Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Potato Decisions

Well Tuesday turned out as forecast with gale force winds and heavy squally showers. We had some sunny spells too but it didn't encourage us out of doors.
The showers were heaviest through the morning and as they passed through the temperature dropped quickly into single figures. A lunchtime temperature of 8.6°C was a far cry from the 20°C we managed only a few days ago. The wind saved its worst for early evening with a gust of 28mph equalling my previous October record set on 16 October 2012.

The weather gave me a chance to sort out our potato harvesting details for this year and hopefully sort out our varieties for next year.
The most important difference in our potato growing this year was trialling some varieties under weed control fabric. This turned out to be pretty successful but I wouldn't grow our first early potatoes, to be lifted as new potatoes, under fabric again. Nothing to do with the growing method but rather lifting individual roots is tricky. For second earlies and maincrop potatoes where the crop is lifted in larger amounts and the fabric can be removed in one piece and potatoes harvested in the normal manner that wouldn't be a problem. The other surprising thing to come out of this experiment was that the potatoes grown under fabric didn't suffer any more slug damage than those grown in open ground.
Nicola and Charlotte growing under weed control Fabric on 11 July 2014
Nicola harvested from under weed control Fabric on 30 August 2014
I think the table makes it clear that we are fairly settled on our second early varieties but can’t make up our minds on first earlies. I certainly want to give Casablanca another go as it suffered from early blight this year and I think would have produced a bigger crop if not cut back in its prime. The same can be said of Winston and I might give Vales Emerald another go. I plan to grow all our first earlies in open ground without using any weed control fabric.

Our second earlies will be from Charlotte, Nicola and Nadine as they've done well again this year. 

I must give Harmony another go. It produced a crop of medium to large potatoes but it grew in the most difficult soil conditions. I don’t know why the soil in this particular bed became so unworkable but it was almost impossible to earth up the potatoes. The plants made very little top growth and I wasn't expecting any sort of crop at all. I was expecting to dig the bed over leaving the winter weather to break down the soil.
Harmony on 11 July 2014
This was the last photo we took of Harmony and I don’t remember the tops putting on much more greenery. The size of the potatoes lifted amazed me. Our final Harmony potatoes were only lifted on 17 October 2014.
First Harmony potatoes lifted from this bed on 08 October 2014
A provisional list of potato varieties for next year looks like this then:
  • First Earlies - Casablanca, Vales Emerald and Winston
  • Second Earlies - Charlotte, Nicola and Nadine
  • Maincrop - Harmony
I've still to decide how many of each variety to buy but I'm planning on growing fewer potatoes next year. I wonder if I’ll stick to my provisional list. Can anybody add a variety to change my mind?

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


Monday’s temperature returned to more like expected October values. 

A few weeks ago I posted about giving our lawn a bit of attention. Following on from that de-thatching which revealed a few bare patches I decided to repair these areas with compost and sow some grass seed. I wasn't too sure whether I might be a little bit late sowing grass seed but decided I hadn't got much to lose.
 Once the seed was sown I covered with a bit more compost and tamped the surface level with the back of my rake. I gave some thought to covering the areas with some netting or even polythene to keep the birds from eating the seed and help the seed to germinate. The seed packet reckoned germination should take 4 days under ideal conditions but didn't say what those conditions were. In the end I decided to see what happened without any protection. I’d plenty of seed left so if the birds scratched about for the seed I could resow and cover with netting.  I assumed any bird damage would happen within a day or so giving me time to do any necessary resowing.
Once the patches were finished the lawn looked even more of a mess than it did with only its bare patches. All these areas were now highlighted by large patches of compost. After the prescribed 4 days for germination nothing had happened but at least the birds had left the reseeding alone.
The good news is that the grass seed is now growing well and almost looks ready for a very light trim. If conditions are dry enough I will give the lawn a cut with the mower set on almost its highest setting.

The forecast for Tuesday has turned out correct as the wind speed has gradually picked up overnight into Tuesday morning. Tuesday morning has consisted of heavy squally showers along with gale force winds. 
It’s not looking like a day for giving the lawn a quick trim.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Record Mildness?

Saturday and Sunday were very mild for the time of year. The temperature managed 20°C on Saturday that’s the latest I've recorded a high temperature into the twenties so late in October. However, mildness isn't everything and both days were pretty dull and it was very blustery on Sunday.

Although the forecast was for heavy showers on Sunday we went to see what photographic opportunities there were at the East Lancashire Railway Steam Gala.
Good locations take a little bit of finding and aren’t always that easy to find on a first visit. We decided to try our luck at Burrs Country Park located just outside Bury.
We managed to find a few locations where we thought it would be possible to get some decent shots. We had a walk around the park and managed a few photographs and some video. We found a small cafe and decided on a cup of coffee. As we headed for the cafe the weather did look a bit ominous, as though those heavy showers in the forecast might be on the way.
By the time we’d drunk our coffee it was pouring down and it didn't particularly look like a short sharp shower. After a little while waiting to see if the weather was going to improve as it was still raining heavily we decided to call it a day and head back home over the Pennines.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

More Toadstools

On a lovely mild sunny afternoon we decided on a bit more tidying up on the plot.

Trying to outdo that Fly Agaric toadstool we saw at RSPB Fairburn Ings on Thursday, on the plot was this group of toadstools.
I've no idea of the name of these toadstools but they've been left to do their own thing. I was a bit surprised to find that fruits on our alpine strawberries hadn't turned mouldy or mushy with all the damp wet weather of the last few days.
Slugs had done far more damage to the fruits than the wet weather but I still managed a little harvest, certainly enough to give us a taste of fresh strawberries in the middle of October. There’s still a few more fruits to come if the weather holds.
Picking these along with some Joan J raspberries made for a couple of easy jobs to mix in with some autumn digging.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Brightness Again

The drab weather of the last three days finally came to an end today (Thursday) and after a drop of overnight rain and a little early morning mist the sun finally broke through the clouds. In the autumn sunshine it was mild too with the afternoon temperature reaching 16.4°C.

In the morning sunshine I couldn't resist a look around the garden. There’s still the odd hint of summer as some plants seem to want to ignore the onset of autumn.
We decided on a trip to our local RSPB reserve at Fairburn Ings. It’s a nice walk through the reserve by the river. As we’d walked the length of the reserve we hadn't found too much in the way of bird life to photograph.
There were a few birds about but much too far away for our liking. Then as we arrived at the end of the walk our luck changed.
A heron flew down and perched on top of some sluice gates. We seem to have seen herons everywhere we go over the last few months. Then we spotted a cormorant sitting on a post between fishing expeditions.

Walking back through the woods we found some rather exotic looking toadstool too. Sue told me it was a Fly Agaric toadstool and it’s highly toxic. It’s not uncommon and often has white spots. It contains ibotenic acid and in the past was used as an insecticide as this acid attracts and kills flies. We decided it was best left untouched.
Down by the roadside lake the Greylag Geese had arrived.
There was no mistaking the onset of autumn here though as the trees had definitely taken on their autumn colours. 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Clear Out

Our third dull miserable day in a row but I can’t complain it was wet without any measurable rainfall as yesterday was a thoroughly wet day which resulted in 3.8mm of precipitation. The temperature over the last few days has been unusual as its hardly varying between day and night or maximum and minimum. Since 09:00 on Monday morning to 09:00 Thursday morning the full temperature range has been between 9.7°C and 12.1°C.

I decided it was about time the left over tomato, pepper and aubergine plants were cleared out of the greenhouse. We are looking to keep some of our new potted perennials in the greenhouse over winter and then planting them out in early spring next year. 
As all the grapes have been picked I thought the grape vine could be given a bit of a trim too. All this trimming back would hopefully let a bit more light into the greenhouse. This should be an extra benefit through the darker duller days of winter.
It was amazed at just how much there was to cut back once I started. I thought it would be a five minute job but it turned out to be a much longer job than I anticipated. I removed about 5 heaped tub fulls of green stuff like the one above into the council recycling bin.
By the time I’d finished I’d managed to create a nice bit of space and let in a lot more daylight down one side of the greenhouse for our perennials to over winter. It was drizzling fairly heavily by this time so I decided to leave moving any plants into the greenhouse for a dry day. I did manage to find a few peppers and tomatoes left on the plants which will have to ripen inside. 
The used growbags have been stacked on top of each other and will be used as a top dressing on our garden borders next spring. The compost from the pots of peppers and aubergines will be used down on the plot to improve soil conditions there.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Claptons Galore

Tuesday was a repeat of Monday which was another wet day without any rain. We had heavy cloud cover all day making it the dullest day of the month. The temperature hardly varied all day with a maximum of 11.0°C and a minimum of 10.1°C.

We needed some fresh vegetables so headed to the plot to replenish our supplies. In the car it was one of those days were the slowest intermittent wipe of the windscreen wipers isn't intermittent enough and the wipers have to be turned off between sweeps. Due to the poor weather we’d no intentions of doing anything else on the plot other than harvesting some vegetables.
Our brassica crop this year got off to a bad start when all our early crops succumbed to club root back in autumn 2013. Since then we've done pretty well, especially with cauliflowers, which can be a bit tricky at the best of times. These two are good sized heads weighing in at over a kilogram each. These were sown on 02 June and planted out on 11 July and have produced an excellent crop following on nicely from a crop sown on 06 April and planted out on 18 May. It’s meant we've had a steady stream of cauliflowers ‘Clapton’ to cut from the end of July all the way through into October.

We managed a decent harvest for the middle of October. Even the sweet peas and raspberries had managed to give us another harvest that we weren't expecting.
The sweetcorn is now a little past its best but this was the last picking of any decent sized cobs. The carrots are St Valery and the beetroot is Crimson Globe. All our harvesting records are kept here.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Wet Without Much Rain

Monday seemed dull wet and damp all day but the rainfall only came to 2.4mm even though it rained all day.
Our photos of our visit to RSPB Old Moor have now been added to our web site and can be viewed here. Golden Plovers had arrived in their hundreds but kept well out of close up camera range so all our photos of them were taken on maximum zoom.