Thursday, 9 April 2020

Lockdown Day 15 - Warm Weather Continues

Wednesday was another lovely sunny and warm day. The afternoon temperature reached 22.1°C (71.8°F) making it our warmest day of the year.
Temperature Record for 08 April 2020
We’ve slowly been renovating one of our garden borders. It had gradually been over run by a variety of bushes. These had avoided serious pruning for a few years and the result was that they had taken over the border completely.
A Section of the Border Before Renovation Started 
It was early last summer when I began cutting back all the shrubbery. It was amazing how much garden it revealed. Part of the bed was cleared last summer and after digging it over it was planted up with variety of perennial plants and spring bulbs.
One part still has a lot of work to do to make it acceptable.
This part needed the old timber paling fence replacing. I’d got all the materials I needed before the lockdown started. I thought it was about time I made a start. There was still some more shrubbery to cut back before I could get the old fence pulled down. The truth is that it was the shrubbery that was holding the fence up as the posts had rotted at ground level many years ago.
The new fence panels are now erected. The ground needs digging over before we can do any planting. This year because of the lockdown we are contemplating growing some vegetables in this little area as trips to the plot are being kept to an absolute minimum.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Just Managed A New Warmest Day.

Tuesday became our warmest day of the year as the temperature made it to 19.7°C (67.5°F) beating the previous high of 19.5° (67.1°F) set on the 24 March.
Temperature and Rainfall Records 09 March to 08 April 2020
Through winter it seemed like it never stopped raining. From the middle of last September through to the middle of March we struggled to get a couple of dry days in a row. That pattern changed in the middle of last month and since then we’ve had no rain at all. The tap has been turned off. 

The mild days have been accompanied by some nice sunshine and it’s brought out our cherry blossom.
Cherry- Summer Sun 

Of course the clear skies overnight have brought some chilly temperatures with 0.6C° (33.1°F) early  on Tuesday morning. It’s a reminder that despite the lovely pleasant days it’s far too early to risk any tender plants outside.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Lockdown Day 14 Web Sites Killed Off

Two thirds of the way through the lockdown and thanks to Adobe we can no longer update our web sites. We used Adobe Muse software to create and edit our websites. Some time ago Adobe said they were no longer developing Muse but users could continue to use the software. Then a few days ago, without any prior warning, they demanded that to continue to use Muse we had to subscribe to their full package of software at £40 per month. That seemed over the top to us for what is now unsupported software. Obviously, we are now looking around to find some software to replace Muse. The favourite looks as though it will be Wordpress. Of course, there will be a bit of a learning curve as we slowly move to the replacement software.

We had a trip to the allotment on Monday afternoon as our daily exercise.
We certainly maintained our social distancing at the plot as despite the rather nice weather there weren't too many other plotters at the allotment.

I'd normally add what we sowed and harvested to our web sites but that's now not possible. Sue planted more onion and shallot sets as well as picking some broccoli. 

Last year we planted some parsnip seeds in one of our old recycling crates. To be honest it wasn't very successful and we decided that we'd clear away the old parsnips and reuse the recycling crate. The plan was to bring it home to look after during the lockdown as we are never sure whether or not we will be able to continue with trips to the allotment. Last year's parsnips were beginning to regrow but as I dug them out some did have some tiny roots.
It's difficult enough at the moment to order food and in the spirit of not wanting to waste food I decided to take the largest of the roots home and see how they tasted. As it turns out they tasted really good but there wasn't an awful lot to them but they went okay with some of the broccoli.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Lockdown Day 10 - March's Weather Summary

Covid-19 Pandemic to one side, I thought I'd post a summary covering our weather for March 2020. The first thing to say is that it eventually turned out to be much drier than February. However, as February was the wettest month of the last 10 or so years that isn't saying a great deal. March started off a bit like the previous several months with low pressure systems coming in off the Atlantic Ocean bringing gale force winds and heavy rain.
Temperature & Rainfall Records for March 2020
The middle of March saw a distinct change in the weather as high pressure began to dominate bringing us a much drier second half of the month.
March Rainfall Records 2010-2020
By the time the end of the month arrived, we'd only had 30.0mm of rainfall, all of it falling in the first half of the month. That's below average for March, with only 2012 and 2011 having less rainfall over the last 11 years, but I for one aren't complaining as it has helped dry out the allotment.
The last week of March was been on the cool side and strangely we've had colder days in March than we had through the winter months. March has the coldest days of 'winter' and the warmest day of the year on 24 March when the thermometer hit a very pleasant 19.5°C. It wasn't a particularly long spell of fine weather and it also coincided with the start of the lockdown due to Covid-19. In the end the final average for the month turned out to be just that about average.
March Temperature Records 2010-2020
We've had more frost in March than January and February combined, although I think that is due to those two months being exceptionally mild rather than any unusually cold March nights.

The frosts have coincided with the first of the fruit blossom opening. On our last visit to the allotment around a week or so ago the greengage and plum blossom was just beginning to open.
I'm guessing that by now the greengages and plum trees will be in full flower. Hopefully, the frost won't have damaged the blossom and we can look forward to harvesting some fruit in August and September.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Lockdown Day 7 - What to Sow!

It's the end of the first week of lockdown. The weather at the start of the lockdown was really good. It was the first time since the end of September that we'd had anything like a decent day's weather as the temperature soared to a little over 19°C (66°F) and the sun shone.
Temperature and Wind Chill Records 21-30 March 2020
It's the first time since last September we've had a whole week without any rain. Looking back through my rainfall records, I'm surprised that I have to go back to 18-24 May 2019 for the last time we had a week without any recorded rainfall. Rather amazingly, we've now had 10 dry days in a row. Last year we had 19 dry days in a row from 05 to 23 April leaving us with a few days to go to match that record.

However, there's been a definite change in the weather over the last week. Although it's remained dry the wind has moved into a north or north easterly direction turning the weather much colder, with Saturday and Sunday feeling particularly cold with the wind chill.
Gardening wise things are very much on hold due to both the weather and Covid 19. Whilst the vast majority of our seeds were ordered online at the beginning of the year, I tend to buy in compost as I need it for sowing seeds and potting on plants. As a result of Covid 19 that leaves us with a very limited supply of compost as all garden centres are closed. I'll have to consider carefully the seeds we should sow and how they will be potted on. At the moment I think I'll leave sowing any seeds at all until some milder weather returns.

Suggestions at the government Covid 19 briefing yesterday were that social distancing measures might need to be in place for the next 6 months. Life, as we used to know it, has changed completely with little hope of it returning to anything like normal in the near future. Hopefully, when the lockdown measures are reviewed in another 2 weeks they will have had some effect on the spread of the disease and at least these measures will be relaxed slightly. 

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Lockdown Day 1 - Warmest Day of the Year!

Tuesday was our first day of UK lockdown. We expected it was coming as the request made on Friday for responsible social distancing was in many quarters simply ignored as over the weekend many tourist attractions saw crowds more associated with a Bank Holiday. The official lockdown came on Monday evening. It is not as severe as some countries have adopted but nevertheless requires some major lifestyle changes. The rules state that you can have one trip outside the house to 'exercise' once a day. We wondered what exactly could be considered as exercise and whether a trip to the allotment would come under this rule. 
We had to wait until Tuesday morning for confirmation, when a government minister replied to a question on TV that it was indeed okay to work on an allotment provided all the social distancing and other requirements were adhered to. We often have the allotments to ourselves apart from our plot neighbour so we didn't see any great risk in a visit to the plot. 

On a beautiful, sunny Tuesday afternoon we did indeed virtually have the allotments to ourselves. It was easy enough to maintain the required distance from our plot neighbour who is fully aware of the necessity of social distancing. It was very unusual to see a clear blue sky without any aircraft contrails. Tuesday turned out to be our warmest day of the year with the temperature reaching a very pleasant 19.5°C (67.1°F) the warmest day since the 23 September 2019 when the temperature reached 20.7°C or 69.3°F.

On the allotment things are looking up. March has been a much drier month and beds have dried out very well after their winter water logging.
Temperature & Rainfall Records March 2020
There's a few more dry days forecast before it's predicted to turn cold and damp over next weekend. I decided to try to get a few beds dug over before the weather turns and to my surprise the soil was in pretty good condition for cultivating. 
Hopefully, our early potatoes might get planted in early April, once next week's cold snap is over, which would be not much later than normal. 

One drawback of the lovely sunny days has been cold nights. Early on Monday morning the temperature fell to -2.4°C (27.7°F) colder than anything we had in December, January and February. It comes just as the plum and greengage blossom is coming into flower.
Greengage - Mannings
Hopefully, this time people will stick to the new lockdown rules or I'm sure they will be made even stricter and even tighter restriction on travel will be imposed. The lockdown is due to be reviewed in 3 weeks time to see if it is managing to slow down the spread of the Coronavirus.

Monday, 16 March 2020

To Sow Or Not To Sow

It's about time I'd normally be starting to get some seeds sown but I'm not sure that would be such a great idea at the moment. Although the weather has been a bit better over the last few days, we've had a little less rain at least, the allotment is still very wet and not fit for sowing or planting. All our beds need some sort of treatment to prepare them for spring after the winter's heavy rainfall. I decided to have a look and see if we'd had similar conditions in March over the last ten years. 
Running 12 Month Rainfall Values
The above chart shows the rainfall in the previous 12 months for each month. The high spot at the very end of the chart indicates we've had 867.1mm (34.2in) of rainfall in the previous 12 months between March 2019 and February 2020. The only other time we've been in this position was in March 2013 when the previous 12 months had resulted in 926.1mm (36.5in) of rainfall between April 2012 and March 2013.

I looked back at March 2013 and found that not only was it wet but it was cold and snowy too. However, much of that rainfall had fallen through the very wet summer of 2012 rather than through the winter months unlike this spell of wet weather.
 March 2013
Checking through my planting records it was mid way through April before the early potatoes went into the ground. I'm not sure there is anything to be gained by planting potatoes into cold wet ground so my plan is to leave them chitting in the summerhouse for a few more weeks. Of course, the downside of planting them later is they may be more susceptible to blight but that's a risk I think I'm going to have to take.

I'm considering sowing our leeks this week as they take a long time to grow and they will remain in the greenhouse under cover for a good few weeks. I'm not so sure about when to sow our early crop of broad beans. They are quite slow to germinate but grow pretty quickly and soon need transplanting into the allotment or they become very leggy and can't stand up to the strong winds we get at the allotment.

We did get some tidying up done at the plot over the weekend.
The grass paths were strimmed for the first time since the middle of September last year. It made the plot look a little more cared for once the strimming was done and a few of the edges around the beds cut back. The ground still looked far too wet to dig. Hopefully, we'll get some drier and warmer weather as we head further into spring. 
At least the daffodils this year aren't covered in snow.

Monday, 9 March 2020

Started Planting - But Only Inside

The last week has seen a bit of an improvement in the weather or at least it's fair to say we haven't had as much rain. That's not to say it's been dry but the rain arrived as showers rather than prolonged spells. 
Temperature & Rainfall Records 03-09 March 2020
On Saturday the temperature reached 14.2°C (57.6°F), becoming the warmest day of the year. The previous high had been set 3 months earlier on 07 January 2020 at 13.8°C or 56.8°F.

There doesn't appear to be any change from the wet and windy weather for the next couple of weeks, but there are hopefully signs that, towards the end of the month, some drier weather is possible. However, it's going to be a while before the plot is in a fit state to start cultivating, so we've decided to make a start sowing some seeds in our home and plot greenhouse. We've planted lettuce and parsley in our home greenhouse. 
Lettuce - All Year Round and Parsley - Moss Curled
At the plot we've sown some carrots (Aron) and radishes (Multicoloured Breakfast) in one old recycling crate and made use of two more old crates to plant potatoes. If the worst comes to the worst, and the poor weather continues, all these plants apart from the potatoes can be grown to maturity in the greenhouse or cold frame. The potatoes will need to come out of the greenhouse to make way for tomato plants, probably sometime in May, and hopefully the weather will be much improved by then.

Last year, we filled the recycling crates up with compost and planted two potato into the compost using a trowel. This saved us having to top up the compost as the potato haulms grew. It worked very well last year and so we're giving it another try this year.
Once planted up the tubs were given a good watering. The potato varieties we planted were Casablanca and International Kidney.