Friday, 9 November 2018

Settled Weather Results In Allotment Progress

So far the settled weather conditions that we've enjoyed ever since last May and which brought us a hot dry summer have continued into autumn. However, there seems to be a chance that this is coming to an end with wet and windy weather arriving in off the Atlantic Ocean over the weekend.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 10 October to 09 November 2018
The dry spell of weather has allowed us to complete many of the jobs we wanted to do on the plot before any really nasty winter weather set in. A couple of bonfires to get rid of piles of dry prunings, cleared away lots of dry debris and we've managed to dig over most of our beds for winter a job we didn't manage to do last year. Sue has covered most of our allotment activities in her post A Touch of Frost.
Wednesday has been our wettest day of the month with 3.6mm (0.14in) of rain bringing the monthly total up to 4.2mm (0.17in) which is a pretty dry start to November. 
More unsettled weather is forecast over the weekend bringing some wet and windy weather but then it looks like more settled weather will return by the middle of next week. We've a couple more beds that we'd like to sort out at the allotment and providing we don't get too much rain over the weekend we might be able to do that next week.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Making the Most of the Fine Weather

With the weather forecast for wet and windy conditions over the weekend I thought it would be a good idea to lift our dahlia tubers. All the foliage had been blackened by the frosts last week. We haven’t had any rain to speak of for a couple of weeks now so I was reckoning on the tubers being reasonable dry and in good condition for winter storage.
It was a lovely November afternoon and whilst I was lifting dahlia roots Sue was planning on getting another bed dug over.

The ground was certainly on the dry side in our perennial bed but that made the job of digging out the roots so much easier.
It didn’t take me too long to lift the roots and I removed as much loose soil from around the tubers as I could without doing any damage to them.

I’d planned to empty one of our compost bays and add the material to one of the beds dug over last week. There wasn’t as much good compost as I’d hoped. The material on top of the heap had remained dry through the long hot summer rather than breaking down. I added all the suitable material I could find to one of the beds dug last week. There was enough to cover about one half of the bed.
Sue thought that the bed she had dug over would be better left uncovered for the winter weather to break it down for next spring.

The weed control fabric has been rolled up and left at the end of the bed.

Once we’d finished digging beds and lifting dahlias it was time to do a little harvesting. We needed a cabbage and as all our late summer cabbages are now finished we cut our first Kilaton autumn cabbage.
Once we’d dug a few carrots and picked a few spinach leaves it’s was time to get our dahlia tubers loaded into the car and head home.

I’m planning on drying the dahlia tubers off in the greenhouse before storing them in potato sacks in the garage over winter. This method worked well last year so I’m going to give it another try this winter.

Perhaps the weekend weather won’t be as bad as it’s forecast to be and we’ll be able to get some more plotting done.

Of course there's a video to go with the afternoon's jobs.

Friday, 2 November 2018

A Frosty End to October

October ended with some cold frosty nights which meant that despite a reasonably mild start to the month the average temperature for October finished a little bit below average.
Average October Temperatures 2010 - 2018
For us it resulted in the earliest frosts since 2010 when I began keeping records.
Hour by Hour Temperatures for Octobers 2010 - 2018
The chart above shows that we had 8 hours of temperatures below 0°C (32.0°F) this October and that no other Octobers in the table have had any temperatures so low.

Rainfall for October was very marginally below average. Most of the months rain came in two wet days around the middle of the month and since then it has been more or less dry with just a few very light showers. 
October Rainfall 2010 - 2018
It's meant that we've had some good weather for tidying up the allotment before any proper winter weather sets in.
We've made some good progress at getting some autumn digging in and the dry conditions meant we could get some tree prunings burnt and out of the way.
We decided to check on our parsnips to see if the roots were anything like as good as the tops.

As you will have noticed from our parsnip reveal we have covered our carrots and parsnips with straw to give them protection from any frosty winter weather.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Coldest October Day

After that bitterly cold start on Monday morning it went on to become our coldest October day in 8 years with an average daily temperature of 2.4°C (36.3°F) taking over from 25 October 2010 when the average was 4.2°C or 39.6°F.
Temperature Record for 29 October 2018 - Low Temperature -1.5°C (29.3°F) - Average Daily Temperature 2.4°C (36.3°F)
Despite the cold there were some decent sunny spells on Monday and, in the afternoon, we headed to the allotment. We'd decided it was time to stop thinking about protecting our carrots and parsnips against any frost and snow and get on and do it.
A couple of bales of straw did the job and our carrots and parsnips now have a nice warm duvet to protect them from any frosty weather.

There's a video below covering some of the other jobs we got up to at the allotments last week.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Below Zero - An October First

I've had my weather station since 2010 and during that time it's never recorded a temperature below 0°C or 32°F in October. It's been close on a couple of occasions, 0.2°C (32.4°F) on 25 October 2010 the nearest to freezing, then 0.6°C and 0.7°C recorded earlier this month or 33.1°F and 33.3°F if you prefer.
Those lowest October figures have now been reduced by quite a margin as the overnight low into Monday morning was -1.5°C (29.3°F) our first below zero temperature I've recorded in October since 2010.
Temperature Records for 29 October 2018
Gardening folk law reckons that our parsnips should now be okay to dig as a frost should make them sweeter but at what cost to our carrots. We are planning to cover our carrots with straw to protect them from any frost and normally we would be okay for a week or so based on past frost dates. Last night's temperature moves our first frost date from the middle of November to the end of October. We'd better get some straw and cover our carrots and hope that this morning's frost hasn't done too much damage.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Arctic Blast Arrives

The well forecast Arctic blast arrived as scheduled on Saturday. Saturday's highest temperature was a chilly 6.7°C (44.1°F) which is the lowest high temperature for October that I've recorded since 2010. The previous October record low daytime temperature was 7.3°C (45.1°F) set on 26 October 2012.
Temperature Records for 22-28 October 2018
It's forecast to remain on the chilly side until the middle of the week.

We have made some good progress on renovating beds on plot 30 as well as preparing other beds for winter.
I’m not sure how these two beds on plot 30 got into such a state. At the end of last year both beds were growing crops, one with leeks and the other with winter brassicas, both of which were cleared away this spring. The third bed which is still covered with weeds was cleared last autumn but it was too wet to be dug over.

At the beginning of spring the weather was very unusual in that we had a very cold spell of weather with some late snowfall followed by a spell of very wet weather. All this meant that gardening wise we had a very late start to spring as we had to wait for the soil to dry out.

What we didn’t appreciate at the time was that we were going to go from very wet to very dry conditions without anything in between. Whilst we were busy planting and sowing beds with summer crops the beds to be used for autumn and winter crops were getting drier and drier such that by the time we wanted to dig them over our clay soil was baked hard like concrete. The only thing to do was to wait for some rain to arrive.

I’m hoping that now we’ve made a start at sorting out plot 30 the weather will remain good enough for us to get the job finished. We certainly managed to clear all the apple tree and fruit bush prunings away with an early bonfire. 
Of course the problem is that beds on the rest of the allotments need to be dug over for winter. The last thing we want is for more beds to fall into the same state so Sue has been busy getting some of these beds dug over ready for next spring.
This one's been dug over and the weed control fabric has been replaced and covered with wood chip. These four beds shouldn't need any more work on them until they're ready for planting up next spring. I'm planning on leaving the two beds with green manure growing in them until early next spring before I cut down the crop and incorporate it into the soil.
Sue's also got this bed dug over which had a crop of broad beans in it through summer. We'll replace the weed control fabric and then cover it with wood chip to keep the fabric in place.

We’ve got a couple of other jobs that we’d like to tackle over winter too if we get a chance but I’ll save those for another post.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Good Progress - Then Gales

Over the weekend and into the start of this week we've had some fine autumn weather and good progress had been made at the allotment getting beds dug over before any proper wintry weather sets in.
Sue got this bed dug over on plot 42. All it needs now is a covering of weed control fabric and it can be left until next spring. The other three beds on this plot are all sorted out for winter as two of them are planted up with a green manure crop and the remaining bed has already been dug over and covered with weed control fabric.
We had some beds that looked like this through summer and I'd decided that there was little we could do with them until some decent, wet weather arrived. Although we've had some wet weather these cracks haven't disappeared but at least the soil looks a little bit more like soil than concrete. 
I decided to make a start on digging the bed on the right of the above photo. I had a few substantial tree prunings to clear away and one end of the bed was overgrown with weeds which had grown despite the dry weather.
It was slow going as despite some rain the ground was still on the firm side. Wellies weren't really required, but as they've got a substantial, protective tread on them, they are pretty good when digging is on the hard side.
It took a couple of afternoons but the bed is now dug over and I'll leave it uncovered for the winter rain and frost to break it down. I will have to get my string line out to straighten up the edge of the bed to remove the higgledy piggledy edge.

However, progress has slowed down with the arrival of gale force winds on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. These three days have turned out to be the windiest days of the month with gust speeds equalling those from this month's named storms and the average wind speed on Tuesday being the highest of the month.
Temperature & High Wind Speed Records 01-25 October 2018
On Thursday morning, the windy weather has abated but with the weekend forecast to be cold, with a strong, northerly wind blowing, progress might slow down even more over the next few days. There's a progress video below.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Carrot Success - Watering Pays Off

It seems that on our trips to the allotment through summer we spent most of our time watering crops. One of those crops that we concentrated our "watering time" on was our carrots. Last year our carrots failed miserably and we wanted a better crop this year. Our carrots were sown on 04 May and germination was excellent.
Carrots - Early Market, Flakkee & Autumn King sown 04 May 2018
Not only was germination good but the young seedlings avoided the ravages the slugs normally carry out and went on to provide some really good plants. To keep carrot root flies off the crop, as usual the carrots were covered with environmesh from sowing right through into the middle of September.
25 June 2018
Summer brought with it drought conditions. Our carrots by this time were growing well and we decided to water them well on a regular basis in the hope of getting a good crop.
17 July 2018
Judging by the tops the carrots were enjoying both the water and the hot days we were having. In the middle of July we decided to dig up a few carrots and see if the magnificent looking tops had produced any decent carrots.
 Carrot - Early Market - harvested 17 July 2018
We were very pleased with the roots we dug up and we've been digging up a few roots on most of our visits to the plot. We are still harvesting "Early Market" a variety we've grown as an early variety and we hadn't investigated any roots of our main crop varieties to see how they had performed. Last week we decided it was time to see how they'd done.
Carrots - Autumn King - harvested 19 October 2018
Carrots - Flakkee - harvested 19 October 2018
I didn't intend to harvest any great amount of carrots but just enough to see if like "Early Market" the carrots lived up to the expectation that the tops provided. Fortunately, for us that's proved to be the case and it looks like we have a bumper crop of carrots without too much pest damage. We aim to leave the carrots in the ground over winter and harvest them as required. To protect them from any frost damage I'm aiming to cover the tops with straw to give them some protection from any cold and frosty weather.

The video below shows our first Flakkee and Autumn Kings carrots being dug up.