Monday, 30 April 2012
Another 11.4mm of rain saw us past our highest monthly rainfall figure and it was also another cold day with strong winds for good measure.
The gardening season doesn't seem to have started. We’ve hardly visited the plot and I suspect it’s going to take a few dry days to get the soil into anything like a workable condition. It’s been a cold month as well as wet with the average temperature this month colder than March. March averaged 8.7°C and April only 6.9°C.
With the cool temperatures it’s also been a struggle to grow plants in the cold greenhouse especially the more tender plants like tomatoes and peppers. These dahlia seedlings have recently been pricked out which has meant moving them from the luxurious warmth of the indoor grow light to the much cooler conditions in our cold greenhouse.
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 09:35
Sunday, 29 April 2012
Saturday was almost a dry day but not quite. We had a few sunny spells but even then the temperature only just managed 10°C.
It wasn’t a day for venturing outside giving me chance to edit my pictures taken at the show
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 10:36
Saturday, 28 April 2012
More rain in the early hours of Friday morning brought our total for April up to 108mm just 10mm short of our monthly rainfall record. More rain is forecast for Sunday so we might yet be setting a new rainfall record.
Although it was dry throughout the day it wasn’t very pleasant and cool once again. I did venture into the greenhouse and the slideshow below gives the state of play at the moment. Generally plants, especially our tomato plants, are struggling due to the cold overnight temperatures .
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 09:41
Friday, 27 April 2012
Lots more rain on Thursday whether it was the right rain or not who knows. It was definitely of the wet variety.
We’d pre-booked tickets for the Harrogate Spring Flower Show. It was tipping with rain when we set off. We thought it prudent to take our walking boots expecting the fields where cars are parked to be boggy. We weren’t wrong and were glad we’d taken along some decent footwear.
It was fine when we arrived around lunch time so we had a quick look around the exhibition gardens outside. There were plenty of dark clouds over head and it was spitting with rain most of the time.
The drier spell didn't last and it poured down with rain. Most folks made for the indoor exhibition halls but some more hardy souls decided to sit it out outside.
There was plenty to see inside but I’m always a little bit disappointed by the coverage fruit and vegetables get at these sorts of shows. The flowers certainly made for some beautiful displays though.
It continued to rain for most of the day. By late evening the month’s total passed the 100mm (4”) mark. It’s only the second time since October 2009 when I set up my weather station that we've passed this amount of rain in one month. November 2009 holds the record at 118.3mm so still a little way to go to beat that.
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 11:07
Thursday, 26 April 2012
Wednesday was a wet day but by “experts” it was deemed the wrong sort of rain to ease the drought.
Once it started mid-morning it was pretty persistent all day amounting to 15.4mm and upping this month’s total to 80.6mm by midnight on Wednesday. Apparently as it’s been so dry the rainfall doesn't have a chance to soak into the ground, just running off the land and straight into rivers and streams. I don’t think that’s happened down on the plot. On our last visit the soil was bordering on being too wet and I'm sure it will now be far too soggy for tilling after more wet days. Another reason given was the mild April weather means that much of the rainfall is lost through evaporation. I didn't know we were having a mild April, I thought just the opposite, as this month could turn out to be the coldest since 1989.
If the “expert opinion” simply means that we’re short of water as one wet month doesn’t make up for lots of dry ones why can’t they just say that rather than give explanations that don’t make too much sense.
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 09:59
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
It didn't rain on Tuesday and a little bit of sunshine dried out the lawn enough at home for the mower to be put into use. By the time I manage to get to the plot the grass will be so long it will need to be strimmed rather than mowed. On the last few visits to the plot it’s been a case of planting taking priority over grass cutting.
I also got a chance to transport the last of the rubble left around the new summerhouse base along to the tip giving me enough space to finish laying the last of the paving flags on which the summer house will sit.
In the pond our marsh marigold is in full flower. I’ll be pleased once the summerhouse is finished and the area around the pond tidied up. I've noticed that we have some small amounts of duckweed in the pond which will take over the surface if it’s allowed to grow on unchecked. Regularly removal is the key.
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 09:32
Tuesday, 24 April 2012
Monday was a day of more showers so it was another inside sort of a day.
|Plot on 21st April 2012|
Like most gardeners I've seen the forecast suggesting the possibility of the coldest May in 100 years. Whilst I'm hoping that the forecast is completely wrong I thought it might be interesting to plot this year’s May temperatures against those of the actual coldest May in the last 100 years.
To my surprise I reckon that all we have to be is colder than May 1996, which had an average temperature of 9.15°C, so if we have the coldest May in 16 years we will also have the coldest in the last 100 years too. May 1996 was the 9th coldest since 1772 as far as I can tell from the records. Then again like the forecast I could be wrong.
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 10:15
Monday, 23 April 2012
Plenty of showers on Sunday after a couple of drier days. The temperature remained stubbornly cool for late April.
April so far has been a very disappointing month weather-wise. To date this year every day has been colder than the corresponding day last April. Last year by the 22nd of the month 18 days had exceeded 14°C (57°F) with a high of 22.8°C (73°F). This year we've still not managed to reach 14°C and our highest temperature has been 13.9°C on the first day of the month.
The average temperature for the month stands at 6.9°C (44°F) which will make it the coldest April since 1989 unless we have a heat wave over the next few days.
We've had plenty of showers throughout April but surprisingly only just reached the average rainfall for the month which is 57.9mm (2.4”). Maybe it seems wetter as we've had 18 days with recorded rainfall rather than a few very wet days. Our total now stands at 60.6mm. In contrast we had just 2.4mm last year as April 2011 was one of the driest on record.
Little wonder then that allotmenting has been a tricky business this April with its wet and cool weather.
Sunday, 22 April 2012
We missed the showers again on Saturday and with some sunny intervals it felt a bit warmer than of late.
We made the most of the weather on the plot planting more potatoes and tidying up around the strawberry plants. The grass paths really need cutting and in some beds weeds or self sown seedlings of various flowers and vegetables have sprung up in abundance. But they’ll just have to wait awhile until we’ve got some planting done.
Beneath this mass of greenery are 2 beds and a path which were cleared of weeds ready for digging a couple of weeks ago. So we’re not likely to run out of jobs on the plot.
Most of our potatoes are now planted. These are our second early potatoes planted on Saturday one row of Winston and Nadine and two rows each of Nicola and Charlotte.
I’ve got some seed potatoes left, mostly Winston, as I haven’t planted any bags of potatoes on the plot. These would normally grow on in the greenhouse to provide some early new potatoes but I decided it was more of a priority to plant our outdoor crop which provides the bulk of our potatoes for storing.
I don’t know how long our seed potatoes will remain in a usable condition but I thought I might try successional plantings to give us some new potatoes later in the season. I’m planning on planting these outdoors, perhaps around the middle of May and mid June if the tubers last that long. Obviously there might be a problem with blight growing potatoes late into the autumn but we have avoided blight for the last two poor summers. The trial is on.
Saturday, 21 April 2012
Friday was another cool day but we avoided any showers so we decided on an afternoon at the plot to start some proper planting.
The rain has left the soil a little on the wet side. It wasn’t too wet for planting although soil did stick a little to our gardening tools. It might just be a bit too wet for cultivating I’ll only find out once I start. We had beds ready tilled for planting our early potatoes so that was one of the main tasks for the afternoon.
We managed to get 6 different varieties planted, Swift, Premiere, Vales Emerald and Marilyn are all new varieties for us so we’ll have to see how they perform. We also planted some Winston and Juliette which have cropped well for us in the past. We've still got Charlotte and Nadine along with a few more Winston’s to plant as soon as another bed is cultivated.
Our early broad beans Witkiem Manita were planted out too. They were started off in cells in the greenhouse, then moved into the cold frame supposedly to harden them off, but as temperatures in the greenhouse had fallen to below 1°C I’m not sure how appropriate that was. The plants had got a little leggy waiting to be planted out but they didn’t look too bad once in the ground.
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 10:27
Friday, 20 April 2012
Thursday was another wet and cool day although we had some weak sunshine late in the afternoon.
I think I know why our visiting kestrel was so contented yesterday as she sat in the magnolia tree. She was digesting her lunch.
I found these feathers by our puddle as I checked if anything needed watering in the greenhouse once the rain had stopped. There wasn't much left off whatever bird it was.
Another issue is that our collared doves just can’t be content to take easy pickings from the bird table and the find a nice comfortable tree to perch in like the kestrel. Their first flight is to alight on my rain gauge and deposit their droppings into the measuring funnel. Then it’s off to find a suitable perch for digesting some seed. I can tell when the deposits are blocking the gauge as it indicates it’s still raining long after it’s stopped as the water slowly percolates through the droppings which accumulate in the bottom of the funnel.
This was the case yesterday, in fact water had stopped running through altogether so a good clear out was required.
So once cleaned out I decide to try to add some anti perching netting to the funnel. I’ve also seen blackbirds doing exactly the same as the collared doves so at the moment the gauge hasn’t been going very long between cleans. I hope I can now look forward to many hours of rain measurements without the need for such regularly cleaning out.
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 10:23
Thursday, 19 April 2012
Not much to say about Wednesday’s weather other than it was wet and cold. I'm tempted to say things can only get better but perhaps that’s just wishful thinking.
I was chatting to my friend Graham on the telephone yesterday and looking out through the window at the rain falling beneath the magnolia tree. It sort of crossed my mind that there weren’t many birds about and at first I thought that they had all found somewhere dry out of the rain. Then I spotted a kestrel perched on a branch in the magnolia tree.
No wonder there weren't any birds around. They didn’t fancy being an afternoon snack for this kestrel sitting on guard in the tree. I think it’s a female and she wasn't in too much of a hurry to disappear. She remained in the tree for almost an hour before flying off to try to find a meal somewhere else.
A pity about all the raindrops on the window which blurred the pictures but maybe she wouldn't have been in the tree if the weather had been drier. Maybe she was sheltering.
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 09:55
Wednesday, 18 April 2012
After a rather wet start in the morning Tuesday turned out not too bad and the showers that threatened most of the day actually stayed away until late afternoon. The forecast at the moment is for the weather to continue the same for the rest of the month. The rain is welcome but some warmer weather would be much appreciated.
|Cowslips at Walton Nature Reserve|
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 10:09
Tuesday, 17 April 2012
After another early morning frost it turned out to be a nice sunny day. We should probably have been planting potatoes but instead we had a walk around the nature reserve at Walton.
|Walton Nature Reserve|
Once we were back home I made the best of the weather getting some more brassicas, lettuce, flowers seeds and some extra tomato seeds sown. Our broad beans and onion sets, planted in cells until we can get them planted on the plot, were moved into the cold frame to make more growing space in the greenhouse.
I was having a quick inspection of a later sowing of broad beans when I spotted this seedling sprouting in one of the cells.
I'm pretty sure that this is a tomato seedling. It’s had no TLC at all as the broad beans have just been left in the cold greenhouse to germinate but this must grow tomato seed has germinated first. Perhaps I think I need to give seeds more care and attention than they need. As a test I've left the seeds I’ve sown today in the greenhouse although they are under a propagator cover to keep them a little warmer - just can’t resist a little bit of extra protection.
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 10:42
Monday, 16 April 2012
Sunday was a lovely sunny day but the temperature remained on the cool side following an overnight frost.
With the cold April weather having no end in sight I’ve constructed an inner sanctum in the greenhouse to protect tender seedlings from the cold night time temperatures. That’s provided we don’t get any ridiculously frosty nights!
It’s nothing elaborate just a few pieces of timber screwed together and some fleece thrown over the top. Our tomato seedlings are already transplanted and we've some pepper seedlings ready to be pricked out which will benefit from this little bit of extra protection.
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 11:47
Sunday, 15 April 2012
Saturday was bright and sunny early on then clouded over for the remainder of the day. It was cold with a maximum temperature of 8.3°C following an early morning frost.
After last year’s very dry spring and summer our rhubarb suffered badly and I mistakenly thought we had lost many of our roots so last autumn I bought a crown of Stockbridge Arrow thinking I would need some extra plants to start replacing the loses.
This was planted in a large pot at the beginning of November and by early December it had produced a first tiny shoot. This shoot disappeared over winter and showed no sign of re-appearing in spring. I hadn’t been able to resist the temptation of ferreting around in the soil to find the crown. Once found it seemed a little soft and I thought it must have rotted through the winter. By now all but one of our crowns on the plot were showing some signs of recovery so to be honest I wasn’t too fussed about this root rotting although another variety would have been very nice. I just left the root on top of the pot to be disposed of at a later date.
Then almost by accident today I noticed this tiny shoot emerging from the crown. So hopefully with a bit of TLC I’ll soon be able to get the crown of Stockbridge Arrow growing well enough to transplant into the plot.
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 09:51
Saturday, 14 April 2012
Friday continued along the month’s trend of sunny intervals with scattered showers and cool temperatures.
Even under the indoor grow light our tomato seedlings were starting to become a bit leggy. I’ve left them there thinking that they were better off than in the greenhouse where the over night temperatures have been falling pretty low. I finally decided to transplant them and move them into the greenhouse and hope I could give them extra protection overnight with some fleece.
The seedlings didn't look too bad once pricked out and set deep in the cells to overcome as much of the legginess as possible. Of course as expected the weather forecast was for an overnight frost so late in the afternoon the plants were covered with fleece.
Just as well that I gave them some extra TLC as the temperature outside fell to just 0.1°C whilst the greenhouse temperature fell to 1.5°C. It’s not the sort of temperature recommended for growing tomatoes.
This morning when the fleece was removed the seedlings looked to have survived. I’ve got some more tomato seedlings to prick out and move into the greenhouse. With more frosts forecast I’m going to have to trust in fleece for protection. Hopefully the weather will improve soon and give some better growing conditions.
Friday, 13 April 2012
By all accounts we did pretty well on Thursday to avoid the many showers that were around locally. It remained dry and mostly sunny and it was late afternoon before we had our first downpour of the day. Mind you having seen Stacy's dry soil at Allotment Adventures of Plot 58 then I shouldn't complain at all about a drop of rain for the plot.
Mr and Mrs Bullfinch have become regular visitors to our bird table. It’s situated in amongst the crab apple tree and as bullfinches have a notorious reputation for destroying fruit buds I'm just a little concerned for our John Downie crab apples.
They both seem to enjoy the bird seed mixture put out on the bird table each day. It's easy to see where the bull part of the name comes from as the male doesn't like to dine with anyone else at the table and soon sees off other birds arriving although he does allow his mate to dine with him. We're hoping that they just leave all our fruit buds alone and stick to their daily supply of seed.
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 09:54
Thursday, 12 April 2012
Some heavy showers on Wednesday some with hail and sleet mixed in. Sunny spells in between the showers made it feel quite pleasant especially in the morning.
Spring 2012 had now collided with spring 2011. The spring of 2011 started off with a cool March but then warmed up leaving us with the warmest spring for several hundred years. Spring 2012 started off with a very warm, but not record breaking March, so average temperatures for 2012 at the end of March were well above last year's and we looked set for another record breaking year.
|Click on image to view at full size|
The green line represents last spring and the orange line spring 2012. Last year was certainly the better option for gardeners with temperatures steadily rising as spring progressed. This year has presented some problems with temperatures cooling down. As a gardener I don't expect April to be colder than March but that's the case so far. Hopefully the weather will improve soon but the forecast into next week doesn't look too promising.
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 09:39
Wednesday, 11 April 2012
Tuesday was a breezy cool day but with plenty of sunny intervals it wasn't too bad at times.
One day on holiday in Scotland at the end of last month we were heading to Fort William one morning along the shores of Loch Lochy. It was a beautiful spring morning with clear blue skies and virtually no breeze. The Loch produced a stunning reflection of the mountains making it difficult at times to appreciate that there was water there and not a giant mirror.
Tuesday, 10 April 2012
Monday was a pretty poor day with showers throughout the morning and then again late in the afternoon. Not a day for gardening outside. In the end though not a lot of rain with the day's total amounting to 2.8mm.
Whilst gardening outside is on hold due to the poor weather I decided to get more seeds sown in the greenhouse. The only problem is that it's not been that warm overnight in the greenhouse.
For a cold greenhouse I've read that ideally the temperature shouldn't fall below 7°C. So far this month that's not the case as even last night the temperature fell below this value down to 5.6°C.
To get round this I decided seeds needing some warmth to germinate could go under the indoor grow light except that there's no space left.
To give a few days breathing space I placed the newly sown seeds in a tray next to the grow light reasoning that they didn't need to go under the light until they had started to germinate.
I expected this might give me a week to play with whilst the weather improved but in a good way it's turned out not to be the case. Zinnias and Chrysanthemums germinated quickly and found a space under the grow light when the celery and antirrhinums were transplanted and moved to the greenhouse. Now the dahlias are just starting to germinate some tomatoes or peppers are going to have to move into the greenhouse. I'll just make sure I have plenty of fleece at hand in case some cold nights are forecast.
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 10:30
Monday, 9 April 2012
Sunday was a little better in that at least the temperature managed to reach the expected average. If April carries on at this rate it will turn out to be colder than March!
It might turn out to be a mistake but I decided that our antirrhinums, celery and celeriac needed to be moved from under the grow light and transplanted. Unfortunately for them this means a move from the relative comfort of the spare room into our cold greenhouse. It's been living up to this reputation too with temperatures down to almost freezing some night last week. Hopefully some fleece will keep the worst of the weather off if frost threatens again next week.
Both the celery and celeriac had produced masses of fibrous roots and separating out individual seedlings without damaging the roots wasn't possible. I’m banking on these plants recovering from this set back and going on to produce our first ever celery crop.
Our antirrhinums were just about right for transplanting. There was a marked variation in sizes of seedlings but they were all transplanted large and small, enough to fill 2 trays each holding 24 plants.
Now we just need the weather to cooperate a little better.
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 10:57
Sunday, 8 April 2012
Saturday was another disappointingly cool day with virtually no sunshine.
We didn’t visit the plot put off by the cool weather. I’m not too worried about delaying sowings made directly in the plot whilst the weather remains as cool as it is. Our parsnips, potatoes and carrots are the crops due to be sown and planted but delaying planting potatoes by a few days shouldn’t be a problem and I don’t think carrot seed would germinate so well at the moment. I’d like to get our parsnips in soon as they benefit from a long growing season and are slow to germinate.
The poor weather has given me some time to sort out our holiday video from Scotland. We took some long walks alone the Caledonian Canal and watched this cargo vessel negotiate the locks at Fort Augustus before the swing bridge opened allowing it to sail up Loch Ness towards Inverness.
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 10:22
Saturday, 7 April 2012
Friday was back to mostly cloudy and cool with spits and spots of rain throughout the day.
Not all flowers of spring are welcome. Down on the plot our spring cabbage “Flowers of Spring” have done just that, flowered. Not all the plants but probably around 75% have either flowered or are obviously going to flower rather than form any hearts.
This plant is almost ready to come into flower whilst others are beginning to show the first signs of a flower bud rather than a heart.
It's not a problem I'm used to. I've had cabbages run to seed before but usually after they've at least made an attempt to form a heart. I'm wondering if it was the warm dry weather at the end of March which has resulted in most of these cabbages bolting. Looks like I’ll be busy cutting them up and adding them to the compost heap. Disappointing but it means the ground can be cleared and dug and another crop planted. I've often used “Excel” as my spring cabbage in the past so maybe I should return to that variety or as I still have some seeds of “Flowers of Spring” I could try growing both and see which produces the better cabbages.
Friday, 6 April 2012
The sun shone all day on Thursday although it wasn't particularly mild or perhaps the mild March has just spoilt us. So we went from this on Wednesday
To this on Thursday
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 10:20
Thursday, 5 April 2012
Wednesday was much more like Winter than Spring. Some much needed wet weather arrived as snow rather than rain and together with strong winds made for a very unpleasant day. To add insult to injury the temperature only managed 6°C at its best.
Sowing seeds early under our grow light always had the possibility of young seedlings needing to be transplanted and moved into our cold greenhouse when weather conditions weren't really suitable. Well it's happened.
These antirrhinum “Snap Happy” and our celery “Victoria F1” and celeriac "Giant Prague” are certainly ready to be transplanted to give them a bit more growing space but the greenhouse temperatures have been down to freezing the last couple of nights. Perhaps a little over crowding is better than being frosted. Our young tomato plants will need to be moved into the greenhouse soon so I'm hoping for an improvement in over night temperatures.
The good news is that this April won't be as dry as last year as we’ve already had 6 times more rainfall this year. Last April produced only 2.4mm of rainfall and so far we've had 14.6mm this year. Every cloud does have some sort of silver lining!
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 09:28
Wednesday, 4 April 2012
Tuesday was mostly dull with just a little late afternoon sunshine. It was a cool day and late into the evening the wind became very gusty and it started to rain.
By Wednesday morning we had a covering of the white stuff and the temperature was only just above freezing.
The blossom on our magnolia tree is weighed down with wet snow. This is not going to do the fruit blossom much good either.
Last week when we went on holiday our tomato and pepper seeds had been sown and left under the grow light to germinate. The self watering feature using capillary matting works very well and easily lasts a week if the reservoir is topped up. Some aubergines had already germinated and were left to grow on a little.
Imagine my surprise on our return from Scotland. First impressions were good, all our tomato seeds had germinated and some of our peppers.
Then I noticed our aubergine seedlings. Exactly where had the leaves disappeared to! Closer inspection looked like slug damage and there were some tell tale slimy trails on the top of the compost.
But where had this slug come from and where was it lurking now? If it was still in hiding were any of our seedlings safe. I took each small tray out in turn carefully inspecting underneath the base and around the edges. No trace of any small slug or snail. I thought it might be possible that it could find a place to hide in the drainage holes in the trays hiding from view by day and munching through our precious seedlings at night. My last thought was to inspect around the edges of the capillary matting and that’s where I found it.
I was a bit taken aback about its size. I was looking for a tiny slug or snail but this was pretty big and it hadn't grown this size on half a dozen aubergine seedling leaves. I can only think that it must have been in the compost when the seeds were sown. I’m now hoping that our seedlings can be left to grow on without fear of being munched.
Is nowhere safe from slugs and snails?
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 10:18
Tuesday, 3 April 2012
Monday was a let down weather wise, dull and cool all day. The forecast for the rest of the week looks even worse and I think I’ll delay sowing any seeds for a few days.
In all the excitement about growing grapes, peaches, apricots and nectarines our poor old fig tree has almost been forgotten. Last September it looked like this.
|28 September 2011|
Sue's blog post “Dead or Alive” covered our concerns about our fig tree last summer. It did indeed spend the winter in the greenhouse to help protect it from the worst of the winter weather. There were a few nights where the greenhouse temperature fell to around -5°C and although it was covered with a few layers of fleece it must have been frosted.
The good news is that it has survived winter and is looking much more like a proper fig tree now with plenty of new leaves being produced.
|02 April 2012|
So it's wait and see just how many of our “exotic” fruits produce the goods. Apricots, nectarines, kiwi, peaches, grapes and figs from the garden - that really would be amazing.
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 09:24
Monday, 2 April 2012
The sun shone all day but with a cool breeze we didn't reach the warm temperatures recorded last week. It's amazing how quickly things progress in a week at this time of year. A week ago our Conference pear tree showed few signs of growth but it's now in full flower.
I'll have to make a start on sowing now we're back from our holidays. April is a really busy month for getting lots of vegetables and flower seeds sown. After a really mild March I'm half expecting April to be a bit of a let down weather wise. A bit like last year we got some good weather early on in the year but then summer never really materialised.
Heavy rain is forecast for Tuesday with the possibility of snow. I don't really want the snow but the rain will be most welcome for the garden and the plot.
Sunday, 1 April 2012
We returned home on Saturday after a fabulous week on holiday in Scotland at Fort Augustus on the shore of Loch Ness. We departed wondering just how cold and wet Scotland, especially the Highlands, might be at the end of March. We got record breaking temperatures for March and lots of sunshine. The farthest north we got was Inverness at the northern tip of Loch Ness on a gloriously sunny afternoon with the temperature reaching 21°C.
We were very lucky to get such a fantastic week in Northern Scotland in March. The locals were talking of snow being forecast for Monday next week. I think we may have been spoilt by the sunny mild weather!
Posted by Martyn Garrett at 09:26