Friday, 21 September 2018

Summer Ends, Drought Ends - Big Time!!

I'm not sure of the official date when astronomical summer ends but weather wise Thursday saw our very dry summer come to a very abrupt end. The rain began reasonably gently early afternoon and continued through to almost midnight with some bouts of very heavy rain mixed in.
Temperature & Rainfall September 2018
After a very dry summer Thursday saw a rainfall total of 41.6mm (1.64in), in less than 12 hours, making it the wettest day of summer. That's a typical month's rainfall in half a day! Since May we haven't had a monthly total as high as that. It's certainly brought our drought to an end. However,  as you can see from the table below, it's also taken over as the wettest day we've had since 2010.
There seems to be a few instances of local flooding as drains not used to rainfall couldn't cope. We managed to find one such spot in Wakefield last night.
It will be interesting to see what effect all the rain has had at the allotment. Will we have gone from too dry to do any digging to too wet with almost one month's rainfall in less than 12 hours?

To add insult to injury it became very windy Thursday night into Friday morning with my weather station recording a wind gust of 30mph. That's another September record as it's the highest wind speed I've recorded in September.
The wind abated through the early hours of Friday morning and a quick look around the garden doesn't reveal any damage apart from a blown over bird feeder. That's now back in an upright position and the feeders filled up so the birds will be happy.

We'll have to plan a trip to the plot to check if there is any damage there and to see if soil conditions are suitable for digging or whether the ground will have gone from too dry to too wet. If the latter is the case we will have had an amazing turn around in the space of one day!

Thursday, 20 September 2018

A Rainy Day - At Last!

We haven't visited the plot since Monday. We've had a few other things to do and with a couple of early autumn storms turning the weather very windy we have given plotting a miss. Thursday afternoon is turning out to be wet, one of the wettest days we have had since early spring.

On our visit on Monday I made a short video of how the plot was looking in the middle of September.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Autumn has Arrived

After a lovely warm start to the month it's been downhill ever since, to such an extent that the month's average temperature is now just that, distinctly average for the middle of September.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 01-15 September 2018
There's no doubt that the allotment has taken on a noticeable autumnal feel as beds are cleared of summer crops and harvesting moves on to apples and pears.
However, one theme from summer is continuing and that is our continuing lack of rainfall. So far this month we've had some sort of precipitation on 10 days out of 16 including some rain today, Sunday. It's amounted to a grand total of 13.6mm (0.54in) falling in lots of small amounts which do nothing to alleviate the bone dry soil at the allotment and in the garden.
We did manage to plant our winter onions last week besides clearing more beds at the allotment. As the cleared beds are too dry to dig over, the backlog of beds that need digging over is building up at an alarming rate. None of the beds will be needed for planting or sowing seeds until next spring so there's no particular rush, but it's a job I like to do in short stints rather than have lots to do together.
We're not having to spend as much time watering at the allotment, as crops take longer to dry out now the weather is much cooler than on those hot summer days. Some crops though have still got plenty of time left in the ground before they're harvested. Our leeks have grown well but until some wet weather arrives they'll still need watering even if it's not as often. It would be a shame if we forgot them now after watering them for the last two or three months. The same can be said of our carrots, parsnips and winter brassicas.
The weather next week will be governed by the remnants of ex-tropical storm Helene. Whilst it might bring some mild southerly winds on the other hand they might just be strong enough to be gale force and there maybe even some wet weather as well. However, with the exact track of the storm still unknown there's a great deal of uncertainty about next week's weather.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Autumn Clearing Jobs

I'm not sure whether it's me or not but autumn seems to be well underway this year. The weather has turned cool for early September, although we are still awaiting some prolonged wet weather. At the allotment we're well into clearing beds of their summer crops. 
The above beds have been cleared of climbing French and runner beans. Ideally I'd have liked to dig over the bed but I think the soil will be far too dry and hard for cultivating even though the beans were well watered through the summer. The only rain we get at the moment comes in dribs and drabs which does nothing for our bone dry soil. I did manage to resow one of our beds with a green manure crop. The first sowing of buckwheat in early August hadn't been successful despite our watering efforts. I've resown it with Caliente mustard and I'm hoping for better germination this time around.

One of our cardoon plants has been cut down, a couple of plum trees have been tidied up by removing some of the lower branches and Sue has given our red currants a good cutting back. They were starting to outgrow their allotted space.
Plum Tree - Marjories Seedling 
Although we've spent a good deal of time cutting back and clearing beds we've still had time to do some harvesting.
Harvest Sunday, 09 September 2018
The dry weather this year has meant no blight on our potatoes and tomatoes and, whereas the potatoes have done poorly in the very dry conditions, our outdoor tomatoes have done very well. If all years could be guaranteed to be blight free I think we'd manage without greenhouse grown tomatoes. 

Friday, 7 September 2018

The Wait Goes On!

Harvesting on the plot is slowing down and the regularity of our visits are slowing down too. The start of September has brought with it some much cooler weather but so far no "proper rain". However, as the temperature cools the crops that are still growing will last longer between waterings.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 01-07 September 2018
On the plot it's a case of harvesting and clearing crops and waiting for rain before any beds can be dug over. I've managed to get a couple of beds ready for some flowers seeds and a crop of winter onions and garlic.

Last month a couple of beds were sown with green manure crops. One bed is doing reasonably well and one looks like it will need re-sowing.
This bed was sown with grazing rye in August and germination of the green manure crop has been good. There's also been excellent germination of weed seedlings too so it will be interesting to see how things progress. There's no point showing you a picture of the second bed as it's just a patch of mostly bare earth with very little signs of any germination including weed seeds. 
I'm planning to get some more beds ready to be sown with green manure crops as soon as conditions improve and I've bought some seeds ready to sow as beds are prepared. The seeds don't have to be sown until the end of October but I'd really like to get some in as soon as possible. I might rake over the bed with the failed green manure crop of buckwheat, give it a good watering and re-sow it with some of my new seeds. It's a question of deciding whether to use Mustard Caliente or Autumn Mix.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

End of a Hot Summer

September heralds the start of meteorological autumn and brings to an end a very hot and dry summer in our part of the world. The heat hasn't been the main problem for us, rather the lack of rainfall, as this summer finishes up as the hottest and driest I've recorded.
Some beds on the allotment have been unusable through summer as the hot, dry weather continued to bake our clay soil. The rainfall figures for this summer speak for themselves.
Summer Rainfall Totals 2010-2018
Our total summer rainfall has amounted to what we might expect in any one of the three summer months. No wonder we've had lots of watering to do at the allotment. Of course summer 2018 might be at the bottom of the rainfall table but the positions are reversed for the temperature table.
Summer Temperatures 2010-2018
Little did we know that as the lovely summer weather began in June it would last through into August although August didn't match the standards set by June and July.
RHS Harlow Carr in June 2018
As I've already mentioned August was the poorest of the summer months and didn't manage to top my table of August temperatures coming second to August 2013.
Only a few days into autumn and those hot summer days have disappeared but we're still waiting for some "proper rain".
Until that rain arrives our soil will continue to more resemble concrete that soil. Autumn digging is on hold as all we can do is clear the ground of its summer crops and wait for the rain to arrive. No doubt that once it starts it won't know when to stop. Hard to believe that in April we were waiting for the ground to dry out so that we could start sowing and planting spring crops.

Friday, 31 August 2018

Beginning To Feel a Bit Like Autumn

August began with lovely hot sunny weather but that certainly hasn't lasted and the last week or so has had a distinctly autumnal feel about it. Early on Thursday morning the temperature dipped down to 6.4°C (43.5°F) making it a very chilly start to the day and on Friday morning even lower at 5.2°C or 41.4°F.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 29-31 August 2018
At the allotment there's a bit of an autumnal feel too as we clear away summer crops and begin to harvest apples and plums. However, the allotment remains very dry and although crops can be cleared away to the compost heap the ground is far too hard to dig over. After rain last weekend I though I'd dig over the summer onion bed.
The onions had been lifted a few weeks ago and placed into boxes to be stored over winter. I thought the rain would have softened the soil up and it would be easy to dig over. I was wrong, in fact, it was difficult to tell there had been any rain. I did manage to turn over a couple of spades of soil but it was tough going and I didn't think it was worth carrying on.
The problem is that the number of beds that we are clearing are mounting up and ideally they all need digging over before any bad weather sets in. To make matters worse there's still no "proper rain" in the forecast for the next week to ten days so our drought conditions look as though they will continue on into the first weeks of September.

However, the good news is that the fine sunny weather looks set to return and we may well be in for a very nice spell of September weather. Apart from the possibility of a few showers there's certainly no prolonged wet weather in the forecast.
Ten Day Forecast Based on GFS Weather Model from
If you choose your photographic location carefully the plot still looks summery especially our perennial bed.
Rose - Jacqueline du Pre
Our roses have seemed to enjoy the long hot summer and have been flowering since the end of May. However, our cardoons are now looking very sorry for themselves.
The bees are now having to look elsewhere for their nectar fix as the flower heads have now died off. It's been windy enough to break some of the thick stems so the saw will have to come out and they will be removed to the compost heap. At least it's a job that doesn't depend on it raining.

Monday, 27 August 2018

I'm to Blame

It was only on Friday that I posted that it was absolutely ages since we'd had a thoroughly wet day and then a couple of days later one comes along. To make matters worse it's waited for a holiday weekend.
  Temperature & Rainfall Records 01-27 August 2018
As you will notice from the chart above not only have we had some rain but the temperature has been much cooler too which means that the rainfall isn't drying up as quickly as it falls.
Bank Holiday Monday hasn't started off very well either with a dull damp start to the morning. It's forecast to be much brighter with some sunny spells though. There isn't much rain in the forecast for the next week to ten days but hopefully Saturday’s total of 9.4mm(0.37in) will save us watering duties at the plot for a few days.