Sunday, 19 May 2019

Running Out Of Space

Last week saw some warmer weather arrive by both day and night and the result is plants have started to grow much quicker. Suddenly it's a question of finding space for all the seedlings as they need potting on from seedling stage into larger pots.
Our home greenhouse is filling up rapidly. There's seedlings growing on for a few days before being moved to the cold frame to harden off and become accustomed to the outside world and trays of seeds still to germinate.
These are mostly trays of runner beans and climbing French beans which have only just been sown. Hopefully, they'll germinate quickly as this space will soon be required for a summer crop of tomatoes. Over the last week with the warmer weather the greenhouse has been transformed as plants suddenly decide it's time to grow. Instead of plants needing watering every couple of days due to cold, cloudy days and nights, they now have to be watered twice a day especially if the sun makes an appearance. With the arrival of warmer weather we've started moving plants to the plot. This week we managed to erect our coppiced hazel supports and get our sweet peas planted out.
The space vacated in the cold frame by the sweet peas was soon taken up by some broad bean and brassica plants. The next couple of weeks will be busy moving seedlings between greenhouse and cold frame and planting them out on the plot.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

The Cold Nights Have It!

We've had a couple of lovely days with the temperatures through the day making it into the low 20 degrees Celsius or around the 70 degree Fahrenheit mark. However, us gardeners are never satisfied with the weather. The problem is that in May, it's not so much the daytime high temperatures that cause problems but more the night time lows.
Average May Low Temperatures 2010 -2019
The table above show the running average low temperatures for May for the last 10 years. The red box highlights the average temperature by the time we've reached the fourteenth of the month and as you can see 2019 has now become the coldest with a temperature of 5.0°C or 41.0°F. Hopefully, that value will now go on increasing over the rest of May.
It's been cold enough for a light frost to catch the leaves of some of our emerging potatoes although some have remained unscathed. Checking over our strawberry flowers they all seem undamaged so not too much harm done. It's not the first time our potatoes have been caught by the frost and they've always recovered in the past.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Warmth Required!

It's gone on long enough now, we need some warmer days to get things growing even in the greenhouse. Another record breaking cold day for May saw a new record low daytime high for May as the temperature struggled to 8.1°C or 46.6°F. That's only just above what we can expect as an average night time value. Gardening is on hold until better weather arrives.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 08-10 May 2018
Not only has it been cold, but we've seen next to no sunshine so greenhouse temperatures have been cold throughout the day only managing to make it into the low teens Celsius or low fifties Fahrenheit. 
Greenhouse Temperature on 10 May 2019 at 10:00am
Sunshine Records May 2011 - May 2019
The table above is representative of the sunshine we've had and while it's not a measure of sunshine hours but of energy measured from the sunshine, it's a useful indicator of how much sunshine we've had. It's colour coded in my usual fashion from the highest values in red and the lowest in blue. Blue indicates cloudy days through to deep red representing the sunniest days. As you can see this May has started off with a row of blue, the first time that's happened over the last nine years.

If the forecast is correct, we should see a change in the weather next week with high pressure settling in over the country bringing with it more settled conditions and something a little bit warmer.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Cold Daytime May Day

Wednesday produced the coldest daytime high I've recorded since 2010. The thermometer struggled up to 8.6°C (47.5°F) at 13:10 taking over the record from 19 May 2012 which stood at 8.7°C or 47.7°F.
Temperature & Rainfall Records for 08-May-2019
To accompany the low temperature we had some rainfall throughout the day. It was never really very heavy and amounted to 5.6mm (0.22in)  by the end of the day. We're up to 22.8mm (0.9in) of rainfall already this month, more than we had in the whole of April. The rain, at any rate, will be good for the garden and allotment although the cold weather isn't.

This May is the second coldest I've recorded at this early stage of the month. May 2012 was particularly cold early on but it did go on to warm up later in the month.
The graph above is a bit messy but it is intended to highlight extremes rather than the conglomeration of lines in the centre of the chart. As you can see the purple line representing this year's average temperature only has the red line of May 2012 below it. Hopefully, this year will warm up too.

We did have a visit to the plot on Tuesday to check if our frost protection had worked. Nothing seemed to have suffered and even the flowers on our strawberry plants hadn't been caught as they didn't have a black centre.
 Strawberry - Sweetheart
However, at least one of the weather models is predicting temperatures down to freezing before this cold spell ends so we are not out of the woods just yet. We're keeping our fingers crossed though, especially for the strawberry flowers as unlike the potatoes they definitely won't recover from any frost damage.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Stuff Stopped Growing!

It was more like the Bank Holiday weather we expect yesterday. The forecast showers held off until the middle of the afternoon but like the last few days it's been on the cold side for the start of May.
Those temperatures forecast to fall below 0°C (32°F) didn't materialise although they fell low enough for a touch of ground frost on Saturday morning (04 May 2019). However, it has certainly been a cold start to the month and in the greenhouse germination and growth rate of seedlings seems very slow. I'm putting it down to the series of cold nights and not particularly warm days even in the greenhouse.
Savoy Cabbage - Sabrosa 
Newly transplanted seedlings are being covered with fleece each night to hopefully keep them a little bit warmer.
Like it or not our sweet peas and leeks have been moved to the cold frame to "harden off" although I'm not convinced it's necessary as, through the night, greenhouse temperatures will not have differed much from those outside.

At the allotment we should be sowing seeds of our carrots and parsnips but I don't think germination would be very good with such low overnight temperatures followed by cool daytime ones. I'll wait a few days for the weather to warm up, hopefully next week, before sowing seeds of a couple of our main allotment crops.

Friday, 3 May 2019

Maybe May Will Be Better?

April provided us with some lovely weather over the Easter holidays but the rest of the month wasn't anything special. Despite the very warm temperatures over the holiday weekend they didn't make up for the lower than average temperatures we had for the remainder of the month. In the end April's temperatures were below its recent averages. April did manage one record for my weather station though, when 13 April produced the lowest April temperature in 10 years falling to -2.6°C or 27.3°F.
April Temperature & Rainfall 2010 - 2019
April produced another month of below average rainfall. It seems that April has often turned out to be a dry month over the last few years. It's meant we've had to start watering on the allotment already.

Over the coming weekend the wind is forecast to turn into a northerly direction bringing with it some unusually cold temperatures for the beginning of May. Saturday and Sunday mornings are forecast to be particularly cold with the possibility of a frost each morning. We couldn't decide whether or not to try and protect our potatoes on the allotment. They are just beginning to send up their shoots which are easily damaged by frost. This has happened to our potatoes in previous years and while the potatoes always recover from the damage I've no idea if it has any effect on the eventual crop. It must at the very least delay the crop.
Potatoes Casablanca & Athlete
Our early potatoes, Casablanca and Athlete, were the easiest to deal with as they aren't planted through weed control fabric and some soil was earthed up around the freshly emerging haulms. Our potatoes growing through weed control fabric posed a different problem as it's not possibly to cover them with soil.
 Trial Potato Bed
Fortunately, we had some old straw left over that had been used for winter carrot protection. It was all used up protecting as many of our remaining rows of potatoes  as possible.

For good measure we covered our newly planted kiwi, Issai, with some enviromesh. Its new shoots were badly damaged by the earlier frosts in April.
Kiwi - Issai
It is just starting to form some new shoots and we didn't think it would like these tender new shoots freezing and might give up the will to survive altogether and so it got an environmesh duvet to protect it.
Unfortunately, it looks like that forecast of the winds turning into a northerly direction are starting to occur through Friday morning.

Above is the latest output from my weather station indicating the wind has moved into a north easterly direction. The temperature is getting cooler as we progress through the day with a low temperature so far of 5.5°C (41.9°F) at 09:20 compared with a high of 7.8°C (46.0°F) just after midnight. At 11:00 the temperature is 5.6°C (42.1°F) well below what we expect at the start of May. 

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Tomato Test and Some Cold Nights

Since that lovely sunny warm Easter spell of weather it's gone rapidly downhill. Night time temperatures especially have been below average for late April with the thermometer falling into the 3°C (37°F) mark too regularly for my liking. As you can see from my weather station output we've had three very chilly nights over the last week.
There's are rumours that we might be set for something even colder over the May Day Bank Holiday weekend with temperatures falling to freezing as a cold northerly wind sets up. Far too much to expect two Bank Holidays in a row with good weather.
Forecast from Netweather.tv
I reckon the cold nights are slowing down the progress of seedlings in the greenhouse. One of the reasons I delay sowing our tomato seeds is that I'd rather they avoided these cold nights but my plan isn't working very well this year.

However, I did notice that in the pot that contained our dead nectarine tree there was a tomato seedling. This must have germinated from one of last year tomatoes that accidentally fell into the soil. I noticed the seedling a few weeks ago and over the cold nights, including some very frosty ones a few weeks ago, this young tomato plant remained unprotected. 
In some ways it must be as far on as possible for a tomato plant in the greenhouse, having germinated as soon as conditions allowed. Of course I've no idea what the variety is. It's likely to have come from an F1 plant so it's unlikely to produce true to variety. I still decided to give it a bit of TLC and potted it up into a decent size pot with the intention of growing it on to see how early it might produce some ripe tomatoes of one kind or another. I'll be interested to see how far behind my other tomato plants are at producing their first ripe tomatoes.
As you can see it's got quite a head start on my tomato seeds sown on 15 April which are almost ready for pricking out into pots.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Another Record - Lovely Easter Weather

Easter Sunday continued the spell of very warm weather for April becoming the warmest day of the year as the temperature hit 24.6°C or 76.3°F also making it the third warmest April day I've recorded in ten years.
Temperature Records 19-21 April 2019
However, there's been a reminder in the overnight temperatures that it's still only April, as the temperatures dipped to around 4°C or 39°F. I've taken the precaution of covering up tomato seedlings in the greenhouse to give them as much protection as possible against the cold overnight conditions.
Tomatoes - Red Robin
It's difficult to believe how cold it was only a week ago when we had those very keen frosts which damaged the kiwi Issai that we had just planted out on the plot.
Kiwi - Issai (Frost Damage)
I'm hopeful it will make a full recovery as it had been growing outside at home so it should be accustomed to cold conditions. Easter Monday looks to be the last day of the warm spell of weather as Tuesday heralds a return to more normal temperatures and maybe some rain for a very dry allotment and garden.