Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Drought Hit Casablanca Potatoes

On Monday afternoon I decided to lift a few of our Casablanca early potatoes. The photos tell the story better than any words.
Last year two rows of Casablanca potatoes produced 30kg. I lifted one quarter of this year's crop which produced 1.5kg. If anyone had asked me which beds had the best soil for cultivation at the beginning of the season I'd have said the four beds on plot 42 which is where these potatoes were planted. I've no idea how to get this soil back into a workable condition. I had planned to sow a green manure crop once the bed was cleared of its potato crop but that's not possible with the ground in its current state. Some rain might improve things but there's none of that in the forecast for the next seven days.

We did have some rain late on Monday night which amounted to 0.8mm (0.03in) but that won't have any effect at all and the sunshine early on Tuesday morning will have dried up any moisture left on the top of the ground.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Hottest Day of the Month

July has been a hot month but until Sunday none of the days had been hot enough to make it into my table of top twenty hottest days. Sunday changed that as the temperature reached 29.7°C (85.5°F) moving it into 12th place in the table but at the expense of loosing another of this year's entries which was set on 28 June at 29.0°C or 84.2°F.
Top Twenty Hottest Days (2010 - Date)
Our early crop of calabrese was over very quickly which I put down to the hot, dry weather. I thought the same might happen to the cabbages and cauliflowers. I couldn't decide whether the best option was to continue watering them or leave them on the dry side to see if they would last longer. In the end I decided to keep watering them. They've lasted much better than I expected but the crop is now coming to an end.
Cauliflower - Helsinki
Cabbage - Regency
Calabrese - Aquiles
Although the main calabrese heads were soon over we're managing to harvest a few side shoots on most visits to the plot.

It won't be long now before the bed needs clearing. My plan was to clear away the brassica plants, dig over the bed and then sow it with a crop of green manure using Buckwheat and Grazing Rye. However, that was assuming the very dry spell of weather had come to an end and the bed would be in a suitable state to dig over. As the dry weather and almost total lack of rainfall continues I'm not sure what state the bed will be in once the weed control fabric is removed. At the moment there's not much rain forecast in the next 7 days so I'm not hopeful of the weather being any help in preparing this bed for sowing green manure.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Dry Spell Broken - Just!

It didn't really live up to the Met Office severe weather warning of thunderstorms and heavy rain for Friday afternoon and evening. All we managed was 1.6mm (0.06in) of drizzly rain late on Friday evening but it was enough to bring to an end a rain free 24 day period.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 14 June - 14 July 2018
That's the longest spell without any rain in the last eight years. It's not the easiest of records to spot but I reckon the next longest spell of dry weather was 14 days in May 2010.

The forecast of thunderstorms beginning on Friday lunchtime didn't stop us having the day out at RSPB Bempton Cliffs on the Yorkshire coast. It's a great place for spotting the nesting sea birds at this time of the year.
RSPB Bempton Cliffs
We've now got lots of photos and video of the gannets, guillemots, razorbills and puffins to sort out and edit.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Are Your Runners Beans Setting?

I’ve seen a few posts on Facebook about the first trusses of runner bean flowers not setting any beans. I've also seen a few lucky gardeners picking their first beans. I’m assuming that the flowers failing to set beans is down to the weather. On our watering visit to the plot I decided to check out how ours were doing as they’re just coming into flower.
Runner Bean - Firestorm
The runner beans certainly aren’t setting any beans despite the best effort of this bee to pollinate them. Hopefully, they’ll decide to set some beans higher up as the plants continue to climb up the supports.

It was better news when I checked out our climbing French beans Cobra. Checking out the lowest flower trusses they are beginning to set some beans. 
Climbing French Beans - Cobra
Hopefully, conditions aren’t too bad and our runners will get the message and start setting fruit too. The beans should go on growing well into autumn so there’s plenty of time for the beans to form. In the meantime we've plenty of cabbage ready and a steady stream of cauliflowers to cut.
Cabbage - Regency & Cauliflower - Helsinki
Our calabrese still keeps producing a few side shoots too so we've plenty of fresh vegetables for the cooking pot.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Sweet Pea Picking

We still haven't had any rain, although the last time I checked, one weather model was hinting at some rain on Friday night into Saturday morning. Thunderstorms, at one time predicted for Thursday night, seem to have disappeared. It must rain sometime, mustn't it?
Temperature & Rainfall Records 09 June - 09 July 2018
Trips to the allotment have taken on a bit of a routine in order to get everything watered as best we can. We fit other jobs in between watering but we make sure we harvest as much as possible on each visit.
Sometimes I think it's a bit of a shame to cut flowers, grown on the plot, for displays at home. However, we get to see them more when they are cut for home. Usually, one of our last jobs is to pick all the sweet peas. If the flowers are left they set seed forming pods and the sweet peas stop flowering.
It's not a very time consuming job and as soon as they are cut the flowers are placed in a small container of water to keep them as fresh as possible for the journey home.
By the time we've finished picking the sweet pea trellis looks like this.
It's usually a couple of days before we visit the plot again by which time with any luck we'll have another batch of flowers ready to pick. On our return we expect the sweet pea trellis to look something like this.
With a bit of luck this will go on through the summer and into early autumn.

Friday, 6 July 2018

What To Do First? - Water or Pick

We headed to the allotment on Thursday afternoon. To be honest we weren't sure what was going on as these big black things in the sky had blotted out the sunshine. Was the world coming to an end?

Seriously though when we got to the plot we didn't know whether or not to begin by watering plants or picking fruit.
We've heard that those big black clouds can act as giant watering cans if you're lucky enough to get the right sort of black clouds which we were kind of hoping that these were to save us some time doing this.
So on the grounds that it would be better to pick some fruit first, thinking it might get wet in the rain, we set about picking raspberries, jostaberries, blueberries, gooseberries and a few strawberries for good measure.
We left the plot at just after half past six and the clouds had more or less cleared away and the rain had never arrived. There's always another day.

An odd weather record I noticed this morning is that July 2018 is the driest start to July in the last eight years for us. In all the previous eight years we've had some measurable amount of rainfall in the first four days of the month.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Hottest and Driest

If you've read any of my blog posts over the last month you will not be surprised that June 2018 turned out to be the hottest and driest June I've recorded in the last eight years. Surprisingly, it's only turned out to be the hottest by the narrowest of margins as you'll see in the table below.
Average Temperatures June 2010-2018
Looking through the daily temperatures even though we've had some hot days overnight the temperature has fallen down to 10°C (50°F), or even slightly lower, which is below average for June.

However, June has also turned out to be a very dry month with really no useful rainfall at all. The total for the month amounted to 7.8mm (0.31in) but even that fell in several small amounts and didn't do any good in the garden or allotment. It was the third driest month of the last eight year and it followed on from a very dry May which is just off the table below in eleventh place with 18.2mm or 0.72in. To put these two months into perspective we'd normally expect around 100mm or about 4in of rainfall over this period.
 Driest Months 2010-2018
That lovely lush green landscape we had in the middle of spring has disappeared and been replaced with landscapes that wouldn't look out of place at the end of a long hot summer. Most of our grass paths at the allotment and lawn at home are now a golden brown and needing some rain to freshen them up. No doubt once the rain comes it won't know when to stop but for the moment we've forgotten what wet weather is!
It's all meant lots of watering at the allotment in an attempt to keep things growing but at least now we are beginning to harvest some fruit and vegetables which makes the effort worthwhile.
The weather models don't suggest that the weather pattern is about to change anytime soon. The current forecast is for the dry weather to continue for another two or maybe three weeks although there is the possibility of thunderstorms cropping up on some days.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Hottest June Ever?

It's certainly been a hot few days.
Temperature Records 25-27 June 2018
On both Monday and Tuesday the temperature managed to exceed 30°C (86°F) but on Wednesday it only managed 27.4°C which maintains a record for my weather station in that I've never recorded three consecutive days above 30°C. It means I've had to amend my top twenty hottest days table to take Tuesday into account.
As we approach the end of the month it is obvious that we've had a very warm June and I'm sure we'll soon be told that it's the "hottest ever June" or the "hottest June since records began". So in anticipation I've looked up what I think are the hottest Junes using the Central England Temperature Record.
Data from Hadley Centre Central England Temperature Record
The current value of this year's June average is 16.0°C provisional to the 26th of the month. That puts it into 7th place tying with 1775. With hot weather forecast to the end of the month it is probably going to head up this table but will it finish up hotter than 1846. For comparison my weather stations average for this June is 16.3°C up to the 26th of June.

The hot and sunny weather means there's lots of watering to do at home and at the allotment. It's important to make sure all the plants in the greenhouse and summerhouse get watered or this happens.
Begonia Sutherlandii
This poor plant growing, or was growing, in the summerhouse until my watering regime missed it out. I'm not sure that it will recover but I'll move it to a shaded spot in the greenhouse and see if it sends up some new shoots. Fortunately it's not the only pot of begonia sutherlandii we have. It should look like this-
Begonia Sutherlandii
I'm now being much more careful to make sure all our plants get watered especially our other begonias.