Friday, 29 November 2013

Good Value

Thursday continued the mild spell of weather. It was another day where the day’s high temperature just made it into double figures reaching 10.3°C. The downside of the mild conditions is that the days are dull and drab without any signs of sunshine.

Our next door neighbour’s summer bedding geraniums are still going strong and seemed to have coped well with the couple of nights of below zero temperatures we've had to date.
Planted close to the house wall and beneath a bay window they’re getting a little bit of extra protection from the weather but certainly providing good value when summer bedding is still flowering at the end of November.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Cleaning Out the Nest Boxes

It was on the 27 November 2010 that the very cold winter of that year began with a minimum temperature down to -4.4°C and -7.6°C the following day. No such problems this year as Wednesday turned out to be a mild cloudy day with a maximum temperature of 11.3°C.

Whilst we didn't get any birds nesting in our camera boxes last spring we thought we had blue tits or great tits nesting in our sparrow terraces. As it was such a mild day I decided to clean out the boxes ready for some new residents in spring.

Nest box one, the top picture looks like some birds began building but changed their minds and nest box two looks like it was used to rear some young with a fully formed nest in the end terrace. Amazingly, even though the nest box is fixed to the house wall about 3.0m from the ground it looks like a slug or snail had slimed inside the nest box.

Both boxes were given a good brush out before they were replaced ready for some eager birds to take up residence next year. Preferably we’d like them to choose one of our nest boxes rigged up with a camera but although we know some birds checked out one of the camera boxes last year they preferred to build elsewhere. Perhaps we’ll be lucky next year.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

A Lovely Day for Walking the Dog

Tuesday was a lovely day for the end of November. Plenty of sunshine, no wind and the temperature up to 8.3°C in the afternoon but to be honest it felt as if it was milder than that.

We decided on a walk in the afternoon as the weather was so nice and made a trip to Temple Newsam. We decided to collect Tivvy on the way there and give her a nice afternoon walk too. There’s plenty of tarmac paths around the grounds so she doesn't get too dirty on her walk.
From a distance there still seems to be plenty of leaves left on the trees but on closer inspection it’s not the case and most of the leaves have fallen off onto the grass.
The park still looked very colourful though as we made our way around the main lake towards the walled garden. Inside the walled garden the gardeners were busy giving the grass one last cut before winter eventually sets in.
As for Tivvy this was very much her, “Why have we stopped?” look as I managed a quick snap. The only downside was the number of dog owners who don’t keep their pet on a lead but insist that it’s perfectly well behaved and under total control as their pet hurtles towards another dog completely oblivious of their owner shouting them to stop or come here. Of course there’s the wonderful comment he/she  is very playful and won’t hurt you as though I'm (or Tivvy’s) a sort of mind reader as their dog heads towards us at full tilt.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Someone Has To Do It

After a dull morning, Monday afternoon turned out to be bright, sunny and cold.
On the plot, I decided it was time to sort out one of our compost heaps. The one I intended to sort out was one of the bins where we had dumped all our weed growth from the last year or so.

I converted this:
Into this:
I confess that there doesn't seem to be a great deal of difference between the before and after picture. The top of the heap was moved into the adjacent bin to get to any decent compost that had formed at the bottom of the compost pile. Sure enough at the bottom of the pile was a good fork’s depth of good compost.
I dug out 15 barrowful's of good well rotted compost and moved it to various parts of the plot to be spread out and left over winter for the worms to incorporate.

My plan now is to repeat the process with the adjacent bin. I'm hoping all the partially decomposed material will all fit in one bin leaving an empty bin for all next year’s weeds. 

Monday, 25 November 2013

Jury’s Out on Parsnips

Sunday was cloudy and cold with the cloud thick enough to give some light drizzle at times.

Whilst we were digging up some carrots on the plot on Saturday we decided to test out a few parsnips. We’re never sure how our parsnips will turn out as excellent looking green tops are no guarantee of good roots. 
This year we've only grown one variety of parsnip which is Gladiator. I've tried a couple of other varieties in recent years but none had performed anything like as good as Gladiator so this year all our parsnips are in one basket.
It normally produces some decent sized roots and as it states it seems to have some resistance to canker but I don’t expect all the roots to be canker free. It’s the first time we've grown parsnips using weed control fabric which has reduced weeding around the parsnips to a minimum. It does make harvesting crops a bit more of a challenge as I don’t want to damage the fabric any more than necessary so that it can be reused as many times as possible.
These are the three roots lifted and a bit of a mixed result. The first root lifted was the one at the top of the picture which was a decent and canker free root, then the root in the middle is a much bulkier root but with some canker damage and finally the root that had forked into two again with a little bit of canker. All the roots will produce a reasonable amount of edible parsnip so the taste test will follow to see if the roots have sweetened up enough.

After the lifting such giant carrots these parsnips were a little disappointing but I'm hoping what they may lack in appearance will be made up for by the taste.

Sunday, 24 November 2013


Saturday was a nice late autumn day with some decent sunshine but rather cold.

We popped down to the plot in the afternoon to replenish our stocks of fresh vegetables. Well wrapped up it didn't feel too cold in the afternoon sunshine but ice still remained in the wheelbarrow from the overnight frost.

I blogged about our excellent crop of Chantenay Royal carrots last week and we decided to dig up a few more roots today. Once again we weren't disappointed.
These two giants came in at 0.450kg and 0.539kg and were surrounded by several smaller carrots. They hadn't achieved this size due to being thinned out and having plenty of room to grow. We don’t thin out carrot seedlings. We harvested just a fork’s width of row.
In total we harvested 3.0kg of carrots from that fork’s width. Once rinsed under the tap they looked as good as anything the supermarket might have except that they would more than likely be rejected for being too large.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Par For the Course

The weather’s been what we should expect for late November, fairly cool days with a high of around 6°C. Through the day we've had some sunny periods so in general it hasn't been too bad.
The chart shows the temperatures and rainfall starting at midnight on Thursday so just a couple of short showers. Saturday morning has seen our coldest temperature of autumn at -1.3°C.

Saturday’s bread is made after it spent all night rising in the fridge.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Camera Musings

Wednesday wasn't a bad day after some overnight rain cleared away quickly in the morning leaving some decent sunny periods before it clouded over again by the middle of the afternoon. In the early evening it started to rain and despite the forecast for showers dying out it continued to rain through to around midnight. The rainfall amounted to 15.2mm a good job it wasn't snow.
During Tuesdays visit to RSPB Old Moor with no birds to photograph Sue and I tried out our cameras to see just how they compared. Firstly this is what I managed to photograph with my point and shoot Panasonic camera.
This is a simple shot with my camera and is pretty obviously just a general shot looking out from the hide over the reserve. You might not be able to spot that right in the middle of the picture on the far bank of the lake is a large nesting box. It might be point and shoot (Panasonic FS45) but it takes images with lots of Megapixels so it’s possible to zoom into the image and see the nest box. The above image when taken by my camera was 4608 x 3456 pixels and used 6.12Mb. For blogging purposes it’s been reduced to 800 x600 pixels and just 0.47Mb.
This is a view of the nest box obtained by enlarging and cropping the original 6.12Mb image. The nest box can be identified but enlarging any further results in a very blurred and pixilated image of the nest box. 

Now if I use my telescope to do a little bit of digiscoping and take a picture from the telescope eyepiece with the same point and shoot camera I can get a much enlarged shot of the nesting box.
Of course it’s much easier to digiscope with an inanimate object that doesn't fly away or run off as wildlife has a habit of doing. It does take a while to set everything up and focus both telescope and camera on the object you want to photograph. Still if there an any birds to take I can happily click away until my camera battery runs out. Most images will be deleted but you never know when you might be lucky and capture a really good image.
This is another shot from the hide this time taken with Sue’s Panasonic FZ72 super zoom camera looking out over the reserve. We spotted some cormorants in the small lake in the middle of the picture. Sue captured the picture below but ventured into the extended zoom capability of the camera beyond its optical range of 1200mm  based on 35mm camera technology.
At this setting the photograph is taken with the equivalent of a 1325mm telephoto lens using 35mm camera zoom lens equivalent. It’s difficult to hold the camera steady using such a powerful zoom lens but provided the image isn't enlarged too much then it’s quality not too bad. We may have to try with a small tripod to see how much the quality is improved by keeping the camera steady whilst the picture is taken.

Again digiscoping produces a closer up image of the birds but again holding the camera steady to actually take the picture is almost impossible resulting in a slightly blurry image but at least it’s possible to distinguish that some of the birds virtually out of sight were indeed cormorants.

It’s the act of pressing the shutter that cause movement so I might try some video with the camera and then check the quality of images grabbed from the video.

Perhaps it would have been much better if we’d actually had some birds to photograph rather than having time to mess around with our cameras.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

RSPB Old Moor on a Cold Sunny Day

After the big lead up Tuesday did turn out to be our coldest day of the month with an average temperature of 2.2°C. With a night-time temperature of -0.8°C it’s the first time our thermometer had fallen below zero this autumn.
We decided to make the most of the sunshine and visit RSPB Old Moor. The temperature was only just above freezing but we decided to wrap up warm and with a bit of luck we should get some pretty stunning bird shots on such a sunny day. Only problem was the birds didn’t play ball and not one single bird came within reasonable camera range all afternoon.

The clear blue sky made for some superb shots despite the lack of birds. Sue took to taking some scenic shots to make up for not having any bird pictures to capture. Even though we are so far into November some trees are holding on to their autumn colours amazingly well. This old oak tree still has plenty of leaves.
Although there was plenty of sunshine in the shady parts of the path the grass were still white over with frost in the middle of the afternoon. 
So for us the cold snap was just that a very brief day long spell of cold weather towards the end of November. 

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

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

A Change

Monday continued the mild and cloudy spell of weather but with a little light rain in the afternoon.

As widely forecast the weather changed overnight into Tuesday morning with the dull and mild conditions replaced by clear and colder conditions. Surprisingly after all the hype give to the fall in temperatures it wasn't the lowest temperature of the month as the thermometer tumbled to 0.9°C leaving 04 November the coldest at 0.1°C 
Tuesday morning has started off cold and sunny a complete change from the dull mild weather of the last few days and will more than likely produce our coldest daytime temperature of autumn.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Dull and Mild

Sundays weather continued in the same mode as the last couple of days, dry, cloudy, and mild. 
For the last two days there’s been little difference between our daytime highs and night-time lows with the temperature only varying by a couple of degrees.
Our more normal night time temperatures are those of Tuesday night into Wednesday morning and Thursday night into Friday morning with the temperature falling to just above freezing but over the last week we've had five nights that have been mild  for the time of year.

All that is forecast to change this week cooler temperatures are predicted with overnight frosts.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Well Behaved Carrots

Saturday was another dull but mild day. It was especially mild overnight with the temperature not falling below 8°C and rising to 11.6°C during the day.

On the plot we finished off the last bit of digging and tidying up of the refurbished beds on plot 28. The beds have been dug and weeded and are hopefully ready for planting next spring. We’re left with a large pile of bits of old timber which will burnt once its dried out.
I also dug up some carrots whilst we were at the plot. This year we tried a new variety for us called Chantenay Royal from Kings Seeds. 
Well this carrot seems to live up to its catalogue description. As I was digging them up its uniformity was the bit that I noticed compared to our other varieties of carrots. As we never thin out our carrots after sowing we tend to get all shapes and sizes and rarely the perfectly shaped specimens seen in the seed catalogues. 
Chantenay Royal seems to have done better than most and produced a crop of large uniform carrots. It’s passed the taste test with flying colours and we've even frozen a few roots, tested them and they too have tasted fine although not up to the quality of freshly dug carrots. 

It will be interesting to see how its keeping qualities match up to our other carrots which will be protected with straw and left in the ground over winter. 

Saturday, 16 November 2013


Friday was dull and cloudy but reasonably mild with the temperature making it to 9.9°C in the afternoon. We had a visit to the plot to do some more tidying up before the weather turns colder as it’s forecast to do next week. We’re just about on the southern extent of the snow showers at the moment and I'm hoping it stays that way. The forecast doesn't seem to be anything too extreme just what we might expect towards the end of November.
Sue took this picture of our rather giant Kilaton cabbages the other day. This is a club root resistant variety and if you look closely you can see the stems and minuscule heads produced by cabbages that aren't listed as club root resistant.  The large expanse of visible weed control fabric is another testament to how badly the “other” types of cabbages performed.

I’ll certainly have to keep a record of the beds that are badly affected by club root and avoid planting brassicas in them to try to reduce the chance of this happening again.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Job Done?

Thursday was another sunny day but with a strong bitterly cold wind but we still decided on a trip to the plot. I wanted to dig a bit more of the old blackberry bed whilst Sue removed the remnants of the wild flowers growing in the adjacent bed. 
This is how our blackberry bed with the wild flower meadow (annual flower bed with weeds which are wild flowers aren't they?) along its left hand side looked a week ago. It was certainly in need of renovation. The area has had a great deal of effort put in over the last week and now looks ready for some serious growing.
All the blackberry has been removed (apart from the roots which I'm sure will regrow) and the ground dug over. Before the bed is planted it will certainly need digging over again to remove lots of roots I'm sure I will have left in the ground. There were very substantial roots of docks and nettles to remove as well as blackberry roots. In some areas I used a pick to prise the mass of roots out of the soil.
This is typical of the roots I was trying to dig out which had taken over this bed. I think I’ll leave it over winter now and in spring dig it over again removing as many roots and weeds as possible before I erect some fencing to train the blackberry on.

I know that Sue wants a major sort out of the flower border with our black elders and roses in. That’s going to be another tricky operation to try and get done before next spring.
I'm not sure I know where to start on this one. I think it will be dig everything out except for the roses and elders then replant the bed once it has been cleared and dug over.

Good fun this allotmenting lark isn't it!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Final Roses?

Once again Wednesday wasn't a bad day for mid November although there was a cold blustery wind at times just to let you know that it really is November. I decided on an hour down the allotment to start digging out the weed and roots from the blackberry bed under renovation. Not that I thought I’d get the the bed dug over in an hour more that an hour would be long enough digging out and breaking up this well compacted soil.

Like you do I had a look around the plot and decided these roses might as well be picked for home. Whilst not the best blooms of the year they are a bit of a treat in mid November.
After an hour I’d had enough digging and decided to harvest a few vegetables.
Our carrots are still in excellent condition and haven’t so far suffered any damage from slugs and snails which are the main pest problems over winter.

We've also started harvesting our leeks which have been grown through weed control fabric for the first time. It certainly cut down on weeding through summer and the leeks have grown really well.
One difficulty of using weed control fabric for our leeks is that it makes them a bit tricky to harvest. Each leek is planted through a hole in the fabric so at harvesting time it isn't a simple matter of using a fork to lift them out of the ground unless that is the fork goes through the fabric too. As we want to reuse the fabric that’s not an option. I'm managing to dig the leek out through the same hole it was planted through. This slows the harvesting process down a little and it will be much more difficult to do the bigger the leeks are. It’s a price worth paying though for all the weeding it cuts down on.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Last Clean & Cut of the Season

Tuesday was another decent day with some nice sunny periods, the relatively mild spell had lasted overnight. There was a bit of a strong coldish breeze blowing but I decided it might be now or never. The grass certainly needed a bit of a cut as the milder weather had kept it growing. The pond filter had also slowed down substantially and I reckoned a clean out before winter would do it good. 
Not a great deal of difference in the before and after shot but I wasn't going for a summer cut, just a light trim with the mower at its highest setting. Once the grass was finished it was quickly onto the pond filter. I'm always amazed at just how much gunk the filter manages to remove from the pond. 
This is typically how I expect the inside of the filter to look after a few weeks of operation. To be honest I can clean this amount of gunk out every couple of weeks through summer but much less now the fishes are rather less active in the cooler water. All the waste gets washed off onto the various garden plants which don’t seem to mind at all. I'm hoping the next clean out will be next springtime.

Although we've had a couple of very keen frosts it hasn't been cold enough to turn our banana (musa basjoo) leaves to mush.
Last year our osteospermums survived winter in the cold greenhouse and gave us some decent plants for starting off in tubs in spring. Hoping for a repeat this winter I moved our 2 pots into the greenhouse along with a tub of dahlias.
Here’s hoping for a reasonably mild winter with no prolonged cold spell which normally results in plant losses even with greenhouse protection.