Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Almost Ready

Tuesday wasn't exactly a brilliant day for late May with some morning drizzle and cloudy skies. It seemed the rain would hold off in the afternoon and so we made a trip down to the plot.

We're having problems this year getting seeds sown directly on the plot to germinate. After three weeks our "Robin Hood" broad beans have germinated.
Broad bean - "Robin Hood"
However, there weren't any signs of parsnip or carrot seedlings and as these were sown a month ago I think it's unlikely that they are going to germinate now. Fortunately, we did have some seeds of each variety left and Sue sowed our carrots and parsnips again and we're hoping for more success second time around.

On the fruit front things were looking far more positive.
 Strawberry - "Cupid"
Redcurrants - "Unknown Variety"
Our first strawberry of the season is almost ready to pick and our redcurrants are starting to ripen. It's time to get the netting out to stop the blackbirds having first pick of our fruit.

I did a little video tour of our plots yesterday which is included below if you fancy a watch.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Hosta Slug Defences Breached!

Well, Bank Holiday Monday turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. It was yet another one of those days, we’ve had lots this year, when it seemed to be wet all day and yet the rainfall total hasn’t added up to much. We’ve had 2.8mm (0.11in)by 20:00 although it still looks like it could pour down at any minute.

I noticed this morning that our Slug Gone defence system had been breached around one of our hostas by the pond edge.
On Monday evening I inspected around the plant leaves, and even had a look underneath the pot that the hosta is growing in, to see if I could locate the culprit but it was to no avail. There was no slug or snail to be seen.

I decided that the best option was to renew the wool pellets around the base of the plant. There may have been some gaps in the pellets leaving the possibility of a direct path from soil to hosta.

If you haven't used Slug Gone pellets then you won't be aware of how sheepy they smell. The smell doesn't last all that long.

It will be interesting to see if the additional layer of pellets prevents any further slug or snail attacks. I might still venture outside a little later one night as it's getting dark to see if I can find and destroy the offending creature.

Follow Up:
We ventured out at around midnight to see if we could spot any slugs or snails on our hosta.

Everywhere was wet from the drizzle that seemed to have been falling all day but there wasn't a sign of a slug or snail on our hosta. The battle goes on.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Great While It Lasted

The hot weather of late last week has now disappeared and we are left with something more typical of a Bank Holiday.
Temperature and Rainfall Records 23-29 May 2017
As recorded in my blog last week, Thursday turned out to be our warmest day of the year and the hottest May day since  I began recording in 2010. 

We had a couple of days away at the end of the week. Friday was photographing birds at WWT Slimbridge and on Saturday the subject was steam trains at the Cotswold Festival of steam at the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway. As it turned out the weather over the two days couldn't have been much different.

At Slimbridge, on Friday, the weather was glorious with clear blue skies all day long. We made our way around the reserve stopping where we could in the shade to photograph and feed the birds.
Saturday's weather changed completely. The temperature had cooled off and the blue cloudless skies had disappeared to be replaced with more menacing dark grey ones which threatened rain. To make matters even worse a strong to gale force wind developed through the day making the conditions far from ideal for trying to take video of the trains. Fortunately though the rain held off.
Bulleid Merchant Navy class 4-6-2 no. 35006 Peninsular & Oriental SN Co,  built 1941
It's now back to getting some jobs done in the garden and at the allotment. The small amount of rain over the weekend isn't going to have done much in the way of relieving the dry conditions in either the garden or plot. I think more watering is going to be required.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Blimey - What a Scorcher!

From the early part of the morning it gave every indication that it was going to be hot. By lunchtime we were around the 25°C (77°F) mark and through the afternoon the temperature continued to increase reaching a high of 28.6°C (83.5°F) by late afternoon.
Temperature & Solar Radiation Records for 25 May 2017
Not only is that the hottest day of the year but also the highest May temperature I've recorded since  I began recording in 2010. The previous record was 28.0°C (82.4°F) reached on 28 May 2012.
It was certainly too hot to consider doing anything strenuous on the plot.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Slugs or What?

The weather's been very kind over the last few days with some fine warm weather. Monday is still our warmest day of the year although it's possible the weekend may be even warmer. Whilst Wednesday didn't produce our highest temperature it was our warmest day of the year based on average daily temperature which was 18.4°C (65.1°F) helped by an overnight low temperature of 14.9°C or 58.8°F.

On the allotment, all is not well.
Sowing & Germination Dates for Allotment Sown Vegetables
Above is a variation on the tables I use to keep track of sowing and planting dates for our flower and vegetable seeds. The problem is there are no germination dates. I expect carrot seeds to germinate in a couple of weeks and they were sown almost a month ago now. I know that parsnips are slow to germinate but they were sown a couple of days before the carrots. Each time we've visited the plot we've looked eagerly for any signs of germination but seen nothing.

We're now about to cut our losses and resow both carrots and parsnips. In the case of carrots we'll have to buy some more seed first. However, I'm not sure if the problem has been with the germination of the seeds or whether slugs have just eaten the germinating seedlings.

Our first sowing of broad beans and peas took about 2 weeks to germinate so may be there's still hope of them germinating.

In the garden at home and in the cold frames we've tried out "Slug Gone" wool pellets. So far I'd say they've been pretty successful at deterring slugs. Whilst they haven't completely removed the slug problem they have reduced it to more manageable proportions.
They are however rather expensive and so I decided to try to protect specimen plants and young plants growing in the cold frames. 
You probably won't have seen a picture of this garden hosta before, partly because by this time in the year it has been devastated by slugs leaving nothing more than a skeleton of stems. I thought it would be a fairly good test of the wool pellets and they seem to have done a good job.
In the cold frame I've discovered the occasional slug or snail and they've been disposed of. Very often in the cold frame we've lost an entire tray of seedlings overnight but so far this year that hasn't happened.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

It's Warming Up!

The forecast is for the rest of the week to becoming increasingly warmer with some suggestions we could reach 30°C (86.0°F) on Saturday. However, back with the here and now Monday saw the highest temperature of the year with 23.9°C or 75.0°F. At times it was fairly cloudy but when the sun broke through it felt hot and muggy.
Temperature & Solar Radiation Records for 22 May 2017
If the forecast turns out to be correct I might be updating the highest yearly temperature each day this week.

We managed a trip to the plot to finish planting out our sweet peas. I only hope that my hazel sweet pea trellis will be up to the job of supporting them. Our edible peas Onward have also had their pea sticks added for support. Their supports are a mixture of all sorts of prunings including hazel, elder and a few assorted fruit bush twigs.
Peas - "Onward"
Our first home grown brassica plants have also been planted. Both varieties are club root resistant ones so we're not expecting them to succumb to this particular problem.
Cabbages - "Kalibro" (Foreground) & "Lodero" (Background)
Once they'd had a good watering in they were covered with environmesh to protect against damage from the ever vigilant wood pigeons who sit on the overhead power lines watching and waiting for us to leave crops unprotected.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

More Cold Nights

Well, we did need some rain but it would have been nice for a couple of wet days and then some decent weather so we could get on with some jobs at the allotment. However, what we've actually had is a series of wet and dull days but not a lot of actual rain. 
It seems we've had a lot of such days over the last few months. We either have a spell of dry weather or we get a series of damp and cool days but with very little rainfall. There is just enough drizzle or rain to make it too miserable to do any work on the allotment.
Temperature & Rainfall Records for 19-21 May 2017
The early hours of Sunday morning saw another cold start to the day with the temperature falling to 5.1°C (41.2°F) a reminder that's it's still a bit risky to plant out our dahlias and tender vegetables such as runner beans. I'm hoping the potatoes at the allotment escaped any more frost damage.

In our home greenhouse, I did get a chance on Saturday to plant up three growbags with tomato plants. Each bag has been planted with three plants. One bag is planted with Sungold, one with Shirley and one with Gardeners Delight.
Hopefully, the weather will behave as forecast and improve next week and we'll be able to get some planting out done at the allotment.

Friday, 19 May 2017

A Bit of a Plot Tour

We made the most of some decent weather on Thursday to get some jobs done on the allotment. Sue planted out our first batch of sweet peas.
I'm hoping that our rustic supports constructed from our coppiced hazel poles are up to the job and don't collapse in any strong winds we have through the summer months.

I managed to remove the weed control fabric from last year's runner bean bed and dug over the ground with our little cultivator.
It went from looking a lot neglected as can be seen in the above photo to something much more well tended.
The recent rainfall didn't seem to have had a great deal of effect and the ground was very dry and difficult to cultivate. It's a reminder that if we don't get any more rain crops will soon need watering again.

To finish off with here's a little tour of part of our plot filmed on Thursday afternoon.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Wet Wednesday

After a couple of completely rain free weeks at the beginning of the month the recent few days have seen use have a reasonable amount. We haven't had any torrential rain, rather a few showery days until yesterday, Wednesday, which turned out to be wet and miserable. With a total rainfall for the day of 5.6mm (0.22in) it was our wettest day since the 22 March 2017 with 7.2mm or 0.28in. 
Temperature & Rainfall Records 15-17 May 2017
To help put the rainfall into context our average rainfall for May is 50mm (1.97in) and over the last few days it's amounted to 15.6mm (0.61in) so we've a way to go to achieve our monthly average.
I'm hoping that we've had enough rainfall to allow us to get a few more beds dug over on the allotment. In our cold frame there's plenty of plants now hardened off and ready for planting out on the plot.
Cabbage - "Kalibro"
The forecast for the next few days is sunshine and showers so we might have to work between the showers to get some planting out done.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

A Wet Day But Not A Lot of Rain

We had some rain on Monday which the allotment and garden badly needed.
Temperature & Rainfall Records for 15 May 2017
However, although it was wet and damp all day we didn't have very much rainfall by the end of the day. It amounted to 5.0mm (0.2in) bringing the month's total up to 7.8mm (0.31in) and so May continues to be a dry month.
This is the state of one of the beds on the allotment that I want to dig over. The photo was taken on Sunday. It's almost possible to get a hand down the cracks that have formed in the soil as the plot has dried out. I'm not too sure Monday's rainfall will have been enough to thoroughly wet the soil and make it diggable.  
I'm sure the plants will welcome the rain though and it will give us a break from watering when we visit the plot. There's more rain in the forecast so maybe I'll soon be able to get that bed dug over.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Cheeky Robin

It Rained But Not A Lot

In the early hours of Sunday morning we got our first rainfall of the month.
Temperature & Rainfall Records for May 2017
It was our first rainfall for 15 days which is unusual for us. However, it was only 2.8mm (0.11in) so it's unlikely that such a small amount will have done any more than dampen the top of the soil and we'll still be busy watering the allotment. There is more rain forecast for the coming week, so our watering duties might be coming to an end.

I started erecting our sweet pea supports on Saturday. 
It will be made from our coppiced hazel branches. Pushing the sturdy poles into the ground was difficult. I was using a large dibber made from an old wooden spade handle to push into the ground to make a hole for the poles. However, as the ground is so dry the hole filled back up with dry soil as I was removing the dibber. Once all the uprights are erected they will be braced diagonally and horizontally to make the whole support more rigid. Our sweet peas are almost ready for planting out so it's a job I need to get finished. I don't think Sunday morning's rainfall will have made the ground any easier for erecting hazel poles. 

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Rain Gauge Stays On Zero For May

A while ago it looked like Friday would be the day the dry spell broke. As it turned out for us it wasn't the case. Friday was a dull day and at times the cloud was heavy enough to produce a very light drizzle but it never amounted to enough to register on my rain gauge.
Temperature & Rainfall Record for Last 4 Weeks
The chart above shows the rainfall I've recorded over the last 4 weeks. We've had nothing at all so far in May and that blue in April amounts to a grand total of 12.2mm or 0.48in. Showers are forecast over the next few days so perhaps we'll be lucky enough to catch a few of them.

In our home greenhouse our peaches are starting to swell a little bit.
Peach - "Avalon Pride"
At least I know I'll have to keep watering the trees in the greenhouse.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Frosted Potato Disaster

Everything seemed to be on the up. The weather had improved enormously from a few days ago and we set off in the afternoon to plant out some lupins in our revamped long, border bed. As it still hadn't rained we expected there would be plenty of watering to do to keep us busy.
Once we've emptied the car of all the necessary allotmenting tackle, the first thing we do is have a look around the plot to see how things are progressing. Only the first thing we noticed wasn't exactly progress it was more of a set back.
Main Crop Potato - "Cara"
Many of our potatoes have been caught by a late frost. As you can see they haven't just been caught around the edges of the leaves they've been damaged severely. I expect them to recover from minor frost damage but I can't remember them being damaged so badly before.

The potatoes in this bed escaped virtually without damage even though a bed close by had far more extensive damage. We'll have to wait and see if the badly damaged plants recover and produce a crop even if it's later than planned.

We did manage to get on and start planting up the renovated rose border. Our new lupins were moved from the cold frame at home into the new border. The soil is very dry so once we had dug a planting hole we filled it with water before planting the lupins.
Once planted they were given another good watering to settle them in. It looks like we might be watering them in for quite a while.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Cold Spell Ends But Not The Dry Spell

Wednesday saw an end to the cool spell of weather brought about by a chilly north easterly breeze. With mostly clear blue skies all day long the temperature reached a very respectable 21.2°C or 70.2°F.
Temperature Record for 05-11 May 2017
The lack of rainfall is now getting some media attention. Some reports suggesting it's the driest spell in Yorkshire for around 20 years. Now my records don't go back that far but for us, in total, it's the driest winter and spring rainfall  I've recorded.
Rainfall Comparisons for Winter & Spring 2010/11 & 2016/17
This winter was drier than 2010/11 as we had only 101.0mm (3.98in) of rainfall compared with 146.1mm (5.75in) in 2010/11. However, this spring has already been wetter than 2011 as we've had 52.4mm (2.06in) this year compared with 43.3mm (1.70in) in 2011. The total rainfall for winter and spring 2010/11 was 189.4mm (7.46in) compared with 153.4mm (6.04in), so far, for winter and spring 2016/17.

It looks as though we'll be doing more of this at the allotment.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Coolest Day of a Cool Month

It's May and I should be reporting that it's warming up but May is so far turning out to be a cool month. Monday was the coolest day so far with the temperature reaching just 11.2°C or 52.2°F. It was cloudy too and on an afternoon visit to the plot to water our seeds it felt more like March.
Temperature Record for May 2017
I've included a video tour of our plot filmed on Monday.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Allotment On Hold For A Few Days

We don't seem to be able to shake off this persistently cool dry weather with a cold north easterly breeze. The lack of rainfall means that our seeds and young plants in the allotment need regular watering. It's rather odd watering when the weather's cold and not very pleasant. We could do some more planting out as our new perennials are ready and waiting in the cold frame.
However, it's much easier to keep them watered at home than if they're planted out in the allotment so I'm planning to delay planting them for this week until we get some rain. If the current forecasts turn out to be correct that should be on Friday.
The graphic shows that if the forecast turns out to be correct we can expect some decent rainfall on Friday. The temperature is forecast to remain on the cool side so I think our perennials will be OK for another week.

On Sunday we visited Hodsock Priory to see the bluebells.
When we visited to see the snowdrop in February I thought that there were lots of snowdrops but I think that there's even more bluebells. The rest of the garden was open for us to have a nosy around too.
If you'd like to see more of the bluebells you might like to watch a video of our walk through the bluebells woods by clicking here.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

An Unplanned Visit to Clumber Park

On Saturday, the strong to gale force north easterly wind finally abated. Unfortunately what breeze remained was still coming from the same direction and it brought with it lots of cloud. The result was that the wind dropped but so did the temperature and the sunshine disappeared. It was a cold, grey day for early May.
 Temperature, Solar Radiation & Wind Direction 30 April - 06 May 2017
I'd planned a trip to Leicestershire and the Great Central Railway for Saturday. By the time we headed into Leicestershire the cloud was heavy enough to result in a rather unpleasant drizzle. We didn't fancy cold and drizzly so, after a stop for coffee, we decided to head back north to Clumber Park. We reasoned if it was still drizzly there we'd have lunch before returning home early.
Clumber Park Lake
Indeed,  by the time we reached Clumber Park, the drizzle had stopped but it was still a cold, grey day as we walked down to the lake.

Both the Canada geese and Greylag geese had goslings so, even if it was a bit on the chilly side, there were at least some good photo opportunities.
As we walked back through the woodland towards the restaurant for some lunch, the squirrels provided some more photo opportunities.
After a bite to eat we headed to the walled kitchen garden. From what we could see we're pretty well advanced on the plot compared to Clumber Park. However, our refurbished perennial bed or herbaceous border or even long border at the plot still needs a little bit of work to match theirs.
If you're interested in seeing a little bit more of Clumber Park I made a short video of our visit which you can find by following this link.