Sunday, 21 September 2014

Sunshine Please

Saturday was a dull and miserable day. It wasn’t particularly cold for mid to late September with an afternoon temperature of  16.4°C. My weather station has recorded only 36 minutes of sunshine for the whole of the last four days.

Sunday has started much brighter if a little cooler.
White Cloud
I've noticed that BBC Autumnwatch will be coming from RSPB Leighton Moss this year. Having quickly looked at the picture taken at the reserve on Friday this cheeky little robin is probably going to be one of the best.
He or she popped out of the hedgerow and perched on a gate we were going through. It wasn't in a rush to head for cover and I think it expected a few meal worms in return for the pose. Unfortunately it was out of luck. Just in case you were wondering it did have two legs.  
It’s back to the allotment today to see if we can prepare some ground for planting some winter onions. With virtually no rainfall this month our soil is very dry and not easily broken down into a fine tilth for planting. Then a trip to the local garden centre for some onion sets.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Over the Border

We decided to head over the border into Lancashire for a couple of days. The weather forecast suggested that west might be best. The plan was to visit the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust centre at Martin Mere, then spend Thursday night in Lancaster  before heading into Cumbria for a little bit of steam train photography on Friday morning and to spend the rest of the day visiting the RSPB reserve at Leighton Moss.
The centre at Martin Mere is very similar to their Slimbridge centre which we had visited in spring. The opportunities for photos of ducks, geese and swans are fantastic.
After a very enjoyable visit to Martin Mere, Friday morning saw us make a short trip up the M6 into Cumbria near Beckfoot to photograph a steam locomotive, Number 61994 The Great Marquess, hauling “The West Highlander” up to the west Coast of Scotland on a four day tour.
I left the photography to Sue while I tried my hand at a little bit of video. 
The horses didn't mind all the other trains on the west coast main line but weren't too happy about a steam locomotive passing by. It was then back down the M6 to RSPB Leighton Moss.
It was a lovely mild September afternoon as we made our way around the reserve visiting most of the reserve’s hides. Some have views out towards Morecambe Bay.
As we headed back over the Pennines on the M62 motorway it was very misty and murky over the tops and back into West Yorkshire.
Judging from my weather station output I think we probably had better weather than if we’d stayed at home. Was the trip successful? My camera certainly thinks so with 1465 photos downloaded and some video too. I might be some time editing that lot.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

In a Knot

After another very dull and murky morning the sun came out early in the afternoon making it a lovely sunny afternoon with the temperature reaching 20.5°C.

I have no idea why I noticed this on the plot today but I did. One of our grapevines on the plot is Boskoop Glory and it’s trained on canes to grow along the side of our shed. 
This is how we tie it to the cane to allow the vine to grow horizontally along the shed. 
This is how the vine does it with a knot all of its own. Isn't that a lovely tidy knot. 

I was thinking today it was a good job I hadn't stopped our Sungold tomato or we would have run out of its sweet juicy tomatoes by now. It’s happily continuing to produce tomatoes with its flowers and fruits pressed up against the greenhouse roof. As I was looking at a well known Supermarkets web site for the price of fruit and vegetables I was pretty amazed to find that they were selling a super, extra special sweet variety of tomato. It wasn't Sungold and in fact it wasn't one I've heard of but it won’t be able to beat Sungold for taste. The price for these super special tomatoes - an amazing £9.72 per kg. 
Hidden under a few salad leaves are some Sungold I picked for lunchtime today. These few weighed in at a little over 100gms or valued at £1.00 by this particular supermarket. It values our seasons crop of Sungold at £30.60.

Our photos of our visit to Formby and “Red Squirrel Walk” are finished and can be viewed online here. There’s also a video of the red squirrels here.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Mundane but Necessary

Monday turned out a little bit sunnier than forecast with some hazy autumn sunshine from time to time. The forecast for the rest of the week remains much the same.

I must admit I'm not very good at looking after our two small lawns. Apart from getting cut as necessary that’s about all the loving care and attention they get. I thought it was about time I made an effort to improve things a little. It’s not that they look too bad but they could certainly be improved.
I've started the process by aerating the lawn. There seems to be a little bit of doubt, depending on which Internet article you read, as to whether the holes made with my aerating machine, a giant fork with hollow tines, should be filled in or not. I've chosen the easy option not to fill them in. I think I should have made a few more holes than I did but it doesn't come natural to me to make lots of holes in the lawn to improve its condition. The process is supposed to let stale carbon dioxide out of the soil and fresh oxygen in.
The next confusion is what to do with all the pieces of lawn that come out of the aerating fork as you work around the lawn. I just tested out my hollow tined fork on one of our small lawns so it was a quick job to pick up the tubes of soil removed. Some suggestions are that these can be left on the surface to dry out then the next time the lawn is cut the dry soil will be broken up and distributed back over the lawn. I think I’ll add our bits of grass and soil to the compost heap.

We did manage a little bit of harvesting with the produce having a bit of an exotic air about it.
A few bit size mini kiwis “Issai” to start with and from the greenhouse, one large orange pepper “Orange Bell”, an aubergine “Jackpot” and some grapes “Himrod”. A couple of large yellow tomatoes, Amish Gold had split but the damage was only skin deep and together with the aubergine and pepper made an excellent pasta sauce.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Falling Apart

Sunday made it three days in a row without any sunshine. That lovely sunny start to September hasn't continued for us although the conditions still remain settled.

The forecast for the next few days doesn't offer much hope for any sunshine either.
Looking at the facts and figure half way through the month it’s not been as warm a month as I seem to imagine. Whilst 2013 was cooler, 2010, 2011 and 2012 had higher average temperatures at this stage of the month.

Some more sunshine would be nice though even if it meant a few more coolish nights.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Turned Out Well

Friday and Saturday were much duller than the last few days and correspondingly a little cooler with the lack of sunshine.

On Saturday we had a train trip to North Wales. Initially I’d planned the trip as it included an optional trip on the Ffestiniog Railway through the Welsh mountains. Unfortunately we hadn't booked early enough and couldn't get tickets for the steam train ride and so decided to spend our afternoon at Betws-y-Coed which was an alternative destination.
As it turned out no-one got their ride on the Ffestiniog Railway as our charter train to Wales was delayed by more than an hour due to the failure of a swing bridge near Selby. Although we caught the train in Wakefield, its full journey was from Hull to Blaenau Ffestiniog. Despite making up all but about 15 minutes on the trip to Wales, our train missed its slot on the single track line from Llandudno to Blaenau Ffestiniog and the additional steam trip couldn't be fitted into the timetable.

We planned some walks along the banks of the rivers Llugwy and Conway which pass through the tourist village of Betws-y-Coed.
We were lucky enough to spot a heron on the river and managed to follow it along the river.
In this environment the heron was extremely well camouflaged making it difficult to spot at times as it hunted along the river banks.
Occasionally it broke cover giving us a better view as it kept a close eye on exactly how close we were getting. 
Then finally it decided it had had enough of being stalked by us and took flight and disappeared off down the river leaving us to continue our walk along the river before returning to Betws-y-Coed.

Friday, 12 September 2014

In Search of Some Reds

The fine spell of settled September weather continued on Wednesday and Thursday.

On Thursday we visited the National Trust property at Formby in Lancashire. Visiting our local RSPB reserves we normally end up photographing grey squirrels as these photogenic little creatures make the most of the free food on offer. Formby has the much rarer red squirrels and we decided on a visit to see if we could spot some.
The squirrels have their own walk “Formby Red Squirrel Walk” but the property has walks through the woodland and sand dunes down to the sea. Our walk took us through the pine woodlands planted up in the 1800’s and past small fields where asparagus was once cultivated. The woods turn from pine to deciduous woodland known as Nicotine Wood. In the 1950’s and 1960’s thousands of tonnes of tobacco leaf waste were dumped here. 
The woodlands give way to more open ground before reaching the sand dunes and eventually views of the beach and the Irish Sea.
After a walk along the beach we headed back to the main “Red Squirrel Walk”. There were lots of reds about but they don’t sit still for long and you have to be very quick on the shutter release button if you don’t want a blur of red fur as you chosen subject heads up the nearest pine tree. 
We did manage one or two shots that didn't come out too badly. I’ll post a link to more photographs once I've finished sorting them out.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Most Unusual For Us

Not to be outdone by Monday, Tuesday was another brilliant September day. The last couple of nights have just fallen into single figures centigrade and it’s taken a little while to warm up but each afternoon has managed around the twenty degree Celsius mark.

Believe it or not we visited two garden centres today and didn't buy a plant at either. The first visit was to buy some bird seed. Our very own flock of sparrows are getting through lots at the moment. We checked if the garden centre had any autumn onions but they’re expecting them in at anytime.

After lunch we made our second visit. This was to return some pruners with a telescopic reach and saw attachment which we’d bought to prune our crab apple tree. Whilst the saw attachment proved very useful the pruning part of the equipment wasn't and broke when I was cutting through one not particularly large twig. It certainly wasn't 25mm claimed to be the maximum cutting diameter for the pruners. The goods news was they were exchanged without any hassle so hopefully the new pair will be a bit sturdier.

We did buy an extremely large pot for our cherry “Stella” to move into though.
It’s spent summer outside in this “air pot” which I've found very difficult to keep watered. Stella now has a new home in a bigger pot and I'm hoping she’ll produce a few cherries next year.
I sorted our last batch of potatoes, dug up a few days ago, into supermarket boxes and stacked them in the garage. I think I might have gone a little over the top with potatoes this year.
I'm not really too sure how this happened as I thought I bought fewer seed potatoes. I even let our new plot neighbour have a few Charlottes for his patch. Maybe we've just had a better crop than usual. I’ll have to tot up the totals and check. Provided nothing goes wrong with our potatoes in store they should easily see us through to next spring.

We've now finished sorting out our photos of our visit to Boundary Cottage, open last Sunday under the National Garden Scheme, and these have been posted in a new web photo album located here.