Sunday, 29 September 2013

Apples, Pears and Trains.

The weather has been much the same over the last few days with variable amounts of cloud each day but remaining pleasantly mild for late September. 

My plan was to harvest our apples and pears at home before they fell off the trees of their own accord smashing through the greenhouse roof as they did so. I decided to make a start on Thursday only to find out I was a day too late.
This lovely apple had beaten me to it and smashed through the roof and creating another repair job to be made to the greenhouse.

It wasn't all bad news though as the apples and pears produced a much bigger harvest than I'd expected. Not bad for trees that were cut back and forgotten about many years ago but which just refuse to stop growing.
We should be alright for crumbles and pies well into winter.

On Friday we made another excursion to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway as it was the first day of their Autumn Steam Gala.
On the moors where the sheep are free to roam we had to make a couple of stops as they wandered across the road or in the case of one particular cool customer took a walk down the middle of the road with us very slowly tailing behind. In Goathland, where the TV series Heartbeat was filmed and which is also one of the stations on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, the trees aren't really showing too many signs of the arrival of autumn just yet.
Looking out of the train window on the journey from Pickering, through Levisham and on to Goathland the bracken on the moors is certainly looking fairly golden and autumnal.
Of course there were some pretty impressive steam locomotives hauling the trains through this spectacular scenery including 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley, sister locomotive the world’s fastest ever steam locomotive Mallard, and named after their designer.
This is Sir Nigel Gresley arriving at Goathland Station with a morning train from Grosmont.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Will They - Won't They

Wednesday was overcast all day but it remained mild.

We'll soon have to decide when to remove our plot greenhouse tomatoes into boxes to see if they will ripen at home. Sue removed more leaves on our last visit on Tuesday and it showed just how many tomatoes we've still to ripen. The alternative -  lots of green tomato chutney.
Over the last couple of weeks lots of our tomatoes have ripened so perhaps we'll leave them for another week or so but if colder weather is forecast they might be better off ripening at home.

Below is an updated chart of our tomato harvest from our plot and home greenhouses. We've picked around 7kg in the last couple of weeks.
I watched the tomato tasting test on this week’s Beechgrove Garden confirming that tomatoes shouldn't be kept in the fridge if you want them to keep their flavour. An extract from Beechgrove Garden’s latest fact sheet describing part of the taste test is below:
Finally they conducted a tomato taste test. They had 3 samples each of the tomato ‘Shirley’ to try to see if our panel had a preference: 1 sample was freshly picked that morning, 1 sample had been harvested a week and stored in the fridge and the third sample had been harvested a week ago and stored at room temperature.  
The overall advice was that tomatoes should be left on the vine for as long as possible before harvested and that they should not be stored in the fridge as it affects the taste.
The fact sheet sheet can be found here describing the taste test fully and it contains other interesting items shown on the programme.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Autumn Jobs

Tuesday was a real mixture with a very dull morning and a lovely sunny afternoon.
It’s the time of year when I like to get as much tidying up and sorting out done on the plot before any bad weather arrives. I always feel the more I can get done now the better off I’ll be come next spring. This year I've found a big advantage where our beds are covered with weed control fabric. Normally the beds that have grown courgettes, peas and beans are just about overrun with weeds by the time we've finished harvesting. So all these beds normally need clearing of weeds and dead crops and digging over for winter. Not this year as there are no weeds so I intend to cut back the dead plants and leave the fabric in place over winter to stop any weeds growing. 
The main bed in the picture was dug over a few weeks ago when our early potatoes were lifted. It was covered with weed control fabric today and some partially rotted horse manure spread over the top to keep it in place over winter. The other bed in the picture grew this years experimental onion crop through weed control fabric which has been left in place so no digging required and no weed problem.

Next spring I’ll dig over each bed as the weed control fabric will move round following the crop rotation of the beds. Onions, brassicas and peas already have appropriate cuts in the fabric for next years crops. We've yet to decide how to grow our early potatoes through the fabric but we’re certainly going to give it a go.

If you think that having to dig all our beds next spring is a lot of work it’s normal practice on our plot. Our heavy clay soil dug in autumn always needs digging again in spring after it’s been battered by rain, frost and snow through the winter months.

All digging is now on hold as the ground has become too dry and hard. A decent spell if rain is required to give the ground a good soaking and get it back into a condition suitable for cultivation.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013


After a lovely sunny day on Sunday, Monday came as a disappointment as it was dull all day apart from a little sunshine early morning. It remained mild again with the temperature reaching 18°C.

We decided on a visit to RSPB Low Moor as I wanted to try my hand at digiscoping. It’s the technique of capturing the image you see through the eyepiece of a telescope with you digital camera. It’s obviously a tricky technique to master getting your subject in focus not only with the telescope but on the camera too. Then keeping everything very still while the picture is snapped. 
Herons make particularly good subjects as they stay motionless in the water waiting for an unsuspecting fish to come into range. This was my best effort of the day. Thank heavens for digital photography as virtually all the photographs hit the cutting room floor.

Monday, 23 September 2013

A Little Bit Special

Sunday was a little bit special with long sunny spells and very warm reaching 22.8°C in the afternoon.
On the plot it was a tidying up afternoon. The grass paths were cut and the edges trimmed. This might be the last time they get a summer cut and tidy up as they move into autumn and winter mode where a quick strim has to do when the grass is too wet to cut easily with the mower.

Once the mowing was finished I thought it was about time one of our laurel bushes had a trim. It had got rather large and had started to cast too much shade on the neighbouring bed. The trim became a major cutting back session as I got to work with the pruning saw. The blackbirds weren't too happy as one of their favourite spots for eyeing up produce on the plot disappeared. 

I’m now left with great heaps of laurel trimmings to deal with. Lots of the branches will be recycled. Larger branches will be used as bean and sweet pea supports and the small off-cuts as pea sticks. The one thing I've learnt about laurel from previous pruning sessions is that it soon grows back even after a very severe hacking. Next on my list for the chop is our conifer which is also very tall and casts too much shade over parts of the plot.
This will be a much trickier operation than cutting back the laurel. I don’t really want to cut back into dead would as I suspect it wouldn't regrow but the height needs to be brought down and a certain amount of trimming at a lower level will be required. It’s safe for a few days though whilst my sawing arm recovers from its efforts devastating the laurel bush.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Season of Mellow Fruitfulness

After a couple of days where the weather hasn't gone to forecast Saturday’s was just about spot on. The day started off dull but kept on just getting better with some sunshine eventually breaking through the cloud cover late in the afternoon as the temperature peaked at 22.6°C.

On the plot our garden centre bought onions, Thompson and Morgan’s Autumn Onions, Electric Red, Radar and Sensyu Yellow were all planted out. Garlic Thermidour and Germidour were also planted along with some cloves from last year’s Elephant Garlic as we hadn't been able to buy any in the garden centres we'd visited. All our onions and garlic were planted through weed control fabric which has been very successful with our summer onions.
We've still got some apples, plums and last but certainly not least quinces to pick. In the late afternoon sun they looked ready for picking but our apples Golden Delicious and Egremont Russet are reluctant to part from the tree and need more time to ripen. We’ll leave our quinces on the tree as long as possible although the fruits are loosing their furriness which is supposed to be a sign of them ripening. 

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Late Planted Potatoes a Success

Friday wasn't as forecast, a bit disappointing as the warmer sunnier weather didn't happen. It was cloudy all day until early evening when the sun managed to make a brief appearance.
For most of the day the temperature hovered around the 14°C mark disappointingly low after the forecast for warmer temperatures. As the sun came out early evening the temperature peaked before falling away rapidly.

The weather didn't stop me from digging up the last of our potatoes. Those planted in plot 30, as a sort of backup to our main crop,were disappointing. I couldn't really find any potatoes on one row of Swifts planted in this bed.

On the other hand our rather experimental late planting of  potatoes on 16 June 2013 turned out to be a success. One big factor has been that there hasn't been any blight which would have cut the potatoes back at the end of July or early August as it does in many years.
There was still plenty of green foliage on the plants but I thought it was about time I got them lifted. There’s plenty of tidying up to do on the plot before any bad weather sets in so I decided it was time to see how our experiment had performed. It’s worth noting that these were left over tubers that were planted and they weren't the biggest or best of the seed potatoes which had already been picked over a couple of times for our main plantings. They could just as easily have been dumped and not planted.
The variety was Nicola and I was pleasantly surprised by the quantity and quality of the potatoes. The potatoes were damage free and a good size and the equal of any I've lifted this year.
By the time they were all lifted I’d 26kg of potatoes in these three boxes not bad from some seed potato that were left forgotten about in the plot greenhouse for a couple of months and could just as easily have been thrown away. 

It does show that potatoes planted as late as the middle of June will produce a very good crop of potatoes if, and it’s a very big if, there’s no blight. Perhaps we just chose a good year for the experiment.

Friday, 20 September 2013


Thursday was just miserable all day. We didn't get the amount of rainfall forecast although it seemed to rain all day with virtually all the rain falling before lunchtime. The rest of the day it drizzled.
In the afternoon it was noticeably warmer as the temperature improved by about 4°C although the weather remained dull and dreary.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Plot Pear Crop

Wednesday was a bit of a mix of a day with some sunny spells interspersed with some short heavy showers and once again on the cold side.

Although we only had a quick visit to the plot on Tuesday afternoon we did pick all our pears which easily parted from the tree so are supposed to be ready to harvest. The crop weights are shown on the little diagram below which is an extract from my GrowVeg plans.
Invincible has produced the heaviest crop and indeed the tree is now starting to look more upright as the weight of pears has been removed from its young branches. Having tested one of the pears they will need some time to ripen fully as they are still rock hard.
Red Williams produced a nice little crop of pears and these are slightly softer than Invincible and if like me you enjoy pears on the firm side are ready for eating.
Finally Delsanne which has only produced a crop of less than 1kg. We haven't tried any of these yet so they may not be ready for eating. This is our pear tree with fire blight which Sue has blogged about here
I’ll have to check on the conference pear tree growing at the back of our home greenhouse to see if those pears part from the tree easily. If they do I'd better get them picked before the next strong wind does the job for me and they smash the the greenhouse roof.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Ready Frozen Rasps

Tuesday was a cold cloudy day with the temperature just making it into double figures.
We decided on an afternoon visit to the plot despite the weather. The plot tomatoes hadn’t had any water since last Thursday so I thought they would be in need of a drink by now. As we decided to leave home we had a heavy short sharp shower but once that stopped we headed for the plot. When we arrived there was drizzle in the air and as you can see from the graph of yesterday’s temperature it was around 10°C. We decided on a quick harvesting session and I'd fit in watering the tomatoes before we left.

I started by picking some raspberries, Joan J. These had stood up to the bad weather very well but my fingers didn't stand up to picking the cold wet berries quite so well.
I finished up with a nice punnet full of raspberries. Our yellow fruiting raspberries, All Gold, hadn’t taken kindly to the weather and weren't worth picking. It was then on to apples, pears, plums, blackberries, tomatoes, beans and a cob of sweet corn to test. Finally just before we left the tomatoes got their drink. 
In the end a good harvest for a cold September day.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Out With the Old, In With the New

Monday was a cold windy day. Even though we had nearly 4 hours of sunshine it was still a miserable day with the afternoon temperature making it to a measly 13.4°C. The showers arrived on a very strong wind so it wasn't a gardening sort of a day.

Last week we lifted all our onions grown over summer and moved them into our home greenhouse to dry off and store over winter. As it wasn't a day for allotmenting we had a trip around a couple of local gardening centres to buy some winter onions.
Normally we would order these on-line from one of the seed companies but last year the sets arrived in the middle of October which turned out to be the start of some cold weather. The result was that most of the bulbs never had any chance to grow before winter set in and most of the sets just rotted away in the ground.

We decided to buy the bulbs locally this year. It does mean our choice of varieties is much more restricted but if we can get our sets planted over the coming weekend they will have almost a months start on last year’s winter onions. Fortunately the forecast seems to suggest the weather will improve over the weekend. 

Monday, 16 September 2013

A Couple of Days Away

We had a couple of days away in Cambridgeshire visiting Belton House a National Trust property and paying a visit to the Nene Valley Heritage Railway for their Autumn Steam Gala. Unfortunately the weather didn't play ball. We travelled down the A1 on Friday morning through rain but luckily for us the afternoon cleared up and we even managed a little sunshine for a couple of hours in the afternoon as we wandered around the parkland  and gardens at Belton House before the rain returned again in the evening.
It was a damp cool start to Saturday morning as we arrived at Wansford station on the Nene Valley Railway. The forecast was for the weather to improve gradually through the day.
At least the rain held off and as forecast it did improve in the afternoon with the sun just managing a very brief appearance.
We missed the heavy rain forecast for Sunday but it was a cloudy and blustery day not very pleasant at all. The forecast for the next few days suggests daytime temperatures just making it into the low teens. It’s supposed to be autumn not winter but the weather doesn't seem to know that!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Dull and a Bit Wet

The forecast for Wednesday was just about spot on predicting rain to start just after lunchtime which it did. I suppose the morning wasn't too bad, mostly dull and cloudy but without any breeze it didn't feel too bad.
The sun’s disappeared for the last couple of days and the daytime high temperatures seemed to have settled around the mid-teens probably just a bit lower than we might expect for early September.  

In the afternoon I roasted some more tomatoes and as an afterthought checked the weight of fruit from each of our greenhouses. Our home greenhouse produced 2.7kg of tomatoes from 15 plants which is poor by anybody’s standards. On the other hand our plot greenhouse has so far produced 7.7kg of tomatoes from 15 plants and there’s plenty of fruit still to ripen.
Each greenhouse had 15 plants, 3 of each of the following varieties, Alicante, Amish Gold, Brandy Boy Hybrids, Pink Wonder and Sioux.
This is how the varieties have performed so far. The home greenhouse totals won’t change as I've already weighed up all the tomatoes including green ones left on the plants when they were cleared away this week to make some space for our onions to dry off. So far it looks like an excellent year in one greenhouse and almost a complete disaster in another. I've used the same seed and they've all been grown in the same compost. I'm at a loss to explain the weird results but this gardening lark always throws up a few surprises for us to deal with.

I’ll update the chart once all our plot tomatoes have been harvested.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

I Think Autumn’s Here

Tuesday was cool and cloudy virtually all day until the sun just managed to make an appearance in the early evening. It cast rather a strange light over the garden perhaps one that Monty Don would enthuse over but not me. It just smacks of autumn arriving.
After that lovely mini heatwave to start off September it’s all gone to pot a little bit with a couple of night time temperatures well down into single digits and daytimes only into the middle teens.
It’s an early reminder that those tender crops still producing down on the plot might not be doing so for much longer. Hopefully we'll get through September without any frost to give our greenhouse tomatoes and outdoor vegetables such as Crown Prince Squashes time to ripen and mature.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

A Day Off

Monday was a question of avoiding the heavy showers. We didn't have any rain at home but we did have some heavy rain on our way to RSPB Old Moor. As we arrived at Old Moor the rain was so heavy we thought we'd probably have some lunch in the cafe there and then head back home.
By the time we'd had some lunch the rain had stopped and we decided to have a walk and look around the reserve. The clouds continued to threaten more rain but luckily it stayed away. 
Sue managed to capture this heron having lunch too. When I see the size of these birds I’m always amazed that we need to protect our small garden pond from them as they are quite capable of manoeuvring around the obstacles in our garden and helping themselves to our pond fish. 

Monday, 9 September 2013


Sunday wasn't too bad after a very chilly start it was a fairly bright day but without much sunshine the temperature only managed the mid teens.
On the plot we decided it was time to lift our main crop onions and move them into our home greenhouse to dry off and hopefully store well over winter. It was hard to believe that we’d had 17mm of rainfall only a couple of days ago as although the top of the soil was wet it was still on the dry side a little lower down.
This was the first time we’d grown our onions through weed control fabric and it’s been successful at cutting down on weeding and still producing an excellent crop of onions. These were all set off early in cells back on 18 February in the greenhouse before been moved into the cold frame to harden off on 19 April and were finally planted in the plot on 5 May. 
We always seem to have more problems growing red varieties but I’m really pleased with the size and conditions of our main crop onions. We’ll be lifting our other onions in the next week or so and comparing how they've done. We've now got to try to keep these onions in good condition through the winter.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Much Better - Sort Of!

Saturday’s weather was a big improvement with some sunny periods. We had just one of the forecast scattered showers in the late afternoon when the sun was shining. The clear skies of daytime led to the sort of description in my title as overnight into Sunday morning the temperature fell to 4.2°C. That’s not the sort of night time temperature that’s going to prolong our runner bean harvesting season or help ripen tomatoes, apples and pears.
I decided to clear our home greenhouse tomatoes to make way for drying out our onions. Throughout summer most of our home tomatoes have been consigned to the green waste bin with blossom end rot and with only a few tomatoes left on the plants I've cut our losses and will make better use of the greenhouse space by drying off our onion crop.
This is virtually, give or take the odd tomato, our total home greenhouse crop from 15 plants. We've still a few green Alicante tomatoes to pick once they've ripened. Fortunately we've lots of green tomatoes in the plot greenhouse - but will they get some good weather to help them ripen?

Saturday, 7 September 2013

A Rainy Day

Friday brought some much needed rain for the plot and the garden. The rain was heaviest in the morning and caused some local flooding in the usual locations. By the end of the day the total came to 17.8mm. Our new shed roof repairs will have been tested to the full.

On our last visit to the plot we picked some tomatoes which are now starting to crop much better. We've certainly got a heavy crop but they’re going to need a decent September to fully ripen. 
This is a selection of the varieties we picked. Pink Wonder have split more than the other sorts and I put the splitting of the skins down to irregular watering but I don’t make trips to the plot just to water my tomatoes they just have to accept going from a good soaking to drying out. As most of them will be used to make tomato sauce for use throughout winter a few split skins isn't too much of a problem.  
Chopped and roasted ready for packing into containers and freezing for stews, casseroles, curries and pasta sauces. 

Friday, 6 September 2013

Shed Refurbishment

Thursday was another lovely September day although it wasn't quite as warm as yesterday.

Our allotment shed needed some refurbishment work to prepare it for the worst of the winter weather. Last winter’s gales ripped the felting off the roof and I was forced to make some temporary repairs to make the shed waterproof. The repair almost worked but there were a couple of places where water could find its way under the repair.
I thought it looked like a good repair job at the time but the elements thought differently. The inside of the shed got some TLC after last week’s break in. Incidentally we've had more break-ins on Wednesday night but fortunately we escaped any more damage. The only option to repair the shed roof properly was to re-felt the whole roof. It’s best to do this on a warm day as the felt sheeting is more pliable when it’s warm but dealing with the bitumen sealant is always going to be a messy job.
I'm pleased to say that the shed does now have its new felt covering so I'm hoping that this will stop the water leaks.
I'm not going to have to wait long to test out whether my repair is waterproof or not as it started raining early on Friday morning and is still raining steadily by mid morning with 15.0mm so far. 

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett