red Admirals. The nearby copses echo to the drumming of woodpeckers.
A marvellous time of the year!
" Almost every person, from childhood, has been touched by the untamed beauty of wildflowers" Lady Bird Johnson
There is no doubt the wildflowers are one of the on trend gardening ideas right now. Not just in gardens but along roads, railway lines and motorways. On rooves, on the playing fields and across the park
Why is this? No one answer perhaps but more a combination of the loss of wildflower meadows in the country side, the continuing concern about climate and the environment, support for bees and insects and just simply for their beauty
My North Lancing neighbours David and Ruth planted up a wildflower area from turves and it it was David who said "come and take a look". I share some photos
Please let me have or share photos of your wildflowers
The good news for me is that David gave me some offcuts from the turves for the Home Garden, lucky me
Across the area where I live we now have an excellent wildflower trail, take a look here https://www.thewildflowertrail.org/
The look of pleasure, excitement and joy on David's face sums the whole thing up
Maybe you have room too...?
" Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education " Mark Twain
At last! The air is warming and encourages the gardener in us to move along at a brisker pace. Cold and wet are not great encourages but heat and sun certainly are. For weeks now greenhouse, cold frame and windowsill plants have just " stayed " there, alive but hardly thriving. But a week of warmer means they itch to be in the ground
I really do not want to upset you but Midsummer Day is under a month away. That being the case the sun rises early and I was down on Plot 106 by 6am with two trays of brassica plants to plant out there. First tray was cabbage Cabbice https://www.dtbrownseeds.co.uk/Vegetable-Seeds-1/Cabbage-Seed_2/Cabbage-Cabice-Veg-Seeds.html and cauliflower Boris ( really ) https://www.thompson-morgan.com/p/cauliflower-boris-f1-hybrid/tm54711TM
I grew cabbages fairly successfully last year but not so cauliflower that were rather poor looking plants of a greyish colour that did not find favour with the catering team ...
So they are in now and covered over for protection. I have Midsummer on my mind now and the realisation of how far I am behind due to the cold and wet Spring but it will all get done .....
"It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart" Rainer Maria Rilke
Meteorologically it is a blocking high and practically it is low temperatures, rainfall and sunshine hours. It has been like that since the New Year here on the West Sussex coast. The last week has seen some welcome rain and sun plus the sounds of increased birdsong. But it is like all growing seasons, a challenge!
Windowsills, greenhouse and frame have been especially useful for me. I began growing very large numbers of perennial and biennial plants from seed last July ( much more interesting and much cheaper than straight purchases! ) and those spaces under cover have allowed it.
Delphiniums, Salvias, Lupins, Hollyhock, Carnations, Sweet Williams, Honesty, Clancy, Hemp Agrimony, Cardoons, Canatache, Verbena etc. etc. are in abundance
The quality of the light is important to all these plants and also to me giving a strong impression of how far I have come and how far I have to go on Home Garden 2019/2014. The basics are all there. Except for the Eco Shed the structure is there. It is the height and the levels that are now becoming apparent. The newly planted fruit trees added to the existing ones make the space seem much bigger. The climbers and ramblers take the garden upwards towards the beautiful sun and sky ....
" Exceptions are not always the proof of the old rule; they can also be the harbinger of a new one " .... Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach
Although the Romans were the first to popularise and grow these plants, by the way the though of " Roman Sprouts " is very appealing, it was not until the medieval times that full production and growing began in the region of modern day Belgium. The appeal spread right across Northern Europe and they became popularly known as Brussels Sprouts in Victorian times
How so then the Jerusalem Artichoke, Swiss Card and the French Bean. Do they comply with geography. No is the short answer but they are so named and grown to pleasure and delight across the World
Being a member of the cabbage family is normally enough background to put people off a vegetable but as ever if you can forget about the boiled to death version, sprouts, like all cabbage family members are delicious. Sown in March or April and planted out by June they are a long term crop that depending on variety can be picked from September right through until the following April. A favourite with the Christmas meal, perhaps with walnuts, stir fried or the tops as spring greens makes for a versatile food
This year I am growing Evesham Special and they went into their bed today https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Vegetable-Seeds/Brussels-Sprout-Seed/Brussels-Sprout-Evesham-Special-Seeds.html#.YI518ut4WrU
On 106, the broad beans are into flower, all potatoes are now through, garlic, shallots and onions are looking good. I have transplanted garden peas. Rhubarb is now being picked and the raspberries and into growth. All the top fruit is into blossom
After an exceptionally dry Spring tomorrow has the potential for half an inch of rain but also gales. Well, it is May Bank Holiday !
" The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun." .... Robert Herrick
Spring has now arrived on the Sussex coast borne on cold northerly winds and overnight lows down to a most unwelcome minus two Celsius. And even in the daytime the strong sunshine whilst very welcome is not warming. As we get towards May there looks to be warming trend at least in the day but the very negative likelihood of frost. This air is dry. In fact since Christmas rainfall has been very slight and has usually come in a Wintery mix. By this definition we are in drought https://en.m.wikipedia.org/.../Drought_in_the_United_Kingdom
But how wonderfully the bulbs have looked throughout. No strong winds, little rain and sunshine has protected and preserved their beauty. Daffodils are crazily appearing even before the turn of the year but in Home Garden they have flowered beautifully for weeks. More spectacular for me are Tulips. Glorious colours and goblet sized flowers are putting in a memorable display
The greening of the large shrubs a trees is underway. We have a large elderflower astill and one very large buddleia left from the considerable clearance I have undertaken and although looking gaunt as a result of that are coming into their own. The Weeping Cherry is still buzzing with bees but the flowers are almost over. The large Flowering Cherry and " Wild " Cherry are coming into blossom. The reliable mature William Bon Chretien pear and Lanes Prince Albert Apple are a bright and brave blossom show
Fruit trees planted a year ago are just coming into blossom, Apple " Bramley ", Plum " Czar " and Cherry " Sunburst " A fortnight ago I took delivery of two more half standard fruit trees, Apple "Santana " and Pear " Beurre Alexandre Lucas ".
Height gives a sense of structure and beauty to a garden. The use of climbers growing through and up some of the trees mentioned above, trellis, archways and an arbour in the Home Garden will demonstrate that. Six Clematis have just gone in as well as three marvellous climbing/rambling roses from the Victorian/Edwardian era, " Zepherine Drouhin ", " Rambling Rector " and " Madame Alfred Carriere "
Literally springing into growth now are the Mock Orange, Wisteria, Honeysuckles, Everlasting Sweet Pea, Foxgloves, Lupins, Catmint, Hollyhocks, Passionflower, Sweet Williams and numerous others. Spring is here ....
The English winter – ending in July, to recommence in August.” – Lord Byron
In my part of coastal Sussex, 2021 has so far been a cold year and for almost a month, a very dry one. Snow is a rare visitor here in the last decade and although frosts do come along they tend to be light . Not so some recent nights with minus three Celsius measured and back in February minus five. Daytime temperatures have been lower than average. A sudden burst of warmth just before Easter took us to seventeen Celsius but overall temperatures have been in single figures. Light snow fell on Tuesday here.
So what is the impact on Plot 106? I am beginning my second full season so I do not obviously have much to compare it with but I make some general points.
Last April, broad beans Aquadulce were about eighteen inches high and showing flowers. This year about nine inches tall with no blooms in the offing.
Garlic planted in November has just stayed put, light green leaves about a foot high. Close relatives the onion ( sets ) and shallots ( I do like to cook with shallots ) have in the past week of less cold weather begun to perform. Of course it is what is going on below but that will not be revealed until June time. Perpetual spinach does what it says on the tin, largely unaffected by the cold and currently producing good new leaves. I am still lifting leeks! Clearly the weather has slowed the race to " go to seed ". I am delighted to have got all the potatoes, early and lates in. They are all deeply planted and covered with a combination of banked soils mixed with large amounts of composts. I anticipate the shoots of the earliest, " Rocket " putting in an appearance any day now. Great to report on the lovely deep green shoots now appearing at ground level on each one of the dozen " Autumn Bliss " raspberries planted at the turn of the year. The top fruit shows promise. I smile to myself thinking how ambitious I was early on planting half a dozen half standard trees. They will get up to a good four metres by the time I am eighty! Plum Czar is in bloom and the rest will not be far behind. First sowings of radish " French Breakfast " https://www.thompson-morgan.com/.../radish-french.../542TM and Spring Onion " White Lisbon " https://www.thompson-morgan.com/.../spring-onion.../528TM are through. No sign yet of Parsnip " Gladiator " https://www.thompson-morgan.com/.../parsnip.../706TM nor Beetroot " Boltardy " https://www.thompson-morgan.com/.../beetroot.../288TM
I am going to to working more intensively in the Home Garden for the rest of the month. Massive trees pruning and trimming shrubs, creating structures, planting trees and home sown perennials underway. Last year I shredded some shrubs to create some pathways but branches I have cut to size and brought down to be pea and bean supports on plot 106
On the allotments the water in now back on and there are large amounts of chippings and stable manures available. In addition to the many " pet " robins that we see I have noticed wrens too. On the odd warm day Brimstone, Red Admiral, Comma and Peacock butterflies glide past. No Whites yet !
New allotmenteers too. A buzz of activity as the newcomers make their mark on their plot. Great to see, to say " Hi " and give encouragement. Half a dozen children helping too
Despite the cold I have been able to take in the World whilst sitting on the bench that Frank made for me. It is a literal and metaphorical good place to be. I am writing this Blog there. So the cold has over stayed it's time but surely the soft air of true Spring and Summer are coming along. Next to me the Discovery Apple is a day or two from blossom time. In the distance those children laugh and help tame new plots. I leave this moment and speed forward wondering if they will continue to be here as adults. To when the top fruit on 106 is four metres tall. And of course, will I still be here ? Growing up and mortality, it must come to us all ....
More at https://thoughtfulgardeningwithandy.weebly.com
I launched this website on 16th August 2020 to bring together my thoughts on gardening,, its importance for health and wellbeing and two projects running concurrently, a renovation of my own garden on the West Sussex coast at Lancing and a nearby allotment. But also to learn from other gardeners about the inspirations for their plots, about their gardening projects and enjoyment of beautiful plants and gardens