Sunday, 30 July 2017

Exotics Are Nearly Ready

The fine settled weather of late spring and early summer has well and truly disappeared leaving us with a very unsettled mixture of sunshine and showers. There seems to be no signs of a quick return to summer.

In the greenhouse what I'd like to think of as our "exotics" are in some cases looking ready to pick. Our nectarines and peaches look as though we should be thinking about giving them a taste test at least.
Peach - "Avalon Pride"
Nectarine - "Fantasia"

In the past we've tried to grow melons in the greenhouse but with very limited success. As we hadn't tried to grow any for the last few years we decided to have another go this year.
Melon - "Emir"
It's looking more promising than in the past as we have at least one decent sized fruit already. I noticed on closer inspection that there are a couple more tiny green fruitlets so we may finish up with more than just the one melon. I can't imagine us being in the position of having to decide if we need to remove some fruits to allow others to grow on into larger specimens.
Fig "Brown Turkey"
Our "Brown Turkey" fig which is growing in a large pot was moved out of the greenhouse a couple of years ago now. It never produced anything more than a handful of fruits in the greenhouse and we decided to move it outside and see if it did any better. It's got a reasonable crop of figs on it this year so it's a question of seeing if they will ripen. I think the next crop of figs is just starting to form on the tree but I'm not expecting them to produce a crop before colder weather arrives in autumn.

I'll be very happy if we manage one or two home grown nectarines, peaches, figs, and melons to add to the apricots we've already harvested this year.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

In Defence of "Malwina"

The weather's been very mixed over the last week or so. At least the rain means we are no longer having to water the allotment apart from the tomatoes in the greenhouse of course.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 22-28 July 2017
I've seen "Malwina" strawberries getting a bit of a bad press on social media as they're prone to producing strange misshapen fruits. However, over the couple of years we've been growing this variety we haven't had any problems. We consider them to be our tastiest strawberry. 

Our "Malwinas" were planted in April 2015. They were planted through weed control fabric and to be honest have been given minimal attention since. Obviously weeding around the plants hasn't been a problem and through this spring's dry spell they didn't get watered. 
Strawberry "Malwina" planted on 23 April 2015
Strawberry "Malwina" are the 2 rows on the left in this photo taken on 02 June 2017
Today I discovered our first misshapen fruit. It was a small fruit but looked pretty odd with leaves growing out of the end of the strawberry.
But in defence of 'Malwina' I have to say that last year it produced 4.42kg (9.7lb) of superb fruits with no miss shapes, as far as I can remember, and this year another 4.24kg (9.3lb) of equally high quality fruit which tastes delicious.
Strawberry "Malwina"
If our plants are anything to go by then the misshapen fruits are produced at the end of their fruiting season as the fruits become smaller. We certainly won't be replacing our 'Malwina' strawberries because of the production of these occasional strange berries.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

First Bed Cleared

Our early brassicas are finished and I've started to clear the bed. The brassicas grown in this bed through spring and early summer were bought as plug plants from DT Brown and consisted of cabbage "Regency", calabrese "Aquiles" and cauliflower "Helsinki". I've been very pleased with the results and will be growing them again next year. The plants arrived at the end of March and were initially potted up and left to grow on in the cold frame for a few weeks. I've included my notes below of the growing and harvesting details of the brassicas.
Cold frame 10 April 2017
The plants were planted out in the allotment when they'd got well established in their pots and they were covered with environmesh to protect them from aphid attack if possible. 
Planted Out On 01 May 2017
They were kept reasonably well watered through our very dry spring and early summer weather. All three varieties have cropped very well allowing us to have some fresh "greens" from the beginning of June until the end of July. They've been completely pest free which I must admit is unusual for our plot.
Calabrese "Aquiles"
Cauliflower "Helsinki"
Cabbage "Regency"
All the brassica tops have been cut down and composted. I've still to dig up the roots which I'll inspect for any signs of club root but I suspect that given the way the plants have grown that this bed is free of club root. I'll check for signs all the same.
Once the roots are removed the weed control fabric will be left in place over winter and rotated around next spring in line with the 4 year plan for this part of the plot.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Some Rain and Brexit Cucumbers

The weekend finally saw us get a drop of very welcome rain. Almost equal amounts on both Saturday and Sunday saw 14.6mm (0.57in) of much needed rainfall to water the garden and allotment.
Temperature & Rainfall Details 21-23 July 2017
It should give us a welcome break from watering.

We had a visit to the allotment on Saturday afternoon after the morning's rainfall. It was a sort of a pottering around afternoon for me picking a few things, a little bit of tidying up, and watering the greenhouse tomatoes. By the end of the afternoon we had amassed quite a harvest between us.
I found two Burpless Tasty Green cucumbers in the greenhouse when I was watering in there. 
These are our first cucumbers of the season and by their curvy shapes they've obviously heard about Brexit and don't feel the need to grow straight anymore. Has anyone got that variety that grows perfectly straight and in a plastic wrapping?

Our full harvesting for the day can be found on this web page.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Where's Summer Gone

We haven’t visited the plot for the last couple of days as the weather hasn’t been up to much. Whilst much of the country has suffered flash flooding and wet weather we’ve somehow managed to miss nearly all the rain. We have had a little bit of rain on Saturday morning maybe just enough to avoid watering the plot for a couple of days. 
I always find it a bit odd when there’s a need to water the plot when the weather is cold and damp. Still the forecast is for more rain over the weekend so we may be able to spend more time harvesting and doing a few other jobs that need to be tackled but have been put on hold to allow us to keep the plot watered.

Back in spring when I sowed our tomato seeds one of the packets contained a rogue seed which not only germinated before the tomato seeds but grew much quicker. 
17 April 2017
Intrigued to find out what this seedling was it was potted on and it’s been growing slowly in the greenhouse all summer.
04 May 2017
It needed potting on weeks ago but I’ve never got round to doing it. It’s now doing its best to make me feel guilty by flowering. I really will have to find time to move it on into a larger pot.
22 July 2017
I had my suspicions when it germinated that it might have been a Morning Glory seedling, in which case it probably didn't arrive in the seed packet but somehow a seed from one of our old plants must have got into the compost. At least I didn’t throw it away in April when it germinated amongst the tomato seeds.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

What Storms!

Social media and newspapers have been full of stories of potential and actual thunderstorms all around the country. Some places have suffered flash flooding. So, it was with bated breath that we awaited our turn. We didn't want the flash flooding or the torrential downpour just some decent steady rainfall to water the garden and allotment. I give you yesterday's rainfall details.
Rainfall Details for 19 July 2017
We had to wait until almost midnight for a few spots of rain. To be honest it was a muggy day and late in the afternoon and into the evening it wouldn't have been much of a surprise if we'd had a storm but whatever heavy rain was around passed us by.

As you will be aware if you follow either mine or Sue's blog we've refurbished the perennial flower bed on the allotment. The roses in particular received some rough treatment as we tried to remove the couch grass and bindweed from around their roots. I thought that we had lost up to three of the five roses planted in this border 10 years ago. However, Baroness Rothschild has survived and is now flowering once again.
 Rose - Baroness Rothschild
Elmshorn and Jacqueline du Pre have survived the refurbishment and are growing well. One called Evelyn has a few green leaves and we are hoping it will survive whilst the final rose Golden Wings is showing no signs of life at all and will need to be replaced.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Blue Sky All Day

Tuesday was a lovely summer's day with blue skies from dawn until dusk and pretty warm in the afternoon as the temperature made it up to 25.8°C or 78.4°F.
On Sunday we made some provisional plans for sowing some carrots and Pak Choi. One small bed was cleared of some seeded rocket and salad leaves but instead of digging over the ground it was given a good watering.
I reckon the size of the bed is about 10 sq/m and I tipped 10 watering cans of water over the bed. Each can contained 10 litres of water. By my calculation that should be equivalent to 10mm (0.4in) of rainfall. At the time it seemed a bit over the top but the water disappeared into the soil and didn't leave any standing on the surface. I felt certain my rough depth of rainfall calculation was correct. Working in metric units the answer definitely had a one in it, just a case of units and had I got the decimal point in the correct place. We decided to leave the bed overnight and see if it would dig over on Monday afternoon when we visited the plot.

When we arrived on Monday afternoon things didn't look too promising. The sunshine had certainly dried out the top of the soil and it certainly didn't look like it had been watered copiously the day before. The sunshine hadn't baked the surface of the soil into a hard surface which was a positive sign. But then the intention was that there would still be some moisture underneath and the bed would dig over using our cultivator.
I could tell as soon as the cultivator started working its way through the soil that the watering had worked a treat and the bed dug over very easily leaving a tilth that we could sow directly into.
We managed to sow Pak Choi and a row of late carrots in the bed above. There will be some room for a few short rows of radish and one or two lettuce plants at a later date. Unless the dry spell ends though we will have to keep the bed well watered if we want the seeds to germinate. It's amazing how many cans of water are needed to replicate a decent day's rainfall.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Still No Rain

It's been a few days since I last did a blog post. The weather hasn't been very exciting, some sunny days and some cloudy, with around average temperatures for the middle of July. The only thing we haven't had is any decent rainfall.
Rainfall Record Last 4 weeks
We had enough to dampen the surface last week but the only rainfall of any use as far as the allotment and garden goes was at the end of June. The dry weather is starting to have consequences at the allotment.
Our Japanese Wineberry appears to have succumbed to the dry conditions and as far as we can make out has died. We both think we have given it some water as we've gone around the plot watering but maybe we are mistaken. It's a blow as it was only planted a couple of years ago and was beginning to be rather productive.

I've a little bit of software that works with the data from my weather station to estimate how much evaporation takes place each day based on temperature, wind speed and solar radiation.
I've highlighted the two interesting columns. Whilst the rainfall for the month is 7.1mm (0.28in) evaporation is a whopping 42.0mm or 1.65in. Now I'm sure there's some errors in the way the evaporation is calculated but it shows the trend of how much moisture the soil has lost compared to the rainfall we've had. 

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Coldest July Day?

Tuesday's weather didn't delivery on the rainfall front as despite another seemingly wet day we finished up with just 5.0mm (0.2in) of rainfall nothing like as much as was suggested in the forecast. Still, I suppose it's better than nothing but I don't think it will have done much to alleviate the dry conditions in the garden and allotment.
Temperature & Rainfall Records for 11 July 2017
However, with a daytime high temperature of just 13.3°C (55.9°F) Tuesday was the coolest July day I've recorded taking over from the 20 July 2012 when the temperature reached only 13.8°C or 56.8°F.

On the plot I'd like to trim back a laurel hedge but I've noticed that we've still got some young birds about in the garden so I'll leave any trimming back until next month when the birds will have finished nesting.
This young goldfinch was checking out the sunflower hearts in the bird feeder at home early on Wednesday morning.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

I Like The Look Of This Forecast

I wouldn't normally say that I like the look of a weather forecast that's for a thoroughly wet day but the garden and allotment really need a good soaking. Maybe today they will get one.
After a lovely sunny weekend Monday turned out to be one of those days I've mentioned lots of times in my posts this year. 
Sunday Afternoon On The Allotment
Monday was a day of drizzle and at times short showery bursts amounting to 1.8mm (0.07in) of rainfall all day certainly no use in watering the garden or allotment.
As you can see from the table, above right, the only rainfall we've had in the last four weeks fell almost two weeks ago now. That fell on already very dry ground and soon seemed to disappear leaving the ground once again bone dry. Cultivating the ground for sowing and planting some summer crops had become very difficult. We'd like to get some ground prepared for a late sowing of peas not to mention some late salad crops and a variety of cut flower seeds.

So, a good wet day would be very useful and save us time having to water the allotment. The forecast for the next couple of weeks doesn't have much rain in it which is all the more reason for hoping that today's forecast turns out to be correct. At the moment 09:30 it's about right as we've had our first 2.2mm (0.09in) of rainfall.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

A Perfect Summer's Day

Saturday was a perfect summer's day, sunny and pleasantly warm but not too hot. A day for a bit of steady harvesting and photography on the plot.
Most strenuous job of the afternoon was lifting a few potatoes.
Followed by a coffee break.
Here's an early July tour of plot 41.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Hot and Sultry

The weather forecast was correct for Thursday as it turned out to be hot and sultry as the temperature reached 28.4°C (83.1°F) in the afternoon. The afternoon had the feeling that a storm was brewing up.
Temperature & Solar Radiation Records for 06 July 2017
However, we missed out on any rainfall and we missed any thunderstorms that were around. On occasions the sky clouded over as though we would be getting a storm at any moment.
In the late afternoon we had a few rumbles of thunder as a storm passed to the south of the allotments.
As the storm passed I was watering the plot. I thought that I was maybe wasting my time and that a thunderstorm would do the job for me. As it turned out it was just as well I continued watering as the storm passed by without shedding a drop of rain. Rain is becoming a precious commodity on the allotment and in the garden.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Back to Dry

That rain we had last week which did wonders for the allotment has now lost its magical effect. Wednesday's weather forecast was for heavy thundery showers, we even had a Met Office warning of heavy rain, but it never materialised. The forecast for today, Thursday, is much the same except that the temperature is forecast to be much higher than the 20.2°C (68.4°F) we managed on Wednesday.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 05 June - 05 July 2017
The result of a dry week is that the plot is back to being undiggable and we're having to start watering again. I tried on Tuesday to dig over one of our beds but the ground was very dry and it refused to break down into a decent tilth. 
It was a waste of time as all my cultivator was doing was shuffling around hard compacted pieces of soil. There was almost no sign of any moisture in the ground at all. I decided to do something more useful and pick some fruit instead.
Blackcurrants - Ebony
It will be back to watering our vegetables when we next visit the plot unless that forecast of thunderstorms and heavy rain turns out to be correct.