Sunday, 31 July 2011

Indoor and outdoor grapes

Saturday was fine, dry and warm with the afternoon temperature up to 23.7°C. This was after another chilly July night when the temperature fell to 8.2°C.

Our indoor grapes are coming on a treat and look like they might be ready in a couple of weeks time. I’m not sure I’ll be able to risk the temptation of testing one that long as the grapes are seedless and very sweet.
Grape - Himrod
In stark contrast, on the plot, are our outdoor grapes. These much younger vines planted in 2009 not only managed to survive last winter’s cold spell but were severely affected by a late spring frost. They have some grapes on them but these are only immature fruits compared to the ones in our greenhouse and I doubt these will have time to mature before the cold weather arrives. 
Grape - Madeleine Sylvaner

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Clumber Park - Walled Kitchen Garden

After Thursdays high temperature it was back to normal on Friday. We made a visit to Clumber Park and had a look round the walled kitchen garden.
It appears like us that they too are suffering from a lack of rainfall with the most obvious signs being the dry lawn paths and some plants in the herbaceous borders suffering too. 

I was surprised to find this article in the Daily Telegraph this week regarding the rainfall. The article goes on to quote the Met Office as follows;

The appraisal comes as forecasters predicted another week of mixed weather, and despite statistics showing above-average rainfall for May, June and July.Met Office figures show that in the first two weeks of this month alone, Britain was deluged with 2.4in (62.1mm) of rain – 89 per cent of the average total rainfall for the whole month. Rainfall was also up by 48 and 14 per cent for May and June respectively.
If the article had stated much or many parts of Britain was deluged with…. then that would be fine. But all Britain hasn't had this deluge of rain and nor was our rainfall above average for May and June. In both cases it was well below average. So exactly how do the Met Office arrive at these figures.

Since having a very wet February our rainfall from March to July is well below average.

Our average long term rainfall figures are February 47.8mm, March 41.9mm, April 57.9mm May 51.4mm, June 55.2mm and July 42.7mm. The graph of actual rainfall shows just how much we are below these average figures.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Saving the warmest to last

The hottest day of July with the temperature reaching 27.3°C. The temperature at 05:30 in the morning was just 9.8°C rising to 27.3°C by early afternoon. In the afternoon it was a lot more cloudy but remained very warm. It was another day without any rain.
On the plot our dahlias have been struggling in the dry weather especially as we have concentrated on trying to keep our vegetables watered. However our plants raised from seed are now starting to give us some cut flowers. A bit like our potatoes the dahlias haven’t made much top growth but at least we will find out the colours of our dahlias raised this year from seed. I’ve still to make up my mind how or even if we will store these tubers over winter.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Almost but not quite a repeat

Wednesday was almost an exact repeat of the last few days except that the sun didn't manage to break through in the afternoon. It was cloudy all day but still feeling mild, a bit muggy and dry.

With the weather indifferent this week lots of bird pictures have been snapped. Our feathered friends have been making lots of use of our bird bath. Our flock of sparrows have taken a liking to our feeder containing sunflower hearts and seeds. It's all action on the feeders for most of the day.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Tops aren’t everything

Tuesday's weather followed much the same pattern as yesterday with the sun not managing to break through until the early afternoon. We then had a very pleasant afternoon with plenty of sunshine and the temperature judge nudging 20°C.

The tops to most of our early potatoes have just about turned brown. In general our potatoes have produced little top growth this year compared to other years. The tops normally spread out onto our grass paths but not this year as they’ve remained small and within the bounds of their bed. I’ve assumed this is due to lack of water and that the crop underneath would be poor and consist of only small potatoes.
I decided to dig up our Winston crop. These are the tubers remaining after our sacks were planted up and they were planted outside in a short row to follow on from our indoor crop.
In sacks Winston had produced extensive haulms with good thick stems giving a good crop of potatoes.
I was amazed by the size of individual potatoes and the weight of the crop. Indeed most of the potatoes were a large size with very few small potatoes. The feeble haulms on top gave no indication of the size of the crop beneath. Our outdoor plants produced a 20.2kg crop along with 9.7kg from our sacks from 1 kg of seed potatoes purchased for £1.68.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Rather dull

After yesterday's sunshine Monday was dull and cloudy for most of the day. The sun did manage to break through in the afternoon but it was rather hazy through the clouds rather than bright sunshine. There was certainly far less sunshine recorded than for the last few days. It did feel pleasantly warm in the sunshine.

It looks like we are heading towards another dryer than average month. We've had just over 50% of expected rainfall for the month so far and there doesn't look to be any substantial rainfall forecast for Ossett before the end of the month. So far just 23mm in the month.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Best for a while

It was our sunniest day since the beginning of the month and a touch milder than the last few days. As the over night temperature fell into single figures again the day as a whole didn't improve the month's cool average figure of 16°C.

On the plot it was broad beans harvesting time. After a germination failure with our first Crimson Flowered broad beans our second attempt has been very successful. The key to succulent broad beans is picking them young before the beans mature in the pod. This is especially important with the Crimson Flowered variety. It saves all that effort of shelling broad beans as seen on fine dining programmes where a helping of broad beans consists of just a couple of beans but of course they are beautifully placed on the plate. 

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Stepping up the protection

Saturday was a pleasant sunny day with a decent amount of sunshine but somehow didn't feel like the middle of summer. Overnight it was cold for the time of year once again.

We've still got plenty of seedlings in our cold frame growing on waiting to be transplanted in the plot. It’s all too easy to lose these precious seedlings to our ravenous snail population. The copper tape has done its job for a couple of weeks so I’ve splashed out and purchased some copper treated fabric for hopefully the ultimate in slug and snail protection.
Our latest batch of lettuce seedlings have survived attack from the slugs and snails so far and are growing well in the cold frame. I've some calabrese plants growing well along with some Sweet Williams seedlings which will soon be ready for transplanting. We've also a late crop of French Beans just germinating as our early sowings are very disappointing probably due to the dry weather. It’s just about time to be sowing some spring cabbages too which will be germinated in the cold frame where they can receive a bit of extra attention over sowings in the plot.
My seedlings are now in trays supported by plastic buckets which are placed on the protective matting so any prospective slugs or snails have a tricky journey to make over the matting to get their night time meal.
I’ll keep an update of how this trial is progressing.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Aptly named

Friday was a disappointingly cool day for the middle of July with a high of 17.7°C and producing the lowest mean daily temperature of the month of 13.4°C. The overnight low was a chilly 8.0°C. Unless the temperatures improve the month will turn out to be cooler than average.
The current average for the month is about 1°C below expected at 16.0°C.

We picked our first tomato today which was German Red Strawberry from the plot greenhouse. It’s probably fair to call it a dead heat between that and Gardeners Delight growing in our home greenhouse.
I must say it’s very apt for it to have strawberry in its name as it certainly does take on a strawberry shape. It’s pictured alongside one of our Marshmello strawberries which are rather unexpectedly producing a crop of very tasty berries on the plot.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Gardeners Delight

After a cloudy start on Thursday it brightened up and we had a pleasant sunny afternoon. The only light shower was in the very early hours of the morning. We've had rainfall on 12 of the 21 days of July but in relatively small amounts so it could well be another month with below average rainfall. 

Our German Red Strawberry has been overtaken at the last moment by this Gardeners Delight tomato - the first ripe tomato of the season. 
There’s not much to a Gardeners Delight tomato to share between two but quality will make up for quantity.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Wettest day of the month

Wednesday was another cloudy day with only a few brief spells of sunshine. The clouds got darker during the afternoon to give a series of heavy showers around 17:00 enough to make it our wettest day of the month.

This picture doesn’t do the clouds much justice as they looked far more ominous as the rain headed our way.
I was expecting our cherry tomatoes to produce the first ripe fruits of the season but at the moment it looks like German Red Strawberry is going to take the honours in the plot greenhouse.
Just in case you were wondering the tomato is growing at this strange angle and the picture doesn't need rotating through 90°.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

A job and a half

Tuesdays weather was a big improvement, warmer with some spells of sunshine and just light mid morning shower.

I’ve been putting off digging our winter brassica bed for a while now, hoping for some rain to soften the dry rock hard soil up a little. I don't think that’s going to happen so as my plants are on order I couldn’t put the clearing off any longer.
Last summer this bed was filled with potatoes and a selection of sunflower weeds. The potatoes didn't produce much of a crop maybe due to being crowded out with sunflowers. Part of the crop didn't get lifted and was left in the ground over winter.
In spring the bed was full of foxgloves all self sown so with plenty of other jobs to get on with the foxgloves were left to their own devices. At the height of flowering they looked very attractive.

Now the foxgloves have finished the bed was left with a mixture foxgloves, fennel, teasels and plenty of weeds all needing to be cleared to allow the bed to be dug and to settle before our brassica plants arrive. The ground was hard and very dry.
After removing many barrow fulls of weeds the bed was at least clear of vegetation.
The task remaining is to dig over the bed. That’s easy to say but I reckon it’s going to be a tough job. A day of rain would do much to help but that doesn't seem to be in the forecast for the next few days. I feel some more hard work coming on.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Miserable Monday

The spell of poor weather continued on Monday with the lowest daytime temperature of the month just 16.9°C. Once again a cloudy day, low temperatures and just 0.2mm of rain to show for it.

The cool weather hasn’t stopped the duckweed spreading in the pond. It’s almost taken over the entire pond surface so much of it was cleared out today to allow the fish to see daylight.
It’s early days in my slug deterrent trial but so far things are looking good. My latest lettuce sowings are just starting to germinate and along with the other seedlings in this tray they have escaped any starving snails looking for an easy meal.
I’m surprised we haven’t had more rain as I felt sure once I  placed the tray outside it would pour down and the tray would fill with water. So far just enough rain to keep the seedlings watered.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Cloudy but no rain

Sunday was a damp and cloudy day. The weather has turned poor for the middle of July. At least if we have to have dull weather some decent rainfall would help to make up for the dull overcast conditions. Sunday had short spells of drizzle on and off all day giving the day a totally damp feel yet only 0.8mm of rain fell.
Unfortunately the forecast for the next few days is for little change with predominantly cloudy and cool conditions. Despite the conditions our nectarines are not only hanging on but continuing to get bigger. I wonder if they have any chance of ripening if the weather doesn’t improve?

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Growing on

Some welcome rain on Friday although to be honest not enough as a dull damp day resulted in only 3.6mm from a few spells of light rain. It wasn't a day for visiting the plot.

Our grapes are starting to swell nicely. The root of the vine is planted just inside the greenhouse but it’s never watered and yet it’s still producing an excellent crop once again this year. I hope the grapes will be ready for eating by the middle of August.

Is this an adult robin or one of our juveniles who has now got its adult plumage? For the last few weeks we've seen a few juvenile robins about just starting to get their adult plumage but no adults.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Just kidding

Friday had the promise of rain but as usual didn't deliver. Harvesting and weeding on the plot felt like a race against the rain which from the black clouds over the plot looked like it was about to bucket it down at any moment. 
The total by midnight just 0.4mm and as usual this year the rain didn't arrive.

Our Charlotte potato haulms are starting to turn yellow. I don’t expect this to happen until the first weeks of August normally but the long spell of dry weather has taken its toll. Obviously as our potatoes beneath are not going to do any more growing we decided to see if we actually had any potatoes under the haulms at all. 
While the crop was certainly disappointing at least we had some decent sized potatoes. I half expected to just have a few very tiny immature potatoes so at least we have some harvest to look forward to. A bonus of the dry weather, well there was absolutely no slug damage. 
The remaining crop might as well be left in the ground to do any extra growing they can before they are lifted for winter storage.  

Friday, 15 July 2011

Bright start, turning cloudy

It was a bright sunny and cool start to Thursday. The overnight low had fallen to a rather chilly 7.9°C. By lunchtime it had warmed up but then the clouds rolled in to give us a dull, cloudy afternoon and evening.

On July 14th last year (a Wednesday) we had our wettest day I’ve recorded. An extract from my blog post follows.

Well Wednesday really made up for the lack of rain with two thunderstorms giving torrential rain. The first storm broke around 17:30 and lasted about an hour, giving around 15mm of rain. At one point in the storm the rainfall was fast enough to give us all July's rainfall in just 20 minutes. The second storm began around 21:30 and deposited another 15mm or so in the next hour. The rainfall for the day was 33.4mm……….

I noticed that I thought it was a dry spell last year until these storms arrived so I’ve done a little comparison of the spring and summer rainfall up to and including the 14th July. All the values are in mm.

No wonder crops are struggling as it’s certainly a dry growing season. The forecast for the next few days is for rain. If July remains dry our 12 monthly running total for rainfall will take a dramatic drop as in July 2010 we had double the amount of anticipated rainfall in the month and this of course will drop out of the running 12 monthly total.

In the greenhouse this variety of tomato is German Red Strawberry and it looks like producing some large tomatoes. 

I can see why its got strawberry in its name as it certainly has a strawberry shape to the fruit. All I need now is for it to take on a nice red strawberry colour.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Nothing special

Wednesday was a fairly ok sort of a day. We had a reasonable amount of sunshine but with the wind still from the north east it took the edge off  the temperature. I keep reading reports of how wet the month has been but that’s not the case here.
Our fruit trees and bushes are producing good crops this year making up for what looks like a poor year for vegetables due to the dry weather. Our Peasgood Nonsuch apple tree is loaded with fruit.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Feeling cool

Tuesday was a mostly cloudy day. It was noticeable that the wind had moved around into a north or north easterly direction and it certainly took the edge of the temperature making it feel a little cool.

My carefully nurtured lettuce and calabrese seedlings have been moved into my snail protection zone or at least that’s what I’m hoping. My next batch of lettuce  sowing have also been placed in this tray so it’s now fingers crossed that the snails are kept out by some tiny electric shocks from the copper tape.
If this is successful then I'll be using this method to sow my spring cabbage seeds in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Where’s my lettuce gone?

Monday was a much better day with some long sunny periods and warm.

We had been lucky this year with slug and snail damage but that's ended now. This is all that's left of my last batch of lettuce seedlings. A few days ago these were good plants just about ready for transplanting in the plot. Not anymore after a couple of nights of snail attack there's just nothing left. They've also been at some flower seedlings too so I'm going to have to try to keep the snails away from my young seedlings.

Plan 1 is to fix a strip of copper tape around the edge of a large watering tray and keep my precious seedlings in this tray. The copper tape has worked well protecting our hostas in pots so I'm going to test out further possibilities. Watch this space for more experimentation. In the meantime I'd better get some more lettuce seed sown.

Monday, 11 July 2011

A dull day

Sunday turned out to be a dull and cloudy day which is pretty unusual this summer as we've normally had some sunshine during the day. 
A casualty of last winter was our pond side gunnera. It wasn’t exactly killed off but only produced a few weak new shoots and so we decided it was time for a change. A consequence of removing the gunnera is our water lily gets much more light and after a few flowerless years  in the shade has produced some flowers this year.

Our outdoor cucumber (Burpless Tasty Green) planted in our experimental air pot is doing well and now has its first tiny cucumbers forming. Its doing better than the ones at the plot as it’s getting a bit more TLC.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Improving as it goes

Saturday started off dull and cloudy but improved as the day went along and by early afternoon it was warm and sunny if just a bit breezy at times.
We made the most of the fine weather to harvest some soft fruit on the plot. For the first time our new raspberry and blackcurrant bushes are providing us with a plentiful supply of berries  this year.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Thundery showers

Friday was a miserable cloudy day with some heavy but brief showers. It seems that for the last few weeks we have missed the heaviest of the rain and although we had 4.4mm today I think it could easily have been a lot more.

At 16:30 the clouds got darker and thunder was rumbling in the distance. In the end it was almost dark and if you look at the solar radiation chart you will see that the value fell almost to zero at 16:30. The rain started as though it meant to make up for the last few dry months all in one go but it only lasted for a few minutes. Perhaps somewhere close by got a real soaking. 

Today's rain was enough to bring the actual rainfall above the expected amount for the 8th of the month by 0.6mm. It’s the first time since February that actual rainfall has exceeded expected at any time in the month. There’s still a long way to go in July but it has been a wet month for the last few years.