Saturday, 31 August 2013

A Harvesting Afternoon

Once again it was mostly cloudy but we did have some sunny spells and it felt very warm in any sunshine.

We spent all afternoon harvesting on the plot. We didn't go with the intention of just harvesting but with such a variety of fruit and vegetables to pick we just couldn't help ourselves. There’s no point going to the trouble of growing it if you can't be bothered to pick it.
Not a bad afternoon’s work. We even managed to pick a few runner beans from Lady Di and St George before summer turns into autumn. The stars of this little bounty are undoubtedly the greengages. We haven’t so many but the sweetness is unbelievable coming from such a small green fruit. 
These are our greengages, a variety called “Reine Claude”. The only problem is deciding when greengages are ready to eat. These still look very green and are quite firm to the touch. I did cheat before picking and we had a couple of testers with our afternoon coffee. They were absolutely superb.

I’m expecting a good carrot crop this year if our early “pullings” are anything to go by. So far we've only tried the Early Nantes variety which have produced some very good sized carrots.
They've had the taste test which is excellent. These are as lifted without any washing or sprucing up. The soil is very dry and the carrots have come out without any soil needing to be washed off for kitchen use. 

Our first few Victoria plums are in the harvest picture too. 
Our Oullins gage cropping has just about finished but it’s provided us with 33kg of plums most of which have gone into the freezer.

I might try some of the Himrod grapes in our home greenhouse today and see if they’re sweet enough to eat. Gardening can be tough at times.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Too Quick

Thursday continued the mild but cloudy theme.

We decided on a trip to RSPB Old Moor to see if we could spot any new birds. When we arrive it’s normal for any “star species” to do a disappearing act for the day. We did actually spot a couple of birds we hadn't seen before but these were at the extreme range of our spotting scope well out of the photographic range of our cameras.
I know I should be videoing birds at an RSPB reserve but I couldn't help focusing on a hare. Whilst I was concentrating on the hare a stoat made an appearance, a very brief appearance at that.
The stoat appears in just 3 frames of my video and my camera takes 25 frames per second so this little stoat was in and out of shot in 0.12 seconds. If you haven't spotted it have a look in the top left hand corner of the picture.
With a little bit of cropping and adjusting this is the best picture I can get. It’s the only shot of a stoat I’ve got.

Wonder if I’ll get a picture of a kingfisher one day. We saw two on our visit today but neither wanted to be photographed. Another time perhaps.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Just Made It This Summer

Much more cloud about on Wednesday and a little bit cooler but still a very nice day.

At last I picked some runner beans. We're growing St. George, Enorma and Desiree and all three varieties have been very slow to produce beans. In July’s hot weather they came to what seemed like a total standstill and refused to grow. Meteorologically summer comes to an end in 3 days time so we've only just managed a picking before summer comes to an end. 
These are from our wigwam of Desiree a white flowered variety. The plants look really well with plenty of flowers and young beans to come so we're expecting to be able to stock up our freezer supplies before any cold weather kills off the plants. 
So far it’s been a poor year for our tomatoes but I picked a few Sioux from our plot greenhouse. It’s the first time we've grown this variety. It’s got a good crop of tomatoes to ripen but the taste test is still to take place.
To be honest they're not the best looking tomatoes in the world and you’d never find them on the supermarket shelves. I think the splitting of the fruit is due to the irregular watering they receive as allotments tomatoes. They get watered when I go down to the plot so they go from a soaking to drying out but surprisingly they haven't got the dreaded blossom end rot which has afflicted all our home greenhouse tomatoes.

Summer as far as our runner beans and tomatoes are concerned is just starting. 

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Not Quite Back to Normal

Tuesday left out the dull start and we had sunshine for most of the day. There was a time early afternoon when it looked like a thunderstorm was brewing but the cloud just broke up and disappeared leaving the rest of the afternoon warm and sunny.

We were looking for a less eventful day after our fright on the horse drawn tram car on Monday. It didn't quite work out to plan as first we had a telephone call from a plot neighbour to report that our shed had been broken into.

I’m going to call the culprits vandals as we had nothing stolen, not that we keep anything worth stealing in the shed, but they had the decency to carefully remove a pane of glass to gain entry after trying to prise open the door. The glass was propped against our tayberry in one piece.
After climbing in through the window they must have then gone through everything in the shed to discover that there wasn't anything of value before moving on to try someone else’s shed. Surely a look through the window would have served just as well and saved them some trouble. At least the break-in spurred us into cleaning and tidying  the shed
As we arrived to assess the damage to our shed an ambulance was on site. Apparently one of our other plot neighbours had decided to take on trying to remove a wasps nest. The wasps won. As we left the site to buy some putty to repair the shed window one of the ambulance crew confirmed that the plot holder was okay. 

It goes to show that you've always got to treat nature with a bit of care and respect as you never quite know when it’s going to turn on you.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

A Lucky Escape for Us

We had another dull start to Bank Holiday Monday, but just like Sunday, by lunchtime the sun had broken through the cloud to leave us with a warm and sunny afternoon.

As any regular readers of this blog might know I enjoy a little bit of steam train photography along with my love of gardening. So for Bank Holiday Monday we decided on a trip to our local heritage railway at Middleton, just a few minutes drive down the M1, to visit the Festival of Transport it was hosting. Although this is situated on our doorstep so to speak, we'd never visited before and didn't really know what to expect. 

It was a much larger organisation than I had anticipated with lots of people turning up to visit the railway and ride on the trains. We were no different and spent a couple of hours riding and photographing some brilliant little locomotives. 
As part of this Festival of Transport the historic Leeds Horse Tram No 107 was making its public debut after restoration and offering rides to the public.
By the middle of the afternoon we decided to have a ride on the tram. We'd already put off having a ride as the Lord Mayor of Leeds had been inspecting the restored tram so rather than wait around with the melee of folk associated with his visit we made better use of our time photographing and riding on the steam trains.

Later we returned, paid for our ticket and climbed upstairs onto the tram. 
No sooner had we taken our seat than the two horses for some reason were spooked and reared up. Out of control the horses and the tram with us onboard set off along the tracks. From our upper deck seats it was impossible to see what was happening around the tram but the reality very quickly dawned that we were in serious trouble. Then from nowhere a man ran in front of the horses with his arms raised above his head attempting very successfully to stop the runaway horses.

The result of all this was that the groom who had been working the horses was trapped under the tram. The fire brigade, police and ambulance were called to the scene to free the woman. She was freed and taken to hospital with what the press are calling serious leg but not life threatening injuries.

It’s amazing how such a great day out can so quickly go wrong. We're hoping that the groom makes a full recovery from her injuries and also a great big thankyou to whoever it was who stopped those runaway horses.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Monday, 26 August 2013

Plums with Protein

We had a dull start to Bank Holiday Sunday but by lunchtime the sun had broken through the cloud to leave us with a warm and fairly sunny afternoon.

On our last couple of visits to the plot we've picked just over 16kg of plums, Oullins Gage. Our tree is a true biennial and this year is its cropping year. It was very late coming into flower, 3 to 4 weeks later than normal due to the exceptionally cold spring.

Although we've had some good summer weather including a very hot July the plum crop hasn't caught up and is cropping the same 3 to 4 weeks later than normal.

This year we've noticed some extra protein in our plums. Some have a little pink maggot around the stone helping themselves to our delicious plums.
It certainly cuts down on the number of plums eaten on the plot. This little beastie doesn't exactly tempt you just pop a plum in your mouth and spit out the stone or just have a good bite into a large plum. Cutting into the plum it’s obvious which plums are full of protein as its easy to spot the brown waste left by the maggot around the stone. Fortunately not many of our plums are affected.

The little maggot is caused by the plum moth. I’m assuming it’s not plum saw fly as there is no sign of anything having tunnelled into the fruit. The maggot has developed inside the ripening fruit. As we like to avoid chemical controls wherever possible a pheromone plum moth trap, hung in the tree next spring, will be put into use next year. I guess it’s also likely that our Marjories Seedling and Victoria plums might have some unwelcome guests inside too.

I think all our plums will be cut into two before being eaten this year. Must take a knife to the plot!

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Typical Holiday Weather

After the heavy rain in the early hours of Saturday the rest of the day was dry, well almost, with the total rainfall notching up another 0.6mm throughout the day. It was dull all day but the rain threatened by the heavy cloud cover never came.

It was the first rainfall of any significance since 28 July. Although we've had lots of showers in August they've never amounted to more than a few millimetres at a time and done nothing more than wet the top of the soil or plant foliage and drying out almost as quickly as they've fallen. In fact this little and often watering is just the way we're always advised by the “experts” not to do watering, but to give plants a good drink and then let them dry out again. Well nature’s chosen little and often this August.

It wasn't a gardening sort of a day with heavy rain threatening so I decided to use up the crumble topping left over from the famous courgette crumble Sue made. I’m not sure how much crumble mix was supposed to be used with the courgettes but Sue only made half the amount suggested in the recipe and I still managed to make four plum crumbles out of the remaining mix.
Rather dull and conventional but very tasty never the less.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Bucketed Down!

Friday was cloudy and mild and, as forecast, by evening the storm clouds were gathering and threatening something rather spectacular. We had a few claps of thunder and some spots of rain but that was all.

Then in the early hours of Saturday morning it tipped. At 03:42 the rain was falling at 138mm/hr. That’s three times the amount we might expect in the whole of August in an hour. It obviously didn't last that long as, when the storm ended, the total rainfall came to 12.4mm.

Just in case you were wondering yesterday’s blog still remains true. It takes more than one heavy shower to change the fact that we have had a rather prolonged spell with below average rainfall. Another 20mm of rainfall is required by the end of the month to return the running 12 month average to 100% of annual expected rainfall.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Friday, 23 August 2013

Back to Dry in Ossett

Thursday was a hot sunny day with plenty of sunshine and the temperature reached a high of 27.8°C. Early evening it clouded over and we had one very heavy shower accompanied by a few claps of thunder. The downpour added another 0.8mm to the monthly total.

Rain is forecast for later today and into Saturday. We've had a dry spell of weather and our annual rainfall is once again below average.

This is my rainfall chart from October 2009 and rather unsurprisingly we've had times above and below average. We can expect around 650mm of rain each year but as things stand at 22 August 2013 we've had 618mm of rainfall in the preceding 12 months or around 95%. Both the garden and allotment are very dry and would welcome some rain. 

On a different topic altogether I had some courgette crumble with Greek yogurt for dessert on Thursday and what’s even more surprising is that it was very nice. It’s not April 1st either! If you want more details or even to try this crumble out check Sue’s blog here for details. It’s just a pity we’ve found this out as lots of more usual crumble  fruits - apples, plums, blackberries and pears - are starting to ripen. 

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Potatoes and Tomatoes the Good and the Bad

Tuesday and Wednesday weren't bad days with temperatures into the low twenties. Both days were mostly cloudy but we didn't get any rain. It’s pretty dry on the plot and some rain would be very welcome. We might just get some Friday night or early Saturday if the forecast is correct.

As it wasn't too bad on Wednesday afternoon I decided to lift another row of potatoes.

Next in line or should that be row to be lifted were Nadine. We've grown this variety many times and it doesn’t let us down. It’s a second early variety with a waxy texture and produces a good all rounder for the kitchen. As I suspected there wasn't much damage to any of the tubers. Most of the damage was as a result of being speared by my fork. Just a few potatoes had slug or wireworm damage.
As you can see there were 5 damaged by wireworm and 8 by me. The harvest weighed in at 12.68kg with the damaged tubers weighing 1.127 kg around 9% of the total. These potatoes normally store well into next spring stored in boxes in the garage.

We've also started using a few of our Discovery apples. These are not at the peak of ripeness just yet but are tastier than the supermarket specimens.
In our home greenhouse the tale of woe continues as more tomatoes continue to get blossom end rot. I've never known a year like this with nearly all our tomatoes having this problem.
More were consigned to the brown waste bin on Wednesday as we still await an edible ripe tomato from our home greenhouse.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Potatoes:- Salads v The Rest

Monday was a mostly dull day with a few sunny spells developing in the evening.

Last Saturday I dug up the first row of potatoes from what might be described as our main potato bed.

This is our main bed back at the beginning of July with all the varieties growing well. Now that the tops have started to die back I've started lifting the potatoes ready for winter storage. The first ones to be lifted were a row of Winston which is the row on the extreme left of the picture. The weight of the crop as lifted came to 13.34kg and I was rather pleased with the crop.
I've now sorted the crop into perfectly sound potatoes and those not so sound. I’m not quite so impressed by the crop now. 6.95kg of the harvest have gone into the damaged pile that’s fractionally over 50%. Most of the damaged potatoes just have small holes in them which I’m putting down to wireworm damage. The holes are small so I don’t think slugs are the cause of the damage.
This was the heap of damaged potatoes. I must be honest a couple were my fault as I rather enthusiastically speared a couple as I was lifting the roots. I’m amazed by how far away from the main haulms some potatoes grow. 
Now a few years ago I only grew salad potatoes on two grounds. Firstly we like waxy more than floury potatoes and secondly I sort of had a gut instinct that on the plot salad potatoes for whatever reason suffered less damage from wireworms and slugs. So I might check all the other varieties growing in our main bed and see if the weights of damaged v sound potatoes backs up my gut instinct.

I’m planning to gradually work through the bed lifting the potatoes row by row. So the order following on from Winston will be Nadine, Harmony, Charlotte and Nicola. Based on my instinct I’d expect Harmony to have more damage than the other varieties still to be lifted.

Time will tell.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Monday, 19 August 2013

Wrong About the Tomato

We had plenty of sunshine on Sunday after a drop of overnight rain. After such a brilliant hot start to the month the average temperature for the month is now below average and is the same as last year’s August average in the middle of the month. 

Our Amish Gold tomato I blogged about yesterday turned out to be a disappointment being yet another casualty of the dreaded blossom end rot. We've still to pick a ripe undamaged tomato from our home greenhouse. 
The good news is that we picked our first ripe tomato from the plot greenhouse. 
This is a variety “Pink Wonder” producing large fruits. It’s the first time we've tried it and it will be under going the taste test tomorrow lunchtime.
It wasn't the only produce we harvested from the plot on Sunday. A full list of our harvest can be found here.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Aubergine 1 v 0 Tomato

Saturday was dull with a drop of rain. It wasn't the wet afternoon that was forecast with the daily total amounting to just 2.4mm.

The football season has started again not that I take a great interest. Money rules end of story. Anyway as you can see at the end of week one our mini aubergine Jackpot F1 has scored a narrow victory over our tomatoes.

It has been very close match as we actually do have a tomato, Amish Gold, ready for picking but we decided to use this aubergine for dinner and save the tomato for Sunday. 
It will be a little disappointing if this fruit is suffering from blossom end rot like many of our other tomatoes but from what I can see without actually removing the fruit it looks promising. Maybe other fruits will take the hint and begin to ripen.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Taking Over the Plot

Friday was a very pleasant summer’s day with some long sunny periods and the temperature reached a very acceptable 22.3°C.

I blogged last time about some parts of the plot taking on an autumnal look, mostly where potato crops have been lifted. Other parts of the plot are still full of promise with crops looking fine and healthy. Hard to believe that all this is produced through some little crosses cut into weed control fabric. The grass to the left of the picture forms the allotment plot border with the access road around the site. One or two fat hen weeds have still manage to grow by sharing the same cuts in the fabric as the squashes and cucumbers. I can live with the odd weed so I reckon the fabric’s done a good job.

This bed is made up of squashes, cucumbers and our sweet peas. There’s no sign of autumn arriving with this bed and it’s a full time job keeping the squash runners under control in their efforts to overrun as much of the plot as they can without me noticing. It’s a tricky job finding cucumbers growing amongst the squashes without standing on any leaves, runners, small squashes or indeed cucumbers.

After a very slow start, and a few weeks in July when they didn’t seem to want to grow at all, our runner beans are now looking much better and have plenty of flowers with the bees busy carrying out their pollination duties. There’s still no beans but I’m still hopeful.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Friday, 16 August 2013

Looking a bit Autumnal Already

Thursday was a warm and muggy day with the temperature reaching 25.6°C in the afternoon. The forecast for heavy showers and thunderstorms around teatime and into the evening didn't work out . We did have a little rain towards midnight amounting to around 2.0mm. We had a little more rain in the early hours of Friday morning but a combined total of 4.2mm will do little more than dampen the top of the soil. We could do with a good rain.

Although it’s only the middle of August parts of the plot are starting to have a bit of an autumnal look about them. I'm always amazed at just how short that time is when the plot looks full to bursting point.

This part of the plot looks pretty bare now that the potatoes have been lifted. It’s not that these beds will be left unproductive and will mostly be replanted with vegetables and flowers for next spring. The two salad bowl and Webbs Wonderful lettuce in the foreground are spare plants in a bed that will soon be planted up with spring cabbages. The rather untidy pile of netting is just the right size to fit over the bed as wood pigeon protection for the cabbages.

The two bigger beds will also have some over wintering crops in fact Sue has started planting up the bed on the right with wallflowers, sweet Williams, rocket and Dog Daisy all to grow on over winter. 
Next to that will be our bed of over wintering onions which will be planted up as soon as the sets are available in the local garden centre. Hopefully these will be planted next month.

A little bit of rain would certainly help that planting process along as the plot once again is on the dry side.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Is It Time for a Radical Rethink?

Tuesday and Wednesday confirmed the fall from grace of August which started off spectacularly well but has gradually slipped into mediocrity. 

Our greenhouse tomatoes have been a disappointment this year. In fact we haven’t had a proper ripe tomato yet. In the home greenhouse we've had some red toms that have been unusable because of blossom end rot. In the plot greenhouse all the varieties are simply refusing to ripen.

The middle of August and this is our total tomato harvest or non-harvest to date. I reckon that most of our tomatoes will be ready, if they’re ever going to be ready, sometime next month. This means it’s more than likely than not that they will be used to make tomato chutney or frozen to use in dishes through winter. I don’t see that as a waste but I’m not entirely convinced that’s why I grow tomatoes. I want the fresh taste of superb home grown tomatoes for summer salads and sandwiches. Perhaps our home greenhouse could be put to far more productive use  although I’m at a bit of a loss as to what exactly at the minute. Things that need some protection such as our nectarine, peach, apricot or cherry might be far more productive given some greenhouse protection. That’s my thinking at the moment.
Just maybe we could produce more of these rather than tomatoes with blossom end rot. 

The plot greenhouse could still be used to grow tomatoes but even there I might stick with some tried and tested varieties rather than trying out more unusual varieties.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Blackcurrant Cordial

After such a good start to the month August has been going downhill ever since and Monday was no exception. Although we had some sunshine it was cool and windy. Not really a very August like day.

Our blackcurrants, Ben Connan and Ben Lommond, planted in 2010 have produced an excellent crop of fruit this year. One great benefit is that the fruit remains on the bushes in good condition over a long period of time. As blackcurrants are time consuming to pick this is a big advantage.

By the 08 July we had berries starting to turn black and we've been picked blackcurrants on a regular basis since and we still have a few berries left to pick.
Jostaberries on the left and blackcurrants to the right
With lots of berries to use, encouraged by the success of our elderflower cordial made a few weeks earlier, I decided to have a try at making some blackcurrant cordial. The recipe I chose to use can be found here. It seemed a good choice as it’s easy to adjust the quantities based on how much juice is extracted from the fruit.

A word of caution. If you're worried about a little staining stay clear of blackcurrants as everything takes on the black colour of the fruit. I thought my faithful muslin bag was a gonna but after several sessions of being boiled in a pan of water it’s restored to a useable state.
The process is straightforward but I think it’s a matter of luck whether or not your cordial sets like a jelly or remains liquid. Having tried ours out it does make a delicious drink diluted with ice cold sparkling water.  
It does need a bit of a stir to mix up the thick undiluted cordial. The cordial that settles out towards the bottom of the glass is especially tasty a sort of sweet blackcurrant goo that takes its time to slide down the glass and into your mouth.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Monday, 12 August 2013

Sioux Looking Good on the Plot

The weekend weather wasn't anything special for August. We had a few brief sunny intervals but it was mostly cloudy with just some light rain early on Sunday morning.

In our plot greenhouse our tomatoes have so far remained free of the blossom end rot that has afflicted our home grown plants. On the plot Sioux, the worst affected variety in our home greenhouse, looks to be one of the best croppers. 

As far as I can make out we don’t have any tomatoes with the dreaded blossom end rot in the plot greenhouse. There’s nothing wrong with the bottoms of these Sioux.
I’d also been complaining about the lateness of our runner beans too. I was a bit surprised to find some French climbing beans Cobra ready for picking on Saturday. I was going around our angry three sisters bed rearranging the runners from the Crown Prince winter squashes which were heading for freedom over the grass paths when I spotted the beans at the very bottom of their wigwam.
Almost a kilogram in weight by the time I’d picked all the beans I could find. Not bad considering I only really found out they were ready by accident.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett