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.