Thursday, 23 February 2017

Preparing For Storm Doris

We're waiting for "Doris" to arrive over the next few hours on Thursday. We've already had some gale force winds this week which for the second time in a couple of days toppled our bird feeding station.
Normally the tops of the bird feeder come off as they hit the ground casting seed over the garden. I'm not sure how that large stone block is moved over a metre or 3 feet as the station topples over. To see if I can stop "Doris" from blowing it over I've added a piece of old paving slab onto the base of the station for a little extra ballast.
Over to you "Doris".

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Started Chitting Main Crop Potatoes

The month began with average or slightly below average temperature but for the last week or more it's been very mild for late February. Our main crop seed potatoes went into the garage in a paper sack to keep them in the cold and dark to stop them sprouting. Obviously in recent days the cold bit hasn't been appropriate so I thought I'd better check them over. It was a good job I did as they were nearly all starting to sprout.
Left in the dark in the garage these shoots would get long and leggy as the new shoot searches for light. So the condition of the potatoes made up my mind for me. They need to be placed in good light to produce good strong healthy shoots instead of weak and straggly ones.
All our potatoes have been moved from the garage into the greenhouse. They've got a couple of layers of fleece to give them a bit of frost protection. I'm sure now I've moved them into the greenhouse we'll get some cold and frosty nights.
I did check out our special individual potato tubers which have been kept in the summerhouse since we bought them.
These too have started to sprout but as they have been kept in better light the shoots are green rather than white. I'm not intending to plant out any of our seed potatoes until the middle of April at the earliest. We do have a few extra Casablanca first early tubers that won't be needed to plant up our first early bed of potatoes so I might plant up a couple of potato sacks to see if I can get a very early crop of tasty new potatoes.

We got a taster through Tuesday night into Wednesday morning of what is to come. It was wet and windy through the night although the gale force winds have abated a little bit on Wednesday morning.
Temperature, Rainfall & High Wind Speed Records 20-22 February 2017
If the weather models and forecasters are correct storm "Doris" looks like it will produce the worst storm of the winter arriving on Thursday morning and lasting into the afternoon.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Planning For Early Planting

As widely forecast Monday became our mildest day of the year so far as the temperature reached 14.2°C or 57.6F.
Temperature (red), Wind Chill (blue) and High Wind Speed (purple) Records for 20 February 2017
However, it's best not to judge a day by temperature alone. As the temperature hit the high spot so did the wind speed as gale force winds toppled the bird feeding station. I'll have to find some heavier pieces of stone to stop it from blowing over.
As you can see from the wind chill line it felt a couple of degrees colder than it actually was. Add into the mix that it was a dull day with spells of light drizzle at times then it wasn't a gardening sort of a day.

I did start working out where our early crops will be going in one of our allotments. This particular plot contains our refurbished rose bed and has four small beds which are rotated annually with potatoes, brassicas, peas and onions. The remainder of the plot is taken up with soft fruit, apple and pear trees together with our greenhouse and shed. It's usually the first plot to be fully planted up.
This is how it looked on Sunday. On three of the beds we use weed control fabric. Only our early potatoes will be planted without the fabric. These will be first earlies Casablanca and I find them much easier to harvest if they are planted in a more conventional manner. The weed control fabric gets rotated along with its associated crop. The fabric is still in place from last year crops and the first job will be to move the three pieces in a clockwise direction as viewed on the photograph. The brassica bed had three barrowfulls of compost added to it on Sunday. I'm planning to add some fish, blood and bone fertiliser followed by some lime before lightly forking over the bed. I don't want to dig the bed over as brassicas prefer to be planted in firmer soil.

I've plenty of compost left so I'm planning to add some to each of the three other beds when I rotate the fabric.
My plan is to start rotating and preparing these four beds on our next visit to the plot providing the weather doesn't spoil my plans. It is still winter after all.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Free Refurbishment Time On The Allotment

We took advantage of a mild weekend to get some more sorting out done on the allotment. I think that anything we get done now is a bonus. It's a sort of free time to get work done as there are no other jobs that need to take priority such as planting and harvesting. Our rose bed refurbishment was completed and Sue has started to clear an old rhubarb bed. Refurbishment of an area cleared of a large conifer tree last year continues and we plan a little wildlife area near the greenhouse.

The video that follows shows the progress we made over the weekend.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Smoke and Snowdrops

Saturday became our new mildest day of the year as the thermometer hit 13.3°C or 55.9°F.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 16-18 February 2017
We are in a mild spell of weather for February. After our cold, wet and windy day out on Thursday, we felt we'd have Friday out too to see if our luck would change. We decided to visit Hodsock Priory in Nottinghamshire where they open their garden especially for the snowdrop season.  We set of in drizzly rain which as we headed south turned into heavier showers. By the time we arrived at Hodsock Priory we had left the rain behind.
Hodsock Priory, Blyth, Nottinghamshire
We arrived a little before lunch. We'd planned for the possibility of having to visit a few other venues as, being our first visit to the gardens, we didn't know what to expect. We decided on a quick tour of the more formal gardens before lunch.
Lunches were served in what reminded me of the Bake Off tent.
We had a look inside the marquee on a couple of occasions and it looked busy. We decided to have a walk into the oak woodland area and return for some lunch a little bit later. However, a few minutes later, located in a clearing, in the woodland we came across the woodland cafe.
This was complete with outdoor picnic tables and an open log fire. Here we ordered a couple of sausage butties and drinks before setting off to explore the snowdrops in the woodland.
There certainly are thousands of snowdrop throughout the oak woodland.  After a walk through all the woodland snowdrops we returned to the more formal garden area for a better look around. There's plenty of other early flowering bulbs and plants on show besides snowdrops.
We needn't have planned any other visits as we spent the rest of the afternoon looking round the gardens.

Friday, 17 February 2017

When It Doesn't Go According To Plan!

Thursday became our warmest day of the year as the temperature reached 11.8°C  (53.2°F) taking over from the previous highest of 11.6°C or 52.9°F.
The weather forecasters suggested it would be warmer as we approached the end of the week and taking them at their word we decided on a day out on Thursday. We planned a day out in the Yorkshire Dales. The day was to include some video of steam locomotive 60163 hauling a scheduled passenger service on the main line between Skipton and Appleby. It's the first time for 50 years that a steam train has hauled a scheduled service on the main line. I'd planned to get some video of the train crossing Dent Head Viaduct. After lunch we planned a visit to Fountains Abbey to see some snowdrops in flower.

The weather in the Dales wasn't brilliant. Cold wet and windy sums it up. Dent Head Viaduct is high up in the Dales and the clouds were skimming the tops.
We arrived at Dent Head Viaduct in the teeth of a gale. I decided to set up the camera and tripod and leave it running to film the train crossing the viaduct. I didn't realise that for some reason the camera stopped recording before the train arrived. So all I had was some footage of a trainless viaduct very much like the photo below.
Sue decided on a much more sensible option and took some photos from the relative comfort of the car through an open window.
You'll notice to add insult to injury a smokeless steam train crossed over the viaduct. At least we had something to show for our visit to Dent Head. After lunch at Wensleydale Creamery we headed for Fountains Abbey. When we pulled into the car park it was still blowing a gale and raining. We thought it wasn't the best weather to be trying to take photos of snowdrops and headed for home.

We'll try a visit elsewhere to see some snowdrops over the next few days but steam trains on the Settle and Carlisle line will have to be put on hold until the line is fully re-opened at the end of March following its closure due a landslip early in 2016.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Some Welcome Sunshine

Monday started off cold and dull not unlike the previous few days. At the very least the drizzle had disappeared. I'd almost decided not to do a blog post for today as there was nothing more to say about our dull, gloomy weather. I'd no more photos or video to add to blog posts either. Then for a couple of hours around the middle of the day the clouds broke up and the sun came out. Brilliant!
Temperature, Wind Chill & Solar Radiation Records for 13-02-2016
It was time to grab a camera and get a few photos. Our snowdrops have been in a sort of a limbo for a week now. They're almost in flower but seemingly waiting for the weather to improve before they put on a proper show.
We've some crocus that will soon be in flower too.
All too soon the clouds rolled in again but it has given us some hope that the weather is changing for the better. Who knows we may even get down to the allotment this week.

Monday, 13 February 2017

More Gloom

Sunday was another cold and gloomy day. The highest temperature on Saturday and Sunday was exactly the same 3.6°C (38.5°F) with equal amounts of sunshine on both days, zero hours. There was a cold easterly wind blowing making it feel even colder than the temperature suggested.
Temperature, Wind Chill and Rainfall Records for 12 February 2017
The rainfall amounted to 4.0mm (0.16in) which isn't much considering it seemed to drizzle all day long.
The view of the window or through the window wasn't very cheery.
If the forecast is correct we're in for another gloomy day on Monday but through the rest of the week the weather should become milder and brighter.