Friday, 22 September 2017

A Rain Free Day At Last!

It took the official start of autumn to bring our long spell of consecutive rain days to an end.
Temperature & Rainfall Details 29 August - 22 September 2017
Thursday was our first rain free day this month although in truth it wasn't much of a day. As the last couple of days of August were wet too that's a total of 22 consecutive days with some amount of rainfall. I can't find anything close to that in my eight years of record keeping. 

There wasn't any sunshine on Thursday and it threatened to rain for much of the day. It wasn't until late evening that the clouds began to break up leaving the skies clear overnight. 

The clear skies resulted in our lowest temperature of the month as the thermometer fell to 4.5°C (40.1°F) by dawn on Friday.
Friday has started off as a lovely sunny morning with clear, blue skies but there's a distinctly autumnal feel to the morning.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Will It Rain Every Day This Month?

The cool and unsettled start to September continues. We've still not had a dry day this month. I've checked through my records for the last 7 years and can't find another occurrence of this happening. The closest I've been able to find is December 2011 when the first 13 days of the month had some rainfall before the 14th day was dry.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 01-19 September 2017
Not only have we not had a single dry day but it's remained chilly too. This year is just managing to stay a little bit milder than 2015 but it's almost 4°C (7°F) cooler than last year's average of 16.9°C (62.4°F) by the 19th of the month. However, as you can see from the table last year was an exceptionally mild start to autumn and by far the mildest I've recorded at this stage of the month.
September 2010 - 2017 Average Temperatures
Tuesday morning started off with some lovely sunny spells but the penalty for that was a very chilly start to the day with an early morning low of 5.0°C or 41.0°F. 
A late rose and fuchsia flowers make the most of a dry spell and some Tuesday afternoon sunshine.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Wet Start To September

September's got off to a very bad start. It's started off cool for early September with only 2015 colder since I started keeping records 8 years ago. It's also been a wet start to the month. I've not been through my records to check but it's certainly unusual to record some rainfall every day up to the 16th of the month.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 01-16 September 2017
It's been a month of sunshine and showers so far.
So far we haven't had an exceptional amount of rain but there doesn't appear to be much change in the weather over the next week or so. At this stage of the month, only 2010 was wetter, with 48.8mm  (1.92in) in 2010 and 41.8mm (1.68in) this September. We've still some way to go to beat our wettest September in 2012 when we had 79.2mm (3.12in) of rainfall.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Aileen Blows Through

The first low pressure system of the autumn and winter was given the name Aileen. She made her presence felt overnight Tuesday into Wednesday morning. She didn't bring much rain but did bring a strong to gale force wind.
Temperature & High Wind Speed Records 11-13 September 2017
With a maximum gust speed of 27mph, it became the equal highest wind speed I've recorded in September since 2010. The only other occasion was on 16 September 2013.

The problem with strong winds in September is that trees are still in full leaf and fruit so the risk of damage to them is higher than during the winter months.
Fiesta & Bramley Apples
Perhaps I should have picked more apples on our last visit to the plot?

Monday, 11 September 2017

2017 Potato Trial Results

I often think the meteorological change on 01 September from summer to autumn is a little bit premature, after all proper summer carries on until the 21 September doesn't it? Well not this year the start of September has seen the start of autumn with some cool, cloudy and wet days. We're still awaiting a rain free day this September.
Temperature & Rainfall 01-11 September 2017
If you follower either my blog or Sue's blog you will be aware that over the last few years we've carried out a rather unscientific trial of a few potato varieties that we either haven't grown before or haven't grown for a few years. Any really good crops are added to our main list of potatoes for the following year. We've done this since we found out that a local garden centre, The Horticentre, holds a potato day at the end of January with around 50 varieties to choose from. If you wish it's possible to buy individual tubers of any of the varieties. We settled for four tubers of each of the six varieties we wished to trial.
The tubers spent the first few weeks until planting time in the summerhouse. In there they had plenty of light and we hoped a frost free environment. Planting time was early April.
Planting Plan for Trial Potato Bed
I didn't think the potatoes had a particularly good growing season. The young shoots were badly damaged by frost in early May and their main growing season was on the dry side. We resisted the temptation to water any of them.
May's Frost Damage to Variety Cara
The potatoes recovered well from the frost damage and by June they were growing away very well indeed, despite the dry weather.
Varieties Osprey and Isle of Jura in the Foreground
By the time it got around to late August the tops of most varieties had died back naturally, although Cara and Saxon still had plenty of green haulms. 
I decided to lift the crop in any case. Each variety was lifted and weighed including any potatoes eaten by slugs or suffering from wire worm damage. They were left to dry on the grass for the afternoon before being boxed up to be transported home. 
At home the damage could be properly assessed as it's no good trying to store damaged potatoes over winter. The damage was noted and is shown in the table below.
Results of Potato Trial 2017
Of the six varieties Cara performed the best followed by Rooster and Osprey. I'd definitely consider growing any of these three as one of our main potato varieties for another year.  The difficult question is which of our current varieties would they replace. One will be a replacement for Winston which, although it produced a heavy crop this year, the potatoes were very badly damaged by slugs.

Of the other varieties Innovator produced some good sized spuds but it didn't match up to the top three. Isle of Jura and Saxon produced small crops which the slugs appeared to appreciate. Hardly any of their tubers were left undamaged and they weren't considered fit for winter storage.

I've also put together a video of this year's potato trial which is included below.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

A Wet Start to September

The first couple of days of September were pretty good but since then the weather's taken a turn for the worse. We haven't managed a completely dry day yet this month.
Temperature and Rainfall Records 01-09 September 2017
By the middle of Saturday morning we've had 26.0mm (1.02in) of rainfall so far this month making it the wettest start to September since 2010.

Fortunately a few weeks ago now Sue got fed up with our onions getting wet down on the plot. We seemed to get at least a shower a day that was intent on stopping them from drying out. She boxed them up and they were stored in the shed.
Onion - Stuttgarter
This meant that we were able to bring back a box full of lovely dry onions this week. Had they been stored outside they would have had a good soaking from this month's rainfall.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Unwelcome Visitors and a Correction

Sunday was a cool cloudy day and it didn't tempt us to visit the plot. I decided to sort out and bag up the Winston potatoes, I'd lifted on Saturday,  for winter storage 

The potatoes had been left to dry off on Sunday morning and the first job was to remove any potatoes with pest damage. As the crop included lots of large potatoes I decided that any with just a small amount of damage I'd put to one side, a sort of pile of Winston seconds, bag all the undamaged ones and get rid of the rest into the recycling bin.
I soon began to realise that there was far more pest damage than I'd originally thought when I lifted them. There were a few large undamaged potatoes but most had a hole or holes like the ones in the photo above.  The photo above shows the potatoes destined for the recycling bin. I finished up with around 15kg (33lb) of what I considered usable or slightly damaged potatoes out of the 25kg (55lb) of Winston I'd lifted on Saturday.

I'd decided to use a couple of Winston seconds for dinner on Sunday evening as a sort of test to see how much damage there was to my hefty bag of slightly spoiled spuds. I wasn't at all pleased with what I found.
I wasn't expecting to find anything alive in the potato as I cut into it to examine the damage. A couple of these centipedes emerged from the holes in the potato. That was enough for me and I decided all the Winstons with any holes in them were going in the recycling bin. I don't mind cutting a bit of damaged potato out but I draw the line at removing live creatures especially as we have plenty of undamaged potatoes already stored in the garage.

Sue tells me that the centipedes I discovered in the potato didn't actually cause the damage, they're claiming squatters rights on holes made by slugs or wire worms. They're actually a gardener’s friend but not mine when they're in a potato I'm preparing for dinner. 

Did I mention Winston potatoes are off the growing list for next year!

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Last Potatoes Lifted

We've had a few decent days with reasonable amounts of sunshine and fairly respectable temperatures by day but it's been a bit chilly overnight.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 31 August - 02 September 2017
On Saturday I lifted the last of our potato crop. They were a couple of short rows of "Winston" and I wasn't expecting much of the crop. I'd lifted the same variety a couple of weeks ago and they were so badly slug damaged they were consigned to the council recycling bin. There wasn't a damage free potato amongst them. The remaining couple of rows had been planted as a "clearing crop" in a bed that had been dug over in autumn 2016 after many years of growing herbs.
 October 2016
The soil having not been cultivated for a few years didn't dig over that well and it was left for winter rains and frost to break down.
Potatoes - Winston 
The rows I lifted on Saturday had done much better. The crop weighed in at what I consider to be a hefty 25kg or 55lb. That includes slug damaged potatoes but there were plenty of good sized undamaged ones in the crop. I'll weigh up the undamaged ones when they are sorted out before bagging up for winter storage.

After lifting the potatoes the bed was dug over, the soil was in much better condition than it was last autumn.
September 2017
I'll now be able to include the bed in a three or four year rotation plan. The bed was covered with weed control fabric and will be left until next spring.

Finally, I've added a video of a plot tour taken at the end of August and just before these potatoes were lifted.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

A Disappointing August

The beginning of September brings the start of meteorological autumn. It means instead of looking for the highest summer temperatures it's time to look for the lowest temperatures as we move through autumn and into winter. Having said that it's still possible for us to have some lovely warm days in September.

August didn't seem that good a month but in the end the temperature and rainfall were around average. My weather station didn't record much sunshine in August and it was the lowest total for the last eight years.

Summer started off on a good note with June warmer than average but both July and August were a little below average. The average summer temperatures and rainfall for the last eight years are shown in the table below.
Summer Rainfall & Temperatures 2010-2017
I'm surprised summer 2017 came out where it did in the tables as I expected it to be lower down both tables indicating a dry cool summer.

After a cool start to Friday the sun came out and it warmed up nicely. We decided to have a trip to Potteric Carr nature reserve.
As usual the wildlife seemed to be aware that we were visiting and did a disappearing act. This rabbit hadn't got the message though and it watched us closely as we walked towards it along the path. As we got closer it darted into the undergrowth and disappeared.
The showers that had threatened all afternoon held off until we were almost home.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Saving The Best Till Last

Sunday was the warmest day of the month with the temperature reaching 25.2°C or 77.4°F. We had a decent amount of sunshine too making it August's best day so far. Bank Holiday Monday is forecast to be even better.
Temperature Record for August 2017
One of our fruit trees that wasn't struggling with the amount of fruit it was carrying was our "Red Williams" pear tree. I knew it had six pears on it, or rather it did have. When we arrived at the plot on Sunday afternoon and I made my little inspection tour I noticed one of the pears had fallen off and had been mostly eaten by our resident blackbirds. I checked the other fruits that remained on the tree and they came away from the tree with no effort at all.
I'm not convinced that the pears are fully ripe so they've gone in a fruit bowl where we can keep a check on them for ripeness. I find pears much more difficult to judge for ripeness than apples. Apples that part from the tree as easily would certainly be ripe but it seems pears need to be picked and then left to ripen.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Too Much To Bear!

The last few days haven't been too bad and August's having a late attempt to make up for the poor cool start to the month. It hasn't been hot by any stretch of the imagination but it's been warmer by day and by night and it's probably done enough to avoid the tag of the coldest August I've recorded.

On the plot we've got some damage limitation jobs to undertake on some of our fruit trees. 

Firstly a branch of our small pear tree Invincible has broken. It's certainly got lots of pears and they're a decent size too.
It's difficult to photograph all the pears as the branch is now upside down after breaking, hiding most of the pears. Hopefully, as the branch hasn't broken off completely the pears will go on to ripen and then I think the branch will have to be cut back to the main trunk of the tree. As it's only a small tree that shouldn't be too difficult a job once the pears have been picked. 

Secondly, our Egremont Russet apple tree has broken the tie that holds it to an upright post and the tree is now resting on the ground.
It looks as though it should be easy to just pull the tree back upright and re-attach it to the post. We tried and the tree didn't really want to straighten up. All the fruit makes the tree very heavy so a temporary fix may be required to keep the apples off the ground and a permanent solution sorted out once all the fruit is picked.

Finally, a branch of our Marjorie's Seedling plum tree has also snapped again due to the weight of plums it is carrying.
This is a much larger tree and with the tree in full leaf and loaded with plums it's difficult to see exactly where the branch has broken. The leaves on the broken branch are still green and the plums look to be continuing to ripen so for the moment I'll do nothing and hope that the fruit fully ripens. Then once all the fruit is picked I'll have to see exactly where the branch has broken and do a bit of tidying up.

Friday, 25 August 2017

A Warm Snap

We had a little bit of August warmth late on Tuesday and into Wednesday. However, it wasn't sunny, just warm and muggy. On Wednesday morning we had a thunderstorm that deposited 14.8mm (0.58in) in less than an hour.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 19-25 August 2017
The warmer weather didn't last long as the thunderstorm cleared away the muggy conditions and we returned to rather cooler temperatures.

I find it a little bit difficult to understand how different varieties of potatoes growing alongside each other can produce such contrasting results. I lifted a row of Nadine and Orla earlier this week. There didn't look to be much difference between the two varieties when I lifted them but since they’ve dried off and been sorted out for bagging up for winter storage there's an obvious difference.  Orla certainly provided the heaviest crop but the potatoes were badly damaged by slugs and wireworms. At first glance Orla produced double the weight of potatoes compared to Nadine but once the crops were sorted out for winter storage Nadine was a clear winner with more undamaged potatoes.
Potato - "Nadine" A Good Crop of Almost Pest Free Potatoes
Potato - "Orla" Almost Every Potato has Slug or Wireworm Damage
Looking at the photos you can clearly see how much more damage has occurred to the potatoes in the bottom photo which are Orla. Nadine had some damage but nothing like the damage that occurred to Orla. To be fair to we grew another row of Orla in a different part of the allotment and it produced an excellent crop of undamaged potatoes. As we think Orla taste pretty good I'm not sure that we will be removing it from our planting list. I don't know why some parts of the plot are more attractive to slugs, but they are, and it's not always the same parts of the plot as the slugs rotate their favourite beds each year. I have to lift a row of Winston potatoes from the same "sluggy" bed and it will be interesting to see how they perform as I always consider them prone to damage from pests such as slugs and wireworms.

I've used a few of our damaged Orla potatoes and I think I'll keep the damaged ones in a separate bag. 
As you can see when peeled the damage isn't too severe and plenty of usable potato still remains. I may keep the largest of the potatoes to use up first. They won't be too much good for jacket potatoes though!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Who Eats All the Sunflower Hearts?

Tuesday was forecast to be the warmest day this month but it didn't quite live up to expectation. It managed to reach 22.7°C or 72.9°F. This wasn't enough to beat 23.9°C (75.0°F) on 17 August which still remains our warmest day of the month. Thanks to the much milder conditions arriving in the early hours of Tuesday morning the average temperature was the highest for the month at 18.9°C (66.0°F) as for once we avoided a chilly overnight temperature.
Temperature & Solar Radiation Records 17-23 August 2017
I sometimes wonder which birds devour the sunflower hearts in the feeder hanging in our magnolia tree. At this time of year it needs a refill every morning. Usually, every last seed has been eaten.

I've seen a few young goldfinches happily enjoying the sunflower hearts but I couldn't figure out how a few young goldfinches were managing to eat all the seeds each day.
Sue managed to capture this photo one afternoon which goes somewhere to explain where the seeds go. There were more goldfinches perched in the magnolia tree waiting their turn on the feeder. The whole family had turned up to enjoy our sunflower hearts.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Tickled Pink

I must be getting accustomed to a cool August as Sunday didn't seem too bad temperature wise. We spent the afternoon pottering about at the allotment and in a bit of afternoon sunshine it was pleasantly warm. The temperature managed to climb up to 19.7°C (67.5°F) which is a little below what may expect. However, once again into the early hours of Monday morning the temperature fell to an unusually cool 8.9°C (48.0°F) giving a chilly start to the day.
Temperature Record for August 2017 Compared With Average For 2010-2016 
The pink line on the chart is the average high temperature based on 2010-2016 records and you can see how the temperature this year has struggled.

One of the windfall apples that I picked up over the weekend was one called "Tickled Pink". We planted this tree a few years ago (2012) and initially tried growing it in a container. That wasn't at all successful and the tree was moved to the allotment and planted alongside our "Egremont Russett". At the time I wasn't even sure that the tree would survive. It's taken a couple of years but the tree has recovered and this is the first year it's gone on to flower and produce some fruit. It's claimed that the flesh of the apple in a pinky red colour through to the core which is why we chose this apple as it offered something a bit out of the ordinary.
As you can see "Tickled Pink" has very attractive flowers much pinker than most apple blossom. 

Having collected the windfall "Tickled Pink" apple we thought we should cut it in half to see if it was tinged pinky-red through to the core. The video below records the event.

Sunday, 20 August 2017


Saturday wasn't the best of days considering it's the middle of August. It was a cool and breezy day with a few very light showers. Despite some sunny spells it felt cool down on the plot. I thought a visit was required to check our tomatoes were okay for water in the greenhouse otherwise I might have not bothered visiting.
Temperature & Wind Speed Records for 19 August 2017
It's difficult to visit the plot at the moment and not do a little bit of harvesting. Saturday afternoon wasn't any different and, once I'd watered the tomatoes, I had time to pick some runner beans - Lady Di - as well as some climbing French beans - Cobra. Sue picked more sweet peas and some of the edible variety too.

The strong breeze had brought a few apples and pears down off the trees. There didn't seem any point leaving them for the slugs and snails so they were collected in a bucket and brought home. There might be a little bit of wastage on them but I'm sure I'll find some pieces of edible fruit.
One of the windfall apples is a variety called "Tickled Pink", which has a few fruits for the first time this year, and it is supposed to have flesh tinged pink from the outer skin to the core of the apple. Watch this space for news!

Now if only we could get a bit of decent weather a bit more like August that would be good. The forecast doesn't suggest that's going to happen.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Heaviest Rain of 2017

Friday saw our heaviest rainfall of the year. We'd finished lunch and were planning a trip to the allotment when the rain arrived.
Temperature and Rain Rate Records for 18 August 2017
As you can see from the above records it was only a short but very sharp shower with the rain rate peaking at 98.4mm/hr or 3.87in/hr. It was a good job it didn't last very long falling at such a rate.
Once the rain had stopped we did contemplate a visit to the plot but, after a little walk around the garden at home, we decided it was probably a bit too wet. The very heavy shower had given everything a good soaking in record time. The day's rainfall amounted to 4.4mm (0.17in) not very much at all, it's just that it all fell almost instantly.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Peaches Galore - Sort Of

The rather poorish August weather has continued over the last few days.  We've had a few showers here and there throughout the day as well as a few sunny spells. In the sunny spells it's felt quite warm but they've disappeared as quickly as they came. We've had some heavy rain in the early hours of Thursday morning amounting to 11.8mm or 0.46in.
Temperature, Solar Radiation & Rainfall Records 15-17 August 2017
We've been tucking into our very own peaches this week. I think I've only picked one or two fruits directly from the tree and the rest have fallen off onto the greenhouse floor. Fortunately, I've found these before the slugs have had a chance to taste them and the fall from the tree hasn't damaged the peaches much at all.
Peach - "Avalon Pride"
We've now managed to harvest a fraction over 1kg (2.2lb) of peaches and there's still some left on the tree. Our nectarines aren't falling from the tree like the peaches so it seems we'll be eating our peaches before moving on to the nectarines.