It’s cold and dark and there’s not much to do at the allotment, so it must be time to be making plans for the coming year. Seedy Sunday, the Brighton seed exchange takes place on 2 February at BHASVIC. You don’t need to take seeds to swap; there are lots of interesting stalls, and if you want anything on the seed swap table you can make a small donation for each packet. Here is the link to the website https://seedysunday.org/, and I think they are also on Facebook. Other suppliers of organic seeds are Tamar Organics https://www.tamarorganics.co.uk/ and Real Seeds https://www.realseeds.co.uk/ who do unusual and open-pollinated varieties (so better for seed saving, as they come truer than F1s). There’s also the Organic Gardening Catalogue: https://www.organiccatalogue.com/. If you are aware of any other interesting seed suppliers, I would be interested to know!
For the first time in years, or possibly even the first time since I started on the allotment, I feel that I am almost up-to-date with what needs to be done. I have weeded the old Forget-me-nots and Lambs Lettuce from the final bed under the current bushes, chopped it up and put it directly back on to the bed as a mulch. I have no idea whether this will work, but I don’t want to put the forget-me-not seeds in to the compost heap, to be distributed all over the plot next year with the compost. I have watered everything, again – and thanks to the dry weather everything is growing and not being eaten by snails. Which is great, even if the dry weather does mean almost constant watering. I put my chair out at the top of the plot to admire the view of Brighton in the sunshine and start watching the birds. I am no birder but they seem to be green finches, and they seem to be eating the Borage seeds – another good reason to grow Borage, if one were needed https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borage. Eventually I heave myself up to pick some tender new broad beans for supper and make my way home. As usual I have missed the bus and walk home across the fields, serenaded by sky larks.
Tenantry Down had its annual seedling swap on Sunday 19 May. Unfortunately I had to leave early, but it was a great success, with tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, leeks, kale, brussels sprouts, thyme, beans and lots of other stuff. There were also some amazing cakes. Thanks for Stacey for putting up the notices and getting there early to clean the cobwebs off all tables and chairs.
It’s April and there are seedlings everywhere: courgettes and Crystal Lemon cucumbers in the bedroom, winter squash in the spare room, bedding plants and runner beans in the living room, because it still seems too cold to have runner beans outside. There’s stuff in the kitchen as well, but I can no longer remember what it is. I hope the weather improves before they all get lanky and too big for their pots. On the garden table there are kale, purple sprouting, celeriac, lettuce and leeks.
I have been very disappointed with the selection of winter squash available locally. It seems that we are only allowed to have things for children to carve at Halloween, or butternuts, which I have never been able to grow very successfully. I looked in all the local garden centres and shops but no joy. Eventually I found something called Blue Ballet from Tamar organics so that’s what it is going to be this year.
There is a very interesting selection of beans on this website https://www.beansandherbs.co.uk/. There’s still time to plant so I will certainly be trying some of them.
Woodingdean 23 April 2019: I found a beautiful yellow crab spider in the garden. Crab spiders don’t make webs – they are hunters. I think this one was a bit confused as it was trying to conceal itself on a pink peony – It might have been more successful on the yellow peonies on the other side of the garden.
After dark I had to rush out to rescue my cat from what sounded like a confrontation with another cat, and was confronted not with a strange cat but with a very large hedgehog. This is wonderful news as I haven’t seen a hedgehog here for years.
Picture: Crab spider (Misumena vatia) on Paeonia cambessedesii
The weather has changed from sunny and cold to sunny and warm and the wind has dropped. Yesterday I saw the first fully open Hawthorn flower so we can all cast our clouts. I spend a morning trying to control the Ivy-Leaved Speedwell (Veronica hederacea) on the allotment. This very insignificant little annual flower is easy to overlook. It flowers early in the year and is now seeding. The seeds will survive in the compost heap, and will be effectively distributed all over the plot when the compost is put on the beds. So instead of digging them in I remove each one carefully and will later drown them in a barrel of water for a year, adding the resulting stinky mush to the compost heap later.
The beetroot and salad leaves have germinated well, but the parsnips are patchy for the second year running. The asparagus is coming up, though, and looks wonderful.
Picture: Ivy-leaved speedwell
Newmarket Hill, Woodingdean 13 April (2019). Though April it is still cold and there is no one to be seen. A thrush sings while two buzzards glide low over the hill. The leafless trees glow in the westerly sun as a dark grey cloud approaches from the East. Some stonechats chirr in the Hawthorn bushes. Almost the only things in flower are violets, mainly Hairy Violet (Viola hirta), but some Common Dog-violet (Viola riviniana), and the shy-looking Cowslips, Primula veris. Apart from the coconut-scented gorse that is. They say that when the gorse is out of bloom then kissing is out of season. If this is the case there won’t be much going on this summer as the only gorse in this area is Ulex europeus, which flowers all winter and spring but not in the hottest months of the year. Further north in the weald of Sussex, they are luckier, as they also have Dwarf Gorse, U. minor, which flowers later in the year. Later on I find Common Milkwort, Polygala vulgaris, robust and jewel-coloured in magenta and deep violet. The thrush is quiet now but a blackbird is carolling happily away in the sunshine that has followed the hail shower.