Thursday, 17 April 2014

Blowing Hot and Cold

Wednesday was another super spring day and it set a few little weather records. Starting off in the early hours of the morning it was our equal coldest night of the month with the temperature falling to 1.4°C but with blue skies and sunshine all day it then became our warmest day of the month and year as the thermometer rose to 19.2°C.
I've now kept rainfall records since the beginning of 2010 and April 16th is the first day of the year when no rainfall has been recorded in any of the five years. That’s 106 days into the year before a day that has been consistently dry in the five years from 2010 to 2014.
At Harlow Carr on Tuesday I noticed that, in some places alongside the stream, their Marsh Marigolds were on flower and thought that ours which are only in bud were a little behind, however Wednesday’s sunshine brought our Marsh Marigolds out into flower too.

Don’t plants sometimes do their best to annoy you. I posted about giving our violas a second chance after they’d been left to overwinter in the cold frame. I thought I’d picked out the best ones to move into a pot and produce some better plants. The other stragglers have been left in the cold frame. Last night, as I watered the other plants hardening off in the cold frame, I saw this one defiant viola in flower and crying out to be saved. 
I can feel another potting up session coming on.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

RHS Harlow Carr in April

Tuesday continued where Monday left off with lots more sunshine. The early hours of Tuesday morning provided the coldest temperatures of the month so far with the thermometer down to 1.4°C. Despite the excellent weather recently the warmest day of the month remains the first of the month with 18.3°C.

As the forecast was for another nice sunny day we'd decided on another trip to the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden at Harlow Carr.
It was tricky finding somewhere to park and there is lots of parking available at Harlow Carr. We eventually managed to find a spot in the overspill car park. As it’s school half term lots of the next generation of plant hunters had descended on the gardens.
We were correct in our guess that the rhododendron would be coming into flower. Spring bulbs still formed a large part of the more formal display areas with lots of daffodils still in flower but the beds planted up with Hyacinths looked particularly attractive. 
On a still sunny day the scent from the display was very intense. My favourite was this dark blue variety.
We had a quick look around the kitchen garden display but just like the allotment it still very early with most vegetable still to be planted out. The main display was the collection of rhubarb and the fruit trees coming into blossom.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Potato Trial

Monday was a lovely sunny day and yesterday’s gale force winds had abated.

In the afternoon we set off to the plot to plant more shallots, onions and potatoes. I hadn't really anticipated any wind damage on the plot, a sort of it’s spring now so we don’t get any wind damage. That wasn't exactly the case.
We've been given these fencing panels by our plot neighbour Jan to replace some of the panels forming sides to our compost heap. Some panels are now starting to show their age and are coming apart at the seams. The wind had blown the panels over onto our garlic. The leaves look a bit flat but we're hoping that they'll make a full recovery. The panels have been moved to a safer location for the time being.
The wind decided to rearrange some of the weed control fabric that had been put down. This piece had been carefully set out for growing peas and beans but will need some rearranging.

One thing I did notice about using weed control fabric is how much wetter the soil is under fabric that hasn’t any holes cut in it for growing or planting through. All the pieces lifted this spring have had holes or slots cut in them to allow different crops to grow through and the soil underneath has been in excellent condition. Last autumn I put down one new piece without holes in it to cover a bed purely to stop any weeds growing over winter. When I moved this fabric the ground under it was considerable wetter than under all the other fabric as though the soil had sweated under the fabric.

So whilst Sue was planting more onions and shallots I planted another two rows of potatoes. These haven’t been planted under weed control fabric and I’m using these two rows as a direct comparison with the two rows planted last week under fabric.
The potatoes have been planted in two different beds but the beds are as close together as I could manage taking the correct crop rotation of the beds into account. The potatoes are Rocket and Casablanca with a row of each under fabric and one planted as normal. I'm still not entirely convinced about growing potatoes under weed control fabric. I’ll probably try a few second early roots under some fabric but most of our remaining potatoes will be planted normally this year. That is our normal using a trowel.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Wind and Sun

On Sunday we had the unusual combination of a lovely sunny day day combined with gale force winds. It certainly wasn’t a day for moving weed control fabric around on the allotment.
High Wind Speeds  - May 2013 to April 2014
It’s not that often we managed wind speeds exceeding 30 mph especially outside the winter months.

I did manage a little more sorting out in the home greenhouse by renewing the capillary matting to the metal staging. The old matting was well past its sell by date so it was consigned to the dustbin and replaced with some new matting.
I now need to sort out the pots and seed trays on the shelving beneath and another part of the greenhouse won’t look too bad. The space underneath has finished up as a storage area as there isn't enough light for growing successfully.

Whilst I was pottering about I took pity on this tray of viola Symphonia Mixed sown last June and left to overwinter in the cold frame.
I picked out the “best” of the seedlings and potted them on to see if they recover.
It will be interesting to see if they manage to rejuvenate and put on some sort of display. The seedlings did have plenty of roots so I'm hopeful they’ll make a full recovery. I wonder what I should do with the remaining stragglers. 

Sunday, 13 April 2014

A Conference That Flowers

Saturday saw an end to the lovely spell of early April weather as the sun disappeared for the day and the clouds returned. The cloud was thick enough to give a sprinkling of rain around teatime. What breeze there was had a distinctly chilly feel to it.

Last September one of our Peasgood Nonsuch apples fell off the tree and smashed it way into the greenhouse. 
Now it’s entirely my own fault that this happens as it’s a silly place to allow an apple tree to grow. The problem is that this particular apple is a superb cooking apple.The apples are growing on a old cordon tree that used to be trained along a fence but has decided to become a tree. I'm greedy in allowing this tree to grow as large as possible on the grounds it will produce a bigger crop of apples. In the end it comes to an apple falling through the glass to prompt me into taking action. So last autumn the pruning saw came out and the apple tree was subject to a severe pruning. It’s not the only cordon survivor as next to it are a Bramley apple and Conference pear. Whilst the saw was out they all got the same treatment. I was pretty sure that pruning would put an end to any chance of fruit this year.
The Conference pear has proved me wrong and has produced a reasonable amount of blossom. It’s a little too early to tell whether the two apple trees will have any blossom or not but with a bit of luck we’ll have some tasty pears by the autumn that won't be in a position to fall off the tree and through the greenhouse roof and will also be easier to reach and harvest.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Figgy Corner

Friday continued the spell of mild and sunny spring weather of the last few days.
I did some more tidying up in the home greenhouse clearing out some of the rubbish that has accumulated over winter. One corner of the greenhouse has now been given over to our two fig trees.
Our larger fig had a top dressing of new compost applied and our smaller fig was repotted into a larger pot as it was drying out far too quickly in its small pot. Even at this early stage of the season the large fig has three generations of fruits. The largest fruits which have over wintered on the tree look rather pale and I'm expecting them to fall off without going on to produce any useful fruit. The two tubs in front of the figs are our over wintering osteospermums. These will need some fresh compost before they are moved outside once the danger of any frost has passed.
These are the newest two generations which appear a much more healthy shade of green and are growing rapidly. I’m hoping that the trees will like their new location just inside the greenhouse door.

I've still got plenty more areas to sort out in the greenhouse before its ready for its summer crop of tomatoes, aubergines and peppers.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Caught Out by a Mild Spell?

Thursday was another pleasant spring day and although we didn't have a massive amount of sunshine the temperature managed a very pleasant 15.1°C.

The weather tempted me to plant our early potatoes. It’s a couple of weeks earlier than I’d normally plant them but over the last week the weather has been milder than we might expect for early April.
Temperature Chart Friday 04 April 2014 to Thursday 10 April 2014
For the last week the temperatures been above the 12°C expected at the beginning of April and I may have been lulled into a false sense of planting safety. Anyhow some of our first early potatoes Rocket and Casablanca are planted and will have to put up with whatever the weather throws at them.

This is the first time we've planted potatoes through weed control fabric. I wasn't too sure of the best method to use but settled for cutting a decent size hole at each planting location then planting the potato tuber with a trowel.
The fabric had already been laid in place last week. No string lines were required to line up the rows as the lines on the fabric could easily be used to both line up and space out the tubers.
On completion this is how the two rows of early potatoes look. The aim is that the shoots will emerge through the holes in the fabric. There are one or two issues I still have to finalise with this method. If shoots come through and a frost is forecast I won’t just be able to earth up some soil over the young shoots to protect them. I have some old straw used to protect our carrots over winter and I might keep that where it could be used as frost protection if needed. The other issue is how to lift the potatoes when they’re ready. It might have to be a similar technique to the one I've used for the leeks which is lifting and replacing the fabric from one edge. I might be jumping the gun of course as I don’t really know how the crop will perform grown under this fabric. Watch this space for updates.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Looking Promising

Wednesday wasn't as sunny as Tuesday but the wind dropped and a few sunny periods lifted the temperature to a very pleasant 15.9°C.

It’s now round to that time of year where a regular look in the home greenhouse is required each morning to check on progress and see if any seeds or plants needs some water. Our first broad beans Witkeim Manita have germinated with their first green shoots pushing through the soil. They've taken 13 days to germinate in the greenhouse.

Last week our Himrod grape had the tiniest of buds ready to break but now it’s all systems go and before long it will be a case of cutting it back to stop it taking over the greenhouse. At the moment it’s hard to believe these fresh new shoots will grow so rapidly. The tiny flower buds are just visible nestled inside the unfurling leaves.
On the plot things are starting to appear more under control with the plot taking on a very spring like look with lots of fruit blossom and flowers taking over from that winter drabness the plot takes on in winter. 

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