Sunday, 29 June 2014

Summer Needs Rebooting

Saturday was another rainy day, which came mostly as drizzle with the odd spell of heavier rain mixed in. It was another cold day for June with the temperature only making it to 13.1°C.

Our plans for Saturday had been for another trip to Bempton Cliffs incorporating a little bit of steam train photography too. We decided against the trip not fancying a walk along the cliffs at Bempton in the cool damp weather. Any gardening was on hold too. 
By the middle of the afternoon things hadn't improved at all but we decided on a short ride out to the East Coast Main Line to see if we could capture some photos and video of 70013 Oliver Cromwell as it headed back from Scarborough to Kings Cross with a special steam hauled charter train “The East Riding”. As we waited for the train to arrive the rain continued in erratic bursts and we weren't sure if getting out of the car was going to be a good idea. Rain and cameras don't get on well together in my mind.
As it happened the rain almost held off as 70013 Oliver Cromwell steamed past us heading towards Doncaster.
As usual with steam train photography it was all over in a few seconds and all that’s left is to retire to the car and have a quick look to see if the shots were as expected. There’s no second chances if the shots aren’t what you hoped for.

For a steam locomotive built in 1951 and withdrawn from service in 1968 Oliver Cromwell wasn’t exactly hanging around with “The East Riding” as she sped past our vantage spot.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

A Good Decision

Friday certainly brought about a change in the weather. Gone were the lovely warm conditions of the last few weeks replaced with cooler, cloudy, wet weather. It drizzled with rain for most of the day before “proper” rain set in by the middle of the afternoon. The temperature only managed to reach 13.6°C making it the second coldest June day in the last five years. The record is held by 03 June 2012 with just 9.6°C. The rainfall total amounted to 9.6mm by the end of the day.
Whilst we were down on the plot on Thursday afternoon, we decided that our garlic and over wintering onions had done all the growing that they were going to do. In the fine weather of the last few weeks the onions and garlic had dried off nicely and we thought it would be a shame for them to get a soaking in the rain if it arrived as forecast for Friday so they were all lifted and brought back home to be stored in the dry.
It turned out to be a good idea as they'd certainly have finished up wet and needing some more fine weather to dry them off.

Friday, 27 June 2014

One of Winter’s Survivors

It looks like the weather will change on Friday as the fine spell continued on Thursday. Once again there wasn't much sunshine but with only a light breeze and the temperature nudging 20.3°C in felt very pleasant.

Last January I posted a picture of a geranium, (or more accurately pelargonium), in our neighbour’s garden which with the help of some protection from a bay window had managed to survive the winter outside. 
Well it made it through the rest of what turned out to be a very mild winter with no real severe frosts. The geranium is still growing under the bay window and is now in full bloom.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Hanging On

The forecast change in the weather doesn't seem to have arrived yet. Wednesday was mostly dull and cloudy but it remained dry and mild.

I eventually made up my mind and decided to spray our potatoes with Bordeaux Mixture in an attempt to stop any more potatoes succumbing to blight. When I'd finished some of our potato leaves had taken on a blueish tinge. If this treatment is to have any effect it needs to be repeated every two to three weeks.

The rest of the couple of hours I spent harvesting. Despite the lack of sunshine it was still a pleasant afternoon for mooching about on the plot picking strawberries and tayberries.
We're trying to decide the strawberry varieties for our new bed which will be planted up next spring. We'd almost dismissed Amelia as it hadn’t done too well in the last couple of years. This year it’s done much better as though making a last ditch effort to show us its worth. Three lovely punnets of strawberries, which tasted superb, have got us thinking again.

Our bought in brassica plug plants have not only grown well but as if by magic they are managing to mature in nice succession. We're down to our last couple of “Duncan” cabbages as the calabrese “Marathon” is ready to harvest.
The rate that the heads are growing we might have to freeze some calabrese.

My most strenuous job of the afternoon was to dig a few more leafless “Winston” potatoes. My leisurely afternoon on the plot turned out pretty productive. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Almost Forgot

Tuesday wasn't as good weather wise as we've been used to. We had a little light rain around lunchtime and the afternoon was dull and cloudy although it remained mild. The forecast is for the settled weather to have broken down by the weekend.

Last week when we visited RHS Harlow Carr we had a look around their kitchen garden to see if we could spot any good ideas that we could copy or anything a little out of the ordinary. In the disappointment of finding blight on our potatoes I forgot about these two interesting ideas in their kitchen garden.
I haven’t seen this method of growing tomatoes before. The tomatoes have been planted in reasonably sized pots that are half filled with compost. These are growing on bales of wet straw where they presumably get all their moisture from and are fed in the small amount of compost in the pot.  I have to admit I've only just spotted the information sheet describing this growing method hanging from the greenhouse roof. It will be interesting to visit in August to see if the plants produce a good crop.

The second thing we spotted was a tomato and potato plant called a TomTato.
This sounds like a pretty good idea but presumably you wouldn't get a potato harvest until the top of the plant has finished producing its tomato crop. As these are growing outside I would have thought that would be towards the end of September or even the middle of October. I wonder how much the grafted plants cost?
These are the TomTato growing in large hessian sacks. Once again it will be interesting to see how these are performing on our next visit to the gardens.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Summer Pruning

Sunday and Monday continued the lovely spell of weather we've been having over the last week or so. With decent sunny spells and temperatures into the low twenties centigrade it feels as though summer really has arrived.

I've been trying to decide whether or not to spray our potatoes and tomatoes with Bordeaux Mix to try and control or stop the spread of blight on our plants on the plot. Some rows of potatoes are badly affected and some are still clear of any signs.
We've still got some powder left from our failed attempt to control peach leaf curl. Perhaps it works better against blight. I seem to remember using it a good number of years ago now without any success but perhaps I didn't keep up with the fortnightly spraying regime that’s required. I suppose I might as well use up the powder rather than leave it a cupboard where it certainly won't do anything to control the blight.

Whilst I was considering our blight problem I thought it was about time I tackled one of our camellia bushes which has grown a bit too large for its location and is obstructing one of our garden footpaths. 
I had toyed with the idea of moving it to a more suitable spot but I don’t really think it would move successfully. In any case I would have to prune it severely to have any chance of digging around the root ball and it would also needs lots of watering if the weather continued to be warm and dry. So I settled for a severe chop similar to the one I gave our other camellia and which has recovered well and flowered this year. I think it missed flowering for one spring.
I’ve done it now! Maybe I was a bit too lopper happy but it’s too late to worry now. As for the debris it’s all chopped up and in the garden waste recycling bin with room to spare. I thought I might be getting rid of it over a few weeks.
Next in line is the bamboo that you can now see lurking behind the pruned camellia. This isn't going to get the pruning treatment more a complete digging out treatment. We should be able to recycle a few decent canes when the bamboo gets the chop.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Blighted New Potatoes

Friday and Saturday were both pleasant June days with reasonable amounts of sunshine and continuing mild and dry.

Saturday was taken up with a visit to the Esk Valley in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park but more of that another day once the photo’s and video are developed.

I haven't yet come to terms with our potatoes succumbing to blight in June. That initial panic of we aren’t going to have any potatoes at all this year is beginning to dispel a little.

Sue’s posting on her blog gives more details of blight and our problems this year. Having decided it was best to remove the infected foliage on Friday it left some of our potatoes without tops at all. It seemed like a good idea to dig a root of foliageless Winston potatoes to see if we did have any potatoes underneath. They haven’t flowered yet so I wasn't really that hopeful but I couldn't help thinking about those volunteers that get left often have a few usable size potatoes on. 
These are the potatoes from the root of Winston. They weighed in at 0.5kg so not too bad and better than nothing at all. They cleaned up very well too.
Given a good washing under the tap the skins started to come away without any scraping at all. Most surprisingly there was no sign of slug damage and slugs normally find Winston one of my tastiest varieties. Perhaps the slugs have been too busy eating the above ground greenery to bother with the underground stuff. Well they’re missing a treat as these few new potatoes tasted superb eaten with our salad.

If it hadn't been for the blight we wouldn't have dug any potatoes for a few weeks so we'd have missed out on this tasty treat. I still can't really come to think of blight having a silver lining though.  

Friday, 20 June 2014

RHS Harlow Carr’s Roses

We set off for a visit to RHS Harlow Carr near Harrogate just before lunchtime. It had been a dull morning and it started to rain lightly as we set off. 
Luckily that was the last of any rain we saw and the day cleared as we headed into North Yorkshire. We managed some very pleasant sunny spells in the afternoon as we had a leisurely stroll around the gardens.

These are my best pictures of some of the roses on flower at Harlow Carr. 

My favourite is the first one “Shropshire Lass” a climbing rose. It’s on my wish list at any rate.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Plugs v Grow Your Own

After a bit of a dull start Wednesday was a gorgeous June day with some long sunny spells and the temperature up to 24.9°C by late afternoon making it the warmest day of the month.

I thought it would  be worthwhile to write a post about our bought in brassica plug plants. Our brassicas that should have over wintered to produce some springs greens succumbed to club root. This meant a rather long wait until our spring sown seeds produced some tasty cabbages, cauliflowers and calabrese. Like you do I saw some brassica plants advertised by Marshalls suggesting their plug plants would produce an early crop. I've had mixed results in the past with plug plants but in the end I decided to give these a go. Previous posts referring to our plants can be found here and here.
These rather scrawny looking plants received on the 23 March have grown extremely well and turned into the excellent plants shown below.
The cabbages “Duncan” and calabrese “Marathon” grew away well when planted out on the plot and we are now harvesting the last of the cabbages.
These have certainly given us a much earlier crop than if I’d relied on my self sown seedlings which are only now starting to form hearts.
These are my “Hispi” cabbages which will be a few more weeks before they are ready for cutting. All the cabbages have been badly ravaged by slugs but luckily nearly all the damage has occurred to the outer leaves leaving the hearts in good condition and 100% usable.

The calabrese is now forming decent sized heads and will be ready to use over the next few weeks as the cabbages are finished.
Now whilst the cabbages and calabrese from the Marshalls collection grew away well when they were initially transplanted into pots and given some tlc the cauliflowers were a different matter altogether. They refused to grow much at all and were eventually transplanted out several weeks after the other plug plants. However, now they are looking much healthier and much more likely to go on and produce some cauliflowers.
These are cauliflowers “Mayflower” grown from our plug plants and looking pretty good.

Compared to my seed sown cauliflowers “Clapton” they're miles ahead.

So I'd have to agree that those Marshalls plug plants have definitely produced much earlier crops than I've been able to manage from my spring sowings.

Obviously the cost of buying in plug plants is much more expensive than raising your own plants from seed but I've no idea whether or not I’m in pocket or not after harvesting my cabbages, calabrese and cauliflowers.

I might even consider buying in a few cauliflower plug plants to plant in autumn to over winter and produce a crop in May next year.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Potato Disaster!!!!

We set off for the plot to plant out our sweet corn on another cloudy and dry day. 
I didn't even bother having a quick look around the plot as I normally do just getting straight on with the task of covering the bed tilled on Monday with weed control fabric and barrowing over some rather “fresh” horse manure to hold down the edges. I’m sure it will be okay to dig this in next spring to improve the soil.
As it turned out I was a little bit premature thinking the sweet corn was ready to plant out as the roots hadn’t yet filled out the pots and transplanting wasn't going to be so easy. We decided to leave the plants to grow on for a few days before having another attempt to plant them out.

So we decided it was coffee time. I collected the kettle from the shed and headed down the path to the tap. As I passed our early potatoes Rocket and Casablanca I had to do a double take. I didn’t believe what I could see. Never mind the coffee for the moment this was far more serious. 
I'm pretty sure that our potatoes have “early blight”. It’s not something we've suffered from for a few years now but when our potatoes have had it in the past it’s started in early August not in the middle of June. If all our potatoes succumb now I doubt we’ll have much of a crop.

The most common advice is to remove the foliage to stop the blight spores falling onto the soil and then infecting the potatoes underneath. Apart from our Rocket and Casablanca varieties which are just coming into flower our second earlies won’t have potatoes forming yet as they aren’t anywhere near the flowering stage. 

Will it affect all our potato crop and will find our tomatoes in the greenhouse and coldframe? Will the weed control fabric that some of the affected potatoes are growing through offer some protection to any tubers that have formed?

Now all we can do is wait and see what happens.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Tricky Digging On a Getting Better Sort of a Day

Monday morning wasn't too promising and it looked like another cloudy day was on the cards. At least it didn't rain and although it was still cloudy at lunchtime we headed for the plot. Our main tasks for the day were to plant up the coldframe with peppers and tomatoes and dig over a bed ready to plant out our sweet corn. We took some cucumber and sunflower plants to the plot to plant out too.

The bed for our sweetcorn is earmarked as our new strawberry bed. I’m anticipating planting our strawberries next spring so anything planted in this bed needs to be removed by autumn so that the bed can be prepared ready for our new strawberry plants next spring. This bed is badly affected by club root as we found out last year when we lost all our winter brassica crops.
This is how the bed looked back on April 26th when the old brassica plants and the weed control fabric had been removed. Since then we've had plenty of rain and the bed has been waiting to be dug over ready for a summer crop.

Regular followers will know that I've been complaining about how wet the soil is down on the plot. I was hoping it had dried out enough to till one bed ready to plant out our sweet corn later this week. I was sort of out of luck with the tilling. The top few inches had dried out and tilled okay but the tiller didn't want to go any deeper and I was going to finish up with a hard pan a few inches down.
Digging the ground to a fork depth you can see just how wet the soil is as the fork left smooth shiny grooves in the soil as it’s dug. I experimented by digging a small patch of ground over with a fork but didn't bother trying to break down the large clods that resulted. I then used the tiller to break down the soil which seemed to work well and I knew the ground was dug to a least a fork’s depth to avoid a pan layer.
Once dug over with the fork the bed looked like this. I wouldn't fancy my chances of breaking this lot down to a fine tilth with a rake and there is no chance of planting into soil in this condition. The tiller was put into action. It took a couple of passes but the soil was soon broken down and made into a suitable tilth for planting.
The bed still needs edging and covering with weed control fabric but weather permitting we should be able to get our sweet corn planted this week. The bed to the right in the above photo also needs digging and it’s funny how misleadingly dry the soil looks but I'm guessing it will be just the same, pretty wet and claggy beneath the top few inches and will need digging over with a fork before tilling.

By the time we left the plot in the late afternoon it was nice and sunny and certainly the best part of the day. The coldframe had been planted up with peppers and tomatoes and the cucumbers and sunflowers had been planted out too.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Backlog Building Up

Sunday was another let down weather wise with a dull damp morning with rain at times followed by a drier but equally dull afternoon.
We had planned to get a little bit of tilling done on the plot and our newly installed coldframe planted up with tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers but the weather put that on hold. We've quite a backlog building up now of “stuff” that’s ready for planting out but hasn't a home in cultivated ground ready for it.
Various varieties of tomatoes hanging on but need to find a home soon.
Lettuce (red salad bowl and little gem) with cucumbers (burpless tasty green) awaiting a spot
Latest sowing of annuals ready for moving on into the plot
Sweet corn and sunflowers wait in the cold frame for their move to the plot.
I reckon that I've got to get some ground sorted out for this backlog this week or the plants will really start to suffer from becoming pot bound. I do need the weather to cooperate a bit better though.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Wrong Type of High Pressure?

Saturday was a cloudy muggy day. The cloud was thick enough in the morning to give spells of drizzle and light rain. Our weather at the moment is governed by a high pressure and weather forecasts happily tell us this is bringing more settled dry weather. Unfortunately it’s not bringing much sunshine.

As we reach the mid point of June it’s been a wet and warm month so as a gardener I shouldn't be complaining too much but I will nevertheless as the amount of rain has prevented any digging down on the plot.
The average temperature for the month stands at 15.8°C, warmer than the last three years but not as warm as 2010. Rather strangely we arrived at this through slightly higher than average temperatures rather than exceptionally hot days with 10 of the first 14 days of the month managing 20°C or above. As for the rainfall although the month has had a wet couple of weeks with the rainfall amount standing at 35.4mm (09:00 Sunday morning) I'm hoping we don’t get anywhere near the 131.5mm of June 2012.

Sunday’s plan was for an afternoon down on the plot getting our coldframe planted up with peppers and tomatoes but once again the day has started off dull and cloudy with light rain falling in the morning. 
Some high pressure similar to that which produced such a lovely day on Thursday when we visited Bempton Cliffs and Flamborough Head would be much appreciated.

More images of our visit to Bempton and Flamborough Head can be found in my Flickr album here.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

What Happened to the Sunshine?

Thursday’s sunshine didn’t last into Friday which was a cloudy, warm and muggy sort of day. There was the threat of a thunderstorm all evening as thunder rumbled away in the distance but avoided us and it remained dry for a third day in a row.
I managed to erect our old aluminium cold frame down on the plot. Although I put all the old nuts and bolts in a container as I removed them at home I still ended up a couple short down on the plot. Funny that and I haven’t any idea how it happened but fortunately I had a couple of spare nuts and bolts in my toolbox which finished the job nicely. I now need to sort some sort of roofing out to give the tomato and pepper plants which will be planted out in the cold frame a bit of extra protection.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Bempton Cliffs & Flamborough Head

Thursday was a glorious early June day with plenty of sunshine and with the temperature nudging into the low twenties centigrade it was just right for a trip to the RSPB reserve at Bempton Cliffs to see the nesting seabird colonies. 
As you wander down to the cliff edge from the visitor centre at Bempton Cliffs you smell the sea birds and hear the kittiwakes calling before you even see any birds.
The gannets make for fantastic viewing as they soar along the edge of the cliff top before finding a spot to land next to their mate on the rocky outcrop. You can't help but wonder if it’s possible to bring up a family perched on a spot that this kittiwake has chosen.
If you’re lucky its possible to spot puffins peeking out from the cliff tops too.
After takings lots of photographs at Bempton we made the short journey to have a look around the cliff tops at Flamborough Head.
We still had time to call in for a refreshing cold drink and a cake before setting out on our journey back home.
Once all my photos are processed and tagged I’ll post a collection on Flickr with a link on my blog.