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.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Ugly Fruits - But Extremely Tasty

Considering the weather we've had so far this August the weekend wasn't too bad. We had a couple of decent sunny days and it stayed dry all weekend. It was a bit chilly in the early hours of Sunday morning as the temperature dipped to  8.5°C or 47.3°F.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 12-14 August 2017

We're in between plum ripening at the allotment. Our early plum Oullins Gage is finished but our Victoria and Marjorie's Seedling plums aren't quite ripe. Looking at some of our Mannings greengages I could see that the fruits were splitting even though I didn't think they were ripe. Normally once the fruits split the wasps move in and picking becomes a rather tricky job and I normally leave the wasps to it. Maybe Sue’s waspinators are doing the trick as there weren't any wasps around the fruit so I decided to pick some as see if I could find any edible fruit on them.
Mannings Greengage
I must admit they don't look very appetising and they didn't look much better after they had a wash. The split parts were cut away along with some of the blemished flesh and the fruit that was left was remarkably sweet. It's a pity our trees never provide us with many fruits as without doubt they are sweeter than any of our plums and well worth the effort of picking and cleaning.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Friday, 11 August 2017

Coolest Start To August

Thursday was a decent day with long sunny periods and for once the temperature made it up to average for the time of year at 21.8°C or 71.2°F. However, to compensate for this overnight, Thursday into Friday the temperature fell to just 8.1°C (46.6°F) the lowest I've recorded this early in August. 
Temperature Records 09-11 August 2017
The average temperature for the month at the 10 August 2017 stands at 15.6°C (60.1°F) which is the lowest, at this stage of the month, since I began keeping records in 2010.

In the greenhouse at home our tomatoes are ripening but only slowly about enough to keep us supplied with some for sandwiches at lunchtime.
Tomato - "Gardener's Delight"
Our main tomatoes are Gardener's Delight and Sungold, both cherry tomatoes, which we choose to grow because of their superb taste rather than quantity of fruit. I'm not sure whether they need a bit more sunshine or some slightly warmer temperatures to help them ripen a little bit quicker.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Wouldn't You Know It!

Tuesday turned out to be a wet day. The rain began around breakfast time, continued into the evening and through into the early hours of Wednesday morning. We didn't have a massive amount of rain it was just steady all day long. The total rainfall for Tuesday came to 15.2mm (0.60in) making it our second wettest day of the year. The wettest day of the year remains 28 June when we had 21.2mm (0.83in) of rainfall.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 07-09 August 2017
It was also on the cool side for August. It's a case of the maximum temperature shown by my weather station not telling the complete story as it reports the day's maximum temperature as 14.9°C (58.8°F), which indeed it was, but that was at 00:05 on Tuesday morning. The temperature fell as the night progressed and under dull and rainy skies during the daylight hours on Tuesday the temperature hovered around 13.5°C (56.3°F) mark. It's the coolest start we've had to August since 2010.

We'd visited the plot on Monday afternoon and thought it would be a good idea to lift our onions to help them dry off for storage through winter. Unfortunately, we've nowhere undercover to put our onions at the moment so Sue conjured up some makeshift frames to at least support the onions off the soil until we find somewhere more suitable for them.
As soon as we start to dry off our onions we get one of the wettest days we've had for a considerable time.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Settled, Unsettled Weather

Our current pattern of weather is usually described as unsettled in weather forecasting terminology. It's usually when conditions are such that low pressure weather systems dominate bringing bands of rain and wind in from the Atlantic Ocean.
Rainfall & Temperature Records 01-07 August 2017
As you can see from the temperatures above, our high temperature each day has been remarkably consistent, around the 20°C (68°F) mark, a little below average for early August. So unsettled weather can be settled in some respects. 

On the allotment we've been harvesting some delicious Oullins Gage plums but I think I harvested the last ones on Monday.
Plum "Oullins Gage"
Their cropping season seems to be over in just a few days. The first few plums were picked on 27th July and the last on Monday 07th August. However, we did have a bit of a bumper crop, even if it was short lived, so lots of the 21kg (45lb) we picked are in the freezer for using through winter.

Our Victoria plums provide a follow up crop but they don't seem to be enjoying the weather conditions. Some are rotting on the tree before they have time to ripen.
Plum "Victoria"
The tree is overloaded with fruit so I'm hoping that some of the other branches that are bending under the weight of plums will have some fruit that manages to ripen.
Plum "Victoria"
They'll be a week or so yet before they're ready for picking. Perhaps an improvement in the weather would speed up that ripening process.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Not Ready Yet!

As forecast the rather poor August weather continues. For the last three days it's been windy although Saturday did have a decent amount of sunshine and out of the breeze it felt pleasantly warm.

Our soft fruit picking season is slowing down now. We've still got blackberries to pick but our autumn raspberries have been refurbished this year so we're not expecting much fruit from them this year. It's about time our tree fruit took over the production line and our plum "Oullins Gage" has stepped up to the mark. We've picked a few punnets of delicious plums over the last week or so but Saturday saw a bumper haul of just over 7kg or 16 lb.
Some of the apples, of unknown variety, which form our apple hedge on the allotment look ready for picking so we decided to try one on Saturday afternoon.
The resulting taste test confirmed that although it looked ready for picking, and it parted from the tree without too much trouble, it wasn't ready for eating. Inside the pips were still white instead of dark brown which I consider a sign that a bit more ripening is required.

Our apples weren't the only fruits we picked and tested for ripeness this week. We also picked a nectarine and a peach as they too looked ready for picking.
Peach - "Avalon Pride"
Nectarine - "Fantasia"
The taste test for both the nectarine, peach and apple were the same. They all need a little longer on the tree to ripen a little bit more.

We made a short video clip of us picking a peach and nectarine for taste testing which I've included below.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Wrong Month's Started

Thursday was windy with the occasional very light shower. Any rain wasn't heavy enough to wet the ground as the showers were quickly blown away in the gale force wind. It certainly wasn't much like an August day in the height of summer.
RSPB - Fairburn Ings
We visited RSPB Fairburn Ings in the afternoon and if you could find somewhere sheltered from the wind in was quite pleasant.

Although we've had un-August like weather to begin the month we have picked the first tomatoes of the summer from our greenhouse at home. As is usual for us these were Sungold which always is the first of our varieties to ripen. 
We are lettuce free at the moment as my successional sowing of lettuce and salad leaves has failed again this year. However, our experiment of trying to grow watercress in our pond has been very successful, in fact too successful, as the watercress is doing its best to take over the pond.
It looks like some will soon have to be pulled out and composted.

The forecast doesn't seem to suggest that summer will be restarting any time soon.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Below Par July

For us July certainly wasn't anything special. It consisted of one hot day early on in the month with the remainder of the month around average or even a bit below.
Average July Temperatures For Ossett (UK)
As you can see from the table above July's average monthly temperature was a little below average based on the last few years and it ranked fifth warmest out of eight.

We also had below average rainfall in July. The first half of the month was dry with no rainfall to speak of but the second half was much wetter with some amount of rainfall almost every day.
August has begun much like July ended with lots of very light showers, breezy, and temperatures around average for the beginning of August.

August is traditionally my month for lifting most of our potatoes. Usually by the middle of the month most of the potato haulms will be turning yellow. I'll start lifting the potatoes as leaving them in the ground any longer will increase their chances of them being damaged by pests.
Two rows of Kestrel potatoes, in the bed above, had already died back and were lifted during the last week of July. The dry weather had substantially reduced their yield which was only half the amount of last year. Last year was the first time we'd grown Kestrel and they produced an excellent crop weighing in at 19.4kg (43lb) of completely pest free potatoes which we thought tasted good too. We thought they earned their place on this year's list of choice varieties and although they have only produced half the weight of last year's crop, with 9.2kg or 20lb, we're putting this down to the exceptionally dry spell of weather. Once again the potatoes are completely pest free. I think we'll be trying them again next year.
Potato - "Kestrel"
It will be interesting to see how our other potatoes have coped with the very dry conditions from planting time at the beginning of April through to late June.