Saturday, 30 April 2011

What an entry!

Friday continued the fine spell of weather. There was a little more cloud around today but still no signs of any rain. It looks like April will set both a high average temperature and low rainfall record.

I spent some time trying to capture images of our blue tits entering or leaving their nest box. The speed at which they enter the nest box is amazing. As shown in the picture below our blue tit heads for its nest in an arrow shape blur!
Blue tit heads for nest box

Friday, 29 April 2011

More firsts

Thursday was yet again another sunny dry day. It was fairly cold over night so Thursday morning started cool as the temperature had dropped to 1.7°C in the early hours - a reminder that it's only April.

When we visited Walton Nature Reserve last week we heard our first cuckoo of the year. In fact it seems it's been a few years since I last heard a cuckoo. The video below is included for its soundtrack rather than the content of the video. A cuckoo can be heard calling.

I was having a coffee break outside and watching the fish in the pond when I spotted some fry from last year. I'm surprised these little fish have survived our harsh winter. I'm sure they will be rudd which usually produce a few offspring each year. The challenge now is to get some pictures.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

They're back!

The sunshine returned on Wednesday with another almost cloudless day. As we were about to leave the plot we spotted that the swallows had returned a sure sign that spring is here. The photograph is rather blurred but it was a dashed affair taken from long distance through an extremely dirty car windscreen.

Swallows return to the allotments
On the plot we planted out some broad beans and cabbage seedlings. We had delayed planting them out hoping that some rain would make the process of planting out easier and watering the plants at home is more convenient than down on the plot. 
Broad beans - Witkeim Manita
These broad bean plants could wait no longer in their pots so we decided to plant them out. They will need to be kept watered whilst the dry conditions persist.
Cabbage - Primo
These cabbage plants were one of the first tests of our indoor grow light system. They too will need to be kept watered in the dry spell. They were protected from marauding pigeons with some netting otherwise they will be reduced to nothing more than bare stems in just one attack.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Just not good enough

Tuesday 26th April was the first time this month that our actual daily maximum temperature didn't manage to exceed the expected. It was a shock to the system as it felt cool after the recent unseasonably mild spell of weather. The light rain forecast for today never arrived although it was cloudy all day and to be fair to the forecasters at times there was just a hint of rain in the air.

In the garden our new Candy Club tulips are putting on an excellent display.
Tulips - Candy Club

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Transplanting melons

Monday was another very pleasant day with plenty of sunshine, above average temperatures and once again no rain.

Our melon seeds have germinated and grown well under our indoor grow light but in order to prevent them becoming over crowded I thought it was time they were transplanted and left to fend for themselves in the greenhouse.
Melon seedlings - Noir  Des Carmes
These seedlings have been grown in a multi-purpose compost and have been watered individually rather then relying on the capillary matting. I felt the compost might get a little too wet using the matting. The germination rate was 100%.
Melon seedling - root system
Each seedling had developed an excellent root system and the seedlings were easy to remove from the cells which I have found difficult to achieve if the compost is too wet.
Transplanted melon seedlings
The seedlings are now transplanted and will be left in our cold greenhouse to grow on before potting on into their final containers. They may need covering with some fleece if over night frost is forecast.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Walton Colliery Nature Park

Far from the end of our spell of fine weather Easter Sunday turned out to be another sunny warm day after a rather unpromising start. We decided on a walk around Walton Colliery Nature Park located just a few miles from us rather than risking any Easter traffic jams. It was our first visit to the nature park and we were surprised by the area it covered and enjoyed a pleasant afternoon stroll around part of the site. We'll certainly be making more visits to explore other paths and see how the park changes over the seasons.
Walton Colliery Nature Park
The park is situated on the site of the old Walton Colliery closed down in 1979. More details about the colliery are available here. The grassed area above looks more like grass at the end of a dry August rather than the end of April and is certainly showing the effects of no rain for almost 2 months.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

End of a spell??

Saturday might have seen the end of our fantastic spell of April weather. It started off sunny and warm with the temperature reaching 24.7°C a new high for the year by lunchtime

Then a rather dramatic change. It suddenly clouded over, as you can see from the graph the sunshine disappeared and the temperature suddenly fell. There was the sound of thunder rumbling in the background. A few rather large spots of rain fell - this was it some rain at last!

In the end it just never happened and all we had was enough rain to wet the patio but never enough to wet the surface of the soil. By late afternoon we had some more pleasant sunshine but no real rain. The rainfall for the day was a pretty measly 0.6mm. Our monthly total now stands at only 2.6mm after a record dry month for March.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Warmest this year

Friday started with something like an inland sea fret and it seemed the weather might just have changed for the Bank Holiday as usual. It wasn't long before the sun broke through and we had another superb day with the temperature reaching 22.8°C the warmest of the year so far. It's just possible that the fine weather will bring out our bluebells in April.
Bluebells in our wild area
I tilled a couple of plots and our soil is extremely dry even below the top couple of inches. Perhaps we will be treated to some heavy showers as forecast over the weekend but I'm not going to hold my breath.
Tilled plots  
Normally the soil turns over much darker but at the moment the soil seems just as dry underneath and in any case dries out in a few minutes in the warm sunshine.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Summer in April continues

Thursday continued the spell of summer weather with another cloudless day with the temperature reaching 21°C. In the garden our tulips seem to have lasted well despite the warm dry weather.
Garden tulips
On the plot our fruit trees continue to come into blossom. It seems to be a good year for blossom on the plot and we can only hope that this produces a bumper fruit crop.
Quince (Meeches Prolific) 

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Not so glorious cardoon

The great spell of weather continued on Wednesday with another sunny warm and dry day. Spot the difference in my afternoon picture on the plot.
Another sunny afternoon on the plot  

Cardoon plant in summer
Our magnificent cardoon plant has been reduced to a virtually dead stump by the cold winter weather. There is just the odd sign that the stump has survived and is beginning to show signs of life. I decided it was time to remove the old dead stump and plant a new off shoot in a new location. This would leave more space in our new fruit bed and the cardoon transplanted into one of our flower beds.
The cardoon roots find there way deep into the soil to it's not an easy job to dig out the root. Hopefully the barrow full is all the old root and the little off shoot will soon grow into a spectacular new plant!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Probably summer!

The fine spell of weather continued on Tuesday. I just hope that this isn't summer! The forecast is for the weather to continue like this over the holiday weekend.
A cloudless sky on the plot  
The blossom on our plum trees is now fading but we're hoping that the fruit has set. Certainly there's been plenty of bee activity on the flowers. Our young apple tree Egremont Russet is full of blossom. If the blossom sets we might have to remove some of the fruits as such a small tree cannot possibly carry so much fruit. Perhaps that's just wistful thinking at the moment.
Young apple tree Egremont Russet

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

A visit to RSPB Old Moor

Monday was another lovely April day although the afternoon was rather cloudy. The dry spell continued too and with the temperatures continuing above average for April there is now the distinct possibility that we may exceed the record high temperature set in April 2007. 
RSPB Old Moor  

The were lots of cowslips in flower as we wandered around the reserves paths and popped into each of the hides to look at the birds. 
Cowslips at RSPB  Old Moor  

Monday, 18 April 2011

Glorious April continues

Sunday saw a continuation of the glorious April weather with a day of almost unbroken sunshine and temperatures just nudging 20°C.
The only downside is that the plot is dry so today our new strawberry bed received a good watering and hopefully that should keep them happy for a few days.

New strawberry bed  
Whilst the strawberries were getting their watering we sowed our first row of peas, Feltham First and Progress No 9. The shallow trenches that the peas were sown into were given a good soaking before the peas were sown and covered with compost. The row was then given some protection as newly sown beds seem to attract unwanted attention and finish up with paw prints in the compost or even holes excavated along the rows.
Peas Feltham First and Progress No 9  

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Watering in April!

Saturday was another fine spring day with long sunny spells and the temperature just managing to notch 20°C. This is very good for April. Unfortunately the downside to this excellent spring weather  for us gardeners is that down on the plot it's really dry and all the crops could do with some rain. Parsnips and carrot seeds need to be kept moist to get them to germinate successfully so watering has become a regular job. Watering is not normally a problem in April - it is after all supposed to be the month of showers - spectacularly untrue so far this year.

Dry weather means seeds need watering regularly  
The fine weather has started the duckweed growing rapidly in the pond. It's rather invasive if not kept under control. I think it's worth the effort to remove some each week as I think it sets a pond off well.
Duckweed is growing rapidly in the pond  

Saturday, 16 April 2011

From gorgeous to grotesque!

Friday was another cloudy day but with virtually no breeze it felt pretty mild. We decided on a trip to the plot in the afternoon to do some more tidying up. Our few surviving winter brassicas needed weeding to give the plants that have survived winter a decent chance of producing some cauliflowers next month.

Weeds cleared from winter brassicas
It was also time to dig up the remains of our carrot crop which like most of the brassicas were winter casualties.

There were no signs of any carrots growing and after a few false starts I found a row of rotten Yellowstone carrots. Some of the carrots had changed into yellow liquid which oozed everywhere once the roots were disturbed. This rather disgusting liquid and the remaining rotten carrot root seemed to be an ideal breeding ground for worms.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Something different

Thursday turned out to be another cool cloudy day and once again no rain. It was pleasant enough in the greenhouse and I transplanted some more cabbages and cauliflower seedlings.

In the afternoon I couldn't decide whether to visit the plot to do some more tidying up or do a bit more around the garden. Somehow in the end I finished up doing neither - I've had computer problems with an upgrade to IE9 which doesn't seem to want to work. I attempted to sort out the problem to no avail.

I did notice a long tailed tit making use of our bird bath and decided to try some video, really expecting that by the time I had the camera ready bath time would be over. Well it wasn't quite over as you can judge for yourself if you watch the short video below.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Still no rain

A few days ago the forecast for Wednesday was for heavy rain which turned into the possibility of showers and in the end even the showers didn't materialize. The forecast for the next week doesn't forecast much rain so an exceptionally dry March may well be followed by a dry April. Although it felt pretty cool for most of the day temperatures were around expected for April.

Tomato plants transplanted   
I transplanted our second batch of tomato seedlings which had been growing under our indoor grow light. These had been sown in John Innes compost in a 60 cell module. The cell have rather large holes in the bases which resulted in them soaking up too much water from the capillary matting and the young seedlings were trying to grow in John Innes mud. This made transplanting difficult as the compost was two wet to come cleanly out of the individual cells. I think whenever possible it will be best to water the seeds as necessary from the top rather than using the capillary matting.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

A comparison with April 2010

Tuesday was cooler than of late. There was a reasonable amount of sunshine but a cool breeze took the edge off the temperatures. There is no doubt that the warm start to April has brought our fruit trees into blossom and leaf much earlier than last year. I'm not sure if this is good or bad, it probably depends on any frost damage to the blossom. The two pictures below show our plum and greengage trees last April and this.
Plum tree comparison

So far so good for our tomato seedlings under our new indoor grow light. They have now been pricked out into individual cells and are in our cold greenhouse.  The difference in overnight temperatures will be quite a shock for them. 

I've also re-sown some Crimson Flowered broad bean seeds after the last ones were devoured by a hungry mouse. As it happens it wasn't just one mouse as I've now trapped 6 mice over the last 3 nights. Seed trays and other plants are protected by mouse traps to try to protect them from marauding mice during the night. Lots of our brassica seeds have germinated and are ready for potting on. I'm just a little wary as the mouse demolished my last batch of young cabbage plants.

Mouse patrol to protect seeds and seedlings

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

April returns

Monday saw a return to much more typical April weather with a maximum temperature of 16.2°C which is still fairly respectable for April. It was early afternoon when we had our first shower, it's a bit over the top to describe it as a shower, it wet the ground but that was it. A few more showers in the afternoon weren't much better and we managed just 0.2mm of rain. ET measured by my weather station was 1.5mm so it's reasonable to assume that more moisture was lost out of the soil than fell in the showers. 
Tulips coming into bloom in the garden    

Monday, 11 April 2011

It just continues

The fine weather continued on Sunday and it gave us a chance to get our new strawberry bed planted up. We finished getting our potatoes planted so all we need now is some rain to help them all settle in.
New strawberry bed planted up
It's not all being plain sailing though as we've suffered another mouse raid in the greenhouse, this time losing all our Crimson Flowered broad beans which have been carefully excavated out of their individual modules. Not just a couple of beans every single one. This is war!!!

Broad bean seeds eaten by mouse 

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Making the most of the fine weather

Saturday saw a continuation of the fine warm spell of weather. On the plot we planted our early potatoes and all our carrot seeds for this year were sown.
Early potatoes planted 
The soil is very dry and we really need some rain to give the ground a good soaking. I reckon the last time we had any appreciable amount of rain was way back on February 25th when we had 11.4mm. Since then we have had just 7.2mm in March and only 1.6mm so far this month.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Just like summer!

Friday turned out to be the warmest day of this excellent spell of weather with the temperature reaching 22.1°C. With sunshine from dawn till dusk it was just like summer. For comparison the first time we managed such a temperature last year was 20th May.
Clear blue sky throughout the day 
There wasn't much breeze either which made it a good day for sowing parsnips and avoiding the seeds from blowing all over the plot.

Friday, 8 April 2011

More sunshine and more blossom

Thursday started rather dull and cloudy but the sun soon came out and we were treated to another lovely April day. The mild conditions continued with temperatures well above those for the time of year. On the plot it has brought more of our fruit trees into blossom. Along with the plum and greengages which came out a few days ago our cherry tree and pears trees are now in full blossom.

Cherry and Pear blossom  

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Wednesday started off dull but soon cleared up to give a lovely sunny day. The temperature was extremely warm for April as this piece in the Daily Telegraph details.

Click on the picture to view full article.

We didn't quite manage the temperatures in Telegraph but our high was 21.1°C very respectable for early April. These 2 ladybirds on the plot were also making the most of the fine weather.
Ladybirds enjoy the warmth   

I cultivated 3 of our long beds on the plot. The soil is now very dry and really needs some rain. Our clayey soil is now starting to have dry concrete hard lumps in it which will only break down into a fine tilth once we get some rain.
Cultivated beds - soil is very dry  

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Dull and mild

Tuesday saw the mild start to April continue with just some light rain overnight.

Tomato seeds sown and placed under the indoor grow garden are germinating well.
Tomato seedlings - Amish Gold & Moneymaker  
The young seedlings are being drawn to the centre of the lit area. I've lifted the light source to see if that helps and of course turning the tray around will straighten up the seedlings. One thing for certain is that they are not drawn to the light from the window which is to the left of the pictures. So far so good but it's early days yet.

We've also placed some of our flower seeds under the light and these too are germinating well producing the tricky task of trying to get the germinated seedlings in the best position under the light.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


Monday was mostly dull, breezy and cloudy but remained fairly mild for early April. It's difficult to tell what the weather's going to do as it's cloudy one minute, and looks like it's going to pour down, only for the sun to come out for a brief spell before the clouds return. I suppose that's typical of April except we're avoiding the showers.

I've decide our greenhouse mice are clever or just lucky as they've managed to scoff my bait of golden chorus, triggering the mouse trap, but not get trapped. I'm not giving up though as I could do to have the blighters trapped before leaving un-covered trays of seeds in the greenhouse.

Although the weather's a bit mixed it hasn't stopped our pansies producing some super flowers.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Brassicas sown

Sunday was a little cooler with some sunny intervals and light showers.

I was a little undecided whether to go to the plot and do some digging or get some brassica seeds sown at home. A shower at lunchtime convinced me I might be better off sowing some seeds in the greenhouse at home. Along with brassica seeds I sowed some lettuce and broad beans seeds all to germinate and grow on in our greenhouse. Details are on the Sow Grow Harvest button at the top of the blog page.
Brassica sowings   
I've sown all these brassicas in John Innes compost. The first sowing of cabbages (Primo) raised under our grow light looked a little peaky when they were moved to the greenhouse. They looked as though they needed some better compost. I only had a bag of the same compost and used that to pot up the seedlings which are now growing away well and will soon be ready to transplant in the allotment. So was it the conditions under the grow light or the compost I'm not sure which.
Cabbage plants Primo  
Our home greenhouse is now full so today I moved our new Kiwi, Cobnut and Japanese Wineberry out of the greenhouse to make a little space for the brassicas and other seeds sown today. As soon as the ground is prepared our new fruits will be moved into their final positions.
Kiwi and Japanese Wineberry    

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Mouse protection

Saturday was another sunny and mild day. It will be a bit of a shock when we return to more typical April temperatures.

Making the most of the pleasant conditions in the greenhouse  a large batch of seeds were sown details of which can be found by clicking on the "Sow, Grow and Harvest" tab at the top of my blog. Most of the seeds are struggling to find space under our indoor grow light but the sweet peas are in the greenhouse and will initially have to survive any mouse attacks. So far mouse traps have being unsuccessful. I've covered our sweet pea seeds with plastic covers which should keep the mice out unless they're particularly strong ones.
Sweet pea seeds protected from mice.   
In the garden our camellias are in full flower and as usual are providing a spectacular display.


Saturday, 2 April 2011

Plum blossom

Friday was breezy, cloudy and mild. Surprising comparing the average temperatures for February and March, is that March was only 0.3°C warmer than February.

Our plums and greengages are in flower on the plot. Oullins gage is fully out and looks very pretty. I'm never sure whether this is a plum or a gage but judging from the flowers I'm sticking to it being a plum.
Plum - Oullins Gage

Our extra early potatoes Winston and Maris Bard were planted in bags and place in the plot greenhouse. They should perhaps have been planted a bit earlier but I'm sure with a start in the greenhouse they will be ready for harvesting before any of the outdoor crops to be planted over the next couple of weeks.
Potatoes - Maris Bard