Friday, 31 August 2012

Even Colder and Wetter

Thursday was another cold wet day. The warmest it managed was just 13.6°C and by midnight on Thursday it had fallen to just 5.9°C. That combination produced the coldest average August temperature of the last 3 summers of 11.3°C. The temperature eventually fell to 5.1°C early on Friday morning which surprisingly isn’t quite the coldest August temperature I’ve recorded which is still held by 31 August 2010 when it got down to 4.6°C giving one of the coldest August temperatures recorded.

The good news is that Friday is forecast to be a much better day with plenty of sunshine but not particularly warm so a visit to the plot might be in order.

Our Michaelmas Daisies are putting on a really good show in the front garden and so far are standing up to the weather very well.


Thursday, 30 August 2012

Cold and Wet

Tuesday’s warm and sunny weather didn’t last as Wednesday was cold and miserable. It rained most of the morning stopping at lunchtime and brightening up just enough to make me think of doing a little afternoon gardening before some more rain arrived. After another short dry interlude it tipped again in the late afternoon. As you can see from the chart below we’ve had a pretty wet start to Thursday too. It was cool for August with the temperature just managing to remain around the 12°C mark for much of the day.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Sunny and Warm

You could almost think it’s summer as Tuesday turned out to be warm, sunny and dry.

We decided to make the most of the weather and visited the RSPB reserve at Old Moor near Rotherham. It was very busy and the reserve had to open their over flow car park to accommodate all the visitors.

As is normally the case when we visit a reserve we found the flora much easier to photograph than the fauna. 

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Cool and Wet

Bank Holiday Monday was a wash out. Not that we had bucketfuls of rain but it was enough to keep the paths wet all day amounting to a total of 4mm. It was a day for staying indoors as the temperature was pretty cool for late August reaching just 16.1°C producing the coolest day of the month.. Since those warm days in the middle of the month the temperature has gradually declined each day. Not much good for ripening tomatoes and bringing on any late vegetables.

The forecast for the week ahead doesn’t seem too promising for any warmer weather.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Typical Bank Holiday Weather

Sunday wasn't the best of days. It was cool most of the day but a brief spell of sunshine warmed it up a little in the afternoon. No sooner had the sun come out than it stated to rain. As we were harvesting on the plot we were forced to take a rather extended coffee break in the shed. Despite the rain it was another good harvesting day - at least we've enough beans to freeze some for winter use.

This is Sunday’s harvest full details can be found here.
I did manage to take a little bit of video before the rain came. I haven’t added too many comments. We know the roses have black spot - they get this every year - and the grass paths need a mow but harvesting is far more important at the minute - after all that’s why we have an allotment. If it looks a little untidy but is producing the goods that’s fine by me. So here’s part 1 of our video with part 2 to follow soon.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Waiting for Tomatoes to Ripen

It’s sometimes difficult to remember that this is summer. In meteorological speak we’ve only 6 days of summer left as September marks the start of autumn. Summer doesn’t seem to have started yet let alone be coming to an end. It’s been a case all summer of expecting a good spell of weather to help the vegetables make up for the cold and wet start to the season but it just hasn’t happened.

We’re still waiting for tomatoes to ripen in any reasonable quantity. The plants look good and we’ve plenty of green tomatoes but we’d like red ones.

This is our tomato harvest to date just 5 ripe Gardener’s Delight weighing in at 0.114 kg. Last year by this time we’d picked 9.6 kg of several varieties.

Perhaps we’re in for a good September followed by an Indian Summer!

Friday, 24 August 2012


Wednesday was a nice sunny day, although it was a bit breezy but the weather deteriorated on Thursday with a mostly cloudy day. It was only the second day of the month when the temperature didn’t manage to reach 20°C.

On the plot we harvested some of our carrots Early Nantes which have been grown under enviromesh as protection against carrot fly and planted in slots cut in weed suppressant membrane to cut down on weeding. The carrots have grown well with no tell tale signs of reddening foliage which is often a sign of attack by carrot root fly.   
Of course the only true test is what’s underneath all those lovely lush green leaves. This week I decided to find out and then I realised the first real problem of using weed suppressant membrane. Exactly how do you lift carrots without damaging the membrane as I’d like to use it again for next years crop. As Early Nantes is growing along one edge of the membrane it wasn’t too much of a problem moving bricks and timber that were holding down both the enviromesh and weed suppressant. How to get to other varieties in the middle of the bed and membrane might be another matter.
The good news was that our carrots had some good roots. Not the perfect shape of those supermarket carrots but then I’m growing for taste and not perfectly formed roots. The first couple of roots were eaten raw grated to have with a salad and extremely tasty. I’ve just got to work out how to get to some of the other varieties now to test them out too.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Let There Be Light

Tuesday was a mostly cloudy day with just a few brief glimpses of the sun.

In our home greenhouse our grape vine Himrod has taken over without me noticing. It’s probably contributed to our tomatoes not performing too well or at least not set too many fruits as the plants have grown well enough.
It doesn’t just take over inside the greenhouse it escapes through the windows and forces vines through the smallest gap between the greenhouse frame and glass. I decided enough was enough and got the secateurs out to it.

I didn’t want to loose any of the bunches of grapes which will be ripening over the next few weeks if we’re lucky enough to get some sunshine so a certain amount of care was required when hacking into the mass of shoots.
I finished up with a pretty large heap of vine leaves. At least the plants in the greenhouse will get a bit more light now and any sunshine we do get should find its way to our bunches of green grapes.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Lots Still to Plant Out

Monday’s weather was Sunday’s in reverse. It started off dull and cloudy with just some light rain mid morning before brightening up into a warm and sunny afternoon.
It might be the middle of August but we still seem to have a burgeoning cold frame full of plants waiting to be planted out.
We’ve a mixture of flowers and vegetables still to be planted out before winter comes. All the plants in the cold frame at the minute have been grown in New Horizon peat free multipurpose compost and have really grown exceptionally well in this compost. I have been giving the seedlings a weak liquid feed at each watering using either Miracle Gro or Maxicrop Seaweed Extract.
Our winter pansies are already coming into flower.

Monday, 20 August 2012


Firstly the weather was a disappointment today. It stated off sunny and warm giving the promise of a lovely summer’s day but it didn't materialise. Instead by mid morning it had clouded over followed by some very light rain around lunch time and continuing into the afternoon.

Our plum crop too has been disappointing this year. We’ve now harvested all our Oullins Gage plums. Certainly this tree always seems prone to a bountiful year followed by a poor year but I reckon this year’s poor crop is a little exceptional.
On the left is a picture of just a part of last year’s harvest which weighed in at 47.2Kg (104.1 lbs). On the right is this year’s harvest apart from the two plums we ate during a coffee break one afternoon when checking to see if they were ripe. They were delicious! This year’s harvest comes to just 1.9kg (4.2 lbs). None of this year’s plums got anywhere near the freezer.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Best Harvest of the Season

Despite the furore on TV it wasn't our warmest day of the year that record is still held by 28 May when the temperature reached 28.0°C. Saturday managed 25.7° equalling the warmest day this month with 14 August when we a similar temperature.

Without doubt it was our best harvesting day of the season on the plot.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Early Broad Beans

Friday was warm and breezy but without much sunshine. We had a few light showers throughout the day.

Last year we attempted to grow some peas over winter to produce an early spring crop. It didn’t work as although the peas germinated well in the autumn they didn’t survive winter. So this year we’re giving Broad Beans “Bunyards Exhibition” a try. To be honest the seeds came free with a gardening magazine so I thought I might as well give it a go.

The packet suggests sowing outdoors in October and November which sounds rather late to me as broad bean seeds always seem to take a long time to germinate. I can’t image them germinating very well sown direct in the plot in October so I’m giving them a head start in life by sowing them now in modules and leaving these in the greenhouse to germinate.
This is the only molly codling they’re going to get. Once planted out on the plot I'm leaving them to their own devices to get through winter without any protection. They can’t do any worse than the peas!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Was That a Parrot in the Plum Tree?

After Wednesday’s rain the more summery weather of late returned for Thursday to produce a warm, dry sunny day with the temperature into the mid twenties.

I went down to the plot in the evening mainly to give our greenhouse tomatoes a drink. There was no one else on the site at this time and as I got out of the car I could hear an unusual bird sound coming from somewhere in our plum tree. I approached the tree as quietly as possible with my camera at the ready.
At this distance I could just make out a brightly coloured bird chirping away in the upper branches of the tree. I didn't want to move in closer for fear of frightening it away so it was up to maximum zoom with the camera. My garden bird identification skills don’t extend to exotics so can anyone tell me what type of bird this is?
Obviously an escapee from an aviary as although the weather’s been better recently it certainly hasn't been tropical. As soon as I moved off so did the parrot. Lucky I had the camera to record this one off event. So it was on with watering the tomatoes. 
I just couldn't resist picking these Gardener’s Delight our first ripe tomatoes of the season. Sadly there’s only one other tomato showing any sign at all of turning red!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Another Rain Record for 2012

This year had now taken all the rainfall records apart from the driest month. June this year recorded the most rain in a month, July the wettest day and now Wednesday took the highest rainfall intensity record with 151.6mm/hr at 17:02.

All these records can be checked out here.

Wednesday hadn’t started off too badly with some sunshine first thing, before it clouded over mid morning followed by some light rain early in the afternoon. Then around tea time came the deluge.

Luckily for us it didn’t last for long.

On the plot Tuesday I watered in our newly planted lettuce plants and gave our recently planted winter brassicas some water. If only I’d known what was to come I needn’t have bothered - but that’s gardening for you.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

August’s Hottest Day So Far

The weather over the last few days had turned a little disappointing after last weeks warm and sunny days. We've had dwindling amounts of sunshine and a dropping off of temperatures but Wednesday changed that, as after a bit of cloud first thing in the morning the cloud disappeared leaving a sunny and hot afternoon producing the hottest day of the month with the temperature reaching 25.7°C. 

We did make a plot visit in the afternoon but unusually for this year it was a little too hot for doing anything too strenuous so we settled for planting some lettuces, doing a little bit of harvesting and lifting the first of this year’s shallots.
We planted a variety of lettuces using up some off-cuts of weed suppressant membrane to once again try to cut down on the amount of weeding needed.
Over the few dry, warm and sunny days these Picasso shallots have dried off well and have been lifted to clean up and store over winter.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Wow - A Ripening Tomato

Saturday was much cloudier than the last few days but still pleasantly warm.

It was a return to the allotment after our few days away in Cumbria. Our plum crop this year is a complete failure although the tree does have around a dozen plums which I’ve been keeping my eyes on for any of the fruits to ripen. As soon as the fruits begin to turn the wasps are into them and with so little on the tree I didn’t want this to happen. In the middle of the afternoon as we made some coffee I checked and decided one plum was ready for the taste test. 
This Oullins gage was delicious. It didn’t make it to the weigh in as we ate it straight from the tree. Why can’t the supermarkets sell fruit this tasty?

As we were drinking our coffee I noticed something strange in the greenhouse. It looked like a glint of something reddish. I looked a little closer and sure enough we have a couple of Gardener’s Delight tomatoes actually turning red.
The first of our autumn raspberries are now ripening as the summer fruiting ones come to the end of their season. We have both red and yellow varieties.
The change hasn't affected the blackbirds though as they’ve moved seamlessly from eating summer to autumn fruiting berries. Red or yellow they don’t seem too fussed.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Summer’s Here

At last we've had a few decent days of summer weather with the temperatures into the twenties and no rain. The nights have been a little on the cool side and the mornings have had a bit of an autumnal feel to them.

We spent a few days away in Cumbria staying in Dufton a pretty little village close to Appleby. 
We made the short a short journey from Brow Farm, our comfortable Bed & Breakfast accommodation, to the National Trust property Acorn Bank to look around the gardens. The gardens were looking very pretty, probably helped by the wet weather this summer.
There’s also a large walled herb garden and orchard to visit and a pleasant walk through the trees, alongside Crowdundle Beck to visit the watermill which is currently undergoing restoration.
Back home it’s now time to get the rest of this year’s potatoes lifted and stored safely in the garage for use throughout the winter.

Monday, 6 August 2012

You Just Can’t Tell

By Sunday lunch time I thought I had today’s blog post sorted out. It’s a while since we had any Long Tailed Tits visiting the garden but over the last couple of day’s they've made brief visits to our fat balls. Doesn’t that sound awful. Anyhow here are a couple of pictures I managed to get.

At one stage we had eight or nine feeding and squabbling over the fat balls but it’s a bit difficult to get a picture in focus of them all feeding . Up to the middle of the afternoon the weather had been fine, mild again but with a bit more cloud that yesterday but not too bad at all. Then in the middle of the afternoon it changed dramatically. Thunder, lighting, hail and torrential rain arrived.

The rain came at a torrential rate for a few minutes, measuring at 138mm/hour or looked at another way all August’s rainfall in just 20 minutes. Fortunately it didn't last too long! In the end we finished up with 24.4mm moving Sunday into 5th place in the wettest day records.

Did I mention that the soil was drying out a little on the plot?

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Potato Damage - Wireworm Perhaps?

Saturday was a lovely summer’s day, a bit of a rarity this year. Some good sunny spells and the temperature rose into the mid twenties.

On the plot I decided to lift some more potatoes probably not the best choice of job on a warm summer’s afternoon. The potatoes were in one of last year’s old strawberry beds and the predominant variety planted was Juliette with a few Winston’s planted to completely fill up the bed. I lifted the Juliette’s first and these had a decent crop of small to medium size tubers which were virtually free of any pest damage with no rotting from the wet weather. I was pleased with this crop which weighed in at 17.2kg or 37½ lbs.
There were just five roots of Winston to lift. These were all medium to very large potatoes but nearly all the potatoes had a few small holes in them, damage that I suspect was caused by wireworm. Below is a close up shot of the holes in the Winston potatoes.
What ever it was that caused this damage loved our Winston potatoes but left Juliette alone even though they were growing alongside each other in this bed. The vast majority of the Winston’s will be fine to use as even with the damaged parts of the tuber removed it will still leave plenty of useable potato. Well that’s what I’m hoping! They will of course have to be used first as damaged potatoes don’t store well.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Double Experiment

It was dry all day on Friday. The bright sunny start didn't last and it soon clouded over but it was a mild day with very little breeze.

We made the most of the fine weather to get our winter brassicas planted out on the plot. Besides experimenting on growing our own plants from seed this year we’ve decided to try planting through weed suppressant membrane to cut down on weeding and give the plants less growing competition. Part one of the experiment to grow some better plants than the ones we bought last year has gone well. Our experiment to use weed suppressant membrane to reduce weeding around our carrots seems to have gone well although we’ve still to harvest some carrots. The carrot tops look good though. So part two of the brassica experiment is under way.
As these plants will be in the ground through until spring next year there is a tendency for weeds to take over through the winter months when we generally make less visits to the plot. Hopefully this method will keep the weeding required down to a minimum.
This is how last years bed looked at the beginning of May this year. Most plants had seeded rather than produce any useful crops and they were inundated with weeds.

I’m looking to be able to re-use the membrane for several years to make the cost of using it more acceptable. Should it prove impossible to make use of this material over several years then I guess it will be back to conventional weeding.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Showered Off

Thursday was a big improvement on yesterday, at least we saw some sunshine. The day was spoilt by a couple of very heavy showers, one late afternoon and another late into the evening.

Now when earlier I say spoilt that’s not necessarily true in all cases. On the plot in the afternoon I was cultivating the bed for our young winter brassicas. This bed had been sown with green manure earlier in the year which had been cut down. The bed had been dug and prepared for our winter brassicas. The rain in early July however had compacted the soil into the consistency of concrete and there was no way we would be able to plant into soil in this condition. 
So the cultivator was back in business to turn over the ground. It’s been a couple of weeks since we had any appreciable rain and besides being like concrete the ground was surprising dry. So in some ways the couple of heavy showers might do the bed some good.  Just got finished as the first heavy shower of the day arrived to curtail any more allotmenting for the day. All we have to do now is get our young plants into the ground.

Just a note to say that the long grass visible on the unkempt allotment in the background is not ours and is awaiting new plotters to take it on. 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Better Cauliflower Plants

Wednesday wasn't a great start to August. It was cloudy and although we only managed a few light showers, the dark heavy clouds contained a threat of a real downpour all day. It was a little milder than the last few days with the temperature managing to just make it to 20°C.

Last year I ordered my winter brassicas from a couple of well known seed companies. These arrived early last August and I wasn’t at all impressed by the quality of plants supplied.
Above are the plants I received last August which I transplanted into modules before finally moving them into the allotment.

I decided that this year I would try to raise my own plants and see if I could do any better. It’s certainly been difficult going with the very wet weather, the slugs and the vagaries of knowing the best brand of seed compost to use. I’ve been using New Horizon peat free multi-purpose this year for both sowing the seeds and later transplanting into modules. I’ve been feeding every time I’ve watered with liquid Miracle-Gro to supplement the nutrient level of the compost. This was a tip from the TV programme Beechgrove Garden from their compost trials.
My seedlings have grown well and are ready for transplanting into the plot once the bed is finally prepared. This variety is Aalsmeer sown on 17 June and transplanted into modules on 26 June. They should be providing us with cauliflowers sometime between May and June next year.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

A Poor Finish to the Month

Tuesday wasn't very good for July. It was dull all day without any hint of sunshine with light rain at times throughout the day. It was cool with the thermometer just managing 15°C.

Quickly looking at the month’s weather statistics it’s been a wet month as I’m sure everybody is already aware. In the end we had 106.4mm (4.2”) which is 2½ times our normal amount for July.

Temperature wise it’s been a cold month with an average temperature of 15.5°C which is 1.8°C above and 4.2°C below the coldest and hottest July’s in the last 100 years.

It’s also been another poor month for sunshine as the chart below shows.
We've had a couple of very poor months in a row for sunshine with June only producing around half the amount we might expect and July maybe two thirds. Perhaps August will improve things. 

Despite the poor weather we made an afternoon visit to the plot, mainly to water the greenhouse tomatoes. We managed to pick our first few French beans “Tendergreen” and our courgettes had plenty of small fruits to pick especially our free seeds of “Tondo di Piacenza”. Is this the start of our usual courgette glut? At one time I didn’t think we were going to have any courgettes at all let alone a glut.
Our full list of harvesting in July can be found here.