Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Preserving

Monday was our worst day of the month so far. It was cloudy and cool all day with the temperature only managing 13.9°C (57.0°F) a little below average for the time of year.
Temperature & Rainfall Records
I haven't included the sunshine records on the graph as the sun didn't bother to put in an appearance. With light rain on and off all day it was a day for staying inside and converting tomatoes into tomato sauce -
 and apples into apple puree.
It's now just a case of finding a little bit of freezer space.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Large Scale Tidying Up

It wasn't a bad weekend weatherwise. Sunday was easily the sunniest of the two days and despite a lack of sunshine Saturday was slightly the warmer of the two days. We had some heavy rain in the early hours of Sunday morning amounting to 8.6mm or 0.34in.
We spent a couple of afternoons at the allotment. It's amazing how quickly that season of harvesting changes to one of tidying up the plot as much as possible before any bad weather sets in. I left Sue to do some harvesting and pruning back gooseberry and jostaberry bushes as I'd decided it was time to sort out the area around our greengage trees. It's an area that has suffered from neglect for a good few years now.
It had become a bit of a dumping ground for all those things that might come in useful on the plot one day. As a consequence weeds had taken over much of the space and it was difficult to venture into the area without getting stung by overgrown nettles and thistles.
To add to the confusion there's a large elder bush and a large laurel bush growing in amongst the weeds. They were once planted, or allowed to grow, to give part of the plot some protection from prevailing westerly winds but now cause more of a problem from the amount of shade they cast.
There's all sorts of other debris too that will have to be disposed of, like a couple of old plastic chairs we once used on the plot. I'd already cut down a large conifer tree growing in this area and yesterday's debris was added to this pile of rubbish. It's all compostable or burnable but it's going to take me some time to deal with it all.

I think I might have a winter project.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Last Word on Blight - Promise and Trench Composting

Friday was yet another lovely September day although we had a chilly start to the day as the overnight temperature fell to 6.5°C (43.7°F) a reminder that autumn has arrived.
Temperature & Sunshine Records for 23 September 2016
It's notice that I'll now be posting about coldest nights rather than hottest days.

I visited a friend in Leeds this weeks who's also growing some Crimson Crush tomatoes. Like me all his other tomato plants have been struck down with blight along with some of his potato crop. Crimson Crush however is standing up to the blight pretty well.
I don't think I need to point out which is Crimson Crush.

You may remember I blogged about trying out hot composting which I'd seen on the Grow Veg website. Well I've seen another method on their web site called trench composting. It's similar to how runner bean trenches can be prepared with lots of compostable material been dug into trenches on top of which runner beans are planted. This is essentially the same method except that it is not necessarily for the sole benefit of runner beans.
At this time of year I've mountains of material that either goes on the compost heap or gets put on a bonfire a little later into autumn. Well this year's runner beans have been buried in a trench as I redug this year's main crop potato bed.
I incorporated a couple of trenches in this half of the bed and I've probable enough green material to repeat the process on the other half. Once the bed had been dug over the weed control fabric was replaced.
Will the material form compost by late next spring? I do hope so!

Thursday, 22 September 2016

More Blight Problems & an Anniversary Harvest Photo

Although the weather's not as good as it was in the first couple of weeks of the month it's certainly not too bad for mid to late September.
Temperature & Rainfall Records for September 2016
I thought it was about time I dug up our last few potatoes on the allotment. This bed was planted up from the smallest of the seed potatoes left over when the main beds were planted back in April.
Planting Plan for Potatoes on Plot 28
Despite being planted late in the season they grew well as the photo below shows.
The rows run approximatively left to right across the photo and the first row in the foreground is Vales Sovereign so the varieties can be tied in with the plan at the top.

The Vales Sovereign have been a complete disaster and were devastated by blight. There were virtually no potatoes worth harvesting in the whole row. Most of the crop had turned to a brown mush in the ground.  
Vales Sovereign
This is how the potatoes that could be picked up and removed from the bed looked. Not a pretty sight. This was the first row I lifted so I wasn't holding out much hope for the rest.

Immediately next to the Vales Sovereign was a row of Nadine. Very surprisingly hardly any of this row showed any signs of blight when lifted. I was pretty pleased with the crop seeing as it had come from the smallest left over seed potatoes. Nadine is one of my tried and tested varieties over the years and doesn't normally disappoint.

Nadine
At least this gave me a bit of encouragement to dig up a couple of more rows. Kestrel were the next couple of rows and these weren't too badly blighted either. There were a few potatoes that were clearly affected, and these were disposed of, but I'll need to keep a close eye on the remainder to see if they deteriorate in storage.
Kestrel
So it would seem that some varieties of potatoes are more blight resistant than others. From this very non scientific test I'd suggest that Vales Sovereign have very little blight resistance with both Nadine and Kestrel standing up to blight rather better. It's a shame as the Vales Sovereign lifted a few weeks ago produced a good crop of potatoes but I won't be growing this variety again because of its susceptibility to blight.

I noticed in the evening as I was cataloguing my photographs using Lightroom  that I'd logged my 300th harvesting photo.
I normally take one photograph of each of our harvests which is used in our harvesting records. The photo showing all our harvesting on Tuesday is below.
The potatoes in the small brown dish are all that I dared to save from the row of Vales Sovereign. We'll have to use them first rather than put them into winter storage.


Tuesday, 20 September 2016

It Was Going So Well - Until

Sunday was a lovely dry sunny day compared to Monday which was dull for most of the day until late afternoon when the sun managed to break through the cloud cover.

Even though it was sunny on Sunday the heavy overnight dew on the grass didn't dry up and so I decided against mowing the lawn. After a little overnight rain into Tuesday the grass was again wet but I decided to get it mowed even if it was on the wet side.

After watching a You Tube video last week, suggesting the demise of little point and shoot cameras, as almost everyone now can take a decent photo with their mobile phone, I decided to give my phone a bit of a test.
I didn't think that they were too bad. Now it was at this point that I decided it was about time we tried some of our Vales Sovereign potatoes. This is the first year we've grown this particular variety. Since they were lifted a couple of weeks ago they have been stored in a potato sack in the garage. As the potatoes weren't that easy to reach I put my hand into the sack to feel for a few potatoes. The ones I pulled out looked like this!!
Unless I'm mistaken it looks like blight. The next few potatoes that came out of the bag were okay. I'd better have a look through the bag and see if any more potatoes are affected. I suppose I ought to check through all our sacks of potatoes to see if these few were an isolated occurrence or if it's affected the whole crop of potatoes.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

September Arrives

Over the last few days the hot unseasonable weather that we've been experiencing for the first half of the month faded away and we are now back at the sort of temperatures we might expect for the middle of September.
Temperature, Rainfall & Sunshine Records for 15-17 September 2016
On the allotment we've cut back our butterflyless, butterfly bushes (buddleia) on the plot. Apart from cabbage whites we've seen very few butterflies on the buddleias  while they were in flower over summer. This year's flowering had finished so we decided it was time to give them the chop.
This is how they looked in all their glory through the summer months. Now they look very different with just a few bare stalks remaining around the bases of the plants.
It's also left us with a very large heap of buddleia prunings to be disposed of. Some will make good pea supports for next year once some of the leaves have been removed.
I'm hoping that left over winter they won't root when pushed into the ground as pea supports next spring. Buddleias do seem to have a habit of taking root and producing a new bush given the slightest opportunity.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Blight Resistant - I'm Not Convinced

Wednesday was another lovely mild day for mid September with some sunny spells for good measure. Tuesday night's storms had cleared away leaving us with a dry day.

This year we've grown a blight resistant tomato called Crimson Crush. We grew this variety for the first time last year and thought that the tomatoes tasted good enough to give the variety another go. As nothing on the allotment suffered from blight last year it wasn't much of a test of its blight resistant qualities.
That's not been the case this year. This is how our Sungold tomatoes growing on the plot look. Devastated by blight the crop went from looking lovely and green to this brown looking mess in a few days. Growing alongside these Sungold are three Crimson Crush tomatoes.
At first sight these don't look too bad. They still have some green leaves and the tomatoes appear to be surviving but a closer look reveals they haven't all survived the blight.
These tomatoes on Crimson Crush aren't going to be any use in the kitchen and will be consigned to the compost heap. However, some trusses of tomatoes are still looking OK to harvest and have managed to delay the blight.
This little truss of tomatoes looks to have survived but we're probably going to have more chance of ripening the fruit off the plant.

I'm not sure I'd bother growing Crimson Crush again. It obviously does have some blight resistance but blight will win and take over the plant eventually. Our outdoor plants are the odds and sods that didn't get planted out into the greenhouse and would have been consigned to the compost heap in any case so if we do loose them to blight it's just bad luck.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Hot & Wet Records

Well Tuesday went in for record breaking in a big way. Through the morning the cloud gradually cleared and as the sun broke through the temperature soared. By late afternoon it reached 29.4°C (84.9°F) the highest September temperature I've recorded taking over from 29 September 2011 when the temperature reached 28.4°C or 83.1°F.
Temperature, Sunshine and Rainfall Rate Records for Tuesday, 13 September 2016
That temperature record wasn't the only one of the day as in the early evening we had a thunderstorm and heavy rain. We only had 6.6mm (0.26in) but it fell in a very short space of time and at a highest intensity of 83.4mm/hr (3.28in/hr) the highest of 2016 so far.

In the afternoon we had a trip down to the allotment. I had planned on digging up the last of our potatoes but thought it was a bit too hot for that particular task. I settled for picking some of our apples instead.
I had a look around the plot and our recently planted autumn onion sets and brassicas looked a little bit on the dry side so I decided to give them a drop of water. If only I'd known what was to fall naturally from the sky in a few hours time I needn't have bothered.