Thursday, 31 October 2013

Perfect Pears?

Wednesday was another pretty decent day for late October. It’s going to be quite a shock when the weather eventually turns colder.

In my mind pears are much more difficult to decide when to eat than apples. We picked our 7.1kg crop of “Invincible” pears on 17th September.
They parted from the tree easily which was one reason for picking them as we didn’t want them to fall to the ground and bruise in any strong winds. However, they were definitely not ready for eating as they were rock hard. I know, I tried to eat one, and there was no taste at all. Since then the pears have spent their time in the salad drawer of our spare fridge freezer in the garage.
This how they look now after their 6 weeks in the fridge. They’ve turned more golden in colour than they were and have softened up. They’re not soft and mushy like pears sometimes go but still firm to the bite, juicy and pleasantly sweet. I wonder how long they will keep in this condition. It’s a while since we had such a success with one of our pear varieties.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


Tuesday turned out to be our coldest daytime temperature of the month managing just 11.1°C which I suppose is typical after I’d written a blog post about how mild October has been. Tuesday wasn’t actually a bad sort of a day except that we had a prolonged heavy shower at lunchtime which put us off going down to the plot.
I’ve noticed a few reports on Twitter that some areas had a frost overnight and into Wednesday morning. Although the temperature dipped down to 4.2°C for us it wasn’t our lowest for the month which was Thursday 24th at 3.5°C.

In the last four years I haven’t recorded a temperature of 0°C or below in October so it’s not unusual for us to avoid a frost at this time of year. The lowest October temperature in the last four years was 25 October 2010 at 0.2°C, pretty close to zero but not quite.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013


Monday produced one of our coldest days of the month with a high of 11.8°C which to be fair is about what we should expect for the end of October. After a dull wet morning the rain cleared away.
There was a blustery wind around lunchtime and into the early afternoon but nothing like the ferocious winds that the southern part of the UK experienced on Monday morning.

As we get towards the end of October and two thirds of the way through autumn our average temperature has just about hit the average expected for autumn. After a cooler September our average was below expected but a mild October has put us back on track.
Autumn this year is proving to be much warmer than last year when by this time it felt like winter was already well under way. If October maintains its current average of 12.4°C my figures would make it the 11th warmest on record based on Met Office records going back to 1772.
No one seems to be ready to predict an end to the mild, wet, and windy weather coming in from the Atlantic so the mild autumn seems set to continue.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Spoilt by Showers

The weekend wasn't too bad for late October. Saturday was the milder cloudier day and Sunday was a little cooler with more sunshine but a gale force wind especially around lunchtime.
We've been lucky to avoid the storm that was forecast for the southern counties of England for the early hours of Monday morning. The gale force winds of Sunday lunchtime died down during the afternoon and haven’t returned. Monday morning has started off calm, dull and wet. Brighter weather is forecast for Monday afternoon.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

What a Turn Around

Friday morning started off dull and wet suggesting a miserable Friday but by mid morning the rain had stopped, the sun came out and the temperature scorched up to 18.0°C.
The temperature hasn't managed 18.0°C this late into October over the last four years.

Of course this is lull before the storm. The forecasters have been warning us for a few days now of the storm brewing out in the Atlantic and heading our way for Monday. 
This is the latest forecast maximum speed for gusts of wind at 06:00 on Monday morning. The centre of the low pressure system is set to track over central England with the worst of the winds, forecast around 80mph in exposed locations, across southern counties of England and northern France. I don’t think I’d be wanting to cross the English Channel on Monday. 

Friday, 25 October 2013

Dry and Sunny

Thursday remained dry and became only the second day out of the last sixteen without any recorded rainfall. Not only that we had plenty of sunshine, especially through the morning, with more cloud around in the afternoon.
There was a small price to pay for such a lovely day. The early morning temperature on Thursday produced our coldest morning of the autumn so far with the temperature dipping down to 3.5°C.

It was a good day for more tidying up on the plot.
The runner bean wigwams were taken down and the old sweet corn stalks pulled up and consigned to the compost heap. The wigwam canes were tied together and put into the greenhouse to protect them from the worst of the winter weather and prolong their useful life. Any large weeds were removed and the compost from the recently emptied bin was spread out over the bed. It’s been covered with some weed control fabric and with a little bit of luck the worms will get their act together and incorporate the compost into the top layer of soil. I’d like to cover the fabric too but the supply of decent horse manure has run out so I am considering using some wood chippings which are readily available on the site. The fabric and chipping will be removed in spring when the bed will need to be dug over ready for planting.

Harvesting certainly doesn’t take up much time now compared to a few weeks ago. I dug some carrots and beetroot which needed a wash to remove some soil clinging to the roots as a result of the wet weather.
The little Tom Thumb lettuces area bit of a surprise as I’d given up on them growing at all. These were planted out in the plot on 23 August and haven’t seemed happy at all.
Tom Thumb are the row on the left and some have eventually managed to produce some tiny hearts. The middle row is Webbs Wonderful which haven’t grown at all and the final row is Little Gem some of which have also produced some tiny hearts. Hopefully we’ll get some small pickings until the first frost of autumn finishes them off.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Power House

Wednesday was a better day so I decided on a visit to the plot to sort out the allotment power house although it’s an area that doesn’t appear in plot photographs very often.
I refer of course to our compost bins which aren't very photogenic whichever side they’re photographed from but form an important part of the recycling process for dead plant material.
These were the two sections I wanted to sort out. The one on the left is all our dead plant material from last autumn and this summer. Some material has also been added to the right hand section if the left hand side has been full. It’s amazing how much a heap of compost shrinks as it decays. I’m not the best compost maker in the world and never manage to turn the heaps every month or so or whatever the recommendation is. Material doesn’t really get sorted out and mixed up as recommended either it just gets dumped into the bins as it’s cut down or pulled up out of the plot. The only exception is grass clippings which I do try to mix in to stop them becoming a slimy smelly layer. I’d describe myself as a lazy compost maker.
This is the result of 12 months of composting once the side of the bin has been moved out of the way for easier access. I didn’t think it looked all that promising but my idea was to move all the material that hadn’t yet rotted into the bin on the left, spread any good compost onto the plot and then move everything back into this section. This would then be left to do its thing until this time next year.
Once the top layers of un-composted material had been removed there was some pretty decent stuff to spread on the plot. I managed a dozen barrows full of well rotted compost from this heap.
Once all the compost had been barrowed onto the plot everything was moved back into the bin on the right of the picture.The left hand bin is empty and ready for filling up with the next 12 months of fresh composting material. I’m tempted to cover the full heap with weed control fabric to try to control the weeds a little bit. This part of the plot suffers from bindweed not the easiest of weed to keep under control. This will now be left for 12 months to finish the composting process.

Now all I’ve got left to do is to sort out the three similar sized bins that are full of composted material produced from all the weeds that have been removed.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Dull and Mild

Tuesday continued the now established weather pattern of wet morning and a much improved afternoon. The upside of this weather is that it’s been really mild for late October. In the afternoon sunshine the temperature reached 17.6°C very pleasant for taking Tivvy for a little walk.

The downside is that all the dull and mild weather has resulted in a real shortage of sunshine. With just over a week to go to the end of the month it looks like it will easily be the dullest of the four Octobers during which my weather station has been operating.
As you can see so far my weather station has recorded a miserly 18.4 hours of sunshine for the month up to the 21 October so we’re going to have to have some very sunny days in what’s left of the month to match 2010 and 2011.
Tivvys afternoon walk incorporated a little bit of photography in the sunshine to capture The Cathedrals Express on its return journey from York to Kings Cross hauled by 70013 Oliver Cromwell.

Some drier weather would be much appreciated so that we can get some final tidying up done on the plot before any proper winter weather sets in.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Continuing Mild and Wet

Monday continued in the same pattern as the last week or so with a little bit of rain but mild. Sunshine was again at a premium with just a brief spell in the middle of the afternoon after rain off and on through the morning.
I took Tivvy out for a walk in the afternoon and timed it perfectly to coincide with a little bit of sunshine and it felt lovely and warm with the temperature almost reaching 17°C. It’s remained mild overnight too with no risk of frost with lows of around 10°C.

Although it’s rained almost every day for the last ten days our rainfall total for the month is surprisingly around the amount normally expected.
The rainfall chart is up to date to midnight Monday 21 October 2013 and as you may have guessed Tuesday has begun cloudy with a little more rain. The forecast is for more of the same with Thursday being the best day of the week with some sunshine and no rain. We’ll see.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Dodging the Showers

The weekend continued the dull showery weather of the past week. Between the showers it just about dried up tempting a bit of gardening before another shower arrived and put an end to any thoughts in that direction.

On Sunday we decided on a visit to the East Lancashire Railway Steam Gala. This was a bit of a risky choice weather wise heading west into the oncoming showers. That seemed to be the case as we sat out the first hour in the car after arriving in pouring rain. Fortunately for us the rain disappeared and we just had a few light showers in the afternoon.
This is Ramsbottom Station soon after the rain had stopped and we risked venturing out of the car for a look around. Of course the dull wet weather is bad news all round as the ducks on the river Irwell were enjoying themselves.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

More Drabness

Friday was back to drabness with an overcast day but mild and almost rain free.

It wasn’t the sort of weather for gardening but it did give me a chance to finish editing some video from our visit to the National Trust property of Barrington Court on our recent visit to Somerset.

We did notice that in the walled kitchen garden lots of weed control fabric was used. Obviously they must follow our blog!

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

Friday, 18 October 2013

Dog Walking Again

Thursday was the best day of the week so far, pleasantly mild with a few sunny spells but there were a few heavy showers around which we managed to avoid.
We decided on a visit to Temple Newsam, a Tudor-Jacobean house, for “Tivvy’s” walk. The old house and extensive grounds landscaped by Capability Brown are owned and maintained by Leeds City Council. It’s one of those local spots I’ve visited on and off for many years and it seems to maintain a never changing appearance and charm.
Outside the old walled kitchen garden the estate holds national collections of asters (Michaelmas daisies) and chrysanthemum (Charm and Cascade cultivars) as well as four other national collections. The asters at this time of year make a stunning border.
The estate also runs Home Farm which is one of the countries largest working rare breeds farms and is open to the public. Obviously the farm isn’t open to Tivvy so we’ll have to return another time to have a look at the farm animals.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Tomatoes and Quinces

Wednesday morning started cold, the coldest morning of autumn so far with the temperature falling to 4.4°C and as it was a dull murky start to the day the temperature didn’t exactly shoot upwards. By lunchtime it started to rain and it continued most of the afternoon and into the early evening. It was fairly light rain, nothing too heavy.

As the temperature had fallen so low I decided to harvest our quinces Meeches Prolific which were ripening down on the plot. It was more for its looks - lovely when it flowers in spring - that was the main attraction for planting the tree. The fact it produced fruit was secondary when we decided to buy the tree. Now I know what we've been missing out on as quince and apple crumble has to be one of the season’s highlights as aromatic quinces and home grown apples are a great combination.
It was wet down the allotment but it didn't take too long to pick our 3kg of quinces. They easily parted company from the tree when tested in a similar manner to apples.
I thought I might as well clear the tomatoes from our plot greenhouse as it meant at least I would be out of the rain. Most of the tomatoes had ripened with each of our 5 varieties having around 2kg of green tomatoes. The full weights of our tomato crop are in the table below.
I don't know what to make of the results. We didn't get a single tomato from 3 plants of Sioux in our home greenhouse as every fruit produced succumbed to blossom end rot yet the three plants in the plot greenhouse produced our heaviest crop. On average each plant in the plot greenhouse produced 2.7kg of tomatoes. I don't know whether that’s good or bad but I’m satisfied with our final crop because as September started any crop at all was looking doubtful.
The box on the right contains all our green tomatoes so it’s now a matter of deciding where to keep them for a couple of weeks to see if they will ripen. I may have to do a little bit of reorganising in our freezers to accommodate the remainder.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

A Trip to the Greenhouse

The weather was better on Tuesday, no rain or wind and the temperature managed 14.4°C. In the afternoon we took our part time dog “Tivvy” for a little walk and it was good to get out and about after the horrible weather of the last few days.

When we got back home I thought it would be a good idea to clear the home greenhouse of its long dead tomato plants. It’s green recycling bin day early on Thursday morning so I thought they may as well help fill up the bin as there was plenty of space left. I hadn’t really had a careful look around the home greenhouse for a few weeks other than to pick some grapes and water the cyclamens growing in a tray by the door.
They’re a pleasant surprise looking so healthy just now as everything else in the greenhouse has that look of getting ready for winter. The tomato plants were chopped down and the dead stalks moved into the compost bin. Going into the greenhouse I had to duck under some foliage from the grape vine which has been left to its own devices for a couple of weeks. As there was still space in the green bin our grape vine was trimmed back a little and before I knew it I had a decent pile of grape vine on the greenhouse floor.
All this went into the recycling bin too and at last the greenhouse was starting to look a little tidier. There is still plenty more to do though to finish the job.

Earlier in the year, at the end of May, we had rescued a small fig from a container down on the plot. If you follow our blogs you will know about plants that have recovered after appearing dead, it was one of those plants.
This is how it looked when we took pity on it just a couple of leaves making an effort to grow in very trying conditions. It was given a new home in our home greenhouse in its own pot of fresh compost. I’m pleased to say its looking very healthy growing alongside our cyclamen.
I suppose it will only be a short time now before it looses its leaves for winter. On the opposite side of the greenhouse and under cover of the grapevine I found this pot of crocus doing their best to do just the opposite and put on some new growth. They’re Sue’s special saffron crocuses.
This is how they looked once a few discarded grapes were removed along with a few dead leaves that had accumulated in the pot. I’ve given them a good watering and placed them by the greenhouse door close by the cyclamen and fig. This is becoming a little area of the greenhouse taken over by plants needing a little bit of care and attention as we move into autumn.

I really must make a point of checking these plants out on a regular basis right through the winter months. It would be a shame to loose them now.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

More Wet Weather

Monday’s weather continued the dull, drab and damp conditions of the last few days. The rain from late afternoon came in the form of heavy showers rather than a spell of prolonged rain.
The total rainfall for the month is now up to 30.8mm. On average we can expect around 68.0mm this month so despite what seems like a rather wet week we’re on course for the month.
Hard to believe now that just over a week ago we were sitting outside the cafe at Dunster Castle enjoying a coffee in the last of the summer sunshine.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Better but Still Needs to Improve

Sunday’s weather did improve on Saturday’s and we even had a little bit of sunshine late in the afternoon.
The morning was dull again but by about lunchtime it was starting to dry up a little. Then the showery rain started and lasted on and off through the afternoon until it brightened up for a short while then more rain arrived late into the evening.

In the morning I’d investigated the data stored by my weather station to see if it could give me some figures to rank really dull days in order. I already have a little extra program to calculate how many hours of sunshine are recorded each day. However, we have plenty of days when this value is zero as we obviously have plenty of days without sunshine.

My weather station also calculates the total amount of solar energy falling on a horizontal surface which is called Global solar exposure.
Global solar exposure is the total amount of solar energy falling on a horizontal surface. The daily global solar exposure is the total solar energy for a day. Typical values for daily global solar exposure range from 1 to 35 MJ/m2 (megajoules per square metre). The values are usually highest in clear sun conditions during the summer, and lowest during winter or very cloudy days.
Reference Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology

I'm presuming the minimum value of 1 MJ/m2 is during daylight hours as this value is obviously 0 MJ/m2 during the hours of darkness. So using this value I've plotted the figures out for all the days in October that my weather station has been operating. The best thing is not to worry about the units just consider that a value of 0 means it’s dark and a value of 35 represents a brilliantly sunny day in Australia. 
Using this as a guide then Saturday was the dullest October day I’ve recorded with a “Martyn’s Dullness Rating” of 0.4. At the top of the rating is 01 October 2011 with a value of 10.2 which coincided with 5.7hrs of sunshine and a temperature of 28.5°C.

I also did a quick check on the sort of maximum values I would record in summer so I checked out the figures for July 2013. The highest value was 22.7 on 09-July-2013 with 9.4 hours of sunshine. Out of interest the lowest value was 04-July-2013 at 4.6 on a day when no sunshine was recorded.

So far Saturday is the dullest day I have on record but I suspect once I've calculated the values for the winter months with their shorter daylight hours I will come up with a smaller value.

I’d now like the weather to improve so that we can continue tidying up in the garden and down on the plot. 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Drab Doesn't Describe It

Saturday was dull, very dull, it hardly got light all day. We didn't even get a bit of a let up with any brighter spells as the sky gave the appearance that it was about to tip it down with rain at any minute. Strangely enough we had very little rain. It drizzled all morning with a few heavier burst in the afternoon but the whole lot only came to 1.0mm by the end of the day.
As you can see from Saturday’s sunshine charts it hardly managed to add any yellow onto the chart at all. I should be able to report that it was the dullest October day I’ve recorded in the four years my weather station has been recording data but I can't at the moment.
The forecast for the next few days doesn't look like very good gardening weather so I might investigate how I can work out the sunniest and dullest days we've had for each month. I reckon that Saturday will almost certainly turn out to be one of our dullest October days in the last four years.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Apple Harvest Completed

Thursday and Friday’s weather was pretty naff with a gale force cold north easterly wind and a few blustery showers interspersed with a few sunny spells on Thursday. The only real difference on Friday was the wind lost some of its strength and we didn't see any sunshine. The temperature managed only 11°C on Thursday and 13°C on Friday. Autumn has arrived.
Temperatures have dropped sharply through the week and the wind direction has moved from a mild westerly to cold north easterly.

At least we managed to get all our apples picked but some are still in boxes awaiting a suitable storage location.
Despite the very late spring this year when the apples were around three weeks later than normal coming into flower we've had a heavier crop than 2012. Our younger apple trees on the plot, planted in 2008, have probably produced their best crops so far. The older trees as is normal have had their good and bad years.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

A Feel of Autumn

The well forecast change to more autumnal weather turned out to be correct as Wednesday was a much cooler breezier day than we’ve been used to and we had a few light squally showers around lunchtime. The temperature only managed 14.2°C rather than the high teens we've been having recently but unfortunately that’s about what we should expect for early October. We've just been spoilt by the excellent weather of the last week or so.

Yesterday if you read Sue’s post Happiness is you saw the pictures now view the video of those little piglets we watched on our break in Somerset.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Season’s Final Bumper Harvest

Tuesday was another lovely mild sunny day. It became breezy and cloudy late afternoon a sign perhaps of the change in the weather to come.

We decided to visit the plot to do a little bit more tidying up and as the forecast is for much colder and windier weather for the rest of the week we decided to harvest our squashes and the last of our Golden Delicious apples.
You might spot that there are a few oddments in the boxes which are obviously nothing like a Golden Delicious apple. As we inherited these cordon apples trees many years ago now we've had to do our best to identify the apples they produce. Our best guess so far is that these other apples may be Laxton’s Superb but whatever variety the tree never produces a very heavy crop. Perhaps it doesn’t like my pruning method. Our Golden Delicious crop weighed in at an impressive 13.25kg giving us a bit of a problem of deciding on the best storage method to use.

Last year we didn't have any winter squashes as we didn't manage to get a single seed to germinate. This year we had no germination problems and our young squash plants, six each of three different varieties, were planted out on 18 June through weed control fabric. Since then they've been left to their own devices with very little attention. No weeding between the plants has been needed and the plants more than filled their allotted space making a break for freedom across the service road running around the allotment site. 
Crown Prince has without doubt been the star performer producing 12 squashes weighing in at 41.8kg, with our Vegetable Spaghetti producing 11 squashes weighing 22.2kg. Lagging behind is Futsu Black a variety we're trying for the first time this year which produced 7 fruits weighing in at 11.6kg.

It was a case of loading up the car carefully so that we could get our harvest and gardening equipment back home. 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

A Short Break in Somerset

We had a little break away in Somerset from Thursday to Sunday. Luckily for us the weather was very good for most of the time. It poured down for most of the journey down to Taunton on Thursday morning and continued for most the afternoon but it did eventually stop. Friday, Saturday and Sunday just got better with more sunshine and warmer each day.

On Friday we had a trip on the West Somerset Railway as they were holding their autumn Cambrian Railways Gala.
On our journey from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead two preserved steam locomotives 7822 Foxcote Manor and 7812 Erlestoke Manor hauled the train through the Quantock Hills to the seaside resort of Minehead.
On Saturday we visited Dunster Castle a National Trust property. The garden has a sub tropical feel to it and was still very lush even in early October. The castle sits on the top of a wooded hill and allows impressive panoramic views over the surrounding countryside.
On Sunday morning we visited Barrington Court a beautiful old manor house and another property looked after by the National Trust. It has its own orchards and working kitchen garden which supplies the restaurant with fruit and vegetables. 
The flower gardens were designed in consultation with Gertrude Jekyll and had a special autumnal look to them in the bright morning sunshine still with a heavy dew on the grass late into the morning.