Thursday, 31 May 2012

Torrential Rain and New Horizon Compost Update

Wednesday was warm and muggy with less sunshine than we've become accustomed to. Then around 21:00 the heavens opened and it tipped down. At one stage the rain was falling at 100mm/hr (4”/hr) equivalent to a month’s rainfall every 30 minutes. Thankfully it didn't last long.

Before the rain came I had a check over some plants growing in New Horizon peat free compost. I was a little unsure, in my last post on this topic, about my brassica plants growing in this medium. Perhaps it was the cold weather holding them back as they've now produced good plants, helped on by this recent spell of warm weather, and are now ready for planting in the plot .
Cabbages - Golden Acre (Sown 6th April)

Foreground red cabbage Huzaro, then cabbage Kilaton and at the back sprouts Crispus. 
Cabbages sown on 16th April and Brussels sprouts on 6th April)

I've also tried sowing French beans and runner beans in modules of New Horizon peat free compost - as an experiment to see if this compost suited them. I thought it a bit of a risk at the time as, due to the cold weather, I was already late sowing these seeds  and didn’t want another set back with poor germination as a result of poor compost. I needn’t have worried as the results have been very good with almost 100% germination and some strong healthy looking plants.
French beans - Tendergreen (sown 13th May)

Runner beans - Painted Lady (sown 17th May)

So far so good with this peat free compost. I've also got some courgettes and cucumber growing in this compost and I'm hoping the results will be just as good.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Summerhouse Day

The fine spell of weather continued on Tuesday but a few degrees cooler than the scorcher we had yesterday.

After spending from last autumn through to this spring preparing the base for our new summerhouse the big day arrived and our summerhouse was constructed. Much to my relief it fitted the base. We don’t have space in our garden to allow for large overlaps so the base was just the correct size.
This was probably the best this area ever looked when the wisteria was in flower. Other than that there was never a desire to take any photographs of this part of the garden.
By the middle of winter though things were looking much worse as most of the demolition work had taken place and construction had still to begin.
But now it’s all sorted and the summerhouse is built and ready for use. It’s certainly made a massive improvement to this area of the garden.

All we need to do now is sort out some furniture to make use of our new acquisition. There are more pictures over on Sue’s blog too.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A Scorcher!

Monday continued the heat wave that has suddenly arrived and produced the hottest day of the year with the temperature reaching 28°C (82°F). It may well turn out to be the hottest day we get this year especially if this summer turns out to be like last year.  

As you can see from the temperature chart for the last 12 months the spell of weather at the moment is better than anything we managed last summer.
In the garden it was a question of finding a nice shady spot to do some pricking out of cucumber and courgette plants as well as sowing more french beans.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Unkempt - We Have Those Bits Too!

Sunday was another brilliant day. We visited the plot and did a little bit but spent much of the time sitting in the shade and putting the world to rights with our plot neighbours.

We certainly have areas of our plot in desperate need of attention and as you might guess we tend to avoid posting photographs of these areas.  
This is one of those beds. It’s our over-wintering brassica bed from last year. Some old roots have been removed but the bed is now ready for a good clear out. It doesn't matter which way you look at this bed it’s definitely untidy.
But lurking in amongst the weeds and old broccoli plants I found a Mayfair cauliflower and a Durham Early cabbage so I felt much better for not having already cleared this bed.

I guess I'm out of excuses now for not sorting out this patch, but it is rather hot at the moment and a drop of rain would soften the soil up to make getting weeds out easier. Maybe the end of the week might be a good time.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Filling Up

The brilliant spell of weather continued on Saturday making it the fifth day in a row that the daily high temperature has exceeded 20°C.

On the plot the grass was cut, some more flowers added to the wild flower patch and some radishes and spring onions were sown in the celery and celeriac bed. At last after a very slow start to the season parts of the plot are at last beginning to look like something is growing rather than just patches of soil. As we gardeners are a hard bunch to please some overnight rain would be welcome on the plot as that April soaking has now dried out.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Phacelia Progress

Friday was another warm day with a pleasant breeze in the afternoon.

Our first green manure crop of Phacelia is now progressing well after a very slow start. It was sown on the 20th March and then followed what seemed like weeks of damp cold weather. There were signs of germination by 12th April but even then growth was very slow not what I expected from green manure.
This is how the crop was fairing by the 5th May. This was 4 weeks after first signs of germination and I was thinking that perhaps I should have sown the seed rather more generously than stated on the seed packet.
Without me noticing the crop has suddenly taken off especially with the much warmer weather over the last week or so. 
Just like the grass it’s put on a spurt in the last few days. I guess it does look a bit untidy but perhaps that will improve when the grass is cut and edged. There is some grass growing in parts of the bed which will have to be removed as the bed is dug. Its now a matter of do we leave it to flower or dig it in before it has a chance to set any seed.
The Phacelia has certainly produced a dense carpet of vegetation and should do wonders to improve the soil once it has been dug into the soil. The crop will grow up to 1.0m in height so it has a way to go yet. The flowers are very attractive to insects and are even supposed to be good as a cut flower. On the downside it sets seed easily so its a difficult decision on whether to let it flower or not. Perhaps I might leave just a small patch to flower for the bees and other pollinating insects.

Friday, 25 May 2012

New Horizon

Thursday produced a new hottest day of the year just a tad warmer (hotter?) than yesterday 26.7°C (80.1°F).

I’ve been experimenting using New Horizon Peat Free Multipurpose Compost. As you may have read on Sue’s blog we’re struggling to find a good consistent compost. New Horizon got a good review in Kitchen Garden magazine and was credited with a Which Report “best buy” tag so I thought it was worth a try.

Beechgrove Garden on BBC Scotland have also been trialling several composts reported the results so far on in last night’s episode. Each programme has its own fact sheet and you can view this by clicking on the picture below. The compost report is on page 2 under Garden Diary.

Our results have been much the same. I’ve thought for a few weeks that the plants were very slow growing but put this down to the cold weather rather than the compost. I’m sure the cold weather has played its part.
These pansies were transplanted on 7th May and look generally OK but frankly I would have expected larger plants by now. Below are some cabbage plants “Golden Acre” sown on 6th April and transplanted on 3rd May.
They’re not looking too bad now but I'm sure I’ve grown better plants. The advice from Beechgrove garden is that feeding should help so I’ll give them a feed with some liquid seaweed fertiliser.

Germination rates in New Horizon were excellent as reported from the trial on Beechgrove Garden. I’d say these peas and French beans have an almost 100% germination rate and perhaps they too will get a feed when I give the plants a water this evening.
So far I reckon it’s worth persisting with New Horizon Peat free. Perhaps it’s a case of developing a technique for growing in this new medium so if I can do my little bit to help save a peat bog somewhere I’ll give it a go.  My next step is to sow some lettuces and radishes in the compost and see how they perform.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

In Search of Perfect Sunshine Trace

Wednesday produced another fantastic day with virtually unbroken sunshine and a new hottest day of the year 25.7°C (78.3°F) beating yesterday by 0.4°C.

The last couple of days have produced almost unbroken sunshine. Tuesday gave 10.2 hours of sunshine according to my weather station and the trace for the day looks like this.
Through most of the day the trace gives unbroken sunshine. But in the morning and late afternoon there’s a crab apple problem. Around 08:00 the measurement is affected as the sunshine is broken up by the top branches of our crab apple “John Downie” and then later by another crab apple “Profusion”. For the next month as the sun gets higher in the sky the dappled effect might disappear to give a perfect trace if the weather plays its part.

In the garden I cleared the summerhouse base of construction debris and it’s now ready for the summerhouse to be erected next week. The pond filter still needs to be located in its final position but that can wait until after the the summerhouse is completed.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012


After a long wait some warm weather has turned up. Tuesday’s temperature was 25.3°C, the warmest day of the year.

Our celery and celeriac were planted out on the plot today. After all my doubts about how well they were doing at various stages of their development I was pleased with the condition of the plants.
They were sown on 27th February and placed under the grow light to germinate. The seeds had germinated by 6th March but even under the light the young seedlings took on a rather leggy look.

They remained under the light until the 9th April when they were transplanted into modules still a bit on the leggy side.
They were left to grow on in our unheated greenhouse. By the 5th of May they were starting to develop into much stronger looking plants.
So now they are planted out into their final positions. All we need to do is make sure we keep them well watered and hope that they remain pest free or attack from any allotment predators.
Celery and celeriac planted out on 22nd May 2012 from seeds sown on 27th February

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

A Taste of Summer

Monday started off dull and cool and stayed that way until mid afternoon when it brightened up and became much milder. A taste of things to come.

Our potato experiment on the plot, forced on us somewhat by the weather, reached phase 2. All our potatoes planted on 21st April are now pushing through the soil.
They’re a little difficult to spot in this picture but these Nicola and Charlotte varieties are just beginning to make an appearance.

So one month on some of our remaining tubers were planted today. The plan is that these will provide some new potatoes later in the season. The string line marks the row planted and I’ve enough tubers left to plant another row alongside.
Last year at this time our potatoes were certainly more advanced as this picture below shows. It was taken on 17th May last year.
I wonder how much catching up this year’s crop will do given their very late planting compared to last year.

Monday, 21 May 2012

A First for Me!

Sunday was an improvement on yesterday with a hint of brighter weather in the afternoon which tempted us out into the garden and greenhouse.

I’ve always found that the most difficult garden bird to get a photograph of is a wren. It’s so difficult in fact I haven’t managed to get a picture of one until today. It’s so small and moves about so quickly it’s almost like trying to photograph a mouse. Most often I see one on the back fence a little out of camera distance in any case. Usually as soon as I spot one in the garden by the time I’ve reached for my camera it’s disappeared. Today luck was on my side. I managed to grab my video camera and just managed to get focused on a wren before it and its mate disappeared into the bushes.
I managed to get a couple of still images off just a few seconds of video. Most of the footage was just a blur of wren. These were the best two pictures I managed to get.
I've posted the few seconds of video on YouTube which can be viewed by clicking here.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Rock Bottom

Saturday must be the day that the temperatures for May hit rock bottom. It was a dull cold day following some overnight drizzle. There wasn't a hint of brightness all day producing the coldest daytime temperature for the month of 8.7°C.
That means that the average temperature for May of 8.8°C is just 0.1°C above the average for March which was 8.7°C!

However the forecast for next week is much better so it’s unlikely that this May will be the coldest in 100 years but 20 days in it’s a very close run thing.
Despite the weather it looks like our Conference pear has set fruit in the garden. I'm hoping we’ve now seen off the last of the cold days and overnight frosts and the allotment year can get under way at last. It feels as though it’s been on hold for the last couple of months.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Cloudy and Cool

Friday was a dull and cloudy day staying dry well into the evening when light rain began.

I’m not sure we’ve had as much rain as lots of other areas of the UK this month. At the moment our May rainfall looks to be coming in around average or a little below. At last the forecast is for some warmer weather next week with temperatures recovering to what we might expect for late May.
The early indications are that this warm spell will continue at least until next weekend so with a bit of luck those rather more fussy vegetables that prefer some warmth might start to grow a little quicker.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Tropical Fruit?

Thursday was dull, cool with a little drizzle in the morning.

As I blogged yesterday, our strawberry flowers are black eyed meaning they’ve been frosted and won’t produce fruit. So what chance our more tropical fruit, peach, nectarine and kiwi? Of these 3 only our peach is outside and at the moment dare I say it, it looks like a few peaches may have set.
Our nectarine only arrived early this spring and since it was potted up it has remained in the greenhouse. Although it did produce some flowers it doesn't look as though these have set fruit but the tree itself is looking very healthy.
Finally to our kiwi which is also in the greenhouse. The tree is covered in flower buds and some of these are now starting to open. Pollination could be a problem as it’s inside but even in this cool weather the greenhouse windows or door is open for ventilation most days giving pollinating insects a chance to do their thing.
The kiwi spent last summer outside and in the good weather early on last summer it set plenty of fruits but these didn’t like the much cooler summer weather that followed. So this year the jury’s out as to whether it should spend summer outside or in the greenhouse. At the moment I think I favour the greenhouse.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

New Additions to Sidebar

I've added some additional weather details to my blog's sidebar. These give both archive and up to date rainfall and temperature data for the current year.

This is how the  tables appear giving:

  • The rainfall for completed month in millimetres and inches
  • The temperatures for completed month in degrees Centigrade and Fahrenheit 

Extra information is available by clicking on the name of the month label. If the month is completed then the link will take you to the final table of daily weather details for that month as shown below.

By clicking on the current month label slightly different data is available which obviously depends on whether temperature or rainfall data is requested.

1. Rainfall
Clicking on the current month in the rainfall table will show the page below.

The rainfall details for this page are automatically updated every hour. Hopefully the information is obvious from the titles of the charts but from left to right the information is as follows:
  • The amount of daily rainfall together with the date and time data was last uploaded
  • The rolling amount of rainfall each day for the last month.
  • The current months rainfall also showing the date and time data was last uploaded.
  • The rolling 12 monthly rainfall for each individual month 
  • The total rainfall recorded in 2012 
2. Temperature
Clicking on the current month in the temperature table will show the following page.

The temperature details are also updated every hour giving the following information along the first row of charts:
  • Daily current temperature marking high and low values with date and time of last upload.
  • Rolling temperature chart for the last 24 hours
  • Rolling temperature chart for the last 7 days
  • Rolling temperature chart for last 4 weeks
  • Rolling temperature chart for last 12 months
The table below this gives:
  • The days high and low temperatures and the time they occurred.
  • The maximum and minimum temperatures for the current month.
Uploading Information
If I've got this set up correct then the current months data should automatically update every hour whenever my PC is operating, generally between 09:00 and 21:00 (London Time).

I try to upload the completed months data as soon as possible but so far I haven't figured out an automatic way of carrying out this particular operation.

Remember That Coldest In 100 Years Forecast?

Wednesday had plenty of sunny intervals again but down on the plot in the afternoon the sunshine disappeared for an hour or so and it really did feel cold in the strong breeze. Still I managed to get the grass cut and tilled those beds cleared of weeds last weeks.
Remember that report forecasting May to be the coldest in 100 years. Well as we’re half way through May I thought I’d have a check and see how that prediction is looking. Unsurprising it’s looking rather good which is bad news for us gardeners but then I guess we all know just how cold the last two months have been.

The record is currently 1996 with an average temperature for the month of 9.1°C. At the midpoint of the month the average is exactly the same at 9.1°C. If we’re lucky though the temperature will warm up a little for the last two weeks and we will not set a new record.
Whilst the nights continue to be as cold as they are the strawberry harvest is on hold as all the flowers are showing black centres from the cold nights indicating that these flowers wont set fruit. The temperature last night fell to 2.8°C so at the moment there is not a let up in the bitterly cold nights.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

A Productive Day

Tuesday had some short sunny intervals but was once again disappointingly cold with the maximum temperature only 11.4°C.

A very short shower in the morning kept us in and Ossett bakery took over for the morning producing some breadcakes and rhubarb muffins for lunchtime.
The afternoon sunshine tempted us out into the garden where I managed to do a little more tidying up work around the summerhouse base while Sue was busy sowing and pricking out in the greenhouse.
Find out more about our rhubarb muffins on Sue’s blog here and our sowings for May are listed on our web site.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Will It Warm Up?

Monday wasn't really a bad day as we had some long sunny spells and it remained dry but there was a fairly strong, cool breeze all day.

I did manage a small milestone as the base for the summerhouse is finished - well sort of. The actual area where the summerhouse will be constructed is done but there’s still plenty of tidying up to do around the edges but at least the summerhouse can be erected. 
I also dismantled the last of the old pergola which had become a favourite perching spot for birds, particularly our collared doves, wood pigeons and blackbirds. It hasn't taken “woody” very long to decide that our magnolia tree also makes an ideal roosting spot where he can keep an eye out on the garden.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Not As Bad As It Looks!

Saturday was another day with some decent sunny periods. The temperature managed the mid teens, still nothing to get too excited about.

We spent the afternoon doing some more tidying up on the plot.
This bed with our old over wintering brassicas looks a complete mess with many of the old plants having gone to seed. On the positive side we have only just harvested our last of 12 cauliflowers “Jerome” from this bed . There’s also some spring cabbages that haven’t yet gone to seed which will provide some welcome fresh vegetables in the dreaded May gap.  Some white and purple sprouting broccoli are still making valiant attempts to produce some tasty spears too.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Sunny but not much warmth

Saturday was a lovely sunny day but it still wasn't particularly warm especially out of the sun and in the cool breeze.

On the plot we have eventually managed to sow some carrots. This year we’ve used some ground cover fabric to try and overcome the rapid growth of weeds under the environmesh. 
I didn't know whether to lay strips of fabric between the rows of carrot seed or to cut holes in the fabric and form seed drills in the spaces. In the end I decided on the later, thinking it might be easier to hold the fabric down.
So this is how it looked once our carrots were sown. There are 4 different varieties sown Early Nantes, Flakkee, St Valery and Autumn King. Actually sowing the seeds took only a few minutes but preparing the fabric took quite a while however, if this system proves successful I'm hoping to be able to reuse the membrane next year at least. I know this is a lot of trouble to go to for carrots but we have really missed not having a supply of tasty carrots over winter. The ones bought in the supermarket just don’t compare. There’s a little space left at the end of the bed where I may sow some more carrots without the fabric just as a comparison to see how the two methods compare under the same weather conditions.
Finally the whole area was covered with environmesh to protect from the dreaded carrot root fly. Using enviromesh is the only way we have managed to control this pest.