Tuesday, 31 January 2017

"Great Garden Birdwatch"

Well I'm not sure I'd want to count ours as the "Great Garden Birdwatch". We've done this bird count for the last few years and we are always amazed by the lack of birds in the garden when the count is due. Do they know that it's better for them if numbers are low and they get some widespread publicity about helping them out.

The menu on offer for the count was no different to any other day some standard bird seed, peanuts, niger seed, black sunflowers, sunflower hearts, suet pellets, fat balls, Golden Chorus and some dried meal worms.
This sparrow felt rather ashamed and didn't want to be identified lest he should be singled out for special attention having eaten in our garden on birdwatch day.

Thankfully though it was the sparrows who turned up in numbers. I think we do our best to keep a little flock of house sparrows fed through the year. They are happy to sit in the crab apple tree and wait their turn on the feeder which only has perching room for a couple of birds.
We managed six blackbirds. They're a little bit like the sparrows in their habits except they prefer to eat from the bird table taking it in turns to fly from tree to table for a feast of buggy nibbles.

Some of our other regular visitors decided to stay away. Normally we hear the starlings squabbling on the bird table as they try to find a space to land. Some take refuge on the window sill until they can push their way onto the bird table. How many did we have for the big count a grand total of five.

Even more amazingly we had one long tailed tit and one goldfinch. Since when do either of these birds go around in ones. The answer is only when it's garden birdwatch day.

Anyway it's over for another year now so the birds will be able to return to their normal routines. In our garden we have to be very glad of the little brown birds.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Potato Chitting

It wasn't too bad a weekend for the end of January. We had some sunny spells mixed in with a little bit of light rain but the rain didn't amount to much. It was still a little bit on the cold side as we wait for the warmer Atlantic weather systems to arrive through the week ahead.

We headed for the garden centre on Sunday to select our trial seed potatoes for the coming season. They've been placed in the summerhouse to chit before they are planted out in late March or early April.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

A Cold Week But We've Some Seed Potatoes

It's certainly been a cold week even allowing for the fact it's late January.
Temperature Records 22-28 January 2017
Although Thursday didn't have the keenest frost of the week, it did have the lowest average daily temperature of the month just managing to creep up into positive territory at 0.2°C or 32.4°F. Friday didn't do much better averaging 0.3°C which is 32.5°F. Friday night into Saturday morning brought to an end a run of six consecutive nights of sub zero temperatures. That last happened in January 2012.

The first part of our potato buying plan came to fruition on Thursday with a visit to our local (Horticentre) garden centre where we found our seven planned carefully chosen main varieties.
There's a little bit of space left at the bottom of the table as we plan a return visit at the weekend when the garden centre has its annual potato day event. We plan to purchase enough tubers of six different varieties to fill one of our smaller beds.
This is how our small bed of testers looked last year at the end of June. We are hoping to do something similar this year to see if we can fine some different varieties to grow. Last year Armour was one of our testers and it did well enough for it to be added to this year's main crop. I've just emptied the sack of last year's Armour crop which was stored in the garage since being lifted in the middle of August last year.
From the look of these there doesn't seem to be a problem with the keeping qualities of this variety. Our seed potatoes for this season have joined last year's crop of potatoes stored in the garage. They've gone into a potato sack and they will be stored in the dark and hopefully frost free garage until the end of February when they will be set out to chit in the greenhouse.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Potato Hunting

Tuesday and Wednesday turned out to be lovely sunny January days. It meant a couple of frost nights and misty mornings but the mist lifted quickly leaving us with almost dawn to dust sunshine.

Thursday morning has brought a change and the sunny weather has disappeared leaving us with a cold and cloudy morning.
Temperature & Wind Chill Records for 26 January 2017
It's not very windy but the little bit that there is makes it feel bitterly cold outside. Yesterday it was possible to feel a little bit of warmth in the sunshine.

We've got our list of seed potatoes ready for the coming season.
As you can see it's not a very high tech list but we've given careful consideration of last year's crops yields and tastes. We plan Armour as one of our main crop varieties rather than Vivaldi which suffered from slug damage but we are considering giving Vivaldi a second chance as it cropped well and tasted fine. We'd also like to find some different varieties to try if we can purchase them in small enough quantities.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Coldest Day of the Year

The last few days have been a bit mixed although it's certainly remained on the cool side even for January. After a cold dull weekend we were greeted with a foggy start to Monday but the fog lifted and the sun came out for a couple of hours before it clouded over again by lunchtime.
Temperature & Solar Radiation Records 22-24 January 2017
Tuesday morning has seen our coldest temperature of 2017 with the thermometer falling to -2.8°C (27.0°F).
Outdoors some of our daisies don't look too happy but a least the pot has survived the cold temperatures intact. That's not the case with our terracotta pots.
As you can see this terracotta pot by the pond and home to a hosta has decided to part company with its rim. Now we will have to decided if we like the look of a well weathered pot or do we repot our hosta into a new terracotta pot. I'm sure all the terracotta pots we buy reckon to be frost resistant but I've never really found they are.

Monday, 23 January 2017

New For Old

Apart from last Friday which was a nice sunny day we've had a full week of dull and gloomy weather. Before Friday it was dull and mild for late January but since Friday's sunshine it's been gloomy and cold with a touch of overnight frost and daytime temperatures not much above freezing.
Temperatures & Solar Radiation Records 16-22 January 2017
I had a quick look in the summerhouse to check on our remaining overwintering onions, shallots and Crown Prince squashes. They all look to be keeping okay and the onions and shallots are much drier now they have been moved from the allotment shed into the summerhouse.
To complete the cycle our onions and shallot sets for the new season arrived last week and are being stored in the summerhouse until planting time comes around.
I'll probably take the sets out of their bags and spread them out once I can find some suitable cardboard boxes for the job. I'll need to take care that the different onion varieties don't get mixed up.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Sunny Friday

Wouldn't you know it that no sooner had I blogged on Thursday about us not seeing any sunshine for most of the week than Friday turned out to be a lovely sunny day. The price for the sunshine was a drop of a few degrees in temperature.
Temperature Record 18-20 January 2017
In the cloud and murk of the previous few days the temperature had remained almost constant day and night but the clearer weather brought with it a rapid fall in temperature.

In the garden we've now  lots of bulbs pushing there way up out of the ground ready to put on a display in a few weeks time.
Of course as always the weather is determined to have the last word and, as I'm ready to post this blog, Saturday morning has returned to dull and cold with little hint of any sunshine breaking through the clouds.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Weather's In A Rut

Our weather is stuck in a rut at the moment. On the positive side it isn't stuck in a cold rut it's just gloomy and miserable all day long. It's beginning to seem like we'll never see a bit of blue sky again.
Temperature and Rainfall Details 17-19 January 2017
The temperatures haven't been anything special by day but haven't fallen away through the night due to the heavy cloud cover. I'd swap a bit of overnight frost for some daytime sunshine though.

We tried a bit of retail therapy on Tuesday at one of our local garden centres.
We weren't over impressed with the prices and came away empty handed which is unusual when we visit a garden centre. However, things looked up on Thursday when our main order of seeds arrived from Kings Seeds.
Spread out on the kitchen floor I couldn't help thinking that we are going to be very busy once Spring comes around. For now though everything is staying in its seed packet.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Anticyclonic Gloom

It seems our weather is going to be governed by high pressure this week but it doesn't mean we are going to have sunny days and frosty nights. We're going to have to put up with some dull days with drizzle or light rain on and off throughout the day.
Even the coming and goings of our feathered friends didn't remove the water droplets from the bird feeder on Monday.

Here's something different for a dull day.
I'm not sure how this will appear in your particular browser but by clicking on the image you should get a live animation of the predicted precipitation for 12:00 on 17 January 2017. Clicking here will also take you to the live image. It's possible to change the image to view the weather for anywhere in the world and it can also be changed to view temperatures, wind or other weather variables.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Winter Washing

It turned out to be a weekend of two halves. Saturday was sunny but cold and Sunday was milder and wet.
We decided to head down to the allotment on Saturday afternoon to winter wash the fruit trees.

I'm planning to give the trees another winter wash early next month before there are any signs of fresh new shoots.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Wow Did Some Potting Up

Friday was a cold day although it perhaps finished up slightly milder than the forecasters had suggested.
Temperature and Wind Chill for 13 January 2017
Although it wasn't blowing a gale there was a strong, cold, north westerly, breeze blowing all day making it feel much more like the wind chill temperature on the graph shown above. It wasn't a day I was planning to do anything outside. Then the delivery man knocked on the door.
Our new black raspberry plant "Jewel" had arrived. The big red label suggested it needed opening straight away so that the plant could be inspected and given a bit of immediate attention should it need any. It was a case of wrapping up warmly and heading for the greenhouse.
I needn't have worried too much as the plant had been well packed for its journey by Sutton's Seeds. Once unwrapped it was potted up in a decent sized pot where it can grow on until it's ready to be planted out in the allotment. It's funny how things seem to go missing when nothing's been done in the greenhouse for a few months. Finding a trowel, a decent sized pot not to mention some compost wasn't that easy. (You can read about why we chose a black raspberry on Sue's Blog here.)

The last time I looked in the greenhouse our banana tree had green leaves but the cold frosty weather has finished them off.
Our greenhouse doesn't have any protection against the winter cold at all. I gave up trying to keep it at a "cold" greenhouse or frost free temperature many years ago. Most things survive a normal winter but in a really cold winter I accept that we will have a few loses.
Against all the odds this overwintering Osteospermum was doing its best to flower despite all around it were buds turning mouldy. Our potted patio rose is also overwintering in the greenhouse and has a flower bud.
I'm not holding out a lot of hope of it bursting into flower over the next couple of days.

Friday, 13 January 2017

By The Canal

Thursday was a much calmer day with yesterday's gales having abated. However, as the wind died down the temperature fell but that was to be expected as the last few days have been mild for January. Light snow had been a possibility but it didn't materialise and we had some very light drizzle instead.
Temperature and High Wind Speed Records 10-12 January 2017
I've spent some time trying to learn better focussing techniques with my camera. I've watched a few videos on YouTube which explain the various options. My main problem is switching between these various options when I'm using my camera in different situations. I tested a few settings out by the Leeds and Liverpool canal.
 Aire & Calder Navigation - Woodlesford Lock
 Aire & Calder Navigation - Woodlesford Lock
It was a dull and dismal afternoon, probably not the best for taking photographs, and it took a while for the camera to focus and allow me to take a picture. It was a little bit too cold for messing about with camera menus and settings. I might have to have another little test trip out to try out a few different settings.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Nameless Storm January 2017

Considering the Met Office decided not to name Wednesday's storm it caused lots of disruption with road bridges closed, fallen trees blocking roads, power outages and rail services delayed to mention just a few of the problems.
Temperature, High Wind Speeds and Wind Chill Records for 11 January 2017
I've added the wind chill records to the graph above as 11 January became our mildest day of the year although in the gale force wind it definitely didn't feel that way. Strangely it was also the sunniest day of the year. However, it will only go down in the record books as a particularly windy day and I've included the top twenty windiest days of the last seven years below.
In the garden we have escaped with only minor damage. The bird feeders have been restored to their upright positions so the birds should be much happier today. However, one fence panel has been battered into submission and will need some repair work or even replacement.
This panel takes the full force of any westerly wind and obviously yesterday's gale was too much for it to take. I'm hoping to be able to replace the inner willow filling and reuse the existing main frame of the panel.

We're hoping that the shed and greenhouse at the allotment will have survived the storm intact.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The Storm With No Name

The weather overnight from Tuesday into Wednesday morning has been awful. Strong winds that started developing on Tuesday night turned into gale force ones overnight.
Temperature & Wind Speed Records 09-11 January 2017
Looking at the graphs above there’s a wind speed in there just after 06:00 at 41mph which takes third place on the highest wind speeds I've recorded in seven years.
Highest Wind Speeds Recorded since January 2010

Amazingly in the middle of the night the temperature reached 11.6°C (52.9°F) the highest of the year so far.

In the garden the birds are having to wait a while before they get breakfast. The wind has blown over the bird table and seed feeders and the way it is continuing to blow there seems little point picking them up until the wind abates a little.
It's the worst storm we've had for some considerable time now but it seems that the Met Office didn't think it severe enough to warrant a name or more likely it didn't meet some criteria that they have for naming storms. I'm not sure what use it is in naming some storms and not others.

Monday, 9 January 2017

First Arrivals

The first of our seed orders arrived over the weekend. It wasn't our main order from Kings Seeds but a small order from Suttons Seeds.
A couple of varieties we wanted from Kings weren't available and so we decided to order them from Suttons. That accounts for the lettuce Tom Thumb and the Pea Oregon Sugar Pod. The others we just couldn't resist as we thumbed through the catalogue at the varieties on offer.

I've noticed on Facebook and Twitter that seeds are already being sown for the new season. I've no intention of falling into the trap and being tempted to sow any seeds now. On the seeds delivered this weekend Ageratum and lettuce Tom Thumb have suggested early sowing dates of February. I'll sow a few lettuce and radish seeds in the middle of March to try to bring along a few early crops in the coldframe and greenhouse. I'll leave off sowing any more seeds until the beginning of April. Then the serious sowing starts.

As I expected no sooner had I posted about our mildest day being the very second that the New Year began than it was overtaken by the 07 January 2017 when the temperature managed 10.7°C or 51.3°F.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 06-08 January 2017
Hopefully it won't be too long before that high temperature increases a little bit more. It does seem that some colder weather is on the way for next weekend but there seems to be some doubt about how long it will last.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Doesn't Feel Any Warmer

It was a little bit milder on Friday but the downside was, it was cloudy with a little bit of light rain on and off throughout the day. At the beginning of the year, it's tricky to know when to start blogging about either the mildest or coldest days of the year.
Temperature & Rainfall 2017
As we are now a week into the new year I've decided the time is right. Our mildest temperature of the year occurred as the midnight hour struck and the new year began when the temperature was 9.2°C or 48.6°F and the coldest was 05 January when it fell to -1.7°C or 28.9°F. There's a fair chance that the lowest temperature of the year will be set in the next two months whereas we'll have to wait for June, July and August for the highest of the year.

Thanks to our plot neighbour I've been able to repair a section of our compost bins.
One of the old interwoven timber fence panels used to construct the compost bins was falling apart and no longer able to hold any material back. I was given a sturdy piece of timber fencing panel and thought I'd get it in place before anyone else decided to make use of it.
I've erected it in what I'll term a temporary fashion although knowing me it may well finish up a permanent job. At least I might try to knock in the posts a little bit more which won't be so straightforward as the posts are starting to split at the top. The climbing rose in front of the fencing panel needed some further serious pruning but I expect it to recover.

I've finished editing a short video made on our first visit to the plot in 2017 on a very frosty afternoon.
The next job  is to winter wash the apple, pear, cherry, quince, plum and greengage trees.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Ready Frozen Veg!

Wednesday and Thursday have been much better January days with some long sunny spells. However, sunny by day at this time of year usual means frosty by night and the last couple of days have backed this up.

Funnily enough on Thursday we'd visited the greengrocer's in Horbury and bought some fresh fruit but we turned down the easy option of buying a few vegetables deciding instead to check out the state of the vegetables on the allotment. We arrived down at the plot in the middle of the afternoon to find the grass still white with frost.
It was crunchy to walk on and as you walked icy footprints were left embedded in the grass. I'm sure it wasn't doing the grass much good but it's tough stuff down on the allotment. Although the sun was out there was still frost on the ground.
Clearly there hadn't been enough warmth in the sun to melt the frost. After taking some photos and video I decided I'd better see if our vegetables were still edible.
This little lot along with a few Brussels sprouts should keep us going for a few days.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

A Windy Start

If temperature was the only thing that mattered Tuesday wouldn't look too bad with the temperature reaching 7.8°C (45.0°F) a little above what we might expect in early January. However, there was a bitterly cold, gale force wind blowing for much of the day. Our wind speed records for Tuesday indicate higher values than we had for either storm Barbara or Conor at the end of December.
Temperature and Wind Gust Speeds for 29 December 2016 to 03 January2017
At least it's kept any frosty weather at bay for the first few days of the year.