Friday, 31 October 2014

Banana Protection

We swapped the sunny and cooler conditions of Wednesday back to milder, duller and damp conditions on Thursday. A little overnight rain brought our monthly total up to 40.8mm a little bit less than we might expect in October.

Our banana plant musa basjoo has spent the last couple of winters outdoors with very little protection.  It’s reckoned to be hardy down to -15°C so I’d expect it to survive outside especially last year when the temperature only got slightly below freezing in any case.
The border where the banana was growing is undergoing a refurbishment and I'm not too sure our banana plant will fit in any more so it’s been potted on and moved into the greenhouse for over winter. Although the plant survives outside it can be late starting into growth in the spring and early summer and it might struggle to justify its place in our new border. Its future at the moment is unsure. It may well become an extremely large pot plant. 
Our greenhouse is now filling up nicely with plants that are either making it their new home or finding a more protected spot in which to spend the worst of the winter weather. I've still got to find space for another two large tubs of parsley and mint which will be used to provide us with some fresh herbs through winter.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Bucking the Trend

Wednesday was a lovely sunny day until late afternoon when it clouded over. It was certainly much cooler than of late and it was slow to warm up after an early morning low of 3.4°C.

As we seem to have a tendency to do, Ossett must be bucking the national trend of October being a continuation of summer although it’s been a nice month and we've made steady progress tidying up on the plot mixed in with a few days out. 
The chart shows the daily running average temperatures for the last five Octobers. The purple line with crosses marked on it shows this year which isn't anything special compared with the last few years. To all intents and purposes the average for the end of the month looks like it will be the same as 2011 and 2013 around the 12.0°C mark. The warmest October average from Met Office records is 2001 with an average of 13.33°C. 
Last year the roses were still managing to put on some flowers at the end of October just like this year as this photo taken on 30 October 2013 shows. 

On a different note I see that some of the forecasting models are suggesting a short cold snap around bonfire night with the first frosts of the autumn for most of us. It’s a reminder that I’d better get our carrot duvet of straw in place in case the forecast turns out to be correct. 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Cardoon Storm Damage - Good or Bad?

Tuesday turned out to be incredibly mild for late October as once again the thermometer hit the twenty degree Celsius mark. 
Temperature, Sunshine and Rainfall Monday 27 Oct 2014 - Wednesday 29 Oct 2014
Having just celebrated five years of weather recording, 20.2°C on 28 October is the latest in the year that temperatures have managed the twenty degree level. The first few spots of rain arrived around teatime but it never amounted to much with a total of only 1.0mm for the day. The temperature plummeted overnight to an early morning low of 3.4°C on Wednesday morning.

Back in that pretty poor August one of our cardoon plants was badly battered by the winds whilst one which has some protection from a neighbouring plot holders shed survived intact.
Storm damaged and sheltered cardoon 16 August 2014
There wasn't any way the plant on the left could be saved so all the broken stems were removed to the compost heap. The trouble is as you can see from the photo below that didn't leave much of a plant.
Since August this little area has been left to do its own thing. Whilst I can happily report that the cardoon is well on its way to recovery it did give all that couch grass time to spread and grow into a tangle of weeds.
The couch grass has been dug out (well as much as was possible) and the area around the cardoon dug over and this little area now looks much tidier. As you can see on the right of the picture the cardoon that survived August’s gales is ready for the compost heap. Once all this year’s dead growth is removed there’ll be very little plant left. Maybe I should leave all those seed heads in place over winter for the birds and only tidy up around the base of the plant. In any case a couple of months on from the storm damage it’s the storm damaged plant that looks in much better condition. 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A 5th Anniversary

Sunday and Monday were both very mild for the end of October with the temperature reaching 18.4°C on Monday afternoon. It was a little bit disappointing that we didn't have any sunshine to go with the mild weather.
My first blog post was written on the 27 October 2009 so its now five years old. I thought it might be interesting to compare the photos on my blog in late October 2009 with the plot today.
30 October 2009
27 October 2014
There’s not been a great deal of change in this part of the plot. These beds are treated to normal good practice crop rotation. The hazel trees by the car are larger today but one of these is due to be coppiced this winter to provide us with some good home grown supports for our sweet peas next year.

The next photos show some real changes to the plot over 5 years.
30 October 2009
27 October 2014
The development of this part of the plot was just getting under way in 2009. That newly dug over bed in 2009 is now planted up with three pear trees and our quince tree blocks the view of the back of the shed. Our grape vine hadn't been planted very long and although this now covers one side of the shed we are still waiting to eat our first bunch of grapes.
30 October 2009
27 October 2014
It’s a reminder of how things move on. The raspberry canes growing on the far left of the picture in 2009 died off and new canes were planted in a different part of the plot. The large rectangular bed became our strawberry patch and this is now going to be replaced as the strawberry plants come to the end of their productive life. They will be left in place for one more summer until our new bed is established. The two cardoon plants have been moved to make way for our quince tree and cobnut tree both of which produced some excellent crops this year.

I've noticed that there looked to be a lot more leaves left on the trees in 2009. The plum trees and hawthorn by the greenhouse are now leafless and ready for winter.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

A Day of Mixed Photography

Saturday remained dry although some early morning sun soon disappeared to leave us with a cloudy and windy day.

Late morning we set off on the first of our photographic locations to capture a mainline steam train on the East Coast Main line. This was a charter train from London (Kings Cross) to Newcastle. Sue was in charge of the stills whilst I did a little bit of video.
After this we heading for the the Yorkshire Wildlife’s Trust nature reserve at Potteric Carr.
The birds had a mind to be anti-photographable resting out of range of any regular telephoto lens. There are plenty of birds on the islands in the middle of the lake but they’re a long way off.
So bird wise it was a bit of a disappointing day but I did manage this picture of a moorhen from one of the hides.
To me it does have a bit of a “did somebody just take my photo” appearance obviously rather surprised that someone would want to take its photo. 

Then as we made our way around the reserve we came across the star subjects of the day. If anything they wanted to get up too close but these cattle made fantastic subjects.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Autumn Digging

Friday wasn't a bad October day and certainly nothing like the forecast which was for a pretty wet day.

We made the most of a decent day doing more tidying up on the plot and getting a little bit of autumn digging done. The ground is in lovely condition for digging at the moment and certainly nothing like a few weeks ago when it resembled concrete rather than soil.
I watched the last episode of Beechgrove Garden for this year and they were cutting back roses ready for winter. A sort of precautionary measure against any damage caused by windy weather over winter before receiving a “proper” prune in spring.
On the plot our roses are still producing flowers like this. I can’t see them getting the winter chop just yet.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Accidental Selfie

Wednesday was dull and drab with some spells of light rain and drizzle. It continued dull but dry on Thursday and pleasantly mild with the afternoon temperature reaching 17.3°C which is not bad for late October.

I tend to forget all about my web cam which sits in the window looking up the garden day and night. It produces a video which appears in a little window on my desktop PC. It can be quite handy for spotting birds making use of our birdbath. Every hour though it captures a still image which it loads up to the web and appears on my blog page.
On Wednesday morning it captured this accidental sefie (if that’s possible) as I topped up the bird bath.

It was our first trip to the plot since the gales of Tuesday. Our almost over sweet peas hadn't survived intact.
I'm not too sure where the dust bin has come from. The damaged plants and support were pulled over onto the plot to leave the road around the site clear. At least the sweet peas are almost finished and it did make it easier for Sue to pick a few surviving flowers for home. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Potato Decisions

Well Tuesday turned out as forecast with gale force winds and heavy squally showers. We had some sunny spells too but it didn't encourage us out of doors.
The showers were heaviest through the morning and as they passed through the temperature dropped quickly into single figures. A lunchtime temperature of 8.6°C was a far cry from the 20°C we managed only a few days ago. The wind saved its worst for early evening with a gust of 28mph equalling my previous October record set on 16 October 2012.

The weather gave me a chance to sort out our potato harvesting details for this year and hopefully sort out our varieties for next year.
The most important difference in our potato growing this year was trialling some varieties under weed control fabric. This turned out to be pretty successful but I wouldn't grow our first early potatoes, to be lifted as new potatoes, under fabric again. Nothing to do with the growing method but rather lifting individual roots is tricky. For second earlies and maincrop potatoes where the crop is lifted in larger amounts and the fabric can be removed in one piece and potatoes harvested in the normal manner that wouldn't be a problem. The other surprising thing to come out of this experiment was that the potatoes grown under fabric didn't suffer any more slug damage than those grown in open ground.
Nicola and Charlotte growing under weed control Fabric on 11 July 2014
Nicola harvested from under weed control Fabric on 30 August 2014
I think the table makes it clear that we are fairly settled on our second early varieties but can’t make up our minds on first earlies. I certainly want to give Casablanca another go as it suffered from early blight this year and I think would have produced a bigger crop if not cut back in its prime. The same can be said of Winston and I might give Vales Emerald another go. I plan to grow all our first earlies in open ground without using any weed control fabric.

Our second earlies will be from Charlotte, Nicola and Nadine as they've done well again this year. 

I must give Harmony another go. It produced a crop of medium to large potatoes but it grew in the most difficult soil conditions. I don’t know why the soil in this particular bed became so unworkable but it was almost impossible to earth up the potatoes. The plants made very little top growth and I wasn't expecting any sort of crop at all. I was expecting to dig the bed over leaving the winter weather to break down the soil.
Harmony on 11 July 2014
This was the last photo we took of Harmony and I don’t remember the tops putting on much more greenery. The size of the potatoes lifted amazed me. Our final Harmony potatoes were only lifted on 17 October 2014.
First Harmony potatoes lifted from this bed on 08 October 2014
A provisional list of potato varieties for next year looks like this then:
  • First Earlies - Casablanca, Vales Emerald and Winston
  • Second Earlies - Charlotte, Nicola and Nadine
  • Maincrop - Harmony
I've still to decide how many of each variety to buy but I'm planning on growing fewer potatoes next year. I wonder if I’ll stick to my provisional list. Can anybody add a variety to change my mind?

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


Monday’s temperature returned to more like expected October values. 

A few weeks ago I posted about giving our lawn a bit of attention. Following on from that de-thatching which revealed a few bare patches I decided to repair these areas with compost and sow some grass seed. I wasn't too sure whether I might be a little bit late sowing grass seed but decided I hadn't got much to lose.
 Once the seed was sown I covered with a bit more compost and tamped the surface level with the back of my rake. I gave some thought to covering the areas with some netting or even polythene to keep the birds from eating the seed and help the seed to germinate. The seed packet reckoned germination should take 4 days under ideal conditions but didn't say what those conditions were. In the end I decided to see what happened without any protection. I’d plenty of seed left so if the birds scratched about for the seed I could resow and cover with netting.  I assumed any bird damage would happen within a day or so giving me time to do any necessary resowing.
Once the patches were finished the lawn looked even more of a mess than it did with only its bare patches. All these areas were now highlighted by large patches of compost. After the prescribed 4 days for germination nothing had happened but at least the birds had left the reseeding alone.
The good news is that the grass seed is now growing well and almost looks ready for a very light trim. If conditions are dry enough I will give the lawn a cut with the mower set on almost its highest setting.

The forecast for Tuesday has turned out correct as the wind speed has gradually picked up overnight into Tuesday morning. Tuesday morning has consisted of heavy squally showers along with gale force winds. 
It’s not looking like a day for giving the lawn a quick trim.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Record Mildness?

Saturday and Sunday were very mild for the time of year. The temperature managed 20°C on Saturday that’s the latest I've recorded a high temperature into the twenties so late in October. However, mildness isn't everything and both days were pretty dull and it was very blustery on Sunday.

Although the forecast was for heavy showers on Sunday we went to see what photographic opportunities there were at the East Lancashire Railway Steam Gala.
Good locations take a little bit of finding and aren’t always that easy to find on a first visit. We decided to try our luck at Burrs Country Park located just outside Bury.
We managed to find a few locations where we thought it would be possible to get some decent shots. We had a walk around the park and managed a few photographs and some video. We found a small cafe and decided on a cup of coffee. As we headed for the cafe the weather did look a bit ominous, as though those heavy showers in the forecast might be on the way.
By the time we’d drunk our coffee it was pouring down and it didn't particularly look like a short sharp shower. After a little while waiting to see if the weather was going to improve as it was still raining heavily we decided to call it a day and head back home over the Pennines.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

More Toadstools

On a lovely mild sunny afternoon we decided on a bit more tidying up on the plot.

Trying to outdo that Fly Agaric toadstool we saw at RSPB Fairburn Ings on Thursday, on the plot was this group of toadstools.
I've no idea of the name of these toadstools but they've been left to do their own thing. I was a bit surprised to find that fruits on our alpine strawberries hadn't turned mouldy or mushy with all the damp wet weather of the last few days.
Slugs had done far more damage to the fruits than the wet weather but I still managed a little harvest, certainly enough to give us a taste of fresh strawberries in the middle of October. There’s still a few more fruits to come if the weather holds.
Picking these along with some Joan J raspberries made for a couple of easy jobs to mix in with some autumn digging.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Brightness Again

The drab weather of the last three days finally came to an end today (Thursday) and after a drop of overnight rain and a little early morning mist the sun finally broke through the clouds. In the autumn sunshine it was mild too with the afternoon temperature reaching 16.4°C.

In the morning sunshine I couldn't resist a look around the garden. There’s still the odd hint of summer as some plants seem to want to ignore the onset of autumn.
We decided on a trip to our local RSPB reserve at Fairburn Ings. It’s a nice walk through the reserve by the river. As we’d walked the length of the reserve we hadn't found too much in the way of bird life to photograph.
There were a few birds about but much too far away for our liking. Then as we arrived at the end of the walk our luck changed.
A heron flew down and perched on top of some sluice gates. We seem to have seen herons everywhere we go over the last few months. Then we spotted a cormorant sitting on a post between fishing expeditions.

Walking back through the woods we found some rather exotic looking toadstool too. Sue told me it was a Fly Agaric toadstool and it’s highly toxic. It’s not uncommon and often has white spots. It contains ibotenic acid and in the past was used as an insecticide as this acid attracts and kills flies. We decided it was best left untouched.
Down by the roadside lake the Greylag Geese had arrived.
There was no mistaking the onset of autumn here though as the trees had definitely taken on their autumn colours.