Monday, 31 August 2015

Days Out, Montyed Tomatoes and Calmest Day

The last few days haven't been too bad but nothing really special for August. At least the rain held off whilst we had a couple of days away.

On Friday we visited an owl and falconry centre in Rutland. As we made our way there we drove through a heavy shower but luckily by the time we arrived at the centre it had stopped raining. All the birds were housed in a woodland setting which made for some rather challenging photography settings. Rather poor light and lots of obstacles in front of the owls and falcons made focusing tricky too. I've never done so much manual focusing before. The end results didn't turn out too badly.
On Saturday we had lunch on The South Yorkshireman dining train travelling between Loughborough and Leicester on The Great Central Railway.
If you follow my blog you’ll know I’ve complained about how we’ve had lots of windy weather this year. On Sunday we had one of the calmest days, if not the calmest day, of the last 6 years. 
These are the wind speed records for the 3 days when the wind speed has been recorded as 0 mph and a maximum wind gust speed of 1.0mph. I think it’s fair to say that Sunday was the calmest of the 3 days.

Having watched Gardeners’ World on Friday evening I decided to do as Monty Don suggested and remove most of the leaves from our plot tomatoes growing in the greenhouse to let some light and hopefully a bit of sunshine to the fruits to give them a chance to ripen.
On the photograph there still looks to be plenty of greenery left on the plants but I did have a full barrow load of leaves to remove to the compost heap.
My plan is to give the plants in our home greenhouse the same treatment.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015


Tuesday wasn't anything special for August. We've now had 17.6 mm (0.69”) of rainfall without a 24 hour dry spell. We didn't have much rain just a gentle shower around teatime.

At the back of our home greenhouse we have a row of cordon apple trees. Although they get cut back on a regular basis they still seem to grow out of control. This year it's the turn of our Bramley apple to produce a good crop. I've been expecting apples to drop through the greenhouse window at any time. The recent rain and breezy weather have already resulted in apples falling from the tree. These finish up cut and bruised meaning they need to be used very quickly.
I don't think the apples are ripe because the pips are still white. I always assume once the pips turn brown the apples are ready to pick.

Still if left on the tree the apples will fall off and in a couple of days left on the ground they turn into a nasty horrible brown mush. We decided it might be better to pick them and see how long we could keep them in good condition. We haven’t decided where to keep them yet.
I was pleasantly surprised by the weight harvested which amounted to 15.5 kg (34lbs). We've a few windfalls that we didn’t box up which will need to be used straightaway in a crumble or apple pie.

Most of the other apples we picked were in good condition and some a decent size too.
At least they won't fall through the greenhouse roof this year.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Grapevine Extension

Sunday’s rain seemed to have cleared away the muggy conditions and Monday started off much cooler than the last few days and remained that way all day. Glimpses of the sun were rare.

In the afternoon we headed down to the plot to complete the jobs we intended to do on Sunday. One job was to extend the support for one of our outdoor grapevines Boskoop Glory. I’m not sure why we should extend it as we’ve not yet had any edible grapes from it in the 6 years it’s been planted. However it seemed the right thing to do as two of its main stems are now wafting aimlessly past the shed which provides support for the first part of the stems.
It does have some little bunches of grapes, and as hard as it is to believe we have reduced the number to around a half. I think we will need a good autumn for the grapes to ripen. So fruit production wise there seemed no reason to let the vine grow any bigger but we think it will look pretty good growing along the side of the path even if we don’t get to eat the grapes. 
I might have to see if we can find another shoot to grow at a lower level to finish the job off. Then not only will we have an apple hedge but a grape hedge too.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Rained Off Big Time!

The muggy, humid weather continued into Sunday with the afternoon temperature heading into the mid twenties Celsius. The forecast was for heavy rain again starting late afternoon.

We decided on heading down to the plot in the middle of the afternoon which probably wasn’t a good decision. I had some young lettuce plants that I wanted to plant out and I felt if they were left in their seed trays any longer they would probably spoil. We also wanted to harvest some vegetables and to give the greenhouse tomatoes a drink. 
I had three small trays of lettuce seedlings Tom Thumb, Little Gem and Red Fire. I’d decided to see what happens to them if I transferred them directly into the plot rather than transplanting them into modules to grow on into larger seedlings. They were planted out in the bed cleared of our early peas. After the rain of last week the soil turned over really well not at all like that concrete we had a few weeks ago when the ground was very dry.
The newly planted seedlings were covered with netting as protection against wood pigeons.

Then Jan, our plot neighbour, invited us over to his plot for an afternoon coffee. It was an offer we didn’t turn down but unfortunately by the time we’d finished our coffee and put the world to rights the first spots of rain were starting to fall. We headed for the shed as the large drops of rain turned into a downpour accompanied by thunder and lightening. 

Friday, 21 August 2015

Thursday was mild and muggy. We didn’t have a great deal of sunshine but the rain held off and it wasn’t too bad a day.

Overnight into Friday saw the muggy conditions continue to give us our warmest night of the year with the temperature only falling to 17.9°C (64.2°F).

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Dangerous Picking

Wednesday didn’t live up to the lovely start to the day. Up until lunchtime it was lovely and sunny and the promise of a hot August afternoon seemed to be on the cards but in the early afternoon the clouds rolled in and by teatime it was dull and drizzly. It stayed on the mild side though.

I made a trip down to the allotment on Wednesday afternoon to make sure our plot tomatoes in the greenhouse didn’t go short of water. I thought I'd pick some raspberries, plums and apples that we're ready. Picking our Oullins Gage plums is a dangerous operation. As soon as the plums are ready their skins tend to split and this lets in the wasps for a free meal. It means you have to be very careful picking plums or you can easily grab a handful of wasp. I managed to pick a couple of punnets without annoying any wasps. 
I also harvested some lettuces that haven’t hearted up yet. We've renewed our sowings in our raised bed at home so we are short of lettuces and salad leaves at the moment. It seems silly to buy some salad leaves when we have lettuces almost but not quite ready down on the plot. If I don't pick some of these lettuces before they're ready I will have a row of two dozen all ready at the same time. If that happened some will go to waste so I think it's better to pick some before now. I picked one Tom Thumb and two Little Gems which will be used in a salad tonight. The lettuces were pulled up root and all and with a drop of water in the bucket so they will keep fresh for a few days if needed.
I watered the tomatoes in the greenhouse and checked to see if any had turned red. They hadn't. A few Sungold will soon be ready but no large tomatoes are turning red yet.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Two Wet Days in a Week

August’s weather has gone into changeable mode and after a couple of nice days it was another wet day following on from last Friday. The morning was dull with some very light drizzle then it turned wet all afternoon and into the evening.
The forecast for the week ahead looks a bit mixed too. Not a brilliant forecast by any means.

In the greenhouse our tomatoes are slowing starting to ripen. It’s the cherry size tomatoes that are turning first and we’re still waiting for a ‘proper’ sized tomato to turn. There are lots of large tomatoes on the plants but they’re stubbornly refusing to turn red.
This is Wednesday morning’s picking of Sungold, Baby Boomer, Cherry Fountain and our first picking of Maskotka.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

A Visit to Wharfedale

The weather on Sunday and Monday wasn’t too bad and on Monday we decided on another day out in the Yorkshire Dales National Park this time to visit Parcevall Hall Gardens located to the north of Skipton.
The house has commanding views of the millstone grit outcrops of Simon’s Seat. The walk from the car park starts by following the stream through Tarn Ghyll Wood.
We walked past some rhododendrons and certainly weren’t expecting to see any in flower in the middle of August.
This lead to the main formal gardens surrounding the house and the red border.
After exploring the formal gardens we walked uphill through Silver Wood where there's an excellent viewpoint. 
Whilst we had a welcome sit down on the bench and took in the view we were watching a red kite soaring effortlessly on the lookout for its next meal. 
I think we may well be visiting again when the camellias and rhododendrons are in full display.  

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Not Much Difference

Saturday certainly saw a temperature change for the month as although it was a decent sunny day the temperature didn’t manage to get above 18.4°C (65.1°F) rather cooler than we’ve been used to. Over night into Sunday saw our coldest night time temperature of the month with just 6.2°C (43.2°F).

On Saturday I finished lifting our first early potatoes Casablanca and Foremost. We grew the same number of tubers of each variety under weed control fabric and planted conventionally using our trowel and earthing up method. Comparing the yields from both methods there was little to choose between them.
The above table shows the yield from each method. Each bed contained a 5.0m row of each variety but the ones grown conventionally were the easiest to harvest first and we’ve been lifting them as new potatoes since 04 July when they still had leafy tops and perhaps a bit more growing to do.
Conventionally grown Foremost and Casablanca 11 July 2015
Once the potatoes grown under weed control fabric were lifted the straw and manure used to hold the fabric in place were spread over the bed and then incorporated into the soil.
I’m now deciding whether or not to replace the fabric back over the bed immediately or to leave it off for a few weeks. If we have some more rain the bed would benefit from being dug over again. In any case I shall replace the weed control fabric over the bed to stop any weeds growing over autumn and into winter. This bed will be used for early brassicas next year and will only need some fertiliser incorporating in spring next year a few weeks before planting.

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

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Not What I Expected

Three days that went rapidly downhill from a lovely sunny warm day on Wednesday, a cloudy but dry day on Thursday to a very wet and dull day on Friday. With 15.6mm (0.61”) of rainfall, Friday became our third wettest day of the year and with my weather station recording only 2.0 MJ/m2 of energy for the whole day the lowest value I’ve recorded in August, it would be fair to consider it the dullest August day in the last six years. To give you an idea of scale I’ve recorded that sort of value in January when the daylight hours are much shorter so Friday was definitely dull.
This week I lifted a row of Casablanca potatoes that had been growing under weed control fabric. I’d made up my mind that they were going to be badly damaged by slugs. If you follow our blogs you’ll be aware that this year two of our carrot sowings, made using weed control fabric, have germinated well only to be decimated by slugs. As it’s not been a particularly wet year I’d decided that the cause of this problem must have been that the fabric produced  a perfect breeding ground for slugs although I’d no real evidence of this having used this method successfully for several years.
All the potato tops had died back so there seemed to be no point leaving them in the ground. I pulled one half of the fabric back and as expected lots of potatoes had grown directly under the fabric rather than in the soil.
Surprising virtually all the potatoes were free of any damage which I wasn’t expecting. Once these surface potatoes had been picked up it was time to investigate what the crop underneath was like. 
It turned out to be a decent harvest weighing in at 11.4kg (25.1lb) and surprisingly little slug damage.
These were the only damaged potatoes I found in the whole row far less than I’d expected. This year I can compare the weights of a row grown under weed control fabric and one grown using our conventional method of planting with a trowel and earthing up. The conventional row produced 9.76kg (21.5lb) but I did harvest a few early so weight wise there’s little to choose between the two methods.

All this though leaves me none the wiser as to why our carrot sowings suffered so badly from slug damage.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Unexpected Tomato Crop!

Tuesday was another nice August day with some long sunny spells and pleasantly warm. We’ve only had 8.6mm (0.34") of rainfall so far this month which makes it the driest start to August I’ve recorded. Although with Met Office warnings out for heavy rain on Thursday night into Friday morning the dry spell might not last too long.

I have a sort of pecking order for the tomato plants I grow. The choicest plants go in our home greenhouse, the next best in the plot greenhouse and the remaining stragglers usually get thrown away. These stragglers used to get planted in the plot but as they suffered from blight every year we gave up attempting to grow them outdoors. This year we decided to give the odds and ends a chance outdoors on the plot.
At times this summer it didn’t look like a very good idea as the plants suffered through cool, dry and windy weather. They did manage to pick up after a couple of wet days and then it only seemed a matter of time before they were struck down by blight.

Meanwhile in both greenhouses our tomato plants have been watered and fed on a regular basis and have been protected from the worst of the weather. We’ve now, at long last, got some tomatoes ripening and as last year Sungold are the first. We had a first picking from the plot tomatoes on Tuesday and very surprisingly there were more Sungold ready on our outdoor plants than the ones in the greenhouse.
Sungold from outdoor plants 
Sungold from greenhouse plants 
To be fair there’s lots more fruit on the greenhouse plants but nevertheless our outdoor crop is rather a bonus. After the start they had I’m amazed the plants are still growing. Maybe I should have looked after them a bit better or have they benefited from a bit of neglect? 

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

A Good Spell

The last few days have been good with the temperature slightly above average both by day and by night. We’ve avoided any windy weather and apart from a few light showers on Monday any wet weather.
Temperature and Sunshine Records for 06 to 10 August 2015 
The warmer brighter weather might have helped to get some of our tomatoes into ripening mode. They’ve been very reluctant to to change colour this year remaining stubbornly green.

We’ve pottered around in the garden, done a little bit of harvesting on the plot and had a couple of days out or rather an afternoon at RSPB Fairburn Ings and a day trip into the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
In the higher parts of the Dales on Sunday the clouds covered the tops of the peaks and there were a few showers about but in the valleys the weather was brighter and warmer.
We had a walk to the lower, middle and upper falls at Aysgarth on the river Ure in Wensleydale. I’m sure the falls would look far more spectacular after a spell of wet weather.

Our forecast is for some rain late on Thursday or into Friday this week but I think our newly planted brassicas and peas will be wanting a drink to keep them happy until then. 

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Already Clearing Away

Wednesday deteriorated as the day went along and after a bright sunny morning, the afternoon was cloudy with the threat of rain.

It’s only the beginning of August but some beds on the plot are being cleared of their summer crops and either being dug over or replanted with some quick maturing crops. Monday saw our early peas cleared away and a row of Tom Thumb and Red Fire lettuces planted hopefully to mature in autumn.
The weed control fabric wasn’t lifted but the soil where the peas had grown was given a little bit of a spruce up and the lettuces planted out. The longest job was covering with netting to keep the birds at bay.

In the bed next to the lettuces our early brassica plants from Marshalls have done their bit and the cabbages and cauliflowers have all been harvested.
The calabrese Marathon has been left as this continues to produce some tasty side shoots.

Our first early potatoes Casablanca and Foremost grown conventionally without weed control fabric have been lifted. These are much easier to lift as required than ones under fabric and so are the first to be used. Casablanca produced a crop of 9.76kg and Foremost a larger heavier crop weighing in at 11.18kg. I was really pleased with the quality of the potatoes as there was no slug or other insect damage at all.
The bed dug over reasonably well after the rainfall over the last week. It could still do with more rain to soften up the soil a little bit more and then it needs digging over again to make sure I haven’t left any potatoes in the ground to grow next year.

I’ll have to compare the yield and quality of these two varieties grown under weed control fabric on another part of the plot. I intended to do this last year but my plans were thwarted by blight. This year blight hasn’t struck to date which I suppose is due to the dry and cool weather so far this summer.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Second Cropping Fruit

We don’t seem to be able to string a few decent summer days together this year. Monday was nice with some decent sunny spells and pleasantly mild with nothing more than a gentle breeze. It didn’t last into Tuesday which was duller with a strong breeze making it feel pretty cool at times. We got showered off the plot after it threatened rain all afternoon.

When we picked the last of our ripe figs a couple of days ago I mentioned that a second crop of fruits were already forming but I’ve no idea whether these will produce a crop before the weather turns too cold for them to ripen.
It’s not the only fruit in the greenhouse that’s trying to produce a second crop. Some of the longer shoots of our Himrod grapevine, which have avoided my secateurs, have flowered for a second time and have produced some tiny bunches of grapes. I’m sure these wont get to maturity but I might leave one little bunch to see what happens.
For comparison our main crop grapes are now almost ready for eating. Perhaps another week or so.
For the second year in a row our Invincible pear tree growing on the plot hasn’t lived up to its name and having flowered reasonably well and set some fruit in the end all that fruit fell off. We noticed a few weeks ago some flowers on the tree obviously much later than normal spring flowering pear blossom. Those flowers have set and we have some tiny pears on the tree. Not very many, maybe half a dozen. 
Rather strangely this is exactly how the tree behaved last year and late on into the autumn we did manage to harvest a few small but tasty Invincible pears.

I wonder if we have any other second cropping fruit that I haven’t noticed.