Saturday, 30 June 2012

A Proper Harvesting Day

Friday would have been much better if it hadn't been for the strong wind blowing for most of the day.

On the plot we had our best harvesting day of the year. Our Marshmello strawberry plants which are in their second year have produced in abundance. Quite a few berries had been nibbled by slugs and one or two showed some sign of mould due to the wet and muggy weather of the last few days but that still left plenty for us. Our day’s harvest is detailed below.

I made some late sowing of carrots, peas, sweet corn, broad and french beans on the 18th  June. Most of these are just starting to germinate although I couldn’t see any signs of the sweet corn. If we have a decent autumn I’m hoping for these late sowings to make up for the bad start to the season. Nothing ventured nothing gained.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Seeing Sense

Thursday was warm and humid with heavy thundery showers occurring several times during the day. They were very short lived so we didn't experience the flash flooding that other parts of northern England suffered. On a day with very little sunshine we managed to push up the warmest temperature this month as it reached 25.6°C late in the afternoon.

Whoever had thought of nesting in my rain gauge thought better of it and kindly removed all the material that had been placed there. They didn’t replace the cover leaving that for me to do.
So my spare rain gauge has been cleaned out and is now fully operational once again.

I transplanted some more winter brassicas. One tray is cauliflower “Clapton” which I hope will produce some tasty picking in autumn. Most of the seedlings once transplanted have been transferred to my cold frame where they are more at the mercy of ravenous slugs and snails especially in this damp and humid weather. 
The seedlings have survived so far but it only needs one attack and most of the plants could be devoured in one night. I’ve still some more seedlings to transplant but I’ll need to set up another tray alongside these first.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Caught Red Handed and a Crazy Place to Build a Nest - Birds!

Wednesday was a mostly dull and humid day. The sun made an appearance in the afternoon and it was enough to produce our warmest day of the month with the temperature reaching 25.1°C.

On the plot this week during a coffee break we heard a blackbird noisily clucking amongst our red currants. The short video shows exactly what was going on.

Apologies for the quality of the video but my camera insisted on focusing on the netting rather than where the action was. The young blackbird took cover in our nearby apple trees no doubt planning another smash and grab on our redcurrants.

Last Friday I blogged about the virtues of a backup rain gauge. After wood pigeon problems with my main weather station, my reserve gauge, which resides in an open spot on the wall by our new pebble garden now has its own bird issue.
The gauge can be seen to the top right hand corner of this picture at the end of the wall. It’s been there over 12 months with no problems. Then this morning something odd. I found grill to the top of the collection funnel was on the steps next to the wall.
It seemed a bit odd as it hadn't been windy and severe winter gales hadn’t dislodged it in the past. I picked it up to replace it and was then surprised by what I saw in the rain gauge funnel.
It appears that a bird may have deliberately removed the cover and made a start at building a nest. Seems a little late for nest building but anyone got any better ideas? 

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Winter Brassica Experiment

Tuesday was mild and muggy with a little light rain in the afternoon.

My winter brassica experiment is now in full swing. Having been disappointed with last year’s plug plants I’ve set about raising my own this year. I’ve tried this in the past and the plants have either not survived due to lack of attention or the constant battle with slugs and snails has been lost. I’m also using New Horizon peat free multipurpose compost to to add a little more edge to the growing process.
So far so good. These cauliflower seeds “Aalsmeer” sown on the 17th June quickly germinated under our indoor grow light and produced some excellent seedlings. These were transplanted into modular cells today and moved into the cold frame. The battle now begins to prevent them becoming either waterlogged in any rainy spells or too dry should we be lucky enough to have some fine warm days. Let the mollusc wars begin! 

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Autumn Planted Onions are Ready

Monday afternoon finished up mild and sunny with the temperature managing to just make it to 20°C - a rarity this June.

On the plot the overgrown bed of last year’s over wintering cabbages and weeds has been cleared and is now ready for digging over. The ground was on the wet side so I’m leaving it a couple of days to let it dry out a little.
Our winter onions planted on the 4th October last year have survived winter and are now large enough to use. These onions don’t store well and usually keep us supplied in onions for the next three months when the onion sets planted in Spring will be ready to lift and store over winter.
Another couple of harvesting first’s for the year were a few radishes “Sparkler 3” sown 26th May and a few alpine strawberries.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Strawberries Survive the Rain

After overnight rain the rest of Sunday remained dry but once again with a strong to gale force wind blowing it wasn't all that pleasant outside.

We decided a trip to the plot was required as the tomatoes in the greenhouse would probably be ready for a water. It was a chance to see how much damage the wind and rain had done at the plot. Surprisingly we had plenty of strawberries to pick.
These are the variety Marshmello which have stood up to the rain very well. The weed suppressant membrane we had put down rather than straw has worked well and stopped the fruits form being splashed with mud during spells of heavy rain. We had a number of fruits damaged by slugs and snails but only a couple of small fruits had gone mouldy in last week’s damp conditions.

Our rhubarb clumps have enjoyed the cooler wetter weather this year and are continuing to produce succulent stems for harvesting. 
Last year our rhubarb suffered badly in the very dry condition and the harvest was small as the roots dried up from the lack of rain.

Our courgettes are struggling. I’ve never had a problem growing them before. I sow the seeds, they all grow, I plant them out and have more courgettes than I know what to do with. However, this year some of this plants definitely aren't enjoying the weather.
We've a couple of plants looking like this. I don’t think that they will recover. I think that slugs, helped by all the wet and windy weather, have nibbled through the stem close to the ground effectively killing off the plant. If all our other courgette plants survive we should have an ample supply to see us through summer. Perhaps some decent weather would help!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Doing Well

Thankfully Saturday turned out drier, and with a little bit of sunshine, but on the downside it was windy so another not very June like day.

Back on the 12th June I posted about a large chunk of timber found in a bag of Levington’s compost when I planted up my tomato plants. The true test of the compost must be the quality of the plants and harvest produced. Well I’m pleased to report that the tomato plants are looking very healthy after their first few weeks in these grow bags.
These are the plants just after planting out in our home greenhouse on 6th June. It had been a struggle to raise these plants and I wasn't that impressed by the quality of the plants but I was determined to give them a chance.
So despite a poor start to life these plants are now growing away extremely well in Levington’s grow bag compost. I’m looking forward to a good crop of tomatoes even if they are much later than I would normally expect.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Wet Wet Wet!

Friday was wet, very wet as we broke our record daily amount of rainfall managing 35.1mm (1.4”). This followed on from a pretty wet Thursday. It also means that this June 2012 becomes the wettest month since I began keeping records 3 years ago. It takes over from April 2012 which didn't hold the record for very long.

Just to add insult to injury my main rain gauge stopped working too. I noticed in one particularly heavy downpour that it wasn't recording any rainfall at all. Fortunately like all good record keepers I have a back up rain gauge and this recorded 35.1mm for the day.
As a check both gauges recorded 9.6mm of rainfall on Thursday. I've investigated the cause of the problem which turned out to be a blockage where the water runs out of the funnel to be measured.
It’s easy enough to unblock the hole but much more difficult to correct the rainfall figures which appear on the graphs linked to this blog and on my other web pages. It might take a couple of days for these figure to be rectified.

These are my current figures for the wettest days and months since I started my weather station in July 2009. Obviously the figures for June will be updated at the end of the month.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Brassicas Away

After a few pleasant days things came to an end on Thursday which was a thoroughly wet day. 

Last Sunday I sowed lots of brassica seeds and these were placed under the indoor grow light to germinate. Most of the seeds have already germinated and are growing very quickly. 
Having such a poor season germination wise I may have been a bit heavy handed with the number of seeds sown. Providing the seedlings are transplanted soon they should be fine. These seeds were all sown in New Horizon peat free compost and have germinated within a few days. I’ll pot them up into the same compost and see how they perform but so far I’ve not any problems. The seedlings at this early stage look very healthy.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Summer Solstice

Ossett's take on the summer solstice!!!

Best of June 2012

Wednesday continued the few days of warm drier weather. Although nothing special Wednesday produced our warmest June day of the month with the thermometer nudging 21.6°C. The sunny spells of the last few days have given a little boost to the sunshine hours for the month, but unless the remainder of the month defies the forecasts for a return to dull and sometimes wet weather, June will turn out to be a very dull month.
Up to and including Wednesday we’ve had just 39.8 hours of recorded sunshine. In the dull and wet of April this year we managed 90.4 hours so June certainly has some catching up to do. 
Our strawberries have started to turn and are providing us with some tasty fruits but we don’t think that they’re as sweet as usual and we’re wondering if this is due to the lack of sunshine during the ripening process. The good news is they still put the supermarket strawberries to shame.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Getting There!

Tuesday was another very pleasant day although it took a while in the morning for the sun to break through the cloud cover.

At last after a very slow start the plot is taking on that verdant look even though there are still some beds showing nothing but bare earth as we await recently sown crops to emerge.
The cardoon on the left of the picture has put on an enormous amount of growth probably due to the wet weather. It’s now got some flower buds which once opened are adored by the bees.

The three small strawberry beds which were cleared last autumn have been planted up with potatoes this year. The ground was more like concrete than soil when it was first dug last autumn but the winter rains and frost broke it down well.
The potatoes growing in these three beds are looking good and I'm hoping that the crop underneath the foliage will be as good as the tops appear.
Our roses are now in full bloom and mingling in amongst the Sambucus Nigra “Black Lace” are putting on a stunning display.

Finally thanks to Mark at “Mark’s Veg Plot” for spotting our comfrey bed and posting a reminder about making a “tea”. This was the day’s final job. An old bucket was filled with comfrey leaves, then filled with water. It now needs leaving for 2 to 3 weeks to produce its evil smelling brew which is an excellent plant food.

I’m on the lookout for a much bigger bucket!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

No Vacancies

We made the most of Monday, a lovely mild day with plenty of sunny spells. It was a mad day of sowing and planting which Sue has covered in a blog post here.

I was in need of some space in our home greenhouse for tubs of sweet peppers and aubergines that I’ve recently planted up. The only way I could find some room was by emptying the two potato bags taking space in one corner of the greenhouse. They’d grown plenty of tops which were flopping over the top of the bags in a most untidy fashion. So they were tipped out and harvested, one bag of Winston produced 0.766kg (1.7lbs) and a bag of Swift 0.283kg (0.6 lbs). Probably not enough to keep us going until our outdoor crops are ready but a reminder of how new potatoes should taste.
Winston left and Swift right
Not only is our home greenhouse full, the plot is now almost fully planted up too. I’ve to clear our over wintering brassica bed of the remnants of last year’s harvest and weeds which have now infested the brassicas. We’ve now harvested the last of the spring cabbage. This bed will be used later for planting autumn onions and perhaps sweet Williams. 

From the plot looking a bit on the empty side a few weeks back, it’s a good feeling to have it full of seeds and plants although of course there’s still plenty of pitfalls before these turn into edible harvests.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Thinking of Winter

Well Sunday was a better day, although it got off to a cloudy start, there were some pleasant sunny intervals in the afternoon and it was dry all day.

I made a start on sowing a variety of brassica plants for cropping through winter and into next spring. I wasn’t very happy with the plug plants I bought last autumn so I’ve decided to make the effort and try growing my own plants this year. The first sowing consisted of broccoli “Red Arrow” and “White Sprouting Early”. I’ve also sown cauliflower “Aalsmeer" which will be ready for harvesting next April and May. I've sown some more cauliflower “Clapton” a club root resistance variety which will hopefully be ready for harvesting in October this year.
The seeds have gone under the grow light where I can keep a close eye on them. They will also be protected from any extremes of temperature which can happen in the greenhouse during spells of sunshine. That’s if we do eventually see the sun.

Next on the list for sowing will be some winter and spring cabbages.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Weather Station Wood Pigeon

Saturday was disappointingly cool and dull with outbreaks of light drizzle on and off all day and some heavier rain early in the evening. This is what we've come to expect this June.

Sunday morning has started off dull and windy but it has given me a chance of getting a short video clip of our wood pigeon perched on the vane of my weather station. A favoured vantage point.
Watching this video closely I’ve noticed that woody actually gets turned on the wind vane as the wind direction changes and he certainly doesn’t seem to have any effect on the anemometer as that whizzed around in today's strong breeze. Just as well, as I’m not sure how to keep him off this perch short of covering the whole weather station in anti bird netting!  

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Let Loose with the Secateurs - Again!

Friday wasn't too bad after some heavy overnight rain. A few glimpses of the sun and the temperature, all be it briefly, up to 18°C, it felt a little more like June.

It was one of those days when I was let loose with the secateurs again, this time to tackle one of our bamboo’s.
This is how it looked before pruning although I only remembered to take a picture once I’d started a little pruning so at this stage some canes had already received the chop. 
These canes were by the green waste bin ready for recycling when I remembered to take a picture.

The aim of the pruning was to allow some light through the bamboo and instead of having a mass of impenetrable canes to reduce them down to five or six canes which will thicken up and look more like conventional bamboo canes. Most of the canes were around the same thickness similar in diameter to a pencil. I just left around six canes equally spaced amongst the root of the bamboo.

Much secateuring  later our bamboo looked like this. We can now see through the canes and view other plants growing in the border behind. It just needs the stems to thicken up a bit now.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Out With the Old

Thursday brightened up a bit in the afternoon but not for long. By late afternoon it had clouded over again with a brisk cool breeze. The rain began in the late evening.

Last year’s leeks that were still growing were dug up and consigned to the compost bin and our new crop of leeks planted out. (Not in the same place of course!)
They look a little bit sorry for themselves in their individual holes. We've spaced them out more than recommended so that it will be easier to hoe around the plants and keep the weeds under control.

Despite our best efforts at carrot protection the last carrots to germinate have been eaten by slugs. This in spite of the whole area being treated with Nemaslug which doesn’t appear to have been very effective in this case. Perhaps the soil temperatures have been too low as we’ve had some cold nights and plenty of rain which may have reduced the soil temperature below the recommended level of 5°C. I’ll just have to re-sow  the patches and try again.

What a difficult gardening year this is turning out to be! 

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Woody’s Routine

Wednesday’s weather was just as dismal as the last few days with the sun refusing to make any sort of appearance so we had yet another dull and cool day.

Our resident wood pigeon now has his morning routine sorted out. If it’s a still day then the preferred position, to check out if it’s safe to breakfast from the left overs on the bird table, is from the highest point on my weather station .
If it’s windy and the anemometer is whizzing around then  the top of the post supporting the weather station is the lookout spot of choice. After a few minutes checking that the coast is clear woody will swoop down and clear the bird table of yesterday’s seed.
All this leads me to wonder whether having moving devices stationed in amongst beds of crops actually is an effective pigeon deterrent. Maybe pigeons just get used to such devices and learn that they are not really a threat. Our visitor certainly seems comfortable when the anemometer is whirling round!

At least woody’s not fouling up my rain gauge measurements sitting on top of the wind vane.
The flimsy nature and rather sharp ends to the plastic netting fixed around the rain gauge do seem to act as a deterrent to stop birds perching around the rim and doing what birds do naturally. 

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Here Comes the Sun - I Wish

It’s a sign of how poor the weather is at the moment, that at times, Tuesday seemed really rather pleasant. It could have been that the sun came out from behind the clouds for a few minutes and the temperature shot up to 15°C. That’s as good as it gets at the minute!

The lack of sunshine prompted me to put together a little chart comparing the numbers of hours of sunshine I’ve recorded over the last couple of years.
If there’s no change to the weather pattern for the rest of the month then the hours of sunshine recorded will be more like February than June. Surely it’s got to improve soon.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Keeping Warm

Just one mild day yesterday and Monday was back to normal for this June, cool and cloudy although we didn't get any rain.

We visited the plot in the afternoon with the intention of doing some jobs that would keep us warm. It seemed like a good idea to dig over the bed of phacelia which had been cut down yesterday. The ground was a bit heavy but just about passable for digging over. 
We had a short row of “Meteor” peas which had been sown in pots on the 5th April and planted out on the 22nd May. They certainly hadn’t appreciated the conditions in the plot and weren’t giving any signs of growing away.
I decided it was time to cut our losses and start again. These pathetic specimens were pulled out and a new row of “Meteor” peas sown. The old peas pulled up easily and didn't seem to have made any roots at all. I'm hoping the new sowing will do better. 

We’ve also had a struggle with our tomato plants this year. They haven’t appreciated the cool conditions refusing to grow at all for weeks on end. I’ve eventually planted out the resulting plants into grow bags in the plot greenhouse. Only time will tell whether this rather motley looking collection of plants will provide us with some tasty tomatoes.
Each of the six grow bags has three tomatoes of the same variety in it. Going around the greenhouse in a clockwise direction, starting in the bottom left hand corner, they are Gardener’s Delight, Moneymaker, Jakarta, Amish Gold, San Marzano and finally Alicante.

The plants are in Levington’s giant tomato planter bags. I used one extra bag to fill up the rings that the tomatoes are planted in. There’s no telling these days what you will find in compost. This rather large piece of timber came out of this Levington’s bag.
It’s not what I expect to find in compost and it makes me wonder what else is in there and how the contents have been produced. I’d expect rubbish of this size to be removed in some sort of sieving process but clearly my expectations are too high. Compost isn't cheap and I reckon it’s about time some form of control is introduced so we know what we are buying in our bags of compost.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Green Manure Chop

Sunday was much more like I expect June to be with some pleasant sunshine and the temperature just nudging the 20°C mark. Of course it couldn't last all day with rain setting in late afternoon.

On the plot, our green manure crop of Phacelia had come into flower and, following the advice regarding it being a prolific self seeder, I thought it should be chopped down ready for digging in.
The final crop has grown well despite its very slow start when I thought I’d sowed the seed too sparingly.
Phacelia Flower Head
I did have some second thoughts when I actually had the strimmer revved up and ready to go. The bees were making a plea for me not to devastate their pollen  rich seed heads. Everywhere I looked the flower heads looked alive with bees but after a moments hesitation I set the strimmer to work and in a couple of minutes the crop was cut down. 
 I've left the bees a few plants at the far end of the bed until I get around to digging in. Our comfrey is starting to come into flower so the bees will have a ready made replacement. What’s more with the flowers left on the ground the bees still had access to the pollen and were making the most of it.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Tomato Planting

Friday and Saturday weren't very June like. Friday was dull and drizzly and Saturday was dull and breezy. Both days were on the cool side with below average temperatures, the story of the growing year so far.

I’ve at last got some tomato plants a suitable size for planting out into pots and grow bags. It’s been a real struggle in this cool weather to produce some good plants.
On the left last year’s plants on 8th June 2011 already had their first flower trusses whereas this year the plants have only just been planted into growbags. I think it’s going to take a spell of good weather in autumn or we will be having lots of green tomato chutney.

Friday, 8 June 2012

And Another Washout!

Thursday was another wet day with rain on and off from mid morning morning into the evening with the hint of a drier spell around lunchtime .

In contrast to plenty of rain in the first week of flaming June we’ve managed a total of just 8.6 hours of sunshine that’s less than a day’s worth. Last year we had 155 hours of sunshine in June so the remaining three weeks will have to be good if we are to get anywhere near that total.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Chelsea Chop

Wednesday was warmer than the last few days but then it spoilt itself with some light rain starting late afternoon.

Last August I gave our large camellia the Chelsea chop. It was a little late for the so called chop but it was pretty severe as the shrub had been allowed to grow out of control for a number of years. It was cut back to bare wood and I wasn’t sure that it would re-grow from such a severe pruning.
There are now new shoots forming on the old branches so it’s now going to be interesting to see just how these shoots grow and how long it takes them to produce flowers.
Stockbridge Arrow on 4th April 2012 and on 6th June 2012

I thought that are our new rhubarb crown “Stockbridge Arrow” had rotted away over winter but before I tipped out the pot it surprised me by produced a tiny shoot and so it lived to fight another day. It’s now produced a strong enough plant to be added to our collection on the allotment.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Two birds with One Stone

Tuesday was another overcast and cool day with just a little light rain in the evening.

My plan was to combine a little steam train spotting with a trip to the garden centre for some new fruit cage netting to protect our red currants which are just starting to turn. The Yorkshireman was to be steam hauled by 70013 Oliver Cromwell from London Victoria to York but unfortunately the engine failed and as you can see below the train was in fact diesel hauled. Part one of my plan a total failure.
At the garden centre the fruit cage netting was much easier to find. All we need now is a little fine weather to get the redcurrants covered before the blackbirds help themselves to the ripening berries.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Catching Up

Monday was much better, it could hardly have been much worse than Sunday. It wasn't particularly warm but at least it was dry all day.

Gardening this year seems to be a matter of continually trying to catch up after some poor weather of one kind or another. Today was no exception. Our brassica plants needed planting out and some French beans “Tendergreen” were just a little beyond the stage of ready for planting but I’m hopeful, given some good weather, they’ll make some decent plants.
These are our autumn cabbage and Brussels sprouts plants. The actual planting didn't take long it’s the protection measures to prevent pigeon attack that takes up most of the time. We've found out the hard way that no protection results in devastated plants and no worthwhile crop.
The French beans didn’t look too bad once they were planted out .

Our carrot experiment using a weed suppressant membrane seems to be working. Our young carrot seedlings are progressing well and are not being crowded out by weeds, which with the recent wet weather are certainly the fastest growing plants on the plot.

Of course there’s still a long way to go before they provide us with some tasty roots but so far so good.