Sunday, 31 August 2014

Some Computer Mischief

Saturday was a breezy day with some decent sunny spells but pleasant enough after the poor weather we've experienced through August.
Yesterday I posted about the rainfall for August reaching the 100mm mark for only the fourth month in the last five years. Something computerwise went very wrong and I'm not entirely sure why but the result was that the table was completely wrong and I only spotted the error on Sunday morning.

All my weather data is downloaded from my weather station into a Microsoft Excel spread sheet and from there it’s easy enough to extract data into a more user-friendly format to produce tables and charts. Normally these charts or tables are copied from my spread sheet into Web Plus to convert them into a suitable format to publish on the web. Previously I've never before spotted any obvious errors in the tables which are transferred using a simple copy and paste familiar to anyone who uses a computer. On Saturday something weird happened.
Above is a screen grab from my Excel spread sheet including the little green dotted line indicating the information to be copied and then pasted into my web publishing program. Note the dates are not all 2014. When this is pasted across the dates all miraculously changed to the year 2014 without me doing anything but clicking paste. Transferred into Web Plus this table looks like this. 
For some reason it’s confused by the dates as the rainfall totals all copy correctly. So manually corrected the table with correct dates and rainfalls should look like this.
I've updated Saturday’s post with the corrected table. I now need to do a bit of investigating to find out why the dates didn't transfer correctly in the first place.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Reached the 100mm Mark

The return to summer didn't last that long as late Friday afternoon and into the evening we had some more rain. It was enough to extend our August rainfall above the 100mm level for the month. It’s only the 4th month in five years of weather records that we've passed the 100mm mark. Our five wettest months are shown in the table below.

The rainfall total in the chart was automatically updated on 29 August at 23:01 and since then a little more rainfall has lifted that total to 106.00mm.
August 2014 Rainfall
Friday morning had started out very pleasant lulling us into believing that summer may well have returned and we set off immediately after lunch for Stillingfleet Lodge Nurseries and garden to see if we could find the plants we are looking for to refurbish our borders. As you may have guessed the weather was lovely and sunny as we arrived although a bit breezy. Of course we hadn't been looking around the gardens for many minutes before it started to rain. We’re getting used to this happening by now.
After sheltering from the heaviest of the rain we continued our garden visit in a mixture of light rain and drizzle. Then a look around the nursery was a pleasant surprise. It’s a nursery that propagates all its own plants rather than buying in plants so you can actually buy the varieties you see in the garden. We came away with a nice collection which I'm leaving Sue to post about in detail later.

Friday, 29 August 2014

For One Day Only But…..

Summer made a welcome return on Thursday. For the first time in two weeks the temperature made it up to the 20°C mark reaching a respectable  21.6°C in the afternoon. Some rain in the early hours of the morning brought our monthly total up to 98.8mm. Will we manage 100mm before the end of the month?

Now to the but … as it was such a nice day we decided on a visit to Harlow Carr. There were lots of visitors and as we found a car parking space the sun was shining and it was a lovely afternoon. Getting out of the car we hummed and arred about taking a small brolly each just in case the weather should turn. In the sunshine it didn't seem like a good option but we decided better safe than sorry and took the brollies.
Once into the gardens we headed for the parts we’d missed on our last rain interrupted visit. We hadn't been in the gardens for more than a few minutes when the first few drops of rain fell. It surely couldn't rain us off again could it? Undeterred we carried on looking for some inspiration for our new border at home. In the end we had to relent and head for the shelter of the alpine house. You may find lots of lovely pictures of alpines appearing soon as we spent some time sheltering waiting for the shower to pass over. 

Unfortunately that didn't really happen but in a short dry spell we headed for the kitchen garden. They have a couple of greenhouses there where we could shelter if the rain became heavy.  One of the greenhouses also contained those tomato plants growing on straw bales and we wanted to see how they were doing.
For anyone interested in giving this method a go these are the instructions I forgot to photograph on our last visit. As for the success and amount of fruit you can expect from this method I'm not at all sure. I might see if I can find out later in the season if the RHS have any results from their trials.
Interestingly against most of the advice I've seen for growing tomatoes the vines haven’t been stopped as the plants have reached roof level but have been trained to grow up the roof to the ridge of the greenhouse.
The trusses of ripening tomatoes hang downwards more like grapes then tomatoes. The only variety planted up using the straw bale method that is the same as we've grown was Sungold which we've grown for the first time this year and been very pleased with. I’d guess it’s been producing lots of ripe fruit and as you can see from the photo above the trusses with fruit are now well on their way to the ridge of a very high greenhouse.

In a normal greenhouse I think you would quickly run out of growing height but whether this method gives better tastier crops and reduces problems like blossom end rot it would be useful to know.

After investigating the kitchen garden the rain still hadn't stopped and after a look around the nursery we decided to head for home. The weather was still sunny and warm at home and I had plenty of time to cut the grass and clean out the pond filter. One day we will get a rain free visit to Harlow Carr.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Carrot Inspections

Wednesday was another dull August day but there are rumours about that the weather may pick up a bit next week for a few days only. We shall see.

We've had plenty of fresh vegetables from the plot over the last month or so without missing our carrots which have been left to their own devices growing away under their environmesh tent. 
The last time I remember looking in the tent our carrots looked like this. We were a bit concerned that slugs had decimated a couple of rows of young carrot seedlings so we made some extra sowings. Since then Sue’s weeded a couple of times whilst the carrots were quite small. Despite using weed control fabric some weeds do grow between the seedlings and the edge of the cut fabric.

I thought it was about time to look inside the tent and see how our carrots had performed.
This is the tent from the outside and apart from looking full of green vegetation there’s not much of a clue as to how our carrots had grown inside it.
Inside was full of lush green carrot tops and not too many signs of any large weeds although I’m sure there will be some in there somewhere. So the only thing left was to carefully move some of the tops aside so I could manoeuvre my fork between the carrots and weed control fabric and lift our first “Early Nantes” carrots of the season. 
The first signs were good and a combination of easing roots out with the fork and pulling the carrot top revealed some decent roots. We always get some smallish carrots because, going against all good gardening advice, we never thin out our carrots. Our method works too so I'm not going to change it.
We had one rather enormous carrot and a few medium sized ones together with a few smaller carrots but all of a useable size. A couple of carrots had forked but had done so at the very end of the root and we don’t mind odd shaped carrots. None of the carrots had any slug damage to the useable parts of the carrot but the largest one had been nibbled around the shoulder which had turned a little green and needed discarding in any case.

If the remaining crop are like this I won’t be complaining. They've already had the taste test which they passed with flying colours.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Moving Inside

The weather’s been so poor of late that a couple of hours of sunshine on Tuesday afternoon felt like summer had returned. After a cool dull morning the sunshine tempted us out into the garden.

Our apricot “Flavourcot” and Nectarine “Fantasia” have now been moved into the greenhouse in an attempt to stop peach leaf curl fungus attacking the plants. A cause of this can be due to winter rainfall so the trees will have some protection and hopefully some lovely leaves and fruit next year.
Our pot grown apple tree “Baya Marisa” suffered a little bit in the July heat. The pot it was in was a little too small to keep the tree watered so it’s been moved into a much larger pot where hopefully it will be convinced that it’s really growing in the garden.
Looking at the pot in the photo it doesn't look that large but it’s almost 600mm wide at the top and full of compost it’s not exactly manoeuvrable. 

That just leaves our peach tree to move inside the greenhouse and once that is done we will have some space outside for some more potted fruit trees. 

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

What a Shocker

It’s been a very poor August weather wise so far but I think it saved the worst for Bank Holiday Monday. It turned out to be a very dull cool day with drizzle or light spells of rain all day followed by some heavier rainfall late on into the evening.
With more rain in the early hours of Tuesday morning bringing the monthly total up to 95.2mm it’s made August 2014 the wettest month of the year and it’s the wettest August of the five years I've been keeping records. 
Bank Holiday Monday’s temperature never really managed much above 13°C and it was even cooler for most of the morning. The result is that the average monthly temperature has now fallen to 15.1°C, the coolest I've recorded, and which I think from Met Office records would make it the coldest August since 1993 which had an average temperature of 14.6°C. 
Unless we have some exceptionally cold days, which aren’t in the forecast, I don’t think the average will fall to that 1993 temperature.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Grapes Galore

Sunday was one of the better days of the last few weeks with some decent sunny spells and the afternoon temperature reaching a very pleasant 19.7°C.

After a rather disastrous year in the home greenhouse last year, things are doing much better this year. Sue posted a greenhouse August update here. One thing I've tried to do this year is keep our grape vine Himrod under better control. It produces an large heavy crop of sweet grapes every year but left to its own devices it will fill the greenhouse full of shoots exploring all parts of the greenhouse.
The main stem of the vine is trained along the roof of the greenhouse and the never ending new shoots and leaves can soon cut out much of the light. In hot sunny weather this can produce some useful shade but in duller damper weather it reduces much needed light. This year I was determined to keep it in check if at all possible.
The pruning process has to start early on in the season and the first worry is will the vine produce some grapes if all its new shoots are constantly cut back. As you can see we have no shortage of grapes despite my attempts to stop the vine in its tracks.

My efforts to stop the grape vine taking over haven’t been totally successful as its managed to cunningly send out some tendrils behind the tomato plants where I can’t reach them.
It’s now in need of its weekly trim. I’ll trim back all the shoots leaving a couple of leaves near the main stem of the vine. It should keep us supplied with grapes until the end of September providing we don’t get any really cold nights.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Flamenco - Yes or No?

Saturday was another cool August day (I very nearly typed autumn instead of August) with a few sunny spells to a least brighten up the day. Our average temperature for August has now fallen to 15.3°C and into the coldest August over the last five years spot. It still has some time left to make a comeback though.

We still haven’t decided on our strawberry varieties for our new patch to be planted up next spring. We did decide back in the middle of the strawberry picking season that we wouldn't bother growing an everbearing variety. Flamenco is our everybearing variety at the moment and it didn't perform very well back in early summer. Who needs poor performing strawberry plants. 
For the second week in a row our old Flamenco plants have yielded up a punnet of delicious strawberries. A few fruits had some slug damage and a couple of strawberries had gone mouldy on the plants, not a surprise given the autumnal nature of the weather for the last couple of weeks. I think they've now done enough to earn a second chance.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

A Week of Computer Issues

It wasn't that good a day for August but we decided on making a visit to Breezy Knees Gardens and Nursery located close to York. The chances were that it might not be the best of days to head in the direction of York. It meant heading in the direction of Bramham Park where the Leeds Music Festival is taking place and the Ebor race meeting at York as well as early Bank Holiday traffic heading along the A64 to the east coast. Luckily we didn't have any major traffic problems.
The gardens alone were well worth the visit and gave us some good ideas as to what to grow for colour in late August and into September.
What a pity that having spent a couple of hours looking around the gardens photographing and making notes of what we would like to grow these plants weren't available in the nursery. It’s not the only gardens or show where we've discovered something we would like to grow only to find it unavailable to buy. We can’t have been the only ones who didn't part with any money because having found the star varieties walking around the gardens the nursery didn't stock them. These plants are available to buy on the Internet so these nurseries seem to be missing out on some sales.

That brings me onto yet another computer issue. I was going to add some photos of the gardens to my Flickr account but for the second time in a few months I am unable to access my account. It’s linked to a BT account which I can access and view all the details of such as payments but it won’t let me look at any pictures. As I mentioned earlier, this is the second time that I have been locked out of my account with no means of rectifying the problem so I think it’s goodbye to Flickr. BT can’t help and can only suggest passing me on to Yahoo who will no doubt blame Flickr. I don’t intend to go down that line.

I have added an album to my Facebook account which can be found here.

Friday, 22 August 2014

August Records May Tumble

Thursday was another poor day for August. The sun never managed to break through the heavy cloud cover and that also kept the temperature down to a disappointing 16.6°C. Some rainfall late evening and overnight into Friday morning brought our total for the month up to 81.2mm.

As we move into, more or less, the final week of August I updated the charts on my weather web pages. This month could set a few unwanted August records based on my records for the last five years. It could turn out to be:
  • The coldest 
  • The wettest
  • The windiest
  • And finally least sunny

It’s certainly been the windiest August of the last four years for which I have records. If the average temperature drops another 0.2°C by the end of the month it will become the coldest whilst another 3.4mm of rainfall will make it the wettest too. As for sunshine we need to manage another 23.3 hours by the month’s end to prevent it taking the least sunny record too.

Updated records for August 2014 can be found on my web site here.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Couldn't Help Myself

I'd decided on a plot visit in the afternoon. It promised to be another coolish August day and provided it stayed dry my plan was to get all our grass paths cut. As I was moving the mower from the garage to the car the heavens opened and it poured down for a few minutes. That put grass cutting on hold.
After a while the sun came back out and it looked quite promising so I decided to pop down to the plot after all but just to pick some runner beans. All three varieties are now producing masses of beans and our plan is make some runner bean chutney as we've already got lots in the freezer.

By the time I'd got to the plot the weather had taken a turn for the worse again it looked ready to pour down again. Undeterred I started picking and after a couple of minutes the sun broke through and it felt hot. There’s still plenty of warmth left in the sun. The runner beans almost started cooking on the vine as the hot sun got to work on the wet beans.
It didn't take long before I’d picked 5kg of beans equally shared between Desiree to the left and Lady Di. Plenty for some chutney so as it still hadn't started raining I decided to pick a few alpine strawberries, then a quick look over the raspberries, perhaps a punnet of greengages, some plums and a few apples for good measure.
In the end it wasn't too bad a harvest considering I nearly didn't bother visiting when it poured down with rain just after lunchtime. Time to get the runner bean chutney recipe out.

As of Wednesday evening our web sites are having serious issues with our Host server. I'm not sure what the problem is but if you try to view some of our web pages you will get a message reporting the web page is not available.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Cool Spell

Tuesday was easily the coldest day of the month. It had the lowest high temperature of 17.2°C combined with the lowest nighttime temperature of 8.2°C and an average of 12.8°C. The rainfall total is up to 70.2mm around double our long term average.
August 2014 Temperature and Rainfall to 20th August
If we don’t have a decent spell of warmer weather towards the end of the month this could end up the coldest August over the five years I have records for.
For the record the coldest August night I've recorded is 4.6°C on 31 August 2010.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Early Cardoon Refurbishment

Monday brought about a big improvement in the weather, well at least the gale force winds had abated, other than that it wasn't what’s expected in August. We set off to the plot to inspect for any damage from Sunday’s gale. The clouds suggested it might only be a short visit.
The plot seemed to have survived pretty well intact. Our runner beans are still more or less unscathed but with a bit of a lean towards the east. Some of the leaves look a bit battered now after what seems like days of very windy weather.
The biggest casualty of the winds is one of our once statuesque cardoon plants which has been battered into submission. 
There was no point in pretending that was possible to rescue this plant by supporting the flowering spikes with stakes they’re far too heavy. The only thing for it was to bring forward its winter pruning. If you look carefully you can see that all the leaves produced by the cardoon are attached to the flowering stems. This means that once the flowering spikes are cut down to ground level nothing of the plant is visible above ground. It’s a bit drastic but I don’t think there was an alternative. 
What a difference a few cuts with the loppers makes. The next job is to dig over the ground around the plant to remove as much grass and other weeds as possible. Most years that’s all I do and leave the plant to shoot again from the base. Doing this it will go on to produce another enormous plant again next year.

This year though I'm going to clear out some of the old wood around the base of the plant which will reduce the size of the cardoon for a couple of years before the process needs to be repeated to keep the plant under some sort of control. I'm planning to use weed control fabric around the base to cut down on the weeds but apart from clearing the weeds I'm going to wait until some new shoots are produced before moving on to the next stage of its restoration.

The flower spikes have all been transferred to the compost heap but left so the bees have access to the flowers which they love so much. 
Once dried the stems of the cardoons are very sturdy and aren’t that easy to compost so I’m going to keep them in one piece rather than chopping them into bits for composting and test them out as sturdy replacements for bamboo canes next year. If it doesn't work I haven’t lost anything.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Whatever Happened to August?

Well by Monday morning the wind had died down. Sunday had been quite sunny but with a gale force wind for most of the day it was very unpleasant not at all like August.
The strongest gusts were from mid morning to late afternoon when it overturned our Kiwi, Black Elder and bird feeding station. For the record the updated table of wind speeds to Monday morning now looks like this.
The forecasters are now turning their attention to a cold blast of air coming from the north with overnight temperatures down into single figures with the possibility of a frost in some unlucky spots. With daytime temperatures predicted to be in the low to mid teens it’s not going to be a mild week by any means.
As I said whatever happened to August?
Amazingly our first flower on our Bishop of Llandaff dahlia survived the gales intact. This afternoon we’re hoping to make a trip down to the plot to inspect the aftermath there.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

In the Middle of a Gale - Yes It Is August

I thought one bout of gale force winds was unusual enough for August but this year it’s excelling itself. It’s the middle of Sunday afternoon and a gale continues to blow as it’s done since the middle of the morning.
The first casualty was our Issai Kiwi blown over by a strong gust before lunchtime. In full leaf the supporting canes couldn't withstand the gale force winds and the three bamboo canes have all snapped. Fortunately I don’t think there’s any damage to the kiwi itself. After a few temporary repairs it was positioned behind the summer house to shelter it from the worst of the winds. 

Then after lunch, next in the firing line came our potted black elder and bird feeding station both blown over in the gale force winds.
I may as well leave them where they are until the wind dies down a bit.

On Monday 11 August I posted the table below to show how windy this August has been in comparison to recent Augusts.
Updated for this weekend’s windy weather the values now look like this.
It doesn't seem to be abating much yet. I wonder what’s happened to our runner beans and sweet corn on the plot?

Giving Up

It was on the fourth of August that we set our onions onto wire frames to dry off on the plot. It seemed like a good idea at the time as the weather was still excellent, dry and plenty of sunshine. Since then things have gone somewhat downhill as we've had some rain in each of the last seven days and only 3 completely dry days for our onions to dry off outside.

In the plot greenhouse our Sioux tomato plants never recovered from their early July problems. They neither produced any new leaves or flowers and hence they were on Saturday consigned to the compost heap to make some space in the greenhouse for the onions. 
Rightly or wrongly I've decided the problem was a result of conditions in the greenhouse exacerbated by the compost in the grow bags they were planted in. The plants have been chopped up and added to the compost heap.

The rest of the tomato plants in the plot greenhouse are all looking very sorry for themselves and have very few tomatoes on. The exception has been Sungold which has grown and cropped well but the crop is now coming to an end. I'm not intended to water the plants any more and so with the extra ventilation provided at ground level I'm hoping our onions will dry out satisfactorily in the plot greenhouse.
As more tomato plants are cleared the onions will be spread out a little bit more.

The wind has continued to blow most days this week and the cardoon that was badly blown about in the wind last weekend has now given up the battle to stay upright altogether and has decided the best option is to use the ground as support.
This is more material for the compost heap. Interestingly the flowers last in good condition for ages on the compost heap where the bees still love them.

Despite the wet damp conditions our ever bearing strawberry Flamenco gave us a treat of fresh strawberries for Saturday tea time.
Some strawberries had been nibbled by slugs and a couple had gone mouldy due to the damp conditions but the rest were delicious. A little reminder that summer isn't over yet.