Wednesday, 23 July 2014

An Evening Visit

Tuesday was another lovely warm July day with the temperature making it up to 26.6°C in the afternoon.

We left it until early evening to pop down to the plot to do a bit of watering and any harvesting that took our fancy. As it was we spent a bit of time callin’ as they would say in these parts or gossiping about the rather pathetic set of allotment rules and regulations the council have introduced this year.

We did manage to water the greenhouse and a few newly planted crops as well as harvest a few Sungold tomatoes, Loch Ness blackberries and the first crop of Cobra climbing French Beans of the season.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

A Strange Year for Potatoes

July seems to be back into its warm and sunny mode after a rather poor Saturday. It’s turning out to be a rather pleasant month weather wise.

This year we started lifting our first early potatoes on 20 June 2014 as opposed to 08 July 2013 and 02 July 2012. Normally I lift a few early potatoes as soon as they've finished flowering and whilst they still have plenty of green haulms. This year some potatoes succumbed to blight early in June and when I dug up our first roots they had already lost all their foliage. Our remaining potatoes have been sprayed against blight a couple of times now with an application of Bordeaux Mix two weeks apart.

No more potatoes have been affected by blight but some have already died down naturally which I think is very early for us, some are just refusing to grow at all and some have produced some fantastic foliage and hopefully an excellent crop.

The video below is a tour around our plots to see how the potato crops are performing.

Monday, 21 July 2014

When’s a Cucamelon Ready?

I thought that the Met Office had all the bases covered for Sunday’s weather, cloud, rain, thunderstorms, and maybe an odd sunny spell. Fortunately for us they hadn't covered a nice summer’s day which it turned out to be with the mid afternoon temperature reaching a very pleasant 24.5°C.

I thought I'd start the week off on a positive note and what I'd like to think of as the exotics growing in our home greenhouse are doing well.
This will be our first ever cucamelon. I’m not sure how much bigger I should let it grow before we sample it but at its current size there will only be a tiny morsel shared between two.
Our “Himrod” grape vine never seems to let us down and this year is proving to be no exception. So far this summer I have just about managed to keep it in check by cutting back the new shoots to prevent them taking over the greenhouse. We'll have to wait a few more weeks before the grapes fully develop their lovely sweet flavour.

On the other hand our “Brown Turkey” fig growing just inside the doorway of the greenhouse now has some figs ready to pick.
Whilst growing your own has a few setbacks now and again it also has its upsides like picking your own figs and grapes.

I’ll let you know how that cucamelon tastes as soon as it’s given the taste test.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Welcome Rain and a Strange Forecast

The Met Office forecast for us was right for Saturday as we had spells of rain on and off throughout the day with some thunder late afternoon/early evening but without the storm if you get my drift.
Saturday’s rain amounted to 8.6mm bringing our monthly total up to 60.8mm which is above average for the month. At least the allotment shouldn’t need watering for a few days.

The forecast for Sunday is unusual in that the hourly details are for cloudy conditions or for sunny spells. In the evening a couple of hours are indicated as a light showers day. All that seems reasonable except that we are in a yellow warning area for possible heavy thundery showers which might develop at any time through the day leading to localised flash flooding or of course some areas might stay dry all day. Not much of a forecast as I don't see how it can be wrong with all bases covered from no rain to flash flooding.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

“Britain Burns on Hottest Day”

I just thought I'd pinch one of the over the top media headlines for Friday’s weather. The headline does say Britain so where do I live? Our “heat day” came and went on Thursday and even then it wasn't quite our hottest day of the year.
Friday’s high for us was 22.3°C. The cloud was thick enough to give some light rain around lunchtime and the sun managed a very brief appearance around 13:00 before disappearing behind the clouds for the rest of the day.
We had a mooching about sort of an afternoon on the plot doing a little bit of harvesting, feeding, and dead heading - that sort of stuff. I finished digging up our first row of early potatoes, Casablanca which haven’t had any foliage left on them for a few weeks now. The yield was small, 5.3kg from about 12 roots, but only one of the tubers had any slug damage so all the rest of the harvested potatoes can be used. 
Digging up the potatoes I couldn't help but notice how dry the ground was and I did considering giving some of our newly planted leeks and brassicas a good soaking but then with lots of rain forecast for Saturday I decided to wait and see.

Friday, 18 July 2014

No Wriggle Room

Thursday was a very warm summer’s day but a high of 27.1°C wasn't quite the hottest of the year missing out by a mere 0.3°C to 12 July. Another hot day is forecast for tomorrow and then thunderstorms.

In the garden I've had to relegate work on the coldframe courtyard to complete what I’m going to call the summerhouse steps. As each little bit of garden renovation takes place I loose one of those areas where all the things that will come in useful one day are stored. The coldframe courtyard is one of those places and some materials stored there are to be used constructing the summerhouse steps. I've got no wriggle room left for the materials so the steps have to take precedence.
I'm rather ashamed to say that this little project has been left unfinished since our summerhouse was built. This was partly because we weren't too sure how to finish off this little area and it was easy enough to get to the summerhouse in any case. 

Day one involved a little bit of planning and a little bit of setting out to figure out how the treads and risers of the steps would work as well as a little bit of foundation works.

The foundation works were left to go off for a couple of days which gave me time to visit the local DIY shop for ready mix concrete, mortar and a few walling blocks.

Thursday wasn't the best of days for hand mixing either concrete or mortar. A little bit too warm but I mustn't complain about a spell of fine weather. I had a final inspection of my setting out details to make sure I thought all the levels would work out and then started mixing.
So after a rather sweaty afternoon I'm now back at the stage of having to give the steps a couple of days for the concrete to set. I’m hoping that another couple of afternoons will see the job finished.

It’s just a possibility though that those thunderstorms in the forecast might delay progress. 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Tomato Advice from the Royal Horticultural Society

Tuesday and Wednesday were rather similar days being cloudy and muggy throughout the day but clearing early evening to give a nice sunny end to the day.
As we are members of the RHS, Sue decided to e-mail them taking advantage of this part of the members service and see what advice they had to offer regarding our plot greenhouse tomato problems. I must admit I'm very pleased with their response which was almost within 24 hours. They think that the tomatoes are suffering from stress due to high greenhouse temperatures. Now I must be honest this could be true as trying to control the temperature in a greenhouse several miles from home is a bit tricky. It does have an automatic vent which opens as the day warms up but it does get very hot inside the greenhouse with only this vent open. I can't really put my finger on why but it just seems wrong to leave the door slightly ajar all the time on the plot greenhouse and we also thought that keeping the door shut would help protect from blight.
Not all the varieties of tomatoes are equally badly affected. Our three Sungold plants are doing okay and are the best looking plants in the greenhouse. We grew this variety after all the blog recommendations it received and it certainly has lived up to its billing. We tested three tomatoes today and they tasted really ‘tomatoey’ especially after all the shop bought mass produced ones.

The good news for us is that our plants don’t have some dreadful lurgy which is gradually destroying all our plants and if we can improve the ventilation we might yet salvage some sort of crop. Does this sound like someone who isn't going to grow tomatoes next year?
I've managed to open a couple of low down vents on the old aluminium greenhouse which haven’t been used for many a year. I've fastened some old chicken wire over the opening to hopefully deter any larger creatures from entering the greenhouse. I know there are several frogs inside the greenhouse who jump around when I'm watering. There’s a couple of vents around the other side of the greenhouse and I might see if I can get them open too.

This may mean cooler temperatures in the greenhouse by night. The temperature in the early hours of Wednesday morning fell to 9.6°C so it’s possible this may delay ripening of our fruit but that’s a far better option than no tomatoes at all. It now remains to be seen if any of the badly affected plants can make some sort of a recovery. One poor plant has had all its black fruits removed. It didn't have any normal green tomatoes and all the current flowers have died without setting fruit. It would be rather amazing if it now actually managed to produce any fruit.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Are Tomatoes Really Worth the Effort?

Monday morning was lovely and sunny but after lunch we had lots more cloud about. By late afternoon it was that sort of cloud that makes you think its going to rain any minute but it never actually did.

Last week I blogged about our home greenhouse tomatoes and the fact that they were doing much better than last year. I shouldn't have done it and as if by magic on our next visit to the allotment we realised that the tomatoes growing in our plot greenhouse are lined up for a disaster this year.
A rather casual glance and the plants don’t look too bad but when you look a little closer the green tomatoes have a problem. Look at the green tomatoes at the top of the plant on the right of the picture. First reaction is that the fruits have developed blossom end rot.

Then after actually inspecting the plants more closely I’m not so sure. This isn't blossom end rot.
As if this isn't bad enough the whole plant is showing signs of distress. The plants have certainly stopped growing and the leaves at the top of the plant are curling inwards and look very fern like whilst the older leaves are turning yellow rather prematurely.
The leaves look very similar to the fern like appearance cause by hormonal weedkillers which we’ve had problems with in the past. All the tomatoes are planted in large size Levington growbags with three plants to each bag. I'm not entirely convinced that the problem isn't something to do with the growing medium.

Now we're into environmentally friendly peat free composts it seems that anything can end up in the compost you buy. I've yet to find a peat free compost that gives consistently good results but I suppose that’s another story.

Like many gardeners these days when I find a problem it’s time to have a look on the Internet to see if there are any solution out there. The nearest disease I've found so far is tobacco mosaic virus but how the plants have actually got this I've no idea. If my hunch is correct then it seems most likely that all the plants will be infected and will need to be destroyed.

Now I'm not going to compost these diseased plants and the Local Authority allotment rules prevent me from burning the plants so they're going to go in a large bag and finish up in the green waste bin that the council will collect compost and add to new bags of peat free compost and so the cycle goes on.

Like I said at the beginning of this post I don’t think tomatoes are worth the effort as a successful crop has probably got nothing to do with effort nowadays but whether or not you are lucky enough to get a batch of decent compost to grow the plants in.