Thursday, 30 April 2015

Sunniest April

Although the last few days have been a touch on the cold side in between the showers of hail and rain it’s been sunny. Added to the lovely sunny days of the middle of the month it means that this April has turned out to be the sunniest of the last five years. 
Marsh Marigold
However it’s not all good news as despite the record number of sunshine hours it’s not going to turn out to be a particularly mild April. We've had plenty of cold nights with low temperatures which have held tender plants back in the greenhouse. The growing on information on my tomato seed packets say grow on and maintain a temperature of 15°C (59.0°F). My chart of greenhouse temperatures this month is shown below.
Almost every night this month the temperature has fallen below 7°C (44.6°F) so there is little wonder that my young seedlings aren’t growing very quickly. By the way the high temperatures tend to be exaggerated somewhat as the thermometer isn't shaded from direct sunshine.

It seems we may have to wait a little bit longer before the temperatures start to pick up. It can’t come soon enough for my tomato seedlings.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

A Strange Old Month

Tuesday produced the lowest average daily temperature since the first of the month. I guess we've had some of the good and not so good April weather this year. After a lovely spell of weather that made it feel like early summer it’s now turned much colder putting gardening on a hold for a while in the hope that it will change back to something milder soon. Looking at average temperature figures for this month our average high temperatures for the month have been above average however to offset that our average low temperatures have been below average. At this time of the year our tender and not so tender plants are governed more by the cooler temperatures.
Plants in the greenhouse continue to be covered in fleece each night but some of our newly transplanted tomato seedlings look like they’re missing indoor warmth.

As I've not been doing too much gardening I've managed to finish a little bit of video editing. If you didn't see our little video of the ducks on our plot which I posted on Facebook earlier in the week you can see it below.

I've also finished editing my video of our visit to the Great Central Railway’s special event “Railways at Work Weekend”.
The video features steam locomotives, goods trains, passenger trains, steam rollers, the travelling post office, together with some old railway vehicles too.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Coldest Night of the Month

Monday was a lovely sunny day but it never felt very warm. In the sunshine it wasn't too bad but if the sun disappeared behind a cloud it felt cold. Overnight Monday into Tuesday the temperature fell to -0.5°C (31.1°F) our coldest night of the month and the coldest since 11 March 2015. 
I was glad I’d covered any tender plants in the greenhouse with fleece as the temperature fell to -0.1°C (31.8°F) in there. 
On the plot yesterday we had a couple of intruders who I’m told walked in through the allotment gates and onto our allotments.
The female was far more inquisitive than the male. They both walked across our new strawberry bed a couple of times taking care not to walk on any of our new plants. They may well have been sent packing had they threatened any damage. After a few minutes they’d decided they’d seen enough and took off heading towards the Wakefield. 

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

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Frosty Nights?

As forecast Friday saw the break up of the fine spell of weather as the cloud arrived in the late afternoon. It was Saturday afternoon though before we saw any fall in temperature when it fell from 16°C (60.8°F) to 6°C (42.8°F) in an hour or so. We had our first rainfall of any note for almost 2 weeks.
Temperature and Rainfall from Friday - Sunday April 24/26 2015
The forecast for next week suggests some pretty cold nights to come with a frost on any or every night next week. I think I’ll take the precaution of covering our tomato plants in the greenhouse with fleece to give them a bit of extra protection against the cold.
These are the sorts of temperatures forecast for most nights next week. This chart shows the predicted temperatures for Monday 27 April at 03:00.
If we do get any keen frosts we may well get some damage to all the fruit blossom that is out on the plot at the moment. After the fine weather of the last couple of weeks we didn't really want a cold spell right now.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Long Term Labelling

After a bit of a cloudy and misty start to the day by mid morning the sun was out giving us another lovely sunny and mild April day.

On the plot we finished planting out our new strawberry plants. 
We want to keep a note of each of the varieties to see which performs and tastes the best. All the rows of plants have been labelled conventionally with a plastic label and written on using a permanent marker pen. In our case permanent normally means around 6 months in summer and even less in winter months. As a long term solution all the varieties have been marked up on our allotment plans using the garden planner. The plan will have the the crops grown in each bed marked up this year and the plan copied forward to the next and subsequent years. 
Part Plan of Plot 41 with Strawberry Varieties Listed
Part Plan of Plot 30 with Strawberry Varieties Listed
At least this way once the permanent marker ink has disappeared of the labels we will have a record of which strawberries are where stored safely in “the cloud”.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Heeding Advice

Wednesday was another gloriously sunny and mild April day. If the anticipated change in the weather for next week takes place it’s going to be a shock to the system.

Meanwhile it was another good afternoon on the plot planting potatoes.
This bed was cultivated and I managed to fit in 6 rows of potatoes (1 row Winston, 2 rows of Nadine and Charlotte and 1 row of Nicola) although I didn't manage to get round to tidying up the edges of the bed.

Our first bed planted up with brassicas had lightweight mesh laid over the top of them to protect them from pests. I've decided that this might not have been the best course of action and have now supported the mesh on a few stakes to give the plants some headroom to grow.
My reason for using a fine mesh instead of butterfly netting is to hopefully keep any whitefly and greenfly off the heads of our calabrese when they develop. Heads of calabrese covered in whitefly don't make for very appealing vegetables.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Carroting and Parsniping

Tuesday was the sunniest day of the year according to my weather station with 9.5 hours of sunshine.
We had a little bit of cloud about in the morning but from just before midday through to evening time we had a spell of unbroken sunshine as can be seen from the smooth curve of the solar radiation trace on the above chart.

It turned out to be an excellent day for sowing carrots and parsnips as not only was it sunny but calm too.
Once sown into their compost trenches our carrot and parsnip seeds were give a watering to settle them into their new surroundings. Then the tricky job of constructing our environmental mesh cage to protect the crops from carrot fly. On a lovely sunny day it seemed a bit like over kill holding down the mesh with lots of bricks but I've no doubt our construction techniques will be put to the test with some windy weather even in summer.
It’s now a case of keeping them damp until they germinate and then attempting to keep the slugs at bay as they can devastate a row of carrot seedlings overnight.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Carrot Preparations

After a bit of a cloudy morning the sun came out before lunch time to give us a lovely sunny and mild afternoon.

On the plot it was a case of preparing a bed ready to sow our carrots and parsnips. Parsnip seed is especially good at blowing about in any sort of breeze so a reasonably calm day makes sowing so much easier.
Our carrot and parsnip bed is one of the untidiest looking beds on the plot with weed control fabric that’s in something like its fourth year of use together with all the bits and pieces of timber required to hold it in place it looks a bit of a mess. I remember thinking the same last spring but we managed to harvest 35kg (77 lb) of carrots and 15kg (33 lb)of parsnips so I’m happy to put up with it looking a mess if we get the same results. Next job is to sow the seeds and erect our environmesh cage to keep our carrots free from carrot fly. 

I blogged last week that our Delsanne pear tree was flowering before our other two varieties. That’s not the case any more as Invincible and Red Williams have joined it in flower. There were plenty of bees doing their bit so hopefully we’ll have some pears this year.
Our tulips are putting on a decent show too.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Birds and Some Steam

I think that the mild weather at the beginning of April got me into thinking that was how April should be and now with temperatures returning to more normal values for the time of year it seems positively cool. High pressure has been in charge over the last few days bringing settled conditions. In any sunshine it has felt pleasant but out of the sunshine pretty chilly.

We’d decided on a couple of days away visiting the Anglian Bird Watching Centre situated on Rutland Water on Friday and then The Great Central Railway the following day.
The Anglian Bird Watching centre is the largest reserve we've visited. It has so many hides that we didn't manage to get round them all on our visit. We had trouble finding our way around the reserve and at one time we weren't sure of our way back to the Visitors’ Centre. A couple of regular visitors helped us out and suggested where we should go to get a possible sighting of the ospreys. In the photo above you can just make out the nest and the male osprey perched in the tree above. Apologies for the photo quality but the birds were a long way away.
We also spotted an Egyptian Goose which we hadn't seen before. One pair had some goslings but they were too far away to get a good photo. Walking around the reserve involved crossing a few fields which we filled with lambs. Couldn't resist a few photos.
On Saturday the Great Central Railway were holding a gala called “Railways at Work Weekend” and Quorn and Woodhouse Station was converted to a replica station when the railway was the hub of the village.
There were a few lovingly restored old vehicles in the station yard and some even older ones were making some repairs to the pot holes in the car park.
There were steam hauled trains making regular journeys from Loughborough to Leicester and the occasional freight train too.
Now we probably need to catch up on a bit of gardening.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Alright For Some

Some parts of Britain had their warmest day of the year on Wednesday but that certainly wasn't the case in Ossett. It wasn't even close with the temperature below average for the time of year.

As you can see we only managed a high of 12.4°C (54.3°F) and we didn't manage that until the very late afternoon. With a cool breeze and no sunshine it felt even cooler.

I had a couple of hours on the plot doing a little bit more cultivating. Strangely the soil conditions over the plots vary enormously with some parts still pretty wet while other are in excellent condition to be cultivated. 
This bed cultivated easily. A couple of trips over it with the cultivator and it was done and ready to be planted up. The bed below though is a different matter.
It doesn't look too bad in the photo but the soil hasn't broken down into a fine tilth. This will be our carrot bed this year and I’m hoping to get our carrots sown next week. Perhaps another cultivating session next week will get the soil into a suitable condition for sowing.
Our pear “Delsanne” is now in full flower but unfortunately our other pear trees are still only in bud. This pear is also known as Goldember and is supposed to be self fertile and crop from early in its life. If it is self fertile the fact it’s flowering by itself shouldn't be a problem. Planted at the same time as “Red Williams” and “Invincible” it’s the only one we haven’t had a single fruit off. We thought this might be because it flowers early before our other varieties but as it’s self fertile this shouldn't be an issue. Maybe this is going to be its year. 

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

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Highest Average Daily Temperature of the Year

Based on the average daily temperature,Tuesday finished as the warmest day of the year with an average of 13.4°C (56.1°F). It wasn't a particularly warm day which helped achieve this, although late into the afternoon some lovely sunshine made the temperature rise to 19.6°C (67.3°F). The fact that we had a very mild night with the temperature not falling below 9.7°C (49.5°F) helped lift the average daily temperature. It would be nice to be able to guarantee that as an overnight value in the greenhouse for the next month or so but I suspect it’s not going to happen and we've a few more chilly nights in store.
This pulsatilla is looking good in the pebble garden.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

A One Night Stand

The forecast for Monday turned out to be wrong. Those gale force winds that were forecast didn't arrive. At one time on Sunday we had a Met Office warning of gale force winds for Monday and Tuesday but by Monday morning that had been lifted. Monday wasn't a bad day after all with some decent sunny spells and temperatures around average for the time of year.

If you've been following our great tit nest box camera saga you’ll know that one day last week the two great tits that had roosted in our box for several nights appeared to have an early morning tiff and that only one returned to roost the following night.
This is our lone great tit roosted up for the night all alone. Then the following night this happened.
Once again two birds roosting maybe some nest building was still a possibility. It wasn't to be, as in the early hours of the following morning once again the two birds appeared to squabble and part company.
We’re now back to one bird and are starting to give up hope of the idea of any nest building taking place.

We’ll be adding some video of the events to our link to the nest box page which you can find here.

Monday, 13 April 2015

What a Disappointment

Last week was so good the weekend’s weather turned out to be a big disappointment. After a windy and cold Saturday, Sunday was probably the worst of the two days. It was windy and cold in the morning but at least the rain passed us by to the north.
We weren't so lucky in the afternoon as some light blustery showers arrived. It felt cold outside. I can vouch for that as I had to make some temporary fence repairs early in the evening as the constant battering from the wind eventually took its toll on one of the fence posts. With more strong winds forecast for the next few days I decided immediate action was required before the whole fence was brought down.

The weather has put our gardening activities on hold. It’s a pity as we were making good progress on the plot and in the garden. I’m hoping that the onions, shallots and brassicas that we planted out on a lovely Friday afternoon haven’t suffered too much over the weekend. Will our “veggie mesh” covering our brassicas still be on our plot, another allotment or the fields beyond?

Sunday, 12 April 2015

A Bit of a Shock

The mild sunny weather of last week came to an end on Saturday. It was a bit of a shock to the system to find it cool and windy outside after all the fine weather. We had plenty of sunshine through the day but the strong wind took the effect of the sunshine away.
Temperatures with wind chill Monday 06 to Sunday 12 April 2015
That high temperature of 21.3°C (70.3°F) didn't manage to beat my highest recorded temperature in April which stands at 24.7°C (76.5°F) set on 23 April 2011.

The forecast for today and the early part of next week is for more strong to gale force winds over the next few days. I’m guessing that’s not good news for our plum blossom which was just starting to open on Friday. 

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Going Out In Style

Friday finished the week off with yet another high temperature as the thermometer touched 21.3°C (70.3°F).
Back on the 20 March our Marshalls brassica collection arrived. These plug plants were planted up into modules and left to grow on a little in the greenhouse before they were moved into the cold frame.
Cauliflower - Mayflower 20 March 2015
From past experience I've learnt that treated in this way the plants soon recover from their trip in the postal system. The plants had grown sufficiently to be ready for transplanting into the plot so Friday was their big day.
Cauliflower - Mayflower 10 April 2015
The cauliflower - Mayflower, shown above, were planted out along with cabbage “Duncan” and calabrese “Marathon”. All the plants have been covered with lightweight environmesh to keep butterflies and as many other pests off as possible. One cabbage white butterfly was trying to settle on the leaves as I was putting the plants in. What a nerve! At the moment the mesh is laid over the top of the plants and will need adjusting as the plants grow.

I’m not sure whether or not laying the fabric over the plants is better than constructing some sort of support system to hold the fabric off the plants. I've left the fabric reasonably loose to allow the plants some room to grow but I’ll have to keep a close watch over the developing plants to ensure they have enough growing space.

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

Friday, 10 April 2015

Taddy Update

Thursday continued the excellent spell of weather we've been having over the last few days. It was a bit of a chilly start to the day but during the afternoon Thursday became the new warmest day of the year with a temperature of 20.2°C (68.4°F).
You may remember that our first frogs were so eager to spawn that they didn't manage to make it to the pond instead depositing a clump of frogspawn in a plant saucer. At the time I was unsure what to do with this clump. It was left in its saucer for a couple of days while we pondered what to do. Before we’d decided we noticed that the frogs had produced more frogspawn but this time at least they’d managed to get it in the pond.
I felt a little bit less concerned about that first attempt. I found an old plastic fish bowl sort of container and thought I’d pour the frogspawn into it and add some pond water. I planned to leave the container in the shade so that the tadpoles didn't get poached or boiled.
Well so far my little container has worked well, perhaps a little too well and we have dozens of tadpoles swimming around in the bowl of water. I’m guessing that the water in the bowl is warmer than the pond where the development of the spawn into tadpoles is going on at a much slower pace. Our fish don’t seem to have found a route through the weed to the spawn so maybe there is a chance of some surviving in the pond.

I’m now trying to decide the best way to look after out tadpole bowl. I’ll keep exchanging some of the water in the bowl for some pond water in an effort to stop the water going stagnant. The question is what should I feed the tadpoles on? At this stage I’m going to try to sprinkle in some finely ground up fish flake and see how they do. I don’t suppose we've any chance of rearing vegetarian tadpoles so when the little creatures start forming their back legs we’ll have to change their diet as they change form vegetarian to carnivorous creatures. Cat food is one suggestion I've seen on the Internet but the quantities have to be kept very small or the water gets polluted. Too little food and they start eating one another which I’d like to avoid at all costs.

There’s a short video below showing our tadpoles in their bowl and frogspawn still developing in the pond.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Doing the Unthinkable

Wednesday was another glorious April day but a little cooler than the previous two days.

I decided to try a little bit of cultivating on the plot. We are in need of a bed to get some of our onions and shallots planted out that have happily been growing in modules in the cold-frame and greenhouse at home.
Once on the plot I decided to try cultivating the bed on plot 42, allocated for onions this year. There are four small beds for which we carry out a four year crop rotation. If that bed dug satisfactorily my plan was to dig the adjacent bed which is due to be planted up with peas.
These two beds dug very well with the soil breaking down into a fine tilth.  Once this was done the weed control fabric used for each of these crops last year was moved back into place. 
I thought I’d next try my luck on the bed which had been hand dug over in autumn and left for the winter’s frost and rain to break down the soil. This didn't work and the soil remained in large hard lumps. Weeds are now starting to grow especially creeping buttercup which can soon take over large area if not kept in check.
The problem was that it was impossible to dig out the roots of the weeds as the soil just stuck to the roots in clumps. It didn't seem to be too wet but by the time the soil had been bashed off the roots lots of pieces of root were scattered on the soil in any case. I didn't know whether to leave the bed in the hope that the soil condition would improve at some time in the future or to do what any self-respecting gardener wouldn't do, and dig the weeds in, using my cultivator to break up the soil. I decided on the latter.
The cultivator broke up the large hard lumps of soil into much smaller lumps of hard soil but the bed did look much better. It still needs to be broken down into a better tilth and of course there’s going to be a problem with weeds. I’m considering just covering the bed with weed control fabric and digging it over again when I have some time. I’m not at all sure why the soil in this bed has finished up in this condition.