Sunday, 23 April 2017

A Break In Norfolk

We spent a couple of days away in Norfolk. Judging by my weather stations reading the weather might have been a little bit sunnier at home. Norfolk was cloudy and cool with a stiff sea breeze blowing at times.
Welney Wetland Centre
On Friday we visited the Welney Wetland Centre which is on the Ouse Washes in Norfolk. As you can see from the photo it's an open and flat landscape with not much protection from the wind. As with most of our visits to nature reserves the birds kept themselves out of range of all but the most powerful zoom lenses.
There were lots of avocets nesting in one location and they dared to get a little bit closer than the other birds.

On Saturday we visited the North Norfolk Railway who were holding their annual spring steam gala. The steam locomotives were a little bit easier to photograph than the birds but the weather hadn't improved at all.
Down by the beach some were making good use of the breeze that was blowing.
Sorry about the quality of the photo but the beach was quite a way off and the image is a screen grab from video working at absolutely maximum zoom range.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Confusing Club Root

The weather hasn’t been anything spectacular over the last few days. I suppose it’s been pretty average weather for mid to late April.

If you follow our blogs you’ll know that we suffer from club root on our allotment. A soil borne disease that affects brassica plants and a disease that there’s no treatment to prevent it available to gardeners. I tend to keep a record of the beds on the plot affected by club root and make sure I don’t plant brassicas in these beds. All our beds are on a 3 or 4 year crop rotation and therefore they aren’t planted up with brassicas year after year.

Last summer I ordered some plug plants from one of the seed companies. It was a collection of various types of brassica plants.  The intention was to provide crops from late winter through into the spring of this year. They were planted out on 06 September 2016 and were planted through weed control fabric and covered with environmesh to protect them from pigeon damage.
Planted on 06 September 2016
They were in a bed that I hadn’t marked up as being affected by club root. However, after initially starting to grow well, winter weather and what I believed to be club root started to take a toll. By the end of winter the plants didn't look very well at all.
Photo taken on 05 February 2017
They all had stunted growth, almost no root and could be pulled out of the ground with very little effort. I consider this to be typical of the problems caused by club root. The plants were pulled up and destroyed.

There were a few plants of cauliflower Aalsmeer that didn’t look completely dead and I decided to leave them in the ground and see if they would pick up and produce some cauliflowers. 
Photo taken on 05 February 2017
Well to my amazement they have or I should say one of them has so far and I think a couple more will very soon.
Cauliflower Aalsmeer 15 April 2017
As I thought all the other brassicas in this bed had succumbed to club root I decided to dig out the root of this cauliflower and see if it had any signs of club root. It took a little bit of digging up a sign that it probably wasn’t affected.
Cauliflower Aalsmeer  Root 15 April 2017
Looking at the root it's clear that the plant didn’t have club root and as the picture shows the root looks healthy enough with no bulbous parts which are the tell-tale signs of the disease.

So, I’m not sure now whether this bed is affected by club root or not. Most of the varieties we grow are club root resistant ones but the choice of varieties is limited and I like to try something different for a change.  Maybe Aalsmeer has some club root resistance or maybe only part of the bed is affected by the disease or even better it was the winter weather that affected the plants and not club root at all. I might try brassicas again in this bed before dismissing it entirely for brassicas. I'll certainly be checking the remaining cauliflower plants roots when digging them out in a few weeks time.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

It's Still Getting Colder

It never got very warm at all on Easter Monday or Tuesday although in any brief spells of afternoon sunshine it didn't feel too bad. Overnight into Tuesday morning the temperature dropped to 0.9°C so we'll have had a little bit of ground frost around dawn. It also meant that Tuesday was the coldest day of the month based on average daily temperatures with 7.0°C or 44.6°F.
Temperature & Solar Radiation Records for 18 April 2017
On the plot  plum and pear blossom has been replaced by apple blossom.
Our quince Meeches Prolific has joined in with the apples too.
We hadn't visited the plot for about a week which is unusual for us at this time of the year. The grass paths had grown long since the last visit and were in need of strimming before they got completely out of control.

While I strimmed the paths and cultivated a couple more beds Sue planted more potatoes and onion sets. 
We're now planning where to sow parsnips and carrots. I think we have some beds dug over but they need covering with weed control fabric. 
Our beds have dried out a lot through April and it’s a while since we had any decent rainfall. It won’t be long now before they become too dry to cultivate without a drop of rain.

Monday, 17 April 2017

What's This In My Tomato Seedlings?

The weather was fairly typical of a Bank Holiday. It was dull and cloudy for most of the day with a bit of drizzly rain on and off throughout the day. This turned into more persistent rain in the evening.
Temperature & Rainfall for 16 April 2017
I'm always behind everyone else when it comes to sowing tomato seeds. I sowed some a week ago now on 10 April and they went into our indoor growlight to germinate. Some only took four days to germinate and they are growing away well.
Tomato Seedlings Sungold & Gardener's Delight
Sungold were the first variety to pop their leaves through the compost followed a day later by Gardener's Delight. However, a variety called Golden Crown are taking a little bit longer to germinate but I've spotted an imposter amongst them.
It didn't take any great observational skills to spot it. It germinated first and emerged from the soil with 2 leaves already showing rather than that little loop of stem that you see when tomatoes are just popping through the compost.

I think the imposter might be a Ipomoea "Morning Glory". Last month I was clearing out last year's "Morning Glory" plant as it dies off over winter in the greenhouse. It produces lots of seed and I save a few of these each year when the old plant is composted.
Maybe one of the seeds accidentally fell into the bag of compost and finished up in with the tomato seeds. In any case I'll grow the seedling on to see what it turns into.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

April's Getting Colder

As it's April and spring it doesn't seem too much to expect the temperature to be increasing as we head through the month but unfortunately the opposite is happening.
Temperature & Rainfall Records for April 2017
Based on average daily temperatures Saturday turned out to be the lowest of the month at just 8.4°C or 47.1°F. We had a bit of everything on Saturday, with sunshine and showers accompanied by a strong to gale force wind. It was a day for doing a bit of seed sowing in the greenhouse.
In truth we didn't have much rain. The day's showers amounted to only 1.0mm (0.04in) bringing April's total up to 2.8mm or 0.11in giving us a dry month so far.

We're having another attempt to grow some melons this year. We have tried in the past without much success. This year we are trying a variety called Emir.
There were 10 seeds in the packet and I decided to sow 5 of them leaving the others to be sown in a couple of weeks time.
The seeds have placed under our indoor growlight to germinate. I'm not expecting any problems getting them to germinate but they might not be very happy when they are moved into the greenhouse to grow on. I'm planning on sowing the other 5 seeds in a couple of weeks time. The plan is to grow the plants in our cold frame on the plot but I may try some in our home and plot greenhouses and maybe even one in our cold frame at home. More options might give us a better chance of at least one ripe melon.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Our New RSPB Reserve Is Open

Although the weather wasn’t anything very special for the middle of April we decided on a visit to our newly opened RSPB Reserve at St Aidan’s. The reserve isn’t very far from where we live so it was just an afternoon visit. The reserve is part of St Aidan's Country Park which is owned by Leeds City Council but looked after by the RSPB. Difficulties over land ownership have delayed the opening of the site. St Aidan's Country Park is the site of the former St Aidan's opencast coal site which is within the flood plains of the river Aire.
It's like many of the nature reserves around us that have come about as the result of previous coal mining operations. Unlike all the other reserves though a massive piece of the past remains preserved at St Aidan’s.
The excavation of the coal was done by an enormous walking Dragline Excavator. When the works were completed this massive machine remained on site and has been preserved by the Friends of St. Aidan's BE1150 Dragline.
These draglines aren’t powered by conventional diesel engines as you would expect but are sort of connected directly into the National Electricity Grid so huge is their energy demand when working.

In March 1988, the St Aidan’s opencast site suffered from a failure of the banks and flood-protection of the river Aire causing massive flooding of the site. A lake of about 100 ha (250 acres) and up to 70 m (230ft) in depth was created, and coal extraction was halted for 10 years. Remedial works cost around £20 million and included rerouting the River Aire and the Aire & Calder canal. It’s thought old mine workings beneath the opencast site may have contributed to the failure of the river banks. Water was eventually pumped out of the lake and open cast coal mining completed.

The site is large and open and a cold wind was whistling across most of the site making it feel colder than it was. We still managed to see a few birds though even if they were a bit camera shy.
Great Crested Grebe
Reed Bunting
No doubt we'll be making a few return visits hopefully when it's a bit warmer.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

A Dry Start for April

It's been windy and felt on the cool side since the almost summery weather of the weekend but in truth the temperatures have only returned to their average values for mid April. However, this is the driest start to April I've recorded with only 0.6mm (0.02in) having fallen so far this month. This might be a statement I regret making by the end of the month.
Temperature & Rainfall Records for April 2017
As you may be aware, if you're a regular follower, our plots at the allotment suffer from club root. If possible it means that we only grow club root resistant brassicas on the plot as there is no cure for this disease of the root system.
As you can see from the photo above the plant develops roots which are swollen resulting in stunted plant growth and in severe cases the brassica will die off completely. To make matters more difficult on the plot not all our beds suffer from this problem so I try to keep a note of which beds are affected.

In order to try to overcome this problem or a least to reduce its effects we are growing our early brassicas in 5" (125mm) pots.
Cabbage "Regency", Cauliflower "Helsinki" & Calabrese "Aquiles"
None of these early varieties are club root resistant. They will be planted out in a bed which is in a four year rotation plan and has never shown any signs of club root but hopefully growing bigger plants in larger pots will give us a better chance of a good early crop. It's also worth mentioning that so far we have never suffered with a club root problem with any of the varieties we've grown that have been sold as "club root resistant" varieties.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Fruit Setting?

Well we couldn't expect the fantastic weekend weather to last and it hasn't. It's turned much cooler and cloudier over the last couple of days and it's been windy at times.

Tuesday was a day to be working in the greenhouse rather than outside. Each day there's an inspection of our apricot, peach and nectarine trees in the greenhouse to see if any of those flowers of a few weeks ago have set any fruit. At the moment things look promising but it's early days.
Apricot - Flavourcot
Peach - Avalon Pride
Nectarine - Fantasia
It looks as though all three trees have set some fruit so we are hopeful that we'll at least get something from each tree.

The early salad leaves and club root resistant brassicas sown at the beginning of the month have germinated well and they'll need pricking out into modules in a few days time.
Top left Red Cabbage "Lodero"  then moving round clockwise Spinach "Amazon", Rocket, and Cabbage "Kalibro"
Of course now there's some new spring greenery in the greenhouse the pests are starting to move in.
Mint sauce with added protein anybody.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Busy Day Planting

Sunday turned out to be our warmest day of the year as forecast but it was a close run thing. No sooner had the temperature peaked at 22.7°C (72.9°F) a whole 0.1°C (0.15°F) higher than Saturday when the weather took a turn for the worse. Suddenly a cool almost gale force wind blew up and the sunshine disappeared. It was back on with a jumper.
Temperature, Sunshine & Wind Speed Records for 09 April 2017
It didn't stop us getting done what we wanted to do on the plot. Our modular grown onions were planted out alongside the shallots. Our first two rows of Onward peas were sown and we managed to get four rows of main crop potatoes planted as well. Part of the plot was strimmed and Sue did a bit more refurbishment to our autumn raspberry bed.
On this part of the plot we've only one more bed to plant up although it doesn't look all planted up at the moment. The bed in the right foreground is planted up with early potatoes then working round the beds in a clockwise direction are onions and shallots, then peas under the sticks, which leaves one bed to be planted up with our early brassicas.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

We're Being Spoilt

Saturday was a glorious sunny April day with the temperature reaching 22.6°C (72.7°F) making it the warmest day of the year so far. Sunday has started off lovely and sunny so Saturday might not hold onto that record for very long.
Temperature & Sunshine Records 08 April 2017
We decided to make the most of the lovely weather and get some planting out done at the allotment.
Pear - Invincible
Our pear trees are now in full flower and putting on a superb display. I wonder how many of the flowers will set fruit. There were plenty of pollinating insects doing their bit on Saturday.

Sue set to planting out our broad beans - Witkiem Manita - and shallots which had been raised in modules in the greenhouse and had spent the last week in the coldframe hardening off.
Broad Bean - Witkiem Manita - sown on 02 March 2017
The other half of this bed will be filled with more broad beans sown at a later date to provide some continuity of harvesting. Our second variety is Robin Hood and is a shorter growing variety. I'll probably sow the seeds in a couple of weeks time.
Shallots - Golden Gourmet & Red Sun - planted in modules on 02 March 2017
The shallots don't take up very much space in this bed so rest of the bed will be filled up with onions.

While Sue was planting out our shallots and broad beans I was cultivating some of the beds that had their covering of weed control fabric removed last week.
Most of our soil is in excellent condition for cultivating at the moment. This bed was once our old strawberry bed. Last year it grew a decent crop of potatoes and this year we are going to grow our sweet peas and winter squashes in it. We think we might be able to squeeze in a row of peas too.

Pity that the fine weather isn't forecast to last.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

A Cold & Calm Start To The Day

The forecast is for Saturday to be our mildest day of the year with Sunday promising to be slightly milder. However, it's certainly been a cold start to Saturday with the temperature falling to 0.6°C (33.1°F) at 06:35. It's also been a very calm night too with no wind recorded at all.
Wind Speed Records 07-08 April 2017
As you can see from the above weather station readings it was calm between 21:00 Friday until 09:00 on Saturday morning. That's unusual for us to have such a completely calm spell.

On Friday we visited Norwich and had lunch in the jungle.
It's certainly different. This lemon and ginger cake finished off our jungle lunch a treat.

Friday, 7 April 2017

A Plot Tour

We’ve been a bit busy this week and not had any time for gardening at home or at the allotment since Monday. On Monday I thought it might be a good idea to do a quick video tour of the allotment before we get too much sown and planted.

There’s lots of fruit blossom and we’ll have to hope that some fine weather brings the pollinating insects out if force to set some fruit.

Just in case you missed my video on YouTube showing how we plant our potatoes I’ve added it to the end of this blog.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

First Earlies and Tester Potatoes Planted

Monday was a lovely sunny spring day. It wasn't quite the warmest day of the year but with only a light breeze it felt like it should have been. We decided to take advantage of the fine weather and get our first early potatoes planted.
Planting First Early Potatoes - Casablanca
If you follow our blog you'll know we don't plant our potatoes in the traditional way of digging out a trench which then has compost or manure added before the potatoes are placed in the trench which is then backfilled. We prefer the trowel only method.
Planting First Early Potatoes - Casablanca
We find our method is much easier and quicker and gives us good results so we'll be sticking to it. We also had time to plant six varieties of potatoes that we haven't grown before. We've four tubers of each variety to try.
Planting Potatoes:- Cara, Innovator, Isle of Jura, Osprey, Rooster, & Saxon
We planted these potatoes in a similar manner except that they were planted through holes in weed control fabric. I'm anticipating that these potatoes will all be lifted at the same time. When the potato tops have died back the weed control fabric will be removed to make lifting the potatoes easier. I will start lifting our first earlies before the foliage starts to die back and it's much easier to do this without any weed control fabric getting in the way.