Saturday, 31 May 2014

Well at Least It Didn't Rain

I've said it in the title at least it didn't rain on Friday but it was another dull and miserable day without any sunshine. We seem to be living under everlasting cloud at the moment. A bit of brighter sunny weather would be very welcome.

We decided on an afternoon visit to the plot to get some of our vegetable plants moved into their final positions. The ground was very wet and I think it was probably a bit too wet for planting out but things are getting a bit desperate at the minute so cabbages, Brussels sprouts and squash were planted out.
We were able to plant up these beds because the soil had already been prepared earlier in the spring. The beds had been given a quick tilling followed by the addition of some fish, blood and bone fertiliser and in the case of the brassica bed some lime. The beds had then been covered with weed control fabric.

Now we have the additional problem that we are rapidly running out of prepared beds. Two large beds were waiting for conditions to improve so that the soil could be tilled but some dry weather is needed for that to happen. Two other large beds had been covered with weed control fabric since last autumn. I had considered the possibility of planting these two beds without first cultivating the ground beneath. I had a quick peek under one corner of the fabric and it was obvious that this wasn't going to work. The ground under the fabric was saturated. 
These are the two beds in question. The weed control fabric has done its job but it is worth noting that any potatoes left in from a previous crop will do their best to find their way out from under the fabric growing long white haulms attempting to find daylight.
I've decided to leave the weed control fabric off these beds for a few days hoping that the soil might dry out a little quicker. This bed is due to become home for our runner beans and sweet corn so I really need it prepared quickly. I can't see it drying out over the weekend and more unsettled weather is forecast for next week so I'm not too sure when this bed will be ready for our crops.

I don’t think the situation has been caused by the weed control fabric. Since the spell of fine May weather broke on the 20th May we've had 58.8mm of rain far more than we might expect in the whole month. Our runner bean crop might be a little late this year.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Another Dull and Miserable Day

At least the rain stopped around lunchtime on Thursday but the heavy clouds hung around all afternoon making it a dull and miserable day. In that brilliant spell of weather a couple of weeks ago my weather station was recording around 9 or 10 hours of sunshine each day. What a change now as the last 8 days have produced only 8.5 hours of sunshine and 5.4 of those hours came in one day.

With gardening activities on hold yet again we decided on a short trip to Woodlesford to carry out a bit of steam train photography.
It was a value for money trip with three steam locomotives all making their way from Carnforth to Dereham to take part in a steam gala to be held over the weekend by the Mid Norfolk Railway.

If you'd like to see more, my video of the train passing through Woodlesford is here.

Our weather forecast for the next few days is a little more promising. At least it’s forecast to be dry but any sunshine looks to be in very short supply before more showery weather arrives early next week. We'll probably find out exactly how wet it is on the plot this afternoon.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Still Raining!

Once the rain started in the early hours of Wednesday morning it’s just continued on and on and into Thursday morning and it’s still raining. Thankfully it couldn’t be classified as heavy. It does have nuisance value though as it’s gradually adding to the month’s rainfall and delaying any planting out operations we had planned on the plot.
Rainfall from Tuesday 27 May 2014 to Thursday (morning) 29 May 2014
The soil was wet and claggy on Tuesday when we were last down on the plot so another two day’s worth of rain isn't going to have improved matters. May has now become our wettest month of 2014. 
I'm seriously starting to think of a back up plan as I don't think the courgette and cabbage plants we have in pots and seed modules under the cold frames at home are going to last until the soil dries out enough to be cultivated ready for planting. I might sow another batch of cabbages and courgettes as my back up plan just in case.

On a different note altogether I've noticed that the birds are making a much better job than usual of clearing the “golden chorus” and “buggy nibbles” that they get treated to every morning.
This is how the bird table looks when breakfast has been served. The main diners at the table are blackbirds and starlings and both bring their youngsters along for a fly in. It’s not long then before the table looks like this.
Every last morsel is found and devoured. I must have a go at getting some pictures of the bird table covered with birds but the youngsters are easily spooked so a cunning plan will be needed.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

By Hook or by Crook

The forecast for Tuesday was for rain all day but I’d decided that this was the day I was going to get our plot greenhouse tomatoes planted. First thing in the morning was drizzly and damp but even if it meant getting a bit wet this job needed doing. The first task was a visit to the garden centre for some grow bags which were then taken down to plot. By this time the weather had brightened up considerably and it was a bit of a warm task giving the grow bags that beating to break up the compost inside that’s always well compacted due to the grow bags being stacked on top of one another. Once the bags were in place in the greenhouse it was back home for lunch and to fill up the car with tomato plants.

By the time we got back to the plot, although not actually falling, rain was threatening so we decided to do a few jobs outside saving planting the tomatoes as a fall back job which could be done in the dry in the greenhouse if the rain came.

Sue planted out our first lettuces of the season “Red Salad Bowl” and “Little Gem”. I decided to sort out a few pea sticks as we had three rows of peas and a row of sweet peas all growing well with nothing to climb up. It was the sort of job that could be abandoned half way through if it started to rain. Unbelievably the rain held off and I ran out of peas sticks before all the peas were supported. Our “Carouby de Maussane” peas now have something to climb up.
The rain continued to hold off and the tomatoes plants were transplanted into their growbags. They'll need some supports too but I decided to leave that for another day.
We left the plot around 18:00 and it was still rain free although there was a cold north easterly wind blowing but the day’s weather forecast for rain all day turned out to be wrong for Ossett. The tomatoes were planted and we'd managed to stay dry.

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

Tuesday, 27 May 2014


Monday was nothing to write home about but following our recent spell of wet weather the improvement was very much appreciated. After a sunny morning the afternoon clouded over and when we left the plot around teatime it was starting to drizzle.

We'd spent the afternoon on the plot. We transported all our sweet pea plants down to the plot in the hope that it wouldn't be too wet to do any planting. The car was cram packed full of construction materials and tools as well as I wanted to erect a new cage over our redcurrants.
Sue’s the main redcurrant picker and as she’d requested a better method of actually getting into the cage I've provided her with a door. It’s nothing special and its hinges are made out of string but I'm hoping it will fulfil its purpose. In the past there hasn't been a way in other than removing some of the netting and scrabbling in. 

It was good news on the sweet pea front too as the bed we'd prepared for them wasn't too soggy and Sue managed to get them planted. I did have a little proddle about in one bed that needs tilling and it’s certainly too wet to be dug. The top few inches of the soil weren't too bad but it was wet and claggy below that.
We left as the drizzle started but not before I pulled a couple of onions. These are some of our autumn sown onions “Radar” which have done much better this year than last. After a complete crop failure the year before due to the onion sets arriving too late this year’s crop from the local garden centre have produced what looks to be an excellent crop. We should certainly have enough onions to keep us supplied until this year’s summer crop is ready.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Thoroughly Wet May

Another dull, wet day on Sunday stopped any outdoor gardening again. This has now become the wettest May we've had in the short time I’ve been keeping records.
The good news is that Bank Holiday Monday has begun on a much brighter note with a lovely sunny morning. It will be a case of trying to get some planting done down on the plot provided the soil isn't too wet.
The forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday is for more heavy rain so we'll need to make the most of this break in the weather.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Spring Needs a Reboot

Saturday was another wet day. Another 11.2mm of rain on Saturday brought the total over the last three days up to 39.6mm or about the rainfall we might expect in the whole month. 
Rainfall and Temperature from Thursday 22-05-2014 to Saturday 24-05-2014
The monthly total is now up to 70.4mm following some more rain overnight Saturday into Sunday morning.

Gardening is on hold at the moment. We've plenty of plants in the cold frames waiting to be moved into their final positions on the plot but I'm guessing the ground is going to need a few days to dry out after the soaking it’s had over the last few days and that’s provided we don’t get any more rain.

Our new coldframes have been very useful already in protecting our plants from becoming waterlogged. Their covers have been open to let in some air but not rain unlike our old aluminium cold frame which remained open to the elements.
Inside they’re bursting with plants desperate to be planted out in the plot. They may have to hang on for a few more days.

Then there are lots more young plants in the greenhouse waiting to take up the vacated space. The space in the greenhouse is needed for our tomato plants.
This is the space in our greenhouse where our grow bags will positioned for our summer tomato crop. There’s a lot of planting out and jiggling about to do before that can happen.

A few days of decent weather are urgently required but looking at the forecast it’s not looking all that promising.
That forecast for a dry Sunday isn't too accurate because as I finish off this blog post at 11:00 the rain has started yet again.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Watering Won't Be Required

I knew earlier in the week when I blogged that some of the beds on the plot would benefit from a little rain I was tempting fate. Late on Friday afternoon the weather gods had the last laugh as a thunderstorm gave everything a thorough soaking. We’d had some rain on and off all day but it hadn’t amounted to anything special. Then around 18:30 the heavens opened and it bucketed it down for a few minutes.
At its peak intensity the rain was falling at 81.2mm/hr or roughly a month’s rain in about half an hour. Fortunately it didn't keep that rate up for long but by the time the thunderstorm had passed over our daily rainfall amount was up to 17.2mm.
That makes it our 18th wettest day since 2009 and the wettest May day I've recorded. For the record the wettest day I've recorded was 06 July 2012 with 39.2mm of rain and the most intense rainfall occurred on 15 August 2012 with 151.6mm/hr.

There’s more rain forecast for Saturday so it might now be a case of having to allow the plot a little drying out time before any cultivating can take place.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Some Links to Photos and Video

Its continuing to rain on and off on Friday so I thought I’d post links to some additional photographs and video from our visit to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

More photos from our visit can be found on my Flickr page here

A short video of our visit is on YouTube and can be found here

Hope you enjoy the pictures and video.

I Thought They Were Special

Thursday became our wettest day of the year with recorded rainfall of 11.2mm. It was dull and miserable with spells of rain throughout the day. It was a shock to the system after the lovely weather of the last week or so.
Thursday’s rainfall amount wasn't anything exceptional for one day and doesn't get it into our top thirty wettest days since 2009. At least 13.0mm is required to move into the top thirty.

In the last couple of days I've spotted a butterfly and moth which I thought were unusual and that I hadn't seen before and must therefore be rather rare. As it turns out that’s not the case for either of them. I spotted the butterfly on a visit to the plot on Wednesday. I popped down to drop of some materials for making a fruit cage to protect our redcurrants and to water our newly sown peas.
I couldn't remember seeing one of these small butterflies before but it turns out to be a small copper and a common variety.

On Thursday afternoon between the rain showers I popped up to check that nothing was drying out in the home greenhouse. Unlikely to happen on such a dull day but better safe than sorry. I only just spotted this tiny moth resting on one of our viola flowers.

After a quick snap with my phone camera I headed back to the house to try my luck with my Sony camera. When I got back the moth was still on the flower and then it was a question of how close could I get without disturbing the moth or finishing up too close and with a blurry image.
After a bit of cropping and tweaking the final result isn't too bad. It’s a common mint moth but I can’t remember ever noticing one before. As you might guess it gets its name because the caterpillars feed on the mint family. I’ll inspect our pot of mint for caterpillars when the weather improves.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Homegrown Revolution Update

Regular followers of my blog will know that this year we are experimenting with a selection of produce picked from James Wong’s book Homegrown Revolution. We chose Inca Berries, Chinese Chives and Cucamelons to give us some variety amongst our normal crops. The details of sowing and potting on are shown in the table below.
So far so good as we've had no disasters and all three varieties have germinated. Due to rather poor germination, the most disappointing so far is the sowing of Chinese chives. It may be that more will germinate over the next week or so and I still have more seeds so definitely not a disaster and hopefully we'll have something to try.
My original plan was to grow these to maturity in this terracotta pot but I will need to seriously review this as these are described as deep rooted plants that should be planted in soil enriched with plenty of organic matter. The good news is that six plants will provide more than enough flowers and leaves for the average family. I might not need to sow any more seeds after all.

Next in the table are cucamelons. These are supposed to be easier to grow than outdoor cucumbers being more cold tolerant than cucumbers. They need support as they grow as tall vines and the suggestion is that they should have their main growing shoot pinched out once they reach 2.5m. 
The cucamelons have just moved from under the indoor growlight into the cold greenhouse. They grew a little slowly after germination but they are now growing extremely quickly. They will be potted on over the next few days into reasonably large pots where they can grow on before planting out in the plot. Hopefully we will be picking cucamelons by the beginning of August and they should continue to fruit until the first frosts.

Finally our Inca berries are also doing well. They too went through a stage where they seemed to stop growing soon after they had been transplanted. They're growing really well now though, probably due to the warm spell of weather or hot in the case of our Inca berry plants as they're growing in the greenhouse where it been exceptionally hot through this recent spell of good weather even with the door and windows wide open.  
Inca berries should be grown on similarly to tomato plants except that they should produce a good crop outside in the plot or grown on in tubs. I've still to decide exactly how to progress to the next stage but perhaps I'll try some in pots and other planted directly in the plot. The berries should be ready to harvest by late summer or early autumn.

Finally the weather. Wednesday was another sunny mild day but in the early hours of Thursday morning the well forecasted rain arrived.

By 10:00 Thursday morning we've had 8.8mm making it the wettest day of the month. We need another 1.0mm then surprisingly it will become our wettest day of the year which currently stands at 12 February 2014 with 9.6mm.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Up in Tads Now down in Tads

There was a lot more cloud about on Tuesday especially in the morning when the sun didn't bother to make an appearance. We had a few spots of rain around lunchtime which didn't amount to anything. Then the sun came out and the afternoon was much brighter. We did have some rain mid evening but it only amounted to 0.8mm. The temperature continued to be mild for May although it’s fallen back a bit from its high of 25.2°C on Sunday with Tuesday’s high reaching 22.4°C.
Temperature and Sunshine Records for Wednesday 14 May 2014 to Tuesday 20 May 2014
A return to more normal Spring temperatures is going to be a shock to the system.

On the plot the grass continues to grow amazingly quickly and it got another trim in the afternoon. Some parts of the plot are now fully planted up and it won't be too long now before we can begin harvesting some of our early cabbages.
Other parts of the plot are still awaiting their summer crops of sweet corn, French and runner beans, and courgettes.
The bed in the foreground is already planted up with potatoes which are beginning to push their way through the soil but the remaining two beds need a quick tilling  job on them before they are ready for planting up. A little drop of rain might help the tilling process a little as the soil in the middle bed has cracks developing in the surface due to the dry and warm weather. I realise I could easily regret wishing for a little rain.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A First for Us

Monday was another glorious day although we had a few spots of rain in the afternoon, as though we were about to get a downpour, which didn’t materialise.

We've had a grapevine of one variety or another growing in our home greenhouse for as long as I can remember. The amazing thing about this is that it never seems to suffer from any pest. That is until this year.
Something’s had a serious nibble at this leaf. The leaf is almost touching the glass and growing along the ridge of the greenhouse. I couldn't find any sign of pests on the leaf so I'm a little undecided what’s caused the damage. Obviously it found the veins of the leaf a little tough. Is it caused by a slug or a snail but if so why has it climbed or slithered all that way passing other delicacies on the way?

I’ll need to keep a look out to see if any further damage occurs. 

Our first baby blackbirds have fledged and are busy following their parents around the garden begging for food.

It’s lovely to see these young birds but it’s rather sad that we haven’t seen Hoppy for a few days now. Perhaps he’s found it difficult to hold his own in the fight for food against other birds who are looking to feed their youngsters.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Increasing in Tads and a Conundrum

Sunday continued our brilliant spell of weather pushing this year’s high up a tad more to 25.2°C.
Temperature and sunshine records from Friday 16 May 2014 to Sunday 18 May 2014
On Friday I posted a picture showing the comparison between our bought in Marshalls cabbage plants and my own plants raised from seed. It’s obvious that Marshalls plants are well in advance of my own seedlings and to save you looking back at yesterday’s post here’s the photo again.
The collection from Marshalls included cabbages, calabrese and cauliflowers. All the plants looked fine when they were potted on after arrival and all three types received the same treatment and conditions. My notes of the progress of each variety are included below.
On Sunday, alongside our bought in plants of “Mayflower”, Sue planted out our own cauliflower plants “Clapton” raised from seed. 
It’s difficult to know which are which but the two rows on the right of the photo are “Clapton” our home produced seedlings. I can't fault Marshalls plants as they were fine on arrival but once potted on the seedlings just refused to grow. Is it the compost? I think I used the same bag of compost for all the plants but I can't be sure. The “Mayflower” plants do look to be getting a little bit of colour back into their leaves after being planted in the plot a couple of weeks ago so there is still hope for them. For what it is worth my money is on the problem being down to the compost.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

A Tad Warmer Today

Saturday was another excellent May day with a maximum temperature of 24.7°C, a tad warmer than Friday, making it our warmest day of the year.

We've plenty to do on the plot so we decided on an afternoon of planting and tidying up. To be honest it was a bit too warm to be doing much more than sowing or planting, not that I'm complaining about this lovely weather you understand.

Sue planted out these broad beans “Masterpiece Green Longpod”. The plants looked nice and healthy as they left the cold frame with no signs of any pest problems but now they're in the plot all that changes. The sprayer contains our homemade garlic spray which was used on the plants to see if we can reduce the damage being done by weevils. These beans are planted next to our earlier variety “Witkeim Manita” which have been badly attacked by the weevils. I also water all the beans with a seaweed based liquid foliar feed to hopefully give the plants an extra boost to help our early planting grow through the weevil attack and the newly transplanted ones avoid any setback.

I also transplanted out our early cabbage plants “Hispi”. These have been planted alongside the plants bought from Marshalls in early spring to hopefully provide us with some cabbages and calabrese.
This certainly looks promising as our Marshall’s cabbages are already beginning to show signs of starting to form hearts just as our first home raised cabbages have been planted out. These too got the garlic spray and foliar feed treatment.
The final protection is to cover the whole bed with butterfly netting not only to keep the butterflies off but also the wood pigeons which can devastate a crop overnight if they get the chance. 

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Warmest Day This Year but for How Long?

Friday was the best day of spring this year. It turned out to be the warmest day of the year so far with the afternoon temperature managing an impressive 24.1°C.
The forecast is for the same again on Saturday and Sunday with a change to more unsettled weather returning on Monday. The warmest May day I've recorded was 28 May 2012 when the temperature reached 28.0°C.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Yorkshire Wildlife Park

Thursday was a lovely mild day, dry and with lots of sunny spells.

We’d decided earlier in the week that if the weather was suitable we'd visit the Yorkshire Wildlife Park near Doncaster. This park made both local and national headlines when it re-homed 13 lions from a zoo in Romania.  The Park took on 13 which had been housed in very cramped conditions in small pens with concrete floors and iron bars. The lions now have far more spacious accommodation.
The Wildlife Park is home to many more animals besides the lions many of them have also been re-homed from other zoos where they have become surplus to requirements. 
They certainly seem to have been given plenty of space at the wildlife park. The lions certainly seem to appreciate their new home and look to really enjoy their relaxed lifestyle now.
There are some other big cats too and these also have large paddocks to roam around in. The one below was just finishing of his “Whiskas” for lunch before an afternoon nap.