Wednesday, 31 August 2011

In a rut

The dull and cool weather continued on Tuesday. Some light rain in the afternoon didn't amount to much so it looks like this will be the 6th month in a row where our rainfall has been substantially below expected.

On the plot our carrots in potato sacks are growing well but the ones with a scarf around them due to the top of the potato bag not been turned down look to be growing a little bit better. 
The carrots below sown at the same time are growing but not as well. The only obvious difference in their growing conditions is that the potato sack top is turned down leaving them more exposed to the cold winds of late.
I've now unfolded the top of the sack to give the seedlings a little more protection.

We've had a swift reply from Dobies regarding our poor quality plants. They're contacting their supplier to send out another batch and if that's not possible they will refund our costs. A far cry from the response from Marshalls which was basically the plants were fine and we didn't know what we were talking about. After a rather long telephone call they too offered us our money back - but at the moment they haven’t put their money where their mouth is. After more than two weeks they still haven't returned our payment.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

A dull and cool day for August

Just a few bits of sunshine on Monday. The temperature didn't quite make 17°C and the wind was still blustery but not as strong as yesterday.
After the rain of the last few days I thought it was time I turned my attention to cultivating one or two beds on the plot, some to prepare for autumn planting and others to be tidied up ready to be left over winter. The rain hadn't made much difference to the condition of the soil which surprising dug pretty well but was bone dry underneath the surface.
Progress is now underway at clearing our old strawberry beds. Two beds have been cleared and dug and a start made on clearing the third. At least the cooler August weather is good for undertaking rather more energetic jobs on the plot than just harvesting.

Just a note on my harvesting page(s) as I’ve now improved the pictures as clicking on the picture now opens a full size image allowing our harvests to be seen with all their blemishes. This only works from August page 2 and onwards.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Just plain miserable

There was a strong cold wind blowing on Sunday. It dried up in the morning from a couple of very early morning showers which gave us another 0.4mm of rain. It all helps especially as I expect the wind will be having a drying effect.

In our sheltered garden anything gusting above 10.0 mph is windy giving our trees a bit of a bashing. Compared with Irene, not even a breeze, but windy for us never the less. The wind was at it worst in the afternoon and calmed down late in the evening.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

I think it’s autumn

No rain to speak of on Saturday. Autumn seems to have arrived though. It was a little chilly in the morning after the overnight temperature once again fell into single figures. It was pleasant enough harvesting on the plot in the afternoon but even the plot has an autumnal look as beds are cleared of their summer crops.

The bed at the top of the picture to the left has been cleared of peas, french beans and lettuce, the centre bed of potatoes and the bed to the right garlic, shallots and onions. The beds to the bottom of the picture are our old strawberry beds which we are in the process of clearing.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Two wet days in a row

Even more incredibly Friday was another wet day by our standards. Only fractionally more rain fell today (8.4mm) than yesterday but that makes it our wettest day since 26th February 2011. It was the first time since May 16th that we had zero hours of sunshine and just for good measure it was our coldest day of the month with a high of just 14.5°C and daily average of 11.9°C.

Our brassica collection of plug plants arrived from Dobies today. They were in a sorry state with some of the plants broken just above soil level and in one case an empty cell altogether. I’ve contacted Dobies to get their comments. It looks like I might have to start growing my own winter brassica plants if this is the best the seed companies can offer.

I did manage to get some half reasonable plants potted on but that’s not what I expect when I buy one of these collections. Web sites boast about how the plants will be dispatched when they are in their optimum condition. That’s clearly not the case. In previous years the plants have been fine but this year my two purchases of vegetable plug plants have been extremely disappointing.

These are the best of the plug plants in the collection. I’m sure that with some careful nurturing I'll be able to produce some plants suitable for transplanting into the plot.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Peach of a day

Incredibly Thursday was a fairly wet day for us with 7.2mm of rain falling overnight. Even with the cloudy conditions the temperature fell back into single figures. It brightened up in the morning to leave us with a warm and sunny afternoon.

We could resist the temptation no longer. One of our prize nectarines looked to be getting some mouldy spots so we decided it was time to test out the crop. 

The nectarines still look more like peaches having a slightly furry skin rather than the smooth skin I associate with a nectarine. The fruits had a lovely sweet smell but were still firm. Their taste was delicious better than anything bought from the supermarket. So I'm not sure whether our tree is a peach or a nectarine.  I’m not bothered with fruit of this quality. I never really expected to be able to produce any worthwhile fruits so these delicious peaches/nectarines were a real bonus.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Warm afternoon

It was cool overnight on Wednesday with the temperature dropping into single figures, not for the first time this month, but it warmed up through the day with the temperature into the low 20’s by mid afternoon. We had some light rain which started late in the evening.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

More cloud

There was much more cloud about on Tuesday and it was a little bit cooler. A shower in the early hours of the morning had dried up overnight and the rest of the day was dry. No sign of the rain forecast at the beginning of the week and it was certainly warmer than expected. August is turning out to be another dry month.

I’m struggling to get winter lettuce to germinate. The last sowings I made were one tray of Little Gem for harvesting in autumn and one tray of Arctic King to see how this fared through winter.
My tray of Little Gem is doing well and it’s just about time to thin them out to leave one seedling per cell. On the other hand my tray of Arctic King couldn’t be more different. Sown at the same time and in the same compost not one single seed has germinated.
I think I'll try sowing another tray of seeds and see if they do any better. If not, perhaps it just a duff packet of seeds.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Another summer's day sees our onions harvested

We made the most of another fine summer's day to get our onion crop lifted.
With one part of the crop drying off in our plot greenhouse we now have the happy problem of finding somewhere to dry the remainder of our bumper onion harvest. I’ve now weighed all our onions, this time with my brain engaged, and our harvest comes in at 72.8kg or 162.2lbs. The first part of the crop was weighed with a mixture of kg and lbs because I didn’t read the scales properly. Now I’ve sorted out that mix up I’m sure the new weight is the correct.

We had a sudden panic when we saw the weather forecast at the beginning of the week thinking that with rain forecast it would be good to get our onions somewhere dry rather than leave them to get wet in the rain. This was a bit of wishful thinking, as we wanted the rain to help moisten some of the beds on the plot so they could be dug ready for planting up with winter onions (yes even more onions), brassicas and some cut flowers for next spring.

From today’s forecast the rain looks to have disappeared. Hail showers for Friday is unlikely to produce any decent amount of rainfall required for the plot. 

Monday, 22 August 2011

Onion concerns

A second summery day in a row with the temperature approaching the mid twenties and plenty of sunshine.

We suddenly have a concern about our onions. They have produced an excellent crop this year and are drying off well, still left in the ground, and it’s been so dry for months drying them off hasn't been top of our agenda. 

Then we thought what if the forecast for the week is correct this time and we get three days of rain this week it would be such a shame for our onions to get a soaking.

It’s a bit of a problem deciding where to put them to keep dry. The greenhouse is full with tomato plants but we decided some onions could be brought under the cover of the greenhouse and left on the greenhouse path.

The produce of one of our onion beds is now stored in the greenhouse protected from any rain which is forecast for the week. These onions are Hitech, Hyred and Marshalls Fen Early. They weighed in at a healthy 77.0kg. It’s about half our crop! Lots of onion soup this winter. 

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Felt like summer

Generally a milder day today making it feel a little more summery. It threatened some rate in the late afternoon as more cloudy conditions arrived but as usual it remained dry here.

We’ve been here before but the forecast for next week suggests we ought to get some rain.
It wouldn’t be the first time a forecast like this has left us without rain by the time we get to Friday. On the plot I’m going to clear away our old pea haulms so that any rain that does fall will not be wasted on dried up plants and will fall directly on the soil. I hope this bed can then be dug ready for planting winter onions and Sweet Williams for next spring. 

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Potato Update

I've added the weight of seed potatoes purchased to the table which shows why some crops have produced larger harvests.
 All our potatoes were bought from Alan Romans

A Record

Our decent spell of weather continued on Friday. Not what you would call real summer weather but good for working on the plot.

I’ve certainly completed a first this year in having dug up all my potato crop in August. It’s always been towards the end of September or even the beginning of October by the time they’re usually lifted. This year has been exception. No rain, they haven’t been watered, virtually no tops, no blight, no slug damage yet an excellent crop of potatoes. Gardening always throws up some surprises. So our completed harvest looks like this.

At the moment it looks like our runner beans are going to save the day for stocking up the freezer for winter vegetables. Our peas failed to produce any freezable quantities and our sweet corn is struggling too. We are only picking small quantities of french beans so it’s good news that the runner’s are starting to produce plenty of beans.
Runner Beans - Painted Lady

Friday, 19 August 2011

Edinburgh v Ossett

It was a cool start to Thursday but it did eventually manage to warm up by late morning to give a sunny afternoon. Once again there was  plenty of rain about with flash flooding reported in the south of the UK. It remained dry here until late in the evening when we had our usual sprinkling of rain amounting to 1.2mm.

Any regular readers will know that our main problem this year in both garden and plot is lack of rain. Following on from a dry March each subsequent month has resulted in below average rainfall. We are still waiting for a really wet day or days to get the ground into a suitable state for digging.

Courtesy of Mal who gave me a link to Edinburgh Botanic Gardens weather information I've produced a  comparison of July’s weather for Edinburgh and Ossett.

The first chart shows wet days together with maximum and minimum temperatures for July. I think we've had slightly better temperatures which is to be expected as we’re about 170 miles south of Edinburgh. 

Edinburgh wins comfortably in the rainfall stakes with 448.1mm compared with our 218.0mm between January and July this year. 
We've definitely had a difficult growing year due to the lack of rain, I suspect Edinburgh could have managed with a little less.

We have no rain forecast now until next Tuesday so that should give me time to finish lifting my remaining potato crop. It also means our winter crops will need more watering.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

An afternoon walk

Wednesday turned out nice with plenty of hazy rather than brilliant sunshine and the temperature once again just making it to a little over 20°C. This seems to be as good as we can expect this summer.

We had an afternoon trip to Taylors Clematis Nursery near Doncaster to collect a newly arrived acquisition to add to our growing collection. As we are also  doggy sitting for a few days we visited Anglers Country Park and had a pleasant afternoon stroll around the lake.
Anglers Country Park

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Harvesting continues

Tuesday wasn't too bad a day with just a few sunny intervals. We had a little more light rain which fell mostly in the early hours of the morning. It was a dull morning with the sun not making much of an appearance until mid morning. The temperature just made it over the 20°C mark.

The weather is just about right for digging up potatoes. There was plenty of cloud about in the afternoon. I’ve almost finished lifting my potatoes now which is some sort of record for the middle of August. Normally the tops are still growing and I think it’s a shame to lift them whilst there’s a chance the potatoes are still putting on weight.
Nicola are the last of the crop to be lifted. After the potatoes are lifted the soil remains in large clods, which despite some hefty fork work, doesn't want to break up. I’ll have to leave the soil and let the winter rain and frost do the hard work.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Potato harvest comparison

There was lots more sunshine today but it was a bit breezy. Although the morning felt a little cool it warmed up in the afternoon sunshine but it wasn't by any means a blazing hot summers day. By late evening we had a little light rain.

Our potato crop has been the surprise of the year. It's been so dry that I hardly dared anticipate any crop at all other than a few tiny potatoes. This was backed up by the rather pathetic looking haulms that the crop produced.
This is as good as the potato tops looked this year. The haulms didn't really grow much more and certainly didn't take over the grass paths which they normally do.

However the crop underneath, which after all is what matters, has been excellent and a big surprise. The table below shows the weight of crops harvested in 2010 and this year.
I've only Nicola left to lift of this year's crop. Most crops have matched last year's despite the extremely dry conditions. They haven't been directly watered although they have received some water as a bonus when the sprinkler reached more than the intended crop.

Our potato of the year would have to go to Winston. It produced an excellent tasty crop of early potatoes in sacks and an excellent crop from the tubers planted normally. A must grow potato for next year.
                                                                     Potatoes - Winston

Monday, 15 August 2011

Someone’s getting some rain

Sunday wasn't too bad a day again today. It didn't feel too cold although we had very little sunshine and once again it was a dry day.

It looks like Scotland's getting plenty of rain. I suppose someone must be getting our share. I’ll have to start watering the plot again soon to try to keep our crops for winter time watered and growing.

On the plot it was another good harvesting day. The wasps which seemed a bit slow finding our plums haven’t wasted any time in finding our greengages and apples.

We even managed a few late pea pods of Kelvedon Wonder a rare treat for us this year.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Good harvest day

Saturday was a big improvement over the last few days but nothing special for the middle of August.

It was a good harvesting day on the plot. Our greengages are ready for picking along with the first of our Victoria Plums. 
It was unusual to see the ground looking damp after Thursday’s rain. All it had done though was make the top look damp as it hadn’t penetrated to any depth at all and our International Kidney potatoes came out of the ground cleanly and didn’t need leaving on the top of the ground to dry off. Once again a surprising good crop considering the lack of rain.
Our squash plants (Crown Prince) now have some good sized fruits. We’re a little undecided whether or not to put some straw under each fruit to keep it off the soil. In the past we’ve just left them to do their own thing and they’ve not come to any harm. The outer skins are so tough I can’t imagine them suffering from a slug attack. Should we or shouldn’t we place straw under our squashes?

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Is it autumn?

Friday was our dullest day of summer recording just 0.1 hour of sunshine. I’d suggest that was more a little bit of brightness rather than sunshine. It seemed damp all day but we only had 0.6mm of rain throughout the day.
In the garden our crab apples have a very appealing pick me now look to them. I’m sure they’ve turned early this year as I reckon they give the garden a very autumnal look. I wonder what we could make with some rather nice looking crab apples?

In the garden greenhouse our pepper, Jimmy Nardello’s, is just the opposite, as whilst it has loads of peppers it would be nice if there was some sign of them turning red.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Wet stuff out of the sky

Wow it’s rained, not an awful lot but quite a downpour for us this year. To put it in perspective just 7.2mm (about 1/4 of an inch) of rain on Thursday but that’s a mighty amount for us this summer. We've only had more rain on one day (12th June 8.0mm) since the 26th February when 11.4mm fell. Today it rained early morning, remaining dull and mild through the day before raining again in the evening.
I harvested a couple of Burpless Tasty Green cucumbers from our home grown plants today. After last weeks very curvy cucumber these two were remarkable straight. This one was the largest, to be honest it was hidden under some leaves or it would have been harvested sooner. It measured around 400mm or 16" whichever measurement means most to you. Not bad for an outdoor cucumber.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Heavy rain day - but not here

If you check back to Tuesday’s blog Wednesday was forecast as heavy rain. Well I'm aware some places got some heavy rain but as usual it bypassed Ossett. 
It was dull and windy all day. Strangely it seemed damp all day with squally, drizzly rain from early morning making everywhere look wet. It wasn’t until late afternoon that we got any measurable rainfall and then just 0.8mm fell. It certainly wont have watered the allotment.  

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Plot Planting

Tuesday had some long sunny periods but it was a blustery day and the temperature didn't manage to reach 20°C.
It seems ages since anything was planted in the plot. Partly due to the long dry spell I haven’t wanted to sow seeds directly into the bone dry ground and a couple of crops at home were devastated by slugs and snails before they even reached the transplanting out stage. 
Our late french beans eventually got transplanted along with some lettuce seedlings and calabrese. The planting holes were filled with water hopefully giving the plants enough moisture to settle into their new conditions. Along with some harvesting it was a productive afternoon on the plot.

For more details of all our sowing and planting records click here
For more details of all our harvesting records click here

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Cultivating concrete

Monday had a few sunny spells but it was a blustery day not really that good for August.

I decided I could no longer delay attempting to dig over some of the beds on the plot due to be planted up with crops for harvesting early next spring. For weeks now I’ve kept my eye on the weather forecast which usually has one day of heavy rain forecast in the next few days but then it never falls here. 
This is typical of the forecasts over the last several months. The forecast is always for rain in the next few days. Perhaps it will be correct this time and we will get some heavy rain on Wednesday.

The soil on the plot was extremely hard, and even with a cultivator, on ground that is regularly dug, it was slow going. Some clumps of soil were like small stones and just wouldn’t break up. 
This newly dug ground is for our last crop of French Beans for the year and they’ll probably be some space left over for a few lettuce plants. Considering this soil has just been dug over it looks just the same colour as un dug soil with no sign of moisture at all. The new plantings will need to be well watered in.
This is the bed dug over ready for planting up with crops for spring, which will be mostly brassicas. It too is in the same very dry condition. It was watered a couple of times last week but you wouldn't think so. I've noticed that the bed to its left looks as though it needs a little tidying up. I’m sure it doesn’t look so bad in real life.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Our Nectarines are Ripening

Another cloudy disappointing day for August. We had a few sunny spells and occasional showers throughout a blustery day. After a decent start August is going the way of the rest of the summer, a bit of a let down.

Despite the weather our nectarines look like they might be starting to ripen. The skins still appear more like a peach but they are certainly starting to take on a rosy appearance. 
In the greenhouse our peppers (Jimmy Nardello’s) are growing well and we have some decent sized fruits although I think it will be some time before they begin to turn red.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Dull and dry

Saturday was a cloudy day with just a few spits and spots of rain.

Our cauliflower plants, Jerome, arrived from Marshalls today. To be honest they aren’t the best mail order plants I've ever received. The seedlings are leggy and I think that they have been kept in their small modules for too long. I’ve potted them up so that they can receive some TLC before planting them out in the plot.
My immediate problems are to keep them slug free and to dig over the bed where they are to be transplanted down on the plot.
I’m still not convinced that the copper impregnated matting is providing a deterrent to slugs and snails. I found this snail tucking into my young Pak Choi seedlings this morning.
This is a selection of the slugs and snails munching their way through my French Bean plants on Friday morning. 
Unfortunately the only thing controlling them at the moment appears to be slug pellets although the two trays with copper tape around the edges do seem to be working at the moment and protecting my young lettuce plants.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Plum glut

Friday was a very pleasant summer’s day; some long sunny periods but not too hot to allow some gardening.
On the plot we spent the afternoon harvesting. There seems little point looking after all these crops if you don’t harvest them when they’re ready. So it was a case of choosing harvesting rather than preparing the ground for the winter brassicas that Marshall’s Seeds informed me by email had been dispatched. I did set the sprinkler in action to water the ground where the cabbages and cauliflowers are going to be planted. It’s a case of how to best prepare concrete for planting. Hopefully a good watering will at least give me a chance to get the ground cultivated.

Our Oullin’s Gage has produced a fantastic crop this year. It was a case of harvesting as many ripe plums as we could reach. We very quickly had 20 kg of fruit picked.
Any body following Kelli’s blog will be on the ball now and know everything there is to know about why cucumbers taste bitter. I’d not thought about it before just picked them and ate them.
But all that’s changed now. All sorts of things need to be considered, is it the right shape, is it too old or too young, have they had the right amount of water and nutrition, did the male flowers fall off? Well if a cucumber should be straight this one’s failed the test at the first hurdle, it’s been water rather spasmodically as we’ve had to do so much watering, as for its age we’ve used up our last cucumber so this one’s been picked and we want to use it in sandwiches rather than pickle it. All I’ll say it’s a bit prickly and it hasn’t grown one of those skin tight plastic skins like the supermarket ones. Perhaps our Burpless Tasty Green is just an unfussy outdoor cucumber.