Friday, 31 July 2015

Puzzling Soil Conditions

Both days were rather similar in that they were both cool and showery. We managed to get to the plot on Wednesday afternoon but some heavy showers over lunch time on Thursday were enough to put us off.
This is how our old strawberry bed looked back in April this year. We’ve replaced the plants this year and planted up a new bed. We started to clear away these old strawberry plants in April but decided to leave the plants in the top left hand corner of the bed as they put on some new growth and we thought they might give us a crop of strawberries this year. Some of the other plants were removed and the bed dug over as the plants were cleared away. These parts of the bed didn’t dig very well and before we had chance to finish sorting out the bed we had more pressing jobs to get on with like planting out and more recently harvesting our produce.

Eventually the dry spell of weather converted the ground to something resembling concrete and it became impossible to dig over. After this weeks rain I decided to see how the soil conditions had changed.
That patch that was roughly dug over back in April dug really well and I’ll be able to plant some lettuces in this part of the bed. The remainder was a totally different proposition. 
I don’t think I’ll be planting this part of the bed up for a while. It’s turned over in large clods which don’t want to break up so I’m going to leave them to weather a little bit and then see how they break up. Hopefully I’ll have the bed ready to plant up with potatoes next spring. 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Disappearing Lettuces

More rain on Tuesday will hopefully have put an end to our dry soil conditions on the plot and we can at last get on planting out our winter brassicas.
Above are my planting notes for my latest successional sowings of lettuce seeds. The tiny seedlings became rather leggy before they were transplanted despite my best efforts not to let this happen. I hadn’t any more lettuce seedlings to grow on so I decided to give them a go and see if they recovered.
As you can see they didn’t look brilliant when planted out. My next problem was I’d no coldframe space to put them in so I needed to find somewhere else for the three trays. Fortunately I found space for a couple of trays under the veggie mesh that is protecting our raised bed at home. One unfortunate tray had to remain unprotected. I thought I’d make it a bit tricky for the slugs to get to this tray and placed it on an upturned plant pot. This is how that tray looks now. 
Whatever had our lettuce seedlings they made a superb job of it and there’s not a trace of green to be seen. They’ve even had the nerve to remove my label. I think it’s bird damage rather than slugs as there’s no sign of any slug trails up the plant pot sides.

What of the other two trays under the protection of the veggie mesh. Despite my doubts they’ve gone on to produce some decent plants ready to go out into the plot.
Once down on the plot they’ll need some protection from the birds. It’s also time for me to sow another batch of lettuce seeds.

Just how far apart were the three trays of seedlings. I’ve circled in red on the photo below the location of the lettuces.
You can never take anything for granted where gardening pests are involved.

Just in case you’re wondering it was  the tray of Little Gem lettuces that were left in the open.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Had Plenty Now Thank You

Monday turned out very dull with light rain on and off throughout the day. Like yesterday we didn’t have any spectacular rainfall but the steady rainfall continued into the evening and through the night and is still falling steadily on Tuesday morning. So far the last three days has amounted to 25.2mm (0.99”) of good steady rainfall.
Hopefully the allotment will have soaked up the rainfall like a giant sponge and once the rain stops we can get on and plant up our winter brassica bed. 

You may have noticed that when I posted some photos of our brassica bed preparation it included one of our untidy plot areas that for most of the year I think needs a good sort out. But it doesn’t pay to be too hasty about these things. Growing in this corner of the plot where all the stones and rubbish were dumped when clearing our other plots grow wild elder, a jostaberry bush, nettles, and a blackberry bush. I’d half a mind in spring to make some elderflower cordial but didn’t get myself organised before the flowers went over. Is there anything I can make with elderberries?
The wild blackberry has been covered in blossom and the vast majority of it has set fruit. The bush is ladened with small green immature blackberries. Last year this bush was very productive and besides us we supplied some plot neighbours with blackberries too. It looks like this might be the case again this year.
There’s also some comfrey growing in this corner too which the bees love when it’s in flower. Most of the flowers have died off now so it’s time to cut it down to ground level, add all the leaves to the compost heap, and with a bit of good luck we should get another cutting from it this year.

Added to this the area produces a few daffodils and bluebells in spring. 
Our plot neighbour asked if it was okay to put a hedgehog home hidden away in this area which we thought was a great idea.

So what looks like a pretty tatty part of the plot doesn’t do too badly all things considered. Perhaps I should leave the area well alone and let nature take its course on this small part of the plot.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Finally Got Some Rain - But!

Some rain finally arrived by lunch time on Sunday but I wouldn’t exactly term it heavy rain as forecast by the Met Office. It certainly was dull enough for heavy rain but all it managed was not much more than a steady drizzle. By early evening we’d managed only 3.4mm (0.13”) of rain which isn’t going to solve our dry ground issues. A little bit more in the evening brought the day’s total to 4.4mm or 0.17”.

I thought my rain gauge might be blocked after all it’s a while since it has seen any serious action and our woodpigeons have a nasty habit of doing the dirty on it causing a bit of a blockage. The easy way is to check on Weather Underground first and see how much other weather stations around have recorded. 
Most of the stations have recorded more or less the same so I’m assuming my rainfall measurement is accurate and doesn’t have a woodpigeon problem.

After the chilly start to the day and because the afternoon rain brought with it some cooler temperatures Sunday finished up with the lowest average temperature of the month of 12.1°C (53.8°F). It seems a far cry from that scorching hot day on the first of the month when the thermometer hit 33.1°C (91.6°F).

It’s been downhill ever since.  

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

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Is It Autumn Already?

Not too bad a day on Saturday. We had some decent sunny periods but it remained on the cool side for July. Over night into Sunday I recorded our lowest July temperature of 6.1°C (43.0°F). That follows on from June also having the coldest night time temperature in six years too. Perhaps that’s why some more warmth loving plants like runner beans are struggling this year.
On the plot harvesting soft fruit, peas and broad beans continued. I thought it was about time we lifted some of our autumn planted onions.
We’ve certainly got a good crop of onions it’s just a pity they don’t store for that long but kept dry they usually keep for a couple of months.

I weighed up the onions on Sunday morning before the temperature had recovered from that cold start to the day and it felt very autumnal with a chill in the air and sorting out our onion crop.

Now I wonder if that rain that’s forecast is on its way?

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Tasty Volunteers

Friday was another cool July day. The average temperature for the day was 13.6°C (56.5°F) the coolest of the month.

On the plot we decided it was time to try to sort out a bed for our winter brassicas which long ago outgrew their spot in the cold frame but now they can’t be held back any longer and a bed needed to be cleared.
Despite the dry conditions which seem to have slowed down the growth of our vegetables the weeds are unaffected. The fat hen in this bed has grown extremely well. Fortunately it pulled up easily out of the dry ground which was a bit of a surprise. The last thing I wanted to do was dig over the bed and bring any damp soil to the surface making the dry conditions even worse.

Growing along with the fat hen and thistles were some volunteer potatoes, presumably a main crop variety called Harmony, which grew in this bed last year. They hadn’t made what I would call decent sized plants but as I dug them out there were some small to medium sized potatoes on the plants. I didn’t see the point in wasting them and so they were brought home and tested for eating qualities. They tasted really nice certainly as good as if not better than the early potatoes we’ve been digging for a couple of weeks. They’re in the photo of Friday’s harvest and came to 1.3kg in weight.
I did manage to get the bed cleared of weeds.

I’m now hoping that the rain forecast for Sunday arrives and gives the bed a good watering which will make planting our winter brassicas so much easier. 

Friday, 24 July 2015

Chilly Nights

Thursday morning was chilly with the temperature falling to 8.7°C (47.7°F) in the early hours of the morning, the coolest night of the month. It took most of the day for the cloud to break before we had a little late afternoon sunshine. That chilliest night time record only lasted for one day as in the early hours of Friday morning the temperature got down to 7.4°C (45.3°F).
Temperature Record for Wednesday 22 July to Friday 24 July 2015
We had a Thursday afternoon visit to the RHS Gardens at Harlow Carr.
We’ve got plenty of photos and video to edit of our visit.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Odd Weather Continues

Wednesday was another poor day for late July. The temperature struggled up to 17.2°C (63.0°F) well short of where it should be at the moment. It was cloudy for most of the day and from late morning through to the middle of the afternoon the cloud was thick enough for it to try to rain. It only wet leaves not the ground and it didn’t record anything on my rain gauge.
With a few days of cool dull weather it’s easy to forget to water outdoor plants. When it’s dull and cool I know the tomatoes in the greenhouse will go a couple of days without watering but it’s so easy to forget outdoor plants thinking they’ll be alright and manage on the small amounts of rainfall we’ve had.
Clearly our peas have suffered over the last few days and have turned from a healthy dark green to almost yellow. There’s a few pods left to harvest but the haulms can then be cleared away.
Our main crop potatoes look like they’re urgently in need of a good drink. I’m not really into watering potatoes so it will be a case of finding out how they’ve performed when they’re lifted after the tops have died down. By the look of them that’s not going to be very long.

We’ll need to keep watering our sweet pea plants if we want to prolong their flowering period. All the flowers were cut today and I’ll give them a good watering on my next visit.
A drop of water from the sky would be very welcome especially if it fell at night.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

No Entry

Summer seems to have got itself into some sort of a rut and is in need of a reboot to get it up and running again. Tuesday was cloudy and dry with a bit of a breeze but the temperature was around average for late July.
Our raised bed at home is doing what we hoped it would and providing us with freshly picked salad leaves rather than having to bring a bunch ready chopped from the allotment and trying to keep them fresh – assuming we remember to cut them when we visit. The cucumber is our first of the season from a mini variety called Cucino. It was very tasty, finished in one go in our lunchtime sandwiches.
It’s now getting tricky for me to walk down the greenhouse path. I’ve done my best to keep our Himrod grapevine under control but this year as an added difficulty it’s decided to have the best bunches of grapes growing directly over the greenhouse path doing its best to prevent entry. It’s a case of bending down rather low and squeezing between bunches of grapes and tomato plants growing on the other side of the greenhouse path. 
We had another exotic crop to pick in the greenhouse today. Following on from our earlier success with a couple of apricots a few weeks ago we were able to pick a few figs today. Then of course if we’re very luck we’ve still got nectarines and peaches to ripen.
It looks like our nectarines will be the first to ripen as they seem to have stopped increasing in size and have started to change colour.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Wings on the Plot

Monday was a little disappointing once again. At least Sunday’s gale force winds had died down. Some bright early morning sunshine gave a hint of a decent day but it soon clouded over. A little bit of light rain around lunchtime didn’t help and it wasn’t enough do any more than wet a few leaves. It certainly didn’t get down to soil level. 
We had wings of very different sorts on the plot the other day. A couple of old bi-planes flew over the plot presumably on their way to a display. I should have taken a picture of one of the many holiday jets heading into Leeds and Bradford airport to add a third sort of wings.
The other pair of wings belonged to a comma butterfly which settled on a tayberry bush leaf to get a little bit of shelter from the wind.

Monday, 20 July 2015

A Second Unwanted Record for July

Sunday was cool and windy not at all what July is supposed to be like.

In July it’s not often we have any gusts of wind of more than 20mph but we had a few on Sunday with a maximum gust of 23.0mph the highest I’ve recorded in July. July started off with a hot few days with the first of the month producing a record high temperature of 33.1°C (91.6°F) but since then it’s been a bit disappointing. 

It didn’t stop us visiting the plot. We aimed to pick and freeze some peas so we didn’t intend a long visit. However, we couldn’t resist picking a few more bits and pieces while we were there.

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

Sunday, 19 July 2015

And for the Fourth Time of Trying!

Friday and Saturday weren’t anything special for the middle of July. On both days were had a fairly cool strong breeze blowing which took the edge of the temperature which was around average for July.

We decided that we had to get our leeks planted out as they were beginning to struggle in the large pots they had been raised from seed in. We decided to plant them in this year’s carrot bed. This bed has a bit of a history this year. So far we’ve sown two lots of carrots seeds which germinated but were then munched by slugs. Following these failures we decided to try some lettuce plants. I can’t show you how they got on as there isn’t anything to show as once again the slugs completely devastated the young plants.
So this was how the bed looked after a few weeds had been removed. All we have left to show from our two carrot sowing and a dozen lettuce plants is one solitary carrot.  
The soil was very dry so it was necessary to add copious amounts of water to the soil so that we could dibble some holes for our leeks to be planted in. The ground was well watered and we settled down to an afternoon coffee to give the water a chance to percolate into the soil. It seemed to work and we were able to dibble holes without the soil falling back in and our leeks were soon dropped into their planting holes.
The leeks were given a good watering in and the environmesh was replaced over the top. Now we’ll have to see if the slugs have a liking for our Blue Solaise, Giant Winter and Below Zero leeks.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Some Decent Rainfall Required

Another couple of decent July days although it was a bit cool on Thursday morning as the over night temperature fell to 9.0°C (48.2°F) the coldest of the month.

A week ago the forecast was for some decent rainfall on Thursday but that forecast went by the wayside and now we really do need some rain to help some of our crops along.

This clump of rhubarb looks in need of a good drink. This is looking pretty good compared with our row of primroses.
All that remains now is brown dried up leaves. Perhaps the plants will recover when we eventually get a good downpour.

Planting up any new crops has become a bit tricky unless the ground was already prepared some time ago ready for planting. We’ve a couple of areas that needed digging over following on from the removal of last year’s crops. They didn’t get dug earlier in the season and it’s not going to happen right now.
The ground is rock hard. Maybe we should just drop our baby leek plants into the cracks and water them in. I think we might have to find an alternative patch of ground for our leeks and winter brassicas if we can.

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

Wednesday, 15 July 2015


A couple of mixed summer days with Tuesday the better of the two days with some sunny spells. Monday was dull and miserable and although it seemed to rain for most of the day the total only amounted to 2.6mm (0.1”) doing nothing more than wetting the top of the soil. A good rain would do wonders for the garden and plot.
Temperature, Rainfall and Sunshine Records for Sunday 12 July to Tuesday 14 July 2015
We’ve had problems with some crops on the plot this year which in most cases we’ve put down to the odd weather this year. However some things are doing really well. Our Onward peas are giving us a really good crop. We had some concerns about how they would manage through the hot spell of weather at the beginning of the month. We gave them a good watering hoping this would see them through and it seems to have worked.
At home our pot grown cherry Stella has given us a decent crop of delicious fruits. My temporary covering of fleece proved to be successful in keeping the blackbirds away and we’ve now picked all the cherries.
It’s now a case of finding the correct way of pruning the potted tree to maximise its cropping potential.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Lots to Harvest - But?

It was a nice summer’s weekend and we spent a couple of afternoons on the plot harvesting. With the change to some warmer weather strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, jostaberries, tayberries and blackcurrants have taken to ripening as you pick. Not that I’m complaining.

The better weather has also started some crops into a spurt of growth. Our outdoor tomatoes have turned from sickly, yellow weak looking specimens into something resembling tomato plants.
This is how they looked three weeks ago but the warmer weather has transformed them into the better looking tomato plants below.
However I do have some concerns regarding the rate of progress of our runner beans and climbing French beans. They don’t seem to be making much of an effort at all.

Last year on the 13 July 2014 our beans looked like this.
This year after a cold June and suffering from marauding slugs they’ve really been set back. 
Perhaps a good rain would do them good as no amount of watering from the tap seems to be good enough for them.