Monday, 20 February 2017

Free Refurbishment Time On The Allotment

We took advantage of a mild weekend to get some more sorting out done on the allotment. I think that anything we get done now is a bonus. It's a sort of free time to get work done as there are no other jobs that need to take priority such as planting and harvesting. Our rose bed refurbishment was completed and Sue has started to clear an old rhubarb bed. Refurbishment of an area cleared of a large conifer tree last year continues and we plan a little wildlife area near the greenhouse.

The video that follows shows the progress we made over the weekend.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Smoke and Snowdrops

Saturday became our new mildest day of the year as the thermometer hit 13.3°C or 55.9°F.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 16-18 February 2017
We are in a mild spell of weather for February. After our cold, wet and windy day out on Thursday, we felt we'd have Friday out too to see if our luck would change. We decided to visit Hodsock Priory in Nottinghamshire where they open their garden especially for the snowdrop season.  We set of in drizzly rain which as we headed south turned into heavier showers. By the time we arrived at Hodsock Priory we had left the rain behind.
Hodsock Priory, Blyth, Nottinghamshire
We arrived a little before lunch. We'd planned for the possibility of having to visit a few other venues as, being our first visit to the gardens, we didn't know what to expect. We decided on a quick tour of the more formal gardens before lunch.
Lunches were served in what reminded me of the Bake Off tent.
We had a look inside the marquee on a couple of occasions and it looked busy. We decided to have a walk into the oak woodland area and return for some lunch a little bit later. However, a few minutes later, located in a clearing, in the woodland we came across the woodland cafe.
This was complete with outdoor picnic tables and an open log fire. Here we ordered a couple of sausage butties and drinks before setting off to explore the snowdrops in the woodland.
There certainly are thousands of snowdrop throughout the oak woodland.  After a walk through all the woodland snowdrops we returned to the more formal garden area for a better look around. There's plenty of other early flowering bulbs and plants on show besides snowdrops.
We needn't have planned any other visits as we spent the rest of the afternoon looking round the gardens.

Friday, 17 February 2017

When It Doesn't Go According To Plan!

Thursday became our warmest day of the year as the temperature reached 11.8°C  (53.2°F) taking over from the previous highest of 11.6°C or 52.9°F.
The weather forecasters suggested it would be warmer as we approached the end of the week and taking them at their word we decided on a day out on Thursday. We planned a day out in the Yorkshire Dales. The day was to include some video of steam locomotive 60163 hauling a scheduled passenger service on the main line between Skipton and Appleby. It's the first time for 50 years that a steam train has hauled a scheduled service on the main line. I'd planned to get some video of the train crossing Dent Head Viaduct. After lunch we planned a visit to Fountains Abbey to see some snowdrops in flower.

The weather in the Dales wasn't brilliant. Cold wet and windy sums it up. Dent Head Viaduct is high up in the Dales and the clouds were skimming the tops.
We arrived at Dent Head Viaduct in the teeth of a gale. I decided to set up the camera and tripod and leave it running to film the train crossing the viaduct. I didn't realise that for some reason the camera stopped recording before the train arrived. So all I had was some footage of a trainless viaduct very much like the photo below.
Sue decided on a much more sensible option and took some photos from the relative comfort of the car through an open window.
You'll notice to add insult to injury a smokeless steam train crossed over the viaduct. At least we had something to show for our visit to Dent Head. After lunch at Wensleydale Creamery we headed for Fountains Abbey. When we pulled into the car park it was still blowing a gale and raining. We thought it wasn't the best weather to be trying to take photos of snowdrops and headed for home.

We'll try a visit elsewhere to see some snowdrops over the next few days but steam trains on the Settle and Carlisle line will have to be put on hold until the line is fully re-opened at the end of March following its closure due a landslip early in 2016.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Some Welcome Sunshine

Monday started off cold and dull not unlike the previous few days. At the very least the drizzle had disappeared. I'd almost decided not to do a blog post for today as there was nothing more to say about our dull, gloomy weather. I'd no more photos or video to add to blog posts either. Then for a couple of hours around the middle of the day the clouds broke up and the sun came out. Brilliant!
Temperature, Wind Chill & Solar Radiation Records for 13-02-2016
It was time to grab a camera and get a few photos. Our snowdrops have been in a sort of a limbo for a week now. They're almost in flower but seemingly waiting for the weather to improve before they put on a proper show.
We've some crocus that will soon be in flower too.
All too soon the clouds rolled in again but it has given us some hope that the weather is changing for the better. Who knows we may even get down to the allotment this week.

Monday, 13 February 2017

More Gloom

Sunday was another cold and gloomy day. The highest temperature on Saturday and Sunday was exactly the same 3.6°C (38.5°F) with equal amounts of sunshine on both days, zero hours. There was a cold easterly wind blowing making it feel even colder than the temperature suggested.
Temperature, Wind Chill and Rainfall Records for 12 February 2017
The rainfall amounted to 4.0mm (0.16in) which isn't much considering it seemed to drizzle all day long.
The view of the window or through the window wasn't very cheery.
If the forecast is correct we're in for another gloomy day on Monday but through the rest of the week the weather should become milder and brighter.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Too Harsh?

The weather has been dull and cold over the last few days. So far the snow showers that were forecast haven't arrived but having said that it hasn't rained much at all. It's been drizzly with a little bit of sleety stuff mixed in at times. A little bit of brightness wouldn't go amiss after what seems to have been a week of cold and gloomy days.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 10-12 February 2017
The wind chill effect has made it feel especially cold. We certainly haven't considered visiting the allotment, choosing to wait for an improvement in the weather.

I saw an article in the gardening press this week about not pruning too harshly. Like all good articles it comes a little bit too late but I'm not sure that I would do anything differently having read the story. On the plot in the perennial bed that we are currently refurbishing we have two Sambucus nigra  "Black Lace" bushes or more commonly called black elder. Through summer these two bushes put on a brilliant display with their colourful foliage, pink flowers and finally trusses of elder berries.
Sambucus nigra  "Black Lace"
They get lots of comments about how impressive they look through the summer and a few shoots have been nipped off for other plotters to have a go at raising their own plants. However there comes a time when they get too big and somewhat out of control. Their sheer size means they cast too much shade onto the adjacent beds resulting in poor performing crops. Every year they get a light prune but they quickly grow back seemingly even bigger unless I take some drastic action every few years.
In the winter months they don't look too bad and it's difficult to image just how much shade they cast. As we are refurbishing their bed I decided this year would be as good a time as any to give them a severe pruning. First of all the straightish stems were cut out and will be used as pea sticks.
Then they were cut back almost to ground level.
Needless to say I'm not expecting them to flower this year. It will take them a year or so to recover but I'm sure that they will. In the meantime they won't be casting too much shade over the adjacent vegetable crops. There won't be any elderflower cordial from them this year but we do have a couple of wild elder bushes on the plot that will no doubt produce flowers and fruit.
The remaining sturdier stems were cut up and will be added to a bonfire to produce some wood ash once they have dried out. Below is a short video that we made when cutting back  our Sambucus nigra.

Friday, 10 February 2017

A Reminder It's Still Winter

After a few mild days and bulbs coming into flower it was all too easy to think spring might be here but Thursday was a reminder that it's still winter. Thursday turned out to be the coldest day of the month with the thermometer struggling to get much above freezing. Oddly for such a cold day it didn't actually fall below freezing.
Temperature Record for 09 February 2017
It was dull and cloudy all day without any hint of brightness with a high temperature of 2.8°C (37.0°F) and a low of 0.9°C or 33.6°F.

We didn't get any of the threatened snow showers through the day but overnight into Friday we had the merest hint of a few snowflakes around the garden.
Other plants were surrounded with something between snowflakes and ice. The forecast doesn't improve much over the next few days. Any precipitation on Friday and through the weekend could fall as either snow or rain. We'll soon find out.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

We're In A Dry Spell!

It seems rather hard to believe that at the moment we are in a dry spell of weather. I noticed a Met office article a few days ago now reporting how low the rainfall had been between October 2016 and the end of January 2017. They went as far as to suggest it was one of the driest on record for the time of year. We've been working down on the plot and it didn't seem all that dry.
Certainly the soil in the bed we were cultivating had a habit of sticking to our spades and forks as well as boots. The top of the soil was certainly very clinging but it didn't turn over too badly considering it's February. I decided to consult my weather figures to see if we were in a dry spell.
This chart suggests that we are in a dryish spell of weather as the average rainfall per month has been below average since October 2016, as reported by the Met Office. At the end of September 2016 we'd had more than 720mm of rainfall in the preceding 12 months compared to an expected rainfall of 620mm. By the end of January 2017 we were down to 583mm in the preceding 12 months. Our actual rainfall figures for each month are shown in the table below.
The forecasters are suggesting that our weather, over the next week or so, will be governed by a large area of high pressure sitting over Scandinavia probably meaning colder rather than wetter weather over the next few days.

Judging by the state of the soil on our allotment I don't think we need to worry about a drought just yet.

As Tuesday afternoon was reasonable mild I decided to take a little bit of video of our hellebores and snowdrops before we get any actual snow which may arrive in small amounts over the weekend.