Sunday, 31 July 2016

After the Rain

Saturday wasn't too bad, after Friday's rain, with some decent sunny spells. I'd been waiting for a drop of rain to moisten up the soil on a couple of beds on the plot so that they could be dug over. Friday's rain was just what I'd been waiting for.

This is what the soil looked like before I started. It didn't look like it had received a decent amount of rainfall on it the previous day. I decided it might be better once my cultivator started to break up the clods of soil. Dampness might magically appear.
I don't know where the rainfall went but it didn't do anything to soften up this particular bit of ground. On the larger lumps, which are hard enough to use as bricks, my cultivator merely bounced up in the air. After a few passes some of the lumps had at least been broken into more manageable sized pieces but the ground remains very dry even after Friday's rainfall. I'll have to have another go when we've had some more rain.

Before leaving the allotment the greenhouse tomatoes were watered. It's the first time that I've noticed that the fruit on our Gardener's Delight tomatoes look a plum tomato shape.
I don't think our Gardener's Delight tomatoes have looked this shape before and what's more I didn't buy any plum tomato type seeds. Well I didn't think I did!

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Rain in Ossett - Sun in Dalby Forest

Friday turned out to be this months wettest day with 9.2mm (0.36in) of rainfall.
Rainfall & Temperature Records July 2016
We've one bed on the allotment that has been waiting for some rain to hopefully soften up the soil a little bit so that it can be dug over. I'll have to see if Friday's rain has done the trick.

With the rain still falling on Friday morning we decided on a trip to North Yorkshire and a visit to Dalby Forest. The wet weather almost put us off and it was a rather damp journey as we headed into North Yorkshire. Luckily in the afternoon the sun broke through the clouds to give a lovely afternoon for a walk in Dalby Forest.
We arrived back home in the early evening to find the ground still wet from the afternoon's rainfall in Ossett.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Was That It!

Thursday started off well enough but by lunchtime it had clouded over and the first few drops of rain began to fall. We set off to the allotment as I thought the tomato plants might appreciate a drink. A few minutes after we got there it started to rain a little heavier and so having watered the tomatoes we headed home with only a meagre picking of raspberries.
That turned out to be the heaviest it rained all afternoon. It drizzled for most of the afternoon but as far as watering the garden or allotment goes it was a complete waste of time. All in all we managed a total of 1.6mm, enough to wet the top of the ground and re-energise the slugs which had become a bit less active in the dry weather.

It also means that July 2016 won't become the driest July I've recorded over the last six years and July 2011 will hold onto the record with 23.0mm (0.91in). We've now had 24.4mm (0.96in) this month.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Potato Day Interim Report

Wednesday was another not too bad sort of a summer's day but nothing special although we did have a little light rain through the night.

Our potato Day trial is now one third completed as Orla and Vivaldi have both been lifted.
The planting times for these potatoes is in the table below.

As the potatoes were planted under weed control fabric they've had no special attention since they were planted back in April. The other varieties Amour, Blue Belle, Setanta and Valor are maincrop potatoes and have been left to grow on until their haulms die back.

Here is a general description of Orla and Vivaldi.
Orla (First Early)
This first early potato has good foliage and tuber resistance to blight. It produces creamy skinned, pale yellow fleshed, oval to round potatoes. It can also be used as a second early or early main crop variety.

Vivaldi (Second Early)
This variety sounds too good to be true. It produces a high yielding crop of potatoes that are lower in carbohydrates and calories than other varieties. As a baked potato they are considered to be good enough to eat without any butter. They have a light yellow skin and flesh with a unique velvety texture.

The haulms on Orla were the first to turn brown followed shortly by Vivaldi. Vivaldi may have been affected by the hot dry spell over the last few weeks although the remaining maincrop varieties are still growing well. The yields from the two varieties are listed below.
We've taste tested both varieties and found them to be very good. From our limited cooking of Vivaldi I think it is more likely to boil down in the water when cooked than Orla but carefully timing how long the potatoes are cooked for can limit this problem.
Personally I think Orla lived up to its description the best. Some of the potatoes were fairly large which you could consider either a good or bad thing depending on how you want to use your potatoes. I might try to bake a couple of the larger potatoes as a test. The larger potatoes also back up using this as an early maincrop variety.

I was surprised when I added up the harvested weights to find that Vivaldi was the larger of the two but not by very much. It produced some decent sized potatoes but nothing as large as some of the Orla specimens. We will have to bake a couple of the larger potatoes to test out how these taste without butter.

Both varieties had some slug damage but nothing more than I expect from potatoes growing on the plot and not enough for me to think that either of them is particularly attractive to slugs. After all most things on the plot have suffered from slug damage this year.

The bottom line is I'd grow both Orla and Vivaldi again if I can decide which other variety not to grow and obtain some tubers in a suitable quantity.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Might Be Our Driest July?

Tuesday was another dull day but we missed any showers that were about to finish up with another mild and dry day.
Rainfall & Sunshine Records July 2016
After a rather rainy start July is turning into a dry month. On the plot and in the garden the plants would welcome a good watering. So far our total rainfall for the month comes to 22.8mm (0.90in) and the driest July over the last seven years was in 2011 when we had only 23.0mm (0.91in)of rainfall. Will we have less than 2011? It's close.
Showers are still forecast for the next few days but then again they've been forecast for the last week or so and we've missed those. This post should guarantee a few good downpours by the end of the month.

On the plot what we think is a giant puff ball is suffering in the same way as any of our other crops left unprotected on the plot. It's being eaten. Last week it looked like this.
If we had have been tempted into eating it, last week would have been the ideal time. After a week or so on the plot it looks like this.
I like to think that all the slugs that have nibbled away at it have upset stomachs for their troubles.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Where Are the Butterflies?

The weather's gone off a little bit over Sunday and Monday. It's cooled down a bit and has been mostly cloudy even threatening to rain at times but it hasn't.

On the plot Sue's avenue of buddleia bushes are looking good now they are in full flower.
The strange thing is though there aren't any butterflies visiting the flowers. We've plenty of bees but no butterflies. Sue's cut flower patch is also planted up to attract the bees and butterflies and is looking good as more and more flowers appear.
  If the butterflies aren't quick they're going to miss the best of the buddleia flowers.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Vivaldi Meets Robin Hood

After Tuesday's very hot temperatures, for us anyway, the forecast was for cooler weather with thunderstorms on Wednesday followed by more showery weather for the remainder of the week. Neither the thunderstorms nor showers turned up in Ossett and it remained on the warm side all week with temperature in the high to mid twenties Celsius. 
Temperature, Sunshine & Rainfall Records 18 July - 23 July 2016
In my last post I mentioned that I was going to lifted one of our Potato Day varieties Vivaldi as the haulms were starting to die back.
I cut off the haulms and peeled back the weed control fabric which lifted the roots to reveal some decent sized potatoes. There was 1.58 kg or 3.48 lbs on this particular root which I didn't think was too bad.
On closer inspection some of the tubers had been slug damaged but not too many.
We also managed a first picking of broad beans, Robin Hood, a short growing variety that only produces small pods but the beans are very tasty. Our earlier planted broad bean, Witkiem Manita, still has a few remaining beans but has nearly finished cropping so Robin Hood will add some continuity of cropping.
Vivaldi and Robin Hood were taste tested for dinner and both were very good. We might have a few problems choosing our potato varieties for next year.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Another Hot One

Wednesday turned out to be another hot day with the temperature reaching 27.7°C (81.9°F) during the afternoon. The much heralded thunderstorms never materialised in Ossett.
Wednesday did create another weather record for my Ossett weather station as the overnight low only fell to 18.3°C or 64.9°F. The previous highest overnight low temperature of 17.9°C (64.2°F) occurred on 21 August 2015. 

After watering our home greenhouse tomatoes and pots of fruit and flowers in the morning it was a case of visiting the plot to check on the greenhouse tomatoes there. Luckily they seemed to have survived the hot sunny days without any ill effects.

If you are a regular follower of my blog you might remember that we are testing out some new to us varieties of potatoes bought at our local garden centre - The Horticentre - when they held a potato day back at the beginning of the year. We've already tested the first early potato Orla which tasted very good. In a sort of blind taste test Sue didn't spot that I'd swapped Casablanca for Orla as both tasted very good.
I noticed today that the tops of a second early variety Vivaldi have turned yellow suggesting that the potatoes underneath aren't going to do much more growing. On our next visit to the plot I might lift a root and taste test the potatoes.
This is my plan of how the potatoes were planted. The photo shows one remaining root of Orla to lift with Vivaldi to the left of the photo. All the remaining potatoes are maincrop varieties and will be left in the ground until the tops die down.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

What a Couple of Scorchers!

The weather forecast turned out to be very accurate and as predicted Monday and Tuesday turned out to be the hottest days of the year. First Monday took the record with 29.1°C only for that to be surpassed by Tuesday's 31.3°C.
Temperature and Sunshine Records for Sunday, 17 July - Tuesday, 19 July 2016
Only on six occasions in the last seven years has the temperature made it to 30°C or more in Ossett with this Tuesday becoming the third highest temperature and Monday the thirteenth highest temperature I've recorded over the last seven years. The top twenty hottest days are listed below.

We'd decided on a couple of days away from home to visit Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire and RHS Hyde Hall in Essex. It was a little too hot for even simply strolling around the gardens.

The Dry Garden at RHS Hyde Hall

The Walled Garden at Wimpole Estate
We're left wondering if our tomato plants in the plot greenhouse will have managed to survive the high temperature. I did give them a good soaking before we left.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

This Looks A Bit Hot!

Saturday morning was dull but it brightened up in the afternoon before clouding over again later in the afternoon. Still it didn't rain and we got a chance to do some harvesting and stuff down on the plot. Now and again I post the occasional weather forecast I get on my Desktop from the Met Office. Usually I post these when we have some naff weather forecast for the next few days.
I thought I'd post this one from Sunday morning showing summer arriving and going over the space of a few days. It's not often we have a forecast temperature of 30°C. For most of July we've struggled to reach 20°C so Tuesday might come as a bit of a shock to the system.

I posted yesterday about our strawberry harvest this year. On Saturday afternoon Sue picked this punnet of Malwina strawberries which have turned out to be our favourite variety.
The fruits really are a deep red compared to our other strawberries. They were absolutely delicious and we finished the lot in one go.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Strawberries Galore

Another non event day as far as summer weather goes as Friday was dull with some light rain after lunch and into the early afternoon.
It was a little bit strange in that after the rain passed through and although it remained dull the temperature lifted noticeably.

If you follow our blog posts you will have noticed that we've been harvesting lots of strawberries over the past few weeks.
Last spring we planted up our new strawberry beds with eight varieties of strawberries and this year they are providing their first real crop. I thought I'd total up the quantities of fruit that each variety has produced.

We've certainly had a much better harvest than we expected. With all the damp weather over the harvesting period we thought the slugs and snail would do far more damage than they have and fortunately despite the dampness we haven't lost very many berries due to mouldiness.  As you can see from the table the star performers regarding quantity have been Cupid and Fenella. The poorest performer has been Vibrant. Malwina is a late variety and we think the best tasting strawberry out of all our varieties. It still has plenty of berries to come compared with all the other varieties which are now coming to the end of their cropping period.

I'll update the table again when the strawberry harvest is complete.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Some Blueberry Protection

Still waiting for summer to start in Ossett. Wednesday and Thursday weren't too bad although we did have a heavy shower over Wednesday lunchtime but we still managed a trip to the allotment. Thursday was our sunniest day of the month to date but as you can see from the trace below it wasn't wall to wall sunshine.
On the plot we have a row of four blueberry bushes. The only way we've managed any sort of crop from these bushes over the years is by picking the berries as soon as they show any signs of changing colour from green to blue and allowing them to ripen off the bushes. The blackbirds seem to adore blueberries and aren't satisfied with helping themselves to raspberries and tayberries. All our jostaberries have magically disappeared from the plot this year too.  They've devoured all our cherries grown at home as well, in fact lots of our fruit this year has been for the benefit of the birds rather than us!
In an attempt to hopefully save a few blueberries from the blackbirds I've erected a make shift fruit cage around the bushes to try to keep off the blackbirds. We'll have to see if it works.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Waterlogged Raspberries?

The last three days haven't been too bad but they have been fairly breezy days for July. We're still waiting for summer to start and the forecasters aren't daring to suggest when that might happen.

Last month Sue posted about how our raspberries, Glen Ample mysteriously died off after growing away and flowering in early spring. You can read her post here. We sort of dismissed that the roots were waterlogged thinking that this would be the drier end of the row. We might have to think again about that waterlogging issue.
I've added a little graph showing our rainfall for the last four weeks. There's not been many dry days but on the other hand we've not had any enormous amounts of rainfall. It's just been rather miserable showery weather all the time. Anyhow, I decided that it was time to dig over the rest of the bed that the raspberries are in. It's been left since last summer when some old strawberry plants were removed and I never got round to digging it over winter. Left for 12 months I expect the ground to have gone very hard, that's the way things are on our plot. I've now got half of the bed dug over and it has certainly been hard work.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that all the weeds are removed as the bed is dug. That's just not a possible option when the ground is as solid as this bed is. Not only is the soil very hard but also very wet. Normally after turning the soil over hitting any lumps with the back of a spade or fork will break the soil open and any weeds along with their roots can be removed. If any of these lumps are hit with the back of a spade they merely change shape rather than break up.
As you can see from the above photo the dug over soil isn't a pretty sight and I've still got another half of the bed to dig over.

Other areas of the plot certainly aren't waterlogged and where I'm digging our Casablanca potatoes I'd describe the soil as dry rather than wet. So perhaps this patch of ground where our raspberries are planted is susceptible to waterlogging resulting in our raspberries problems and some additional drainage requirements are needed.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Blimey Only Went to Water Our Tomatoes!

Saturday morning started off not too bad but then it rained from mid morning to just after lunchtime.
We hadn't been down to the plot since last Tuesday due to one reason or another and I was a little concerned that our greenhouse tomatoes might be in desperate need of a drink. So once the rain stopped a quick trip to the plot was planned mainly to check on the tomato plants. It was still very dull with a few spits and spots of rain but felt mild.
Sue said she'd have a look to see if we had any strawberries ready, while I watered the tomatoes. It sort of mushroomed from there. The tomatoes weren't too desperate as it turned out, almost four days without watering sort of sums up our weather at the moment. It didn't take long to give the tomatoes a drink and on my way to fill up the watering can I noticed that there looked to be a good crop of strawberries (Cupid) ready to pick. These are in a different part of the plot to where Sue was picking strawberries.

Once I'd done the watering I started picking strawberries, then decided to dig a root of early potatoes (Orla), and then a couple of heads of calabrese Marathon. Sue finished picking strawberries and asked me if I'd checked to see if any raspberries were ready. The answer was no I hadn't checked  but when I did there was enough for a small punnet of  Tulameen and these were added to the harvest. A few early ripening blueberries were picked and we were ready for home.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Mediterranean Fruit Update

Our poor July weather continued on Thursday and Friday. On Thursday we had a trip to RHS Harlow Carr and as we arrived it began to drizzle and then turn into heavier rain. We contemplated looking for an indoor attraction but decided to have some lunch and reassess the situation. Fortunately for us the we had a dry afternoon to look around the gardens.  Friday was mostly dull and very breezy with a gust of 23mph the equal highest I've recorded in July in seven years.

This week saw us pick our first Mediterranean (greenhouse) fruit crop of the year which was our apricot called Flavourcot.
Harvested on 05 July2016
Harvested on 08 July2016
In all they weighed in at just over 1kg or 2.2lbs and tasted delicious so we were quite pleased with our little crop. That leaves us with one peach, Avalon Pride and two nectarines (Fantasia) left to grow on through summer in the greenhouse.
Peach - Avalon Pride
Nectarine - Fantazia
Our grapevine Himrod usually provides us with an excellent harvest towards the end of summer and early autumn. A few weeks ago Monty Don on Gardener's World was beginning the task of thinning tiny individual immature grapes from each bunch to allow the grapes room to grow. Our Himrod kindly does the thinning for us and we can allow the grapes to grow without any thinning at all.
Grape - Himrod
Our challenge now is to ensure that our peach and nectarines go on to ripen.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Ants On The Run

Tuesday wasn't too bad, at least we didn't have any more rain, we had some decent sunny spells but it was a bit on the breezy side. Wednesday on the other hand was a bit of a strange day. It was mostly cloudy but we did have a few sunny spells and even in the sunny spells it gave the impression it was going to pour down. The rain however stayed away for once.

In our home greenhouse we have some alpine strawberries, Regina, patiently waiting for their turn to be planted out in the allotment. The plants are getting rather large and aren't going to wait much longer to be planted out.
The plan is to plant them out in two rows either side of a couple of apple trees. This involves lifting the weed control fabric so that the ground where the strawberries are to be planted can be dug before some compost and fertilizer is added before the fabric is replaced and the new strawberry plants planted.
Ground dug over ready to incorporate compost and fertilser
Ground dug over ready to incorporate compost and fertilser
As I lifted up the fabric I wasn't quite ready for the army of ants that greeted me. They were certainly pretty annoyed at being disturbed. They frantically began moving their offspring underground to somewhere they thought was safer. The video below shows some of the action that took place.
It was a good job I got my camera quickly as the ants had all the larvae underground within a couple of minutes. I've got no idea what happened to them when the ground was dug over.