Sunday, 30 September 2012

Turning Out Cool and Wet

Saturday wasn’t brilliant weatherwise. The morning started full of promise with clear blue skies and cool. It soon clouded over and a cool blustery breeze developed.
After a poor summer the hope was for a good spell of weather into the autumn but that hasn’t happened so far with the cool wet weather of summer continuing. September will turn out to be the coldest for 18 years with an average temperature of around 13.0°C. September 1994 was the last time the average for the month was below 13°C. I suppose our last hope is for an Indian summer but I’m not too optimistic on it happening.
On the same day last year year the temperature soared to 28°C as September ended with some superb weather.
The poor weather hasn’t stopped our cyclamens from putting on a good display.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

A Day On the North Yorkshire Moors

Friday morning was dull and a bit drizzly so we hummed and ahhed about a trip into the North Yorkshire Moors to visit the autumn steam gala that is being held over the next three days by the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. We decided to risk it and it didn’t turn out too bad a day with just a little light rain at times but we did get some sunny spells in the afternoon.
On the journey to the Moors the area around York is still showing signs of all the heavy rain with the rivers still in flood. It can be quite difficult to spot the difference between the river and the fields.
Once into the Moors the effects of the last week’s rainfall were less obvious as all the water has now flowed into the major rivers around York.
Sue’s camera had a very busy day capturing our visit to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway as you can see from the collage of pictures below. She even managed to capture the odd train!
The steam trains fit into the spectacular North Yorkshire Moors scenery pretty well too.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Last Apples Harvested

Thursday was a big improvement as it didn’t rain. We had some sunny spells and it was a bit milder.
I’m sure it would be too wet to do much on the plot  after all the rain so I decided to harvest the remaining apples on our trees at home. Our garden Bramley hasn’t produced at all this year but the Peasgood Nonsuch has managed a reasonable crop although smaller than usual.
This variety gives our Bramleys a run for their money as far as being a good cooking apple. They were certainly ready for picking almost falling of the trees as I touched the apples to pick them.
This year’s crop of apples is certainly much smaller than last year’s as shown in the comparison table below. The weather has a lot to answer for.
Also worthy of note today we picked our first ripe tomatoes from our home greenhouse. We do now have a few ripe tomatoes in this greenhouse and Alicante produced a nice punnet of fruit at last.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Cool As Well As Wet

Wednesday was a sort of an improvement on the previous couple of days. There were spits and spots of rain throughout the day but at one point we even had a brief glimpse of sunshine. We had a couple of very heavy showers late afternoon  and early evening which accounted for most of the 4.4mm of rain.

Last year September went out in a blaze of glory with temperatures into the high twenties.  It doesn’t look like we’re going to get a repeat this year as September looks like turning out to be rather on the cool side. At the moment the average temperature for the month is 13.33°C making it the coldest since 1994.
This collared dove found a pleasant roost in the afternoon on our bird table roof just outside our study window. It didn’t seem too bothered that I was standing at the window trying to take its picture. Perhaps it was guarding the remaining food left on the bird table.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

A Lucky Miss

It was wet and rainy again on Tuesday but at least we avoided the heavy rain which struck a little further north resulting in severe flooding and major delays to road and rail networks.
It’s amazing how much rain we’ve had since Spring when the predictions were for lots of dry weather leading to devastating drought conditions. It started to rain and it’s continued to do so ever since those forecasts were made. Out of the last 6 months we’ve exceeded the expected rainfall in each month apart from May which was a pretty dry month. April, June and July all produced over twice our expected rainfall with August not far behind.
At the end of March the previous 12 months had produced only 393.5mm of rain against an expected amount of 651.5mm or 60% of our annual expected rainfall. Now almost at the end of September the previous 12 months have produced 793.7mm of rainfall or 122% of expected.
All this rainfall may impact pretty drastically on our allotment activities. Autumn and winter digging might have to be put on hold whilst the ground dries out something the plot is not good at in Autumn and Winter especially if this wet weather continues.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Wet - Very Wet!

It rained all day on Monday with no let up at all. It wasn’t torrential, thank goodness, but just steady rain all day. It always seems to be on really rainy days that I find out that my main rain gauge has become blocked with pigeon doo doos. As you may know Woody likes to sit on my weather station and take in the surroundings.  
I guessed there was a problem when my old back up gauge was recording far more rainfall through the day than the newer gauge and sure enough on inspecting my main gauge on Tuesday morning I found the collecting bucket full of water. At least I’ve found out how to make the totals of rainfall correct on my charts if not the hours the rain actually fell.
Monday’s rainfall amounted to 29.0mm putting into 4th placed in the wettest days I’ve recorded.
2012 now holds 6 spots in the top ten of wettest 10 days since September 2009.


Monday, 24 September 2012

Potato Summary and a Short Lived Record

First thing Sunday morning was fractionally colder than Saturday and it remained cool and cloudy all day with rain setting in mid afternoon. This meant Sunday took over the record of coldest September day I’ve recorded at 7.7°C breaking 8.3°C set yesterday. The rain started mid afternoon and is still falling mid morning Monday although it’s not been particularly heavy. The forecast is for much more wind and rain over the next 24 hours. Autumn has definitely arrived big time.
Now all our potatoes are lifted I’ve summarised the crop from each of our varieties in the table below. Despite this spring and summer’s poor weather and the potatoes getting away to a very late start the total crop weights for 2011 and 2012 are very similar with a total for 2011 of 152.304 kg. As lots of you measure in pounds 150 kg is equivalent to 330 lbs.
To finish on a rather gruesome note. I’d accidentally placed a bucket full of potatoes on top of a snail on Saturday night. I heard that crunching sound of breaking snail shell as I put the potatoes down onto the patio. I didn’t think too much about it as there are plenty of other snails in the garden to take its place. I was really surprised on Sunday morning to find a large slug tucking into the remains of the crushed snail.
Apparently after a little Internet research slugs will clear away the remnants of dead snails. That’s something I hadn’t expected and I’ve certainly not noticed happening in the garden before.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Potatoes Lifted

Saturday was a beautiful sunny autumnal day but after an overnight low of 3.3°C it’s taken the record of the coldest September day I’ve recorded with an average temperature of only 8.3°C. The previous record was 9.0°C set on 25 September 2010.

The sunshine tempted us down to the plot. It was nice enough to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee with our plot neighbours in the afternoon sunshine. I did manage to finish lifting our potatoes which consisted of a few roots of Winston that I’d been planning to lift for a while but always found something more urgent to do.
I managed to harvest a bucket full of Winston’s on the left in the picture above. I really should have lifted them earlier as the delay had given potato devouring creatures more time to enjoy the tasty tubers. Our Winston’s do seem to have been prone to attack from underground pests this year but have still produced a good crop of large tasty potatoes and so will earn themselves a place on the order list for next year.
These are the worst affected and not even worth considering using as most of the potato has been eaten. They have a hollow feel and sound to them when picked up a sure sign that there’s not much useful potato left.
There’s are lots of holes in the eaten potatoes which I’m assuming is mostly slug damage although I didn’t see many slugs as I dug them up. I will now need to keep a check on the stored potatoes and remove any potatoes showing any signs of rotting or other problems.This year’s potato harvest is now complete and, assuming they store okay during the winter months, we’ve enough in store to last us through into next spring.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Cold and Wet

Friday was cold and wet with rain on and off through most of the day. It was cold too with the daytime temperature just making it to around 10°C.

As you can see it was actually warmer overnight with the temperature falling quickly around dawn. The give away is the rapid fall in temperature in the evening resulting in the coldest September night I’ve recorded of 3.3°C.

On a positive note Saturday has started bright and sunny with the promise of a decent day so I’m hoping that I can finish lifting my few remaining potatoes this afternoon before we get any more wet weather.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Picking Pears

Thursday morning wasn’t too good. It was dull and cool but it was a little better in the afternoon.

As the afternoon wasn’t too bad, I decided to pick the pears from the garden. It took about 2 minutes, in fact it took as long to photograph and weigh the pears as it did to harvest them.
This is it our completed pear harvest just two pears from 3 allotment trees and the tree in the garden. The two Conference pears weighed in at 341gms. How different it all appeared back in April when the trees were in flower and the fruits just setting.
Then came the summer that never was and the fruitlets never made into full grown fruits apart from the two which I’ve just harvested. Gardening can be a little bit disappointing at times but hopefully next year will be better. Isn’t it strange that we managed to grow more peaches than we did pears?
On a different note. Do you fancy helping out on a research project being undertaken at Sheffield University. If you keep any sort of records about your fruit and vegetable harvests you may be able to assist in their research. Have a look at their web site and see if you can help.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Bad Year for Onions

Wednesday was another cool day with some decent sunny spells and a bit less breezy.
A couple of weeks ago Sue had eased our onions out of the ground and they had been left to dry out on the plot. The forecast for the next couple of days is for some wet weather so I decided complete the harvesting job by collecting the onions to keep them dry for storing over winter.
We’ve had doubts all summer about how well our onions were growing. They certainly didn’t like all the wet weather. We grew 5 varieties of onions all from sets, Snowball and Setton from normal sets and Hyred, Hytech and Marshalls Fen Globe from heat treated sets. Snowball and Setton were started out in modules back on 14 February with the heat treated sets following on on 15 April as soon as they arrived. Once planted out in the plot initial growth was good.
This is Setton in early July beginning to grow away well after transplanting into the plot. But the rain and poor weather took its toll and the end result is a pretty poor crop of onions.
The worst result came from Hyred which is a crop failure having produced nothing larger than the sets that went in. Snowball a white onion is probably the next worse as the bulbs seem to be starting to re-grow and don’t look as though they will keep in store for very long. Setton, (probably benefiting from an earlier start), produced the best crop of decent looking onions but even then I’d expect better in a normal season.

Last year we had trouble storing onions over winter and decided to grow an extra couple of varieties to be sure of having enough onions to last us until spring. Just shows how this gardening is always unpredictable and no two years are ever the same.
Onion Harvest 2012

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Grapes Come on Stream

Tuesday wasn’t a particularly pleasant day despite some reasonable amounts of sunshine. It was a cool breezy day with squally showers. It was one of those days where it could be sunny and rainy at the same time.

I picked the last two peaches "Avalon Pride" which have amazingly ripened outside in such a poor summer. To supplement the peaches I picked our first bunch of "Himrod" grapes from the home greenhouse. Very strange that the grapes have ripened when we’ve only picked a couple of red tomatoes from this greenhouse. I’m not complaining though as both grapes and peaches tasted delicious.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Late Chelsea Chop - for Broad Beans!

Monday wasn’t too bad a day. It was cloudy for most of the day but we didn’t have any rain so I managed to cut the grass at home and clean out the pond filter.

Most things survived whilst we visited Suffolk last week. However our broad beans Bunyards Exhibition sown in modules 08 August grew rather too well or more to the point a bit leggy. They had been left outside in the cold frame to grow on a little before being planted out in the plot as an experimental early crop.
The tops of the plants have grown through the netting which covers the cold frame in an attempt to stop birds creating havoc by pecking around in the plants. I’m not sure what will happen if I take the tops out of the plants, will they produce side shoots or perhaps send up new shoots from the bottom of the plant? The tops of the plants will be damaged in any case when they are extricated from the netting so I suppose I’ll find out. I do want to plant them in the plot at any rate just to see if they can survive the winter weather without protection.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Green or Yellow - Which is Best?

Sunday was mild but we only had a few short spells of sunshine followed by some light rain late into the afternoon.
Like you do I’ve been following the current blog postings and comments discussing the pros and cons of green v yellow courgettes. To be honest it’s not something I’d given a lot of thought to and I’ve always assumed little difference between the two. So I did a little digging into my harvesting records to see what they revealed.
Unfortunately I can only really refer to this year’s records as in past years despite my best efforts our green varieties of courgette plants often seem to get mixed up and at harvesting time it can be difficult to tell one variety of green fruit from another. This year we haven’t got that problem as we limited ourselves to just two varieties only Jemmer (yellow) and Zucchini (green). Then along came a packet of free seeds of Tondo di Piacenza which I couldn’t resist sowing but as it’s a round green variety it can easily be identified at harvesting time.
All the seeds were sown at the same time, in the same compost, given the same treatment, potted on at the same time and planted out on the plot on the same day. Now it gets a bit more tricky as there’s and extra plant of both Jemmer and Tondo di Piacenza whilst one Zucchini plant succumbed to the cold wet weather.
So here’s a list of our harvesting up to and including Saturday 15 September.
Now we’ve done our best to pick fruits on a regular basis and not allow any courgettes to grow into marrows which they have a tendency to do at an alarming rate.

That means we’ve harvested a staggering 170 courgettes weighing in at 42.5kg of which we’ve eaten, frozen and given away lots resulting in very few going to waste. I reckon Tondo di Piacenza has been our star performer and we’ll be giving it another go next year. Given there’s two less Zucchini plants than Jemmer we’ve not got that much difference in performance between yellow and green types.

So there’s a completely unscientific set of results but certainly for us it shows that this year we haven’t had much difference between these two colours of courgettes.


Sunday, 16 September 2012

Not a Bad Afternoon’s Work

The weather was much better on Saturday with plenty of sunshine and the gale force wind of yesterday had abated. It was off to the plot in the afternoon to see just what we had to harvest after a week away although things had already got off to a good start as we picked a couple of peaches “Avalon Pride” from our tree in the garden.
Although our tree set lots of fruit many have turned mouldy on the tree before ripening but we still have a few ripe fruits which are now perfect for eating.
On the plot we spent the afternoon harvesting and managed quite a haul. Nothing had really suffered from any attention over the last week and we had lots of vegetables and fruit to harvest. The tomatoes in the plot greenhouse had ripened well unlike those in our home greenhouse which think green is the new in tomato colour. We managed just over two punnets of strawberries “Flamenco” especially welcome at this late stage in the season along with lots of raspberries, blackberries and apples.
Full details of our harvesting for the day can be found here.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

A Week Away

We’ve just spent a week away in Suffolk enjoying the countryside and some fine weather too. The warm weekend of the 08/09 extending into the beginning of the week.

At the weekend we visited the National Trust property at Flatford Mill where Constable produced some of his most well known paintings such as the "Hay Wain". Surprisingly the scene hasn’t changed very much since he painted "Willy Lotts Cottage" way back in 1821.


To be honest I think we picked a better day for our visit than when Constable did his painting or perhaps he just used a bit of artistic licence. I don’t suppose we’ll ever know. If you wish to refresh your memory of Constable’s "Hay Wain" it is pictured here.
On returning home I’d expected a garden greenhouse full of ripe tomatoes but it wasn’t the case. I was struggling to find a couple of ripe fruits for a sandwich.  Perhaps there’ll be more ready for harvesting in the plot greenhouse.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Autumnal Morning

For the last few days we’ve had some fine weather with plenty of sunshine and mild throughout most of the day. This morning however had a distinctly autumnal feel to it as the temperature overnight fell to a chilly 8.4°C and it took a while in the morning to warm up.

Last autumn I bought a rhubarb crown of Stockbridge Arrow and it spent last winter in the greenhouse in a large pot.

The crown didn’t look too good at the end of winter and it was almost discarded as dead until this tiny shoot appeared at the beginning of April. Since then the crown has grown well through summer and was planted out into the allotment today.

It will probably need a couple of years to establish itself before any stems can be harvested

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Experimental Overload

At last we have a spell of fine settled weather with the forecast suggesting it might well last into next week. Monday and Tuesday were pleasantly mild and dry with plenty of sunny spells.
One of the beds doing well down on the plot is our over winter brassica bed.
This bed is a mixture of cabbages, broccoli and cauliflowers all intended to produce early next year when fresh vegetables are a little bit scarce. Early in the season when the bed was dug over I experimented by planted it up with a green manure crop of Phacelia. This was dug in just as it was coming into flower in early June.
Not content with experimenting with the green manure crop we decided to use a weed suppressant at planting time to cut down on weeding and hopefully give the brassicas a better start by not having to compete with any weeds.
This is how how brassicas looked on the 05 August just after been planted out. They’ve certainly grown well through August and are looking like we might be in for some good brassicas. It’s the first time for several years I’ve grown my late brassicas from seed, relying on bought in plug plants as an easy option so this was the first part of the experiment.
I guess it’s probably a combination of several things that’s help produce some good plants. Now they just have to go on to produce some tasty cabbages, broccoli and cauliflowers.

Monday, 3 September 2012

A Good Weekend Weather Wise

September has started off well with a couple of very nice days. A bit cloudy first thing but quickly clearing to leave a couple of mild, sunny and dry afternoons.  

For Sunday we had booked a trip on "The Waverley" taking a trip along the famous Settle to Carlisle Railway line. We were pulled by a preserved steam train. It’s a pretty severe test as the line has some of the steepest gradients on England’s railway network as it tackles the climb up to Ais Gill high in the Pennines.

This is the view crossing the famous Ribblehead Viaduct part way up the climb to Ais Gill. By the time we arrived in the Border City of Carlisle it was a lovely sunny afternoon.

Of course our steam engine has to make the same climb in reverse as it heads back across the Pennines to Leeds and its final destination of York. Before tackling the climb it needs to fill up with water which it does at Appleby giving everyone a chance to stretch their legs and enjoy the late afternoon sunshine.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Testing Our Peaches

Despite some sunshine on Friday the temperatures never recovered from the overnight low of 5.1°C producing the lowest average daily temperature for August that I’ve recorded of only 11.0°C.

The afternoon was pleasant enough and on a visit to the plot I picked some raspberries and found a couple of ripe Victoria Plums. To add to a fruit salad we decided to test our homegrown peaches Avalon Pride.

Now looks can be deceiving as the peaches look ripe and ready to pick but like everything else this year getting fruit to ripen is easier said than done. The peaches weren’t ripe and need a few more days of warm and sunny weather to complete the process. Still our bowl of raspberries, plums and a few greengages went down a treat. Home grown fruit just cannot be beaten.