Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Hot Composting - An Experiment

Tuesday was another lovely late August day, dry with lots of sunshine and the temperature reaching 24.0°C or 75.2°F.

The other day I saw this article on the GrowVeg web site about Hot composting. The one thing I can't make enough of is good quality compost. My compost heaps usually produce some decent material but take a good twelve months or more to do this. I know my weaknesses in compost making. I haven't got an easy way of chopping all the compost material before it gets added to the heap and I don't turn the heap often enough. I find mixing the heap hard work although I think it would be easier if the material had been chopped up in the first place. Finally I'm never sure my composting material arrives at the heap in that magical mix of materials as seen on gardening programmes or in magazines.
However, the one thing we do have on site is a good supply of wood chips. Sometimes this is very woody and is ideal for use as a path topping on the allotments but sometimes a batch is much more leafy and twiggy. I've tipped five barrow fulls of this more leafy material in a heap on the plot. I think it would benefit from some green material so I'm going to add some grass mowings and some chopped up comfrey leaves to the heap and mix it together.
I’ll keep the heap covered with a piece of weed control fabric to try to keep in a bit of extra warmth and maybe a bit of rain out. I'll need to try to give the materials a mix on our visits to the allotment. My aim is to produce some compost to improve this bed before planting some fruit bushes next spring. 

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Good and Bad on the Plot

Sunday wasn't much of a day weatherwise as it turned out to be cloudy all day although any rain held off and we managed an afternoon visit to the plot. Bank Holiday Monday was a much better day with almost unbroken sunshine all day. we decided to stay clear of any Bank Holiday traffic problems on the road and spent the afternoon at the allotment.

Our main crop potatoes are now all lifted although there is one small bed with some potatoes left in. They are the stragglers of the tubers we bought back in spring so I don't have great expectations regarding the crop from these potatoes. On Sunday I lifted the last two rows of our main crop which consisted of a full row of 10 Vales Sovereign and a mixed row of Vales Sovereign and Winston potatoes.
Vales Sovereign
Our row and a half of Vales Sovereign a variety we are growing for the first time this year produced an excellent crop of good sized potatoes weighing in at 13.4kg. There was a little bit of slug damage but the worst culprit was wireworm damage. It still left plenty of undamaged tubers and I've found from past experience that normally potatoes with wireworm damage will keep well for several months and that in decent sized potatoes the damage can be cut away leaving plenty of usable potato.
The four roots of Winston yielded some decent potatoes too weighing in at 4.5kg and as I've come to expect with this variety some wireworm damage. All in all I'm happy with the crop and if Vales Sovereign passes the taste test I'll consider growing it again next year. Once all the potatoes were dug the weed control fabric was put back in place over the freshly dug ground and it will be left in place over winter.
Besides digging up some potatoes we harvested our greengages as well.
If you look closely at the above photo you will see seven greengages in the bottom right hand corner. That's our greengage harvest for the year from two decent sized trees. There were a couple of fruits that we left on the tree which had split and been attacked by wasps. I think it could be described as a crop failure. Maybe next year will be better.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

I Did Want a Drop of Rain!

Up until a few days ago we'd had a very dry spell of weather and while it would have been good for drying off our onions if the dry spell continued the plot badly needed some rain. Over Thursday and Saturday it certainly got that with 21.2mm on Thursday and a further 14.8mm on Saturday. Needless to say we haven't got any gardening done over the two days.
Temperature, Rainfall & Sunshine Records 25-27 August 2016
In the space of three days August has gone from being a dryish August to a wettish one. We've had some very heavy rain at times but not the heaviest of the year.
Rainfall Intensity for Ossett in 2016
The record is still held by the 01 July 2016 with 79.0mm/hr or 3.11"/hr. The highest intensity over the last few days was 53.5mm/hr (2.11mm/hr) on Thursday.

Luckily we chose Friday to have a day out and visit Scampston Hall and Gardens which is near Malton in North Yorkshire. Somehow sandwiched in between two very wet days was a lovely sunny day, just what we needed for exploring the Walled Garden and surrounding parklands. 
The Walled Garden was designed in 1999 by Piet Oudolf and is considered to be of the "New European Garden Style of planting. In contrast to this more modern design of the Walled Garden. the parkland at Scampston was designed around 1770 by Lancelot "Capability" Brown.
We will certainly be returning to Scampston to have a look around the gardens and grounds at different times of the year.

Now some sunshine would be good to do a little bit of harvesting and digging down on the plot.

Friday, 26 August 2016

A Bit of a Wet Day

Wednesday turned out to be another lovely summer's day. It didn't seem as sunny as Tuesday and the temperature was slightly lower too but nevertheless a lovely August day. Thursday was a different matter altogether.
Temperature, Rainfall & Sunshine Records for 23-25 August 2016
It rained in the early hours of Thursday morning and the dull weather continued through the morning with the occasional burst of rain. On the off change that the rain might hold off in the afternoon we headed for the plot. We had a few minutes before a few drops of rain began to fall. We carried on for a while but the rain gradually got heavier until we were forced to take shelter in the shed and brew an early cup of coffee.
The rain didn't show any sign of easing off so we decided to call it a day. I decided to give the tomatoes in the greenhouse a drink before we left. It's amazing how wet you can get filling up a couple of watering cans.

By early evening our rainfall total for the day had reached 15.8mm, (0.62ins) and it was still raining after taking this recording making it our wettest day since 28 March 2016 when we had 15.4mm or 0.61ins. Our wettest day this year was 04 March 2016 with 27.6mm (1.09ins)so we'll have to go some to beat that in the remaining four hours up to midnight.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

August's Hottest

Monday was a miserable day with light rain on and off throughout the day whereas Tuesday was a lovely sunny day with the temperature reaching 28.6°C (83.5°F) making it easily the hottest day of the month.
We made the most of the fine weather on Tuesday to do a little bit of harvesting on the plot. Sue did most of the harvesting while I strimmed the grass.
You might notice that there are a few plums in the box of goodies but this year's crop has been very disappointing. Our last five Oullins plums to be harvested are in the box bringing this year's harvest to a meagre 3.0kg or 6.5lbs. It's the same story with our greengages. We've a few fruits which aren't yet ripe as the they are really hard but that doesn't seem to be stopping the wasps making the most of the few greengages that we do have.
We do have a few Victoria plums but we are having to share these with plum moth maggots. It's more or less a case of one for them and one for us at the moment. It means that all plums are first cut in half to check for intruders.

We've started to pick our first few apples which although they aren't quite ripe taste very good. This year I forgot to put up any codling moth traps. The result is lots of damaged apples which easily fall from the trees that form our apple hedge. I picked a bucket full up from around the trees which will upset the blackbirds who unsurprisingly don't seem to mind eating the damaged apples.
I'm sure I will have left a few apples in the grass for the blackbirds and in any case I don't suppose they will have to wait too long before more apples decide to fall from the tree.

Monday, 22 August 2016

A Busman's Holiday

We've had a drop more rain over the weekend. On Saturday afternoon our visit to the plot involved a number of dashes to the shed to avoid the frequent showers.
Temperature & Rainfall Saturday, 20 to Monday22 (morning) August 2016
As is the way with showers when we arrived back home on Saturday teatime it looked as though Ossett had missed all the showers. In all, Saturday's and Sunday's rainfall together with some overnight into Monday morning amounted to 12.2mm or 0.48in.

On Sunday we had a trip to North Yorkshire to capture a bit of video of the world's most famous steam locomotive and then on to Beningbrough Hall which is looked after by the National Trust.
It's amazing how soon kitchen garden areas are past their best. Already the walled kitchen garden had a few areas left bare where presumably crops have already been cleared away. It's always good to compare "expert" kitchen gardens with your own especially if you think that your own little plot isn't doing too badly in comparison.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Coldframe Looks Like It's Spring

Friday was dull and wet as we finally got some of that rain I'd sort of hoped for. I wouldn't describe it as the heavy rain that was forecast and after it seemed to rain all day we finished up with 8.2mm (0.32in).
I'm not sure it will have done much more than moisten up the top surface of the soil but it must have done a little bit of good. One thing is for sure it will have given the slugs and snails a new lease of life.
I caught this one at teatime on the patio looking for an early meal as it slimed across the damp paving stones.

A month or so ago we didn't think out autumn and winter brassicas were doing very well on the allotment. I though it was a bit late to try to fill any gaps by growing replacements from seed so I ordered a collection of autumn and winter brassicas from DT Brown. They arrived on Friday.
All the plants had been grown as plug plants but for delivery they had been removed from their plugs and carefully wrapped in paper for postage. The plants looked healthy enough if a little bent from their journey in the post. As usual with plug plants I intend to grow them on a little bit before they are planted out on the plot. At the moment there's not much space in the greenhouse for potting up plants and we'd normally set up a spot on the lawn or patio to do this however I didn't fancy getting wet as it was still raining.
I set up a temporary potting up bench on top of our wheelie bins under one end of the carport. Once potted up all the plants were moved to the coldframe.
The coldframe looked like I'd expect it to in Spring once all the brassicas were moved. Now all I need to do is keep those marauding slugs and snails away. The full list of brassicas supplied in this collection and notes on each variety is listed below. There's five plants of each variety except for Tundra and Amsterdam which have ten plants.
Funnily enough after I'd ordered this collection of brassicas a few of our plants on the allotments took to growing much better.

Friday, 19 August 2016

A Day Out to Gibraltar

We've had a very nice three days, nothing approaching that record August temperature that some newspapers reported, just some lovely sunshine and temperatures into the low 20's Celsius or low 70's in Fahrenheit.
Temperature & Sunshine Records for Week Commencing Saturday 13, August 2016
After a day harvesting and watering on the plot and a day tidying up a few things in the garden we had a day out to Gibraltar Point nature reserve near Skegness. The reserve is looked after by Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.
Out to sea we could just about spot seals basking on a sandbank but they were too far away to capture any really good images but as you have probably guessed that didn't stop us having a go.
The reserve also has some freshwater marshes where our zoom lenses were stretched to their limits again to capture some shots of egrets and avocets.
Now we are standing by for some long awaited rainfall on Friday afternoon. The forecast is for heavy rain all afternoon but will it be correct?

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Coldest to Hottest in a Matter of Hours

Monday was the hottest day of the month but only hours before it was also the coldest day of the month.
At 05:50 in the morning the temperature fell to 8.2°C (46.8°F) rather nippy for mid August but Monday turned out to be a lovely sunny day with the temperature reaching 25.4°C (77.7°F) at 17:25. From monthly low to high in 11 hours and 35 minutes.

It's also the driest start to August over the last seven years, which is a bit of a mixed blessing on the allotment. On the one hand our onions are starting to dry off nicely but I need some rain to help create some better conditions for digging.

On a less than perfect rose, I had a bit of a dabble with a new zoom lens for my camera.
It was a bit too warm to do anything too energetic!

Monday, 15 August 2016

This Year's Best Potato Crop - To Date

Sunday was the better day of the weekend as Saturday was once again quite a breezy day.

Potato harvesting continued on the plot. Next in line to be lifted was a row of Kestrel. It's the first time we've grown this variety so I was interested to see how it had performed. Back in April at planting time I posted this description of Kestrel.
Another new variety to us this year which is said to be a gardeners' favourite second early variety, producing tubers of consistent size and shape, with attractive, smooth skins and violet eyes. Potato 'Kestrel' shows good slug resistance, Golden eelworm and partial white eelworm resistance.
Well it certainly lived up to its description. It has produced the heaviest crop of potatoes grown in this bed so far. None of the potatoes had slug or wireworm damage unlike the crop of Winston grown alongside them and lifted earlier in the week. 
Each row in this bed consisted of 10 potato tubers of each variety and the row of Kestrel produced 12kg (26 lbs) of good sized potatoes. What impressed me the most is that these weren't planted in good soil.
As you can see from the two photos above the soil was well compacted and dry. I'm hoping that the process of digging out the potatoes and turning over the soil to at least a fork's depth will improve the soil condition.

I also lifted a row of Nadine potatoes which I consider to be a good reliable cropper on our plot and the crop amounted to a rather disappointing 8kg (18 lbs) in comparison with Kestrel. Like Kestrel, Nadine had virtually no slug or wireworm damage.

Once the potatoes were lifted the weed control fabric was put back in place. I'll dig over the whole bed once all the potatoes are cleared and we've had enough rain to soften up the ground.
And finally a couple of Kestrels cleaned up and ready for cooking.
They tasted fine so I think I'll be finding space for a row of these next year.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Contrasting Summer Days

Thursday was a pretty horrible sort of a day for August. It remained cool and cloudy all day with a gale force wind for good measure. We decided against a plot visit thinking that there would be much better days to visit but then worried that our tomatoes in the plot greenhouse might be thirsty and so decided on a quick visit just to give them a drink.
We just couldn't help picking a few bit and bobs while we were there.

Friday in complete contrast was much warmer and sunnier and Thursday's gale force wind had died down resulting in a lovely summer's day.
We decided to visit the nature reserve at Potteric Carr run by The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. The birds generally kept out of camera range but the damselflies and dragonflies were much more accommodating. Most of my photos have been consigned to the delete box but this photo of a family of swans didn't turn out too badly.
It was a bit of a challenge to get a photo when all three had their heads above water at the same time but thanks to that magical burst mode on my camera I got the shot I wanted.
This is the view from the hide where the swan photo was taken and yes the swans can just about be seen in this shot too.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

A Couple of Surprises

The last few days haven't been brilliant for August. The strong winds over the weekend and into Monday finally abated but sunshine on Tuesday and Wednesday was in short supply. We had a bit of gentle rain starting late on Wednesday afternoon which carried on through the evening and into Thursday morning. It amounted to 6.2mm (0.24in) so it isn't going to save us from having to do some watering at the allotment.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 09 & 10 August 2016
I've noticed those weather models that suggested only a few days ago that we could look forward to a couple of weeks of hot summer weather have done an about turn and at the moment indicate that the hot weather will clip the south of the UK next Tuesday and that will be it. Still they're fickle things, these weather models, and there is plenty of time for them to suggest something else.

On the plot our potato harvest began in earnest. The haulms to our Casablanca, Winston and Kestrel have all died back indicating that the potatoes aren't going to do any more growing.
First up were our remaining roots of First Early variety Casablanca. This variety has produced an excellent crop (24kg or 52lbs) of tasty potatoes with virtually blemish free potatoes. Next in line to be lifted was Winston weighing in at 10kg or 22lbs. We like the taste of this potato and have found in the past that it produces excellent jacket potatoes. The problem is that it seems to be very prone to damage from wireworms and slugs. As these potatoes are growing in the bed that was cleared of strawberry plants late last year I had my doubts regarding the suitability of the ground when the potatoes were planted.
Winston after haulms cut back and weed control fabric pulled back
They were planted as a crop to "clear the ground". In my case I figured that the ground would be well dug over as the crop was lifted as in spring the soil had only been turned over using my little cultivator which doesn't dig the soil as deeply as a spade or fork.

Isn't it amazing how far from the main root of the plant some potatoes grow. In the photo above you can see how far in from the path that the potatoes were planted yet some potatoes managed to reach the edge of the path.
With lots of slug damage to other beds on the plot I wasn't expecting much from our row of Winston potatoes but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the crop. They certainly had more damage than our Casablanca spuds but most potatoes are usable. I think most of the damage was from wire worms rather than slugs as some potatoes had tiny holes in them rather than the larger holes slugs make.
My second surprise or rather bit of good fortune was whilst visiting a friend on Wednesday afternoon I managed to get some photos of a fox.
She's a regular visitor and turns up expecting an evening meal most days.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Best Day of the Month

Saturday was a lovely August day with the afternoon temperature reaching 25.1°C (77.2°F). We had lots of sunshine and only a gentle breeze.
Our strawberry harvest has come to an end but we are already doing some planning for next year's crop. This year some of our new varieties grew really well producing excellent plants.
Strawberry - Cambridge Favourite
Others however didn't do very well at all and we will have to replace some plants next year.
Strawberry - Vibrant
As you can see Vibrant didn't live up to its name and the plants grew very poorly. All the plants were in the same bed and given the same treatment producing such vastly differing results but its obvious that Vibrant doesn't like the soil or hasn't been suited to this year's weather conditions. Either way we are planning on replacing it with Malwina which grew well, producing an excellent crop of late season strawberries.  We've already potted up runners from our plants to fill the space left by the Vibrant plants. In some cases we've had a good crop of strawberries but a plant has died or is not growing very well and we have potted up some runners from that variety to fill any gaps.
Strawberry - Marshmello
We'll need to ensure that the pots don't dry out if the weather stays dry and once we think that once the runners have rooted they can be cut away from the parent plant.