Gadabout in the sun

Last year, we were plagued by a high wind on Gadabout Saturday; this year, it was a perfect, hot June Saturday, requiring water, shade, sun screen and hats. But at first, nobody came …

We chatted, watered a bit, cleared a few leaves and reorganised papers: a nice bit of down time. And then suddenly, from 2pm onwards, visitors started arriving. We had over 20 who signed our visitors’ book, all with really positive comments.

Our edible growing plot still surprises and delights – we’ve perhaps got a bit jaded with the challenges of keeping the watering going and fighting aphids – but visitors comment on how inspiring it is to see what can be done in a such a small space.

People commented on how wonderful it is to see the diversity of gardens in our area: beautiful extensive herbaceous borders in one, quirky pink steps in another, huge bamboo growing in yet another – and our tiny area of six raised beds.

The Gadabout goes on this next weekend: Saturday June 28th and Sunday June 29th. We were delighted to be a small part of it and to help raise funds for The Sussex Beacon.



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Garden Gadabout 2014

We’re opening again this year for the Garden Gadabout. We’re open just Saturday 21st June 11 – 5pm but lots of other fantastic gardens are open the weekend of 21st – 22nd and the weekend of 28th – 29th. Our area is Fiveways and Roundhill, with seven lovely gardens opening for you to explore.

Do come along – the weather forecast is pretty good – and help us raise funds for the Sussex Beacon charity, supporting people with HIV in Sussex.

Tickets are £10 for a weekend or £6 for a day: you can order online.


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Great day and the sun was shining …

2014-06-07 11-04-36This blog isn’t just about gardening; it’s also about where we garden – at a lovely Victorian station, built in 1877. The railway line itself (now, the East Coastway) was built before our station appeared, with the section to Seaford opening on 1st June 1864. That, strictly speaking, was the 150th anniversary we were celebrating on Saturday 7th June at London Road Station. It started with rain, but the sun 2014-06-07 10-45-06came out …

Though it was not really ‘our’ anniversary, we were delighted to celebrate links between stations and their communities. We spruced up the gardens, planted up the tree pits in front of the station and even planted up the little planters outside our pub The Signalman, which faces the station at the end of Shaftesbury Place.

2014-06-07 10-54-22During the day, we served cake and coffee to over 120 neighbours and train travellers – cake using fruit and vegetables in honour of our  edible garden (though this early in the season, we weren’t able to use our own ingredients). Chris made Dutch apple cake, lemon cake and carrot cake; Simon came with beetroot cake and two wonderful neighbours both named Jane turned up with a beetroot and chocolate 2014-06-07 10-59-44cake and a courgette cake respectively.  Simon had also produced intriguing fridge magnets, which raised over £30 for the Railway Children charity.

Our MP and local resident Caroline Lucas launched the celebrations, emphasising the importance of sustainable transport and community involvement in the railways, and blew out garden-themed 2014-06-07 11-03-16candles on the biggest apple cake.

The weather forecast had been dire: torrential rain throughout the day. But the sun shone on Shaftesbury Place just as The Dawn Chorus community choir sang ‘Great day, and the sun is shining …’ – and it did, lasting through the day.

Indeed the 150 or so people waiting later Steam at London Roadon the platform to see the steam train ‘Oliver Cromwell’ chug over London Road Viaduct and through our lovely Victorian station were glad of some shade. While waiting for the train, children were delighted by the Brighton Model Railway Club’s miniature lay-outs, while their parents read the posters we’d researched, detailing the history of the railway and its impact on the area, which were displayed 2014-06-07 11-17-12around the station.

Visitors explored our edible growing garden and Anna from Brighton & Hove Food Partnership demonstrated how produce currently available (chard, mustard leaves, mizuna, rocket, mint) could be used to prepare delicious food: pakora, a leaf-filled version of Spanish omelette and various dips and sauces. She 2014-06-07 11-16-46and her team produced food for around 50 people.

We had music throughout the day: everybody joined in with the Dawn Chorus on ‘This Train …’, with great accompaniment from Stuart and Linden. Linden and friends then morphed into the Brighton Acoustic Jam band, playing up to and after the arrival of the Oliver Cromwell, followed by Mel’s All Stars.

The 2014-06-07 14-08-24 (2)steam train itself was delayed at Newhaven on its way into Brighton, but when it finally came chugging over the Viaduct, blowing its whistle and puffing steam, it was quite magical. Having spent weeks trawling through old photographs of the station for our historical posters, it was wonderful to see a real steam locomotive going through.

Music, sunshine and a vintage steam train …at a small station with a big heart. No better way to spend a Saturday in June.



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A big thank-you to everybody who was involved – LRSP members, our lovely neighbours, Ben from The Signalman, Julie and the singers in The Dawn Chorus, Anna and her team from Brighton & Hove Food Partnership, Brighton Acoustic JamBand, Mel’s All Stars, the Brighton & Hove Model Railway Club, and of course Nick at the station, Kate from Southern and Sam from SCRP. Thank you also to neighbours Graham and Gordon for great photos.







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It’s not blight – phew!

Almost a week on … and the sickly tomato seedlings which we potted up into 3-4 ltr pots last week are looking so much better. Thank goodness – it wasn’t blight but malnutrition and cold.

I’m always surprised how quickly seedlings planted in the peat-free compost we use exhaust the nutrients in the soil and start to get pot bound.

Anyway, tomorrow we’ll probably plant them up into the large troughs we have available. I’m reluctant to put them outside immediately until they’ve shown that they can grow strong and lush.

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The dreaded blight?

SAT 7th June 10.30 – 4.00pm SHAFTESBURY PLACE. Celebrate 150 years of Brighton to Seaford railway with coffee/tea and homemade cake, exhibition, open garden, cookery demo, model railway display, music, picnic, guided walk, etc.  See ‘Events’ above.


Every year brings with it a different set of challenges. Last year, there was a very cold spring , the year before it was very dry and the year before that our summer was very cool. This year, it’s warm and wet – we had a warm winter when pests weren’t knocked out. Warm and wet are ideal for pests-and-diseases.  It looks like 2014 is turning out to be a pest-and-disease year.

Our fruit trees have a bad infestation of aphids, luckily not terminal. Our chard has a virus rot, and the unsightly leaves can be removed. But our tomato seedlings look very much like they may have a blight. This is early in the season for blight but the conditions have been ideal. We’ve been pushed for space so I put the tomato seedlings outside. It was also fairly warm and dry ten days ago (17-21C) so I was hoping to harden them off ready for outdoor planting. But it’s been raining on and off for the last week, and it’s got colder: 13-15C. And we’ve been watering from the water butt. And they’d been collecting water in the trays I had them standing in when it was hot. And we’ve been busy with planting and preparing for our event on Saturday, so the tomato seedlings have been a bit neglected. Oh dear!

I have some beautiful Sweet Million plants in the greenhouse – I don’t want any blight to spread. Should we just give up on the seedlings?

I’ve been searching the internet. This hasn’t really helped as many sites are North American and there they suffer from early tomato blight Alternaria solani. The RHS tells me this is not prevalent in the UK. So is it magnesium deficiency? Or Septoria? Or one of many viruses? Some leaves have spots, but not the blotches on the edge that I associate with blight. They are upper leaves, not lower ones. And no other symptoms.

So here’s a plan:

1) We pot up the healthier looking seedlings – no more than 10

2) We remove any yellow or spotted leaves and bag up immediately to get rid of

3) We spray with a foliar feed: many people swear by Epsom salts.

4) Watering needs to be with mains water, not from water butts, and always around the bottom of the plant, never on the leaves.

5) We keep the selected plants in the conservatory where it’s warmer but we need to ensure ventilation.

6) We keep a regular check on them to see how they are doing

7) We use anti-viral and anti-bacterial hand sprays before and after handling the plants.

They may just be sickly from not very conducive conditions: cool and not enough nutrition as they need potting up. Fingers crossed







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Aphids in the orchard

SAT 7th June 10.30 – 4.00pm SHAFTESBURY PLACE. Celebrate 150 years of Brighton to Seaford railway with coffee/tea and homemade cake, exhibition, open garden, cookery demo, model railway display, music, picnic, guided walk, etc.  See ‘Events’


It’s not a good year for pests. The winter was too warm and wet; pests were not killed off. Slugs, snails and aphids are much in evidence. Last year, we didn’t suffer much from slugs and snails – it has been too cold. Our brassicas and leaves were, however, severely attacked by caterpillars: as well to remember now, as a cabbage white butterfly was circulating yesterday, so it’s time to look at covering our cavalo nero in some way. Slugs and snails are just a perennial problem: I have learned to be marginally more tolerant over the years, and have discovered that they really do not like strong coffee and coffee grounds. My garden is starting to smell like an cafe.

apple tree leaves aphidsThe major evidence of pests in the station garden is on the fruit trees. Last Tuesday, the leaves on the apple trees, particularly Saltcote Pippin, were all shrivelled and curled. The new leaves were a sickly light green. Closer inspection revealed a serious infestation of aphids. The under sides of the leaves were black with them. I took my pressure sprayer and on the worst affected trees, systematically sprayed the aphids off each leaf. We’ve now had heavy rain over a few days and the trees are looking better: leaves are a darker green and not so curled.

Aphid infestations basically suck sap from the trees and weaken them in this way, but they are not usually fatal, thank goodness. The leaves do get horribly deformed but they generally recover. The most effective approach I’ve found is to squash the aphids manually and then spray with water to remove them. I’m proposing to follow this up with a foliar feed spray to help the tree recover. I’m waiting for a dull, dry day: the rain could wash Plumlets cthe feed away, bright sunlight can cause damage on the leaves.

Interestingly, the serious aphid infestation is on the apple trees at the station. The pear tree seems to be recovering from the virus, discovered earlier this year, while the plum is growing on at full strength and there are even a few plumlets on our two-year old tree.

My three-year old plum trees in Ditchling Rise and my neighbour’s cherries, however, have been seriously attacked by aphids. The books I’ve consulted tell me that this should not damage the fruit, but it does make the trees look very unhappy. The aphids should disappear of their own accord as the summer moves on, and with the rain, but they may then return late summer to settle in again. So I’m squidging and spraying, and then feeding them as soon as I can to bring them back to health and resistance.

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Catching up on the new season

SAT 7th June 10.30 – 4.00pm SHAFTESBURY PLACE. Celebrate 150 years of Brighton to Seaford railway with coffee/tea and homemade cake, exhibition, open garden, model railway display, music, picnic, guided walk, etc.  More under ‘Events’


It’s a typical May Bank Holiday, which means it’s raining heavily. Time to catch up with what’s been happening in the edible growing plot at London Road Station. We’ve had a month of sunny and rainy weather – great for growing, but our warm and wet winter also provided perfect conditions for slugs, snails and aphids.

Shady leaf bed

Sorrel cavalo shady bedWe’ve moved our exuberant mint and have devoted the shady bed by the wall to cavalo nero, lettuce and some variegated sorrel. The slugs of course went for the cavalo shortly after we planted it, so that we renewed some of the plants last week. We have had to resort to organic wildlife-friendly slug pellets.

West bed

Potatoes in west bed 2 c

This bed is looking good cleared of raspberries, now growing in various large pots by the railings. Sue planted three seed potatoes – a first for the garden – and they are doing very well. We prepared the bed for climbing beans, mixing Veolia’s soil enhancer into the soil. We’ve not been very successful with germinating beans from seed this year, but we do have some plants ready.

East bed

We planted onions here earlier on, and they’ve overwintered well. We now have chard and spinach in this bed, growing well.

Apple and pear orchard beds

Parsely by apple treesThis year, we’ve got lovely flat-leaf parsley and lollo rosso lettuces growing here – both doing really well. The lettuces are nearly ready to harvest. We’re holding on to see if they will last until our event on 7th June and can be part of the ‘Pick and Cook’ demonstration.


StrawberriesWe’ve kept the strawberries in the second raised bed and they seem to be doing well, though with more leaf and fewer fruits than the ‘left-over’ strawberry plantlets, abandoned to do their own thing in an old window box by the pear-trees. The soil in the raised bed may be too rich – too comfortable – so the plants are growing lush greenery, not fruits: back to the principle that a little stress stimulates fruiting.

Salad and courgette in apple bedIn the pear-tree bed, we’ve got spiky oriental greens and three courgette plants. These are dwarf bush plants, requiring about 60cm space between each plant, so it may be that they’ll sulk at some point. We’ll need to keep an eye on ensuring sufficient water in this bed; as for nutrients, the soil, enriched with our compost, Veolia and ‘Black Gold’, should be able to sustain them. They will require careful management as they start to grow outwards, downwards, every which way. Contrary to our experience with courgettes last year, these plants (Franchi ‘long’) are doing very well indeed.

As part of catching up, I’ve also gone back through e-mails and texts recording what was going on in the earlier part of the year. Thanks to Diane for keeping in touch!

Tuesday 4th March 2014

A beautiful early Spring afternoon made for some really enthusiastic gardening (and talking about gardening!)  Very pleasing to survey the plots and share our thoughts.  The shady triangle is really coming into its own with a specially good show of ‘Golden Daffodils….’ with the last of the cyclamen doing their best.  We decided the miniature daffs are by far the best, much less subject to the wind blowing them over, and providing good patches of colour because of the dense planting.

The veg garden stays tidy, with buds appearing everywhere.  We are still getting used to the fruit trees new angle, but they look good, specially as Mark disentangled them from the now redundant canes.

We planted some little sorrel seedlings (the red variety) just to see what they would do, and we harvested some more leeks.

The greenhouse plants are racing along now, and we were pleased to see new dark green shoots coming from the base of all the parsley plants we potted on only last week..  We harvested the lettuce, and then planted seeds for the next crop. Then time for tea, and planning!  Which variety of beans to grow?  where to site them?  Among other important topics.

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Tuesday was dull, weather-wise, but in every other respect it shone!  We potted on the parsley plants, tended the greenhouse (actually, should say ‘admired’ as Mark and Daphne have done all the tending and it looks really good!) and the basil seedlings I didn’t bring home for tlc are doing fine now (M and D’s magic touch again!)

The highlight of the afternoon was Bryn’s visit.  He was fulsome in his praise for our fruit trees – the best of the bunch he is ‘overseeing’. They are vigorous, healthy and have flower buds to prove it. The main task was to pull each little tree(not so little now) down to an angle of 45 degrees.  It did seem a bit brutal at first, but the trees didn’t mind, and they look very comfortable in their new positions.  We, well 99%Bryn, tied the branches in with the plastic tree ties, and snipped off a few small branches which were heading towards the wall.

Bryn will be back to look at how they are doing in late June/July.  In the meantime we need to water well when needed, and stop feeding as they will get too leafy and big, and not concentrate on fruiting. There are other things to do at solstice time and early August, and we had instructions about how and when to remove excess fruit to ensure good harvests. The plum tree received some training to fill its allotted space efficiently – tied in with inner tubes this time – a brilliant tip.

We ended the afternoon with a leek harvest – leeks in cheese sauce for Bryn and the De Boissieres, leek and potato soup for Diane and Simon.   A delightful way to round the afternoon.

Tuesday 18th February 2014

It was a worthwhile afternoon – and the plots felt quite spring-like!   Just a bit of general tidying, weeding the tree pit  (and I harvested some chard for a savoury tart!)The greenhouse is looking good, just a little bit of watering to do. The geraniums in the conservatory also had a little drink.   The sun was pouring into the conservatory by 3, so it was certainly time to sit down with one of Elspeth’s gardening books, feet up, cushions in place……. I woke up at 3.45!   Thank you, Elspeth for sharing this little bit of heaven with all of us! The basil which is now on my windowsill is hanging in there, five of the plants look really viable now.


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