Friday, 29 April 2016

Panic Setting In!

Thursday was another poor day for late April, as the cold weather continued, with Thursday equalling Wednesday's coldest average daily temperature this month with 4.2°C or 39.6°F.

This year's allotment planting is going to be very late compared to normal seasons. By the end of April our early and main crop potatoes, broad beans, peas, carrots, parsnips, cabbages, cauliflowers, calabrese, onions and shallots would all be planted out in the allotment. This year all we've planted so far are our early potatoes and a small bed of varieties new to us we bought at a local potato day. Some vegetables are waiting patiently in the coldframe for conditions to improve but the cold weather is forecast to remain into the early part of next week.
We'll certainly have a lot of catching up to do when conditions are a bit more favourable.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Short Lived Record - New Coldest day of the Month

If you saw Tuesday's blog you'll know that it was the coldest day of the month. Well that record didn't last long as it was replaced by Wednesday with an average temperature of 4.2°C or 39.6°F. Once again showers fell as a mixture of rain, sleet, hail and snow.
Rainfall & Temperature Monday 25 April to Wednesday 27 April 2016
We've plants growing well in the greenhouse but with temperatures down to freezing point each night they're not going to think much of being planted out in the plot.
The waiting game continues for conditions to improve!

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Coldest Day of the Month

April's turning out to be a cold month. I'd expect it to be getting milder as the month progresses but that's not the case and Tuesday finished up the coldest day of the month. The temperature only made it up to 8.1°C, (46.6°F) the lowest of the month, and the average for Tuesday was 4.7°C (40.5°F) also the lowest this April.
The afternoon showers fell as a mixture of rain, hail, sleet and snow. Roll on May.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Meagre Pickings

The cold spell continued on Monday with the temperature hovering around the 7°C (44.6°F) mark for most of the day.
We had a couple of snow, hail, and rain showers throughout the day.
There's not much to harvest just now but our salad bed planted up on the 20 March 2016 in our home greenhouse is continuing to provide us with a few salad leaves to brighten up our lunch time sandwiches.

Monday, 25 April 2016

To Plant Or Not To Plant

Sunday was another cold day. We've put gardening on hold for a short while until the weather decides to warm up a little bit. We ummed and ahhed about going down to the plot and planting out our onions, brassicas and more potatoes. In the end we decided against it thinking our plants would benefit from the protection we can give them at home. Our onions and brassicas are in the cold frame.
Our brassicas look ready for planting out but I'm hoping they'll survive another week in the cold frame before moving to the allotment. It looks like this cold spell will last through to the first week in May but maybe with a bit of luck it will end sooner than that. I transplanted some Little Gem lettuce seedlings on the 18 April.
Little Gem lettuce 24 April 2016
These seedlings transplanted into our raised don't seem to have done any growing at all outside despite the protection of some mesh although it's primarily intended to keep the birds off.
These seedlings in modules in the greenhouse have done much more growing. My intention was to move these to the plot but I might try to grow them on in a couple of large pots to get some early lettuces. It seems a waste planting them outside where I'm assuming the cold will stop them growing. It might be cold over night in the greenhouse but at least it warms up in there during the daytime.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Arctic Blast

It was well forecast wasn't it this blast of cold air coming from the north. We had some sunny spells but you wouldn't have known it from the day's temperature chart.
The temperature just made it into double figures for a short while in the afternoon and with an overnight low of 0.9°C (33.6°F) it's not exactly good gardening weather. Worryingly I haven't seen any forecasters suggesting  when this cold spell is going to come to an end.

As I didn't do much gardening here's another photo from Friday's visit to Clumber Park.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

A Day in the Dukeries

Friday wasn't too bad a day as we moved into the cooler spell of weather as forecast. There were some sunny spells but it felt cold out of the sun and in the north easterly breeze that was blowing.

On Friday we visited Clumber Park, in the Dukeries, a part of Nottinghamshire. Clumber Park was once the home of the Dukes of Newcastle but is now owned by the National Trust.
We had a walk by the lake taking some photos and video of the geese, swans and ducks. 
Walking through the woodland area we were met by the grey squirrels. They're used to being fed and approach you to see if you've any treats for them. It can make getting a decent photo surprisingly tricky.
We also had a look around the walled kitchen garden. It was confirmation that we're not really that far behind on the plot. Most of the display in the kitchen garden was from flowers rather than vegetables.
We're now about to find out just how cold this forecast Arctic blast of cold weather is going to be.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Planting Our Potato Day Potatoes

Thursday was another glorious spring day and this time, after a couple of near misses, we had our new warmest day of the year at 17.0°C or 62.6°F.
It was back at the end of January when we visited a local potato day held at the Horticentre garden centre. We treated ourselves to six varieties of potatoes we had never tried before. These have been happily chitting away in the greenhouse ever since. 
They were planted on Thursday through weed control fabric so they can be left to get on with growing without any weed interference. That's the plan anyway.
Their positions have all been carefully noted so we will hopefully know which varieties are which when it comes to lifting them.

I've also put a little video together showing the blossom on our allotment fruit trees.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Another Brilliant Day

Wednesday was another beautiful April day with dawn till dusk sunshine. It seems such a shame that we're due this blast from the Arctic over the weekend and into next week. Tuesday and Wednesday both reached 16.3°C (61.3°F) but surprisingly weren't our warmest day of the year which is still 13 April with 16.7°C or 62.1°F. The downside of those lovely sunny days  is the cold overnight temperatures.
It was back in the second week of February when I posted that our first daffodils were in flower.

15 February 2016
But of course if you have a few different varieties then the flowering season is extended and even now we have a fine selection of daffodils still in flower.
So a couple of months on from when they first came into flower our daffs are still putting on a spectacular display.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Much Better

Tuesday was a super sunny day. After a chilly start it warmed up nicely in the sunshine reaching 16.3°C (61.3°F) in the afternoon sunshine.
The allotment beds have dried out reasonably well although there's still some very wet areas but the bed where I'm planning to plant our 'experimental' potato crop dug over well.
All that needs to be done now is for the weed control fabric to be positioned and our crop of new variety potatoes can be planted through it. We have five tubers of each new variety which are Setanta, Amour, Vivaldi, Blue Belle, Orla and Valor.
Amongst the weeds growing beneath the greengage our first bluebells are coming into flower.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Chilly For Tomato Sowing

The forecast is for it to become a bit milder before turning cold again. All I can say is that I hope it hurries up or we're in danger of missing out on the warm stuff. Monday certainly wasn't very warm and a stiff cold wind made it feel even cooler.
For various reasons I'm sowing my tomato seeds a few weeks later than I normally do. Each year I find that they need to move from indoor heated growlight into unheated greenhouse too early when the temperature in the greenhouse isn't warm enough for them to grow on unchecked. This year they're being sown a couple of weeks later. I'm hoping we'll be having some decent warm weather by the time they've germinated and are ready to move into the greenhouse.
It was a bit of a hectic afternoon in the greenhouse as I sowed our tomato seeds, aubergines and parsley before pricking out some Little Gem lettuce seedlings. Some lettuces have been left in the greenhouse and some planted out in our raised salad bed to hopefully produce some salad leaves or full size lettuces.
Sue sowed a few more flower seeds just for good measure some going alongside the tomatoes in our indoor growlight and some remaining in the greenhouse to germinate. I think the table below covers our sowing and planting activities for the day.
We need to get on sorting out some beds on the allotment before more rain arrives.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Late Chill on Saturday

I didn't notice at first that Saturday's chilly conditions were a sort of record for my weather station. The average temperature  on Saturday was a rather pathetic 4.8°C (40.6°F) despite some decent sunny spells.
That's the coldest average daily temperature so far into the year over the last seven years. The temperature on Sunday morning fell to 0.7°C (33.3°F) although that's not unusually cold for the middle of April.

Our latest frosts dates over the last few years are 06 May 2012 when the temperature fell to -1.0°C (30.2°F) and 16 May 2013 with 3.1°C (37.6°F).

I notice the forecasters are suggesting the possibility of another cold snap next weekend with a chance of it extending into the following week. We might have had a very mild winter but I'm not sure how much of an advantage that is to a gardener. Now when we could do with some warmer weather, as we head into a busy time in the garden and greenhouse, it turns cold.

Over the last few months we've noticed that our goldfinches have been missing from the garden. On Sunday though we spotted a couple back eating sunflower hearts.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

More On Our Exotics

Saturday wasn't a particularly good day despite some sunny spells. We had a little bit of hail over lunchtime and it remained cold all day with a cool wind blowing.
As you will know from yesterday's blog I repotted our fig trees and moved them out of the greenhouse. I'll take this opportunity to do an update on the progress of our grapevine, nectarine, peach and apricot fruits all growing in our cold greenhouse.

First of all our grapevine Himrod is now starting to shoot.
Grape Himrod
Of our other exotics the apricot Flavourcot was the earliest into flower and Sue's done a fine job of substituting for a bee and pollinating those early flowers.
Apricot Flavourcot
Our nectarine and peach flowered later and didn't have anything like as many flowers as the apricot. At first it didn't look as though any of the flowers were going to set fruit but now we're a bit more optimistic.
Nectarine Fantazia
Peach Avalon Pride
The apricot has set so many fruits that it's now possible to see that some of the immature fruits are ready to fall off the tree.
Things are looking very good at the minute though.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

To Prune Or Not To Prune

Friday was dull and cool with a north easterly wind blowing which didn't do anything to improve matters.

I've been planning to repot our potted fig trees for sometime now. They have spent the last few years in the greenhouse and have produced a small crop each year.
Now we have a nice sheltered spot in the courtyard garden I thought it might be a good time to see how they get on outside. I thought growing in the greenhouse they might produce two crops a year but that hasn't been the case so I'm hoping they'll produce a single crop outside.
They certainly took some getting out of their old pots although I didn't think that they appeared too pot bound. They're both now potted on and in their new location.

I couldn't decide whether to cut the main stem of the smaller fig back by about a half.
It has grown out of proportion to the rest of the tree. Cutting it back would keep the tree in a more compact form. I'm going to give it a bit more thought.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Time For Plan B

Wednesday turned out to be our warmest day of the year so far reaching 16.7°C or 62.1°F.
Some of the grass paths on the plot were in desperate need of strimming so as it was dry on Wednesday afternoon it seemed like a good opportunity to get the job done.
I wasn't really planning on getting any other jobs done but in the back of my mind was the need to prepare the bed for our early brassicas. Tuesday's rain had put an end to any hopes of digging over the ground. I loaded my trusty three pronged hoe into the car as I had a plan B in mind if I had some time to spare after strimming the grass.
After strimming the grass and a welcome cup of afternoon coffee I decided to try Plan B. I was hoping that the top of the soil would hoe and create a suitable depth to allow us to plant our brassicas. After all they are supposed to appreciate firm ground. My plan seemed to work okay. I didn't want to disturb the wetter and claggier soil beneath as this wouldn't break down into any sort of tilth. Who knows by the middle of summer the plants might be glad of all that moisture retained lower down in the soil.

After hoeing through the bed once I added lime then fish, blood and bone. Then all this was given another good hoeing to incorporate it into the soil. Some slug pellets were sprinkled over the soil before the whole bed was covered with weed control fabric and weighed down with three barrow loads of partially rotted wood chips.

We'll now have to see what our brassicas make of the compromise once they are planted out.