Saturday, 25 March 2017

Coldest Night Since January!

Friday was a lovely sunny day and feeling spring like in the afternoon sunshine but as forecast the sting in the tale for gardeners was that Saturday morning's temperature fell to -0.7°C (30.7°F) the lowest since the 27 January 2017 when it fell to -2.0°C or 28.4°F.
Temperature & Sunshine Records 23-25 March 2017
We spent the afternoon at the allotment getting a few jobs done before sowing and planting starts in earnest in April. The frosty nights have arrived perfectly timed to coincide with our plum Oullins gage coming into flower. 
Plum - Oullins Gage
These are the first few flower to open so hopefully the bulk of the flowers won't be affected by frost.

During the afternoon a noisy robin brought work to a standstill as we tried to photograph and video him singing. Our first few attempts were foiled because as we moved closer to get a better shot he flew off to a safer spot. Then when we were having our afternoon coffee break he decided to sing to us from the greengage tree which overhangs the shed. We managed a few closer shots of him although he was silhouetted against a bright sky. He was answering to the calls of another robin somewhere else on the plot.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

They're Up and Eaten!

Wednesday was a miserable day with steady rain for most of the day. It was the coldest day of this March as the temperature only managed to reach 6.6°C or 43.9°F. The day's rainfall amounted to 7.2mm or 0.28 ins - nothing exceptional.
Temperature & Rainfall for 22 March 2017
I sowed some lettuce seed Tom Thumb and Salad Bowl a week or so ago and made a note that it had started to germinate by Monday of this week. I popped into the greenhouse this morning (Thursday) to see if any watering was required. I doubted any would be needed after a dull, cold and wet Wednesday. I was right and nothing needed to be watered but as I looked over the emerging lettuce seedlings I noticed something I wasn't at all pleased with.
Lettuce Seedlings-Tom Thumb
The seedlings looked like the emerging leaves had been eaten. It looked a bit like a slug might have browsed them but there wasn't a tell-tale slim trail. I thought it might be worth removing the set of cells  from the seed tray to see if a slug was lurking in the dark.
My suspicions were well founded as I found one hiding away waiting for better conditions to emerge and finish off the few remaining lettuce seedlings. This particular slug has eaten its last salad. I might have to resow some lettuce seeds but I might wait a couple of days to see if any more seedlings germinate. So much for my attempts at some early salad leaves!

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Rhubarb - How's Yours Doing?

Well the weather models and forecasters didn't too well at predicting our rainfall over the last week but they did get the anticipated change to cooler weather correct.
Temperature & Rainfall for 20 March 2017
We've lots of rhubarb growing on our plot. Living in the Rhubarb Triangle it is only fitting that we do. I picked a few more stems from our earliest variety which I think is Timperley Early.
We don't give this plant any special treatment over winter. It doesn't get any protection from the weather and it isn't covered with a pot to keep the light out to force some early stems. I've never really felt the need to do this when we can normally harvest stems from this variety by the middle of March.
Timperley Early?
Looking around the plot at our other varieties it is interesting to note their various stages of growth. We bought most of the rhubarb crowns many years ago and whilst I'm sure of the names of the varieties I'm no longer sure of their positions on the plot. Besides which rhubarb is just rhubarb isn't it?

Growing next to our earliest rhubarb is a later variety which we think is Giant Grooveless Crimson.  It's well behind Timperley Early but it's not the latest of our types of rhubarb.
Giant Grooveless Crimson?
This root is certainly the last to spring into life. I think the variety is Stockbridge Arrow.
Stockbridge Arrow?
I seem to remember that when we visited Clumber Park the kitchen garden there has more than one hundred and thirty different varieties of rhubarb growing so we have some way to go to catch them up. If your rhubarb isn't ready yet the chances are you have a maincrop or later variety.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Odd Weather Day

Sunday was another mild day. Once again it was a rather strange sort of a day. There was plenty of sunshine but it was accompanied by a strong to gale force wind for most of the day taking the edge of the temperature. It was the sunniest day of the year and the windiest day of the month a rather odd combination.
Temperature & High Wind Speed Records for 19 March 2017
Just like Saturday, all day it tried to rain in the wind. The actual rainfall didn't amount to anything but added to the day's unpleasantness.
For the last week the weather forecast has suggested rain for the following day which hasn't, for us at least, ever arrived. The soil on the allotment has dried out well over the last couple of weeks and was in excellent condition for cultivating. As it's been continually forecast to rain I've tried to get as much digging done on the plot as possible whilst the soil is in good condition and before we get any heavy rain.
Sunday saw some more beds dug over and prepared for planting. The top left hand corner bed is for our new black raspberry called Jewel. The bed on the bottom left will be planted up with our trial potatoes Cara, Innovator, Isle of Jura, Osprey, Rooster and Saxon. We have four tubers of each variety to plant. I've still to decide on the crops to be planted in the beds on the right hand side of the image. The bed in the centre will be planted up with broad beans Witkeim Manita, which were sown in pots in the greenhouse at the beginning of the month, and Robin Hood which will be sown in a few weeks time to provide a successional crop.
Broad Beans Witkeim Manita Sown On 02 March 2017
These will soon be moved out of the greenhouse and into the cold frame so that they can become acclimatised to outdoor conditions before they are planted out in the allotment.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

A Highlight On The River Esk

The weather certainly has taken a turn for the worse. It hasn't turned cold but it's dull, breezy and continually trying to rain in the wind. Saturday night into Sunday morning produced the highest overnight temperature I've recorded in March and by a considerable margin. The temperature didn't fall below 11.2°C (52.2°F) breaking the previous record of 9.2°C (48.6°F) which occurred on 29 March 2012.
Temperature, Rainfall & Solar Radiation Records 17-19 March 2017

Despite the not too promising weather forecast for Saturday we headed for the North Yorkshire Moors to do a bit of steam train photography.
The train was "The Whitby Flyer" starting from York and heading to Whitby for a short stop over before returning to York. Some of the train's journey took it along the East Coast Main Line but I opted for some photography on the rather more scenic part of the route through the picturesque Esk Valley of the North Yorkshire Moors.
LNER B1 Class 5MT no 61264 Heads The Whitby Flyer Through Lealholm
After lunch we spent some time looking for new photographic location along the railway line which follows the river through the Esk valley. We stopped off at North York Moors National Park Centre near Danby and had a walk to the railway line. Before reaching the railway the path crosses over the river Esk where we spotted of couple of dippers.
They were quite a long way off and doing everything they could to make capturing a decent shot difficult. They did what dippers do and kept disappearing under the water and emerging in a different location hidden by tree branches. It's the first time I've ever seen a dipper and it was the highlight of the day.


Friday, 17 March 2017

They're Up

Well the weather has certainly changed, as forecast the mild and sunny conditions have been replaced with cooler cloudier ones. Friday, 17 March 2017 is the spring Equilux when the hours of daylight and darkness are equal. I always thought that occurred at the equinox but that's not exactly the case. I think that the equinox is the theoretical time of equal day and night but in practice the atmosphere around the earth, amongst other things, mean that what we see on earth doesn't exactly fit with the theoretical time. The result is that we see equal night and day four days before the spring equinox.

Our first seeds of the season have pushed their heads through the compost over the last couple of days.
Leeks - Blue Solaise
These leeks Blue Solaise are pushing through the compost. It's always a bit of a relief when the first sowings of the year start to appear. We are still harvesting last year's leeks so some of these seedlings could be on the dinner plate this time next year. Not long to wait then!
Broad Bean - Witkiem Manita
It's a bit early to be sure but it looks like the germination of our broad beans has been good and both seeds planted in a cell have germinated. We shouldn’t have to wait as long, as we do for the leeks, before we start harvesting some beans. Hopefully we'll be picking our first pods by early July.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Getting Stuck In

We've had some lovely spring days over the last week with the temperature on a sort of steady increase as the week has progressed. Wednesday turned out to be the best of the days with almost unbroken sunshine, just a light breeze, and the temperature reaching 16.2°C or 61.2°F. The highest March temperature I've recorded was set on 28 March 2012 at 21.9°C or 71.4°F.
Temperature, Rainfall and Solar Radiation Records 10-16 March 2017
I decided the soil in some of our beds on the plot would have dried out enough to turn over with the cultivator.
Our mini cultivator came out of winter storage in the garage, was fuelled up, and taken down to the plot to see if I was correct  in thinking that the soil was dry enough to be cultivated. As you can see the ground turned over a real treat. After a first pass with the cultivator I added some fish, blood and bone fertiliser and then incorporated that using the cultivator.
I managed to get four beds dug over and ready for planting. We've got beds prepared for our early potatoes, first sowings of peas, planting early brassicas and onion sets and shallots.

I've added a short video of the grass paths on the plot getting their first cut of the year.


Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Sowing Early Lettuce

We're having a very mild March so far. Tuesday raised the yearly high temperature a little higher reaching 15.6°C or 60.1°F.
Temperature & Solar Radiation Records for 14 March 2017
It's very tempting to start sowing seeds in earnest but there's still a chance of some cold weather arriving so I'm waiting to see what happens. Wednesday may well be to be another mild day but it looks like it will turn cooler towards the weekend.

I did decide to sow a few lettuce seeds which I'm leaving in the greenhouse to germinate.
There's hundreds of seeds in a packet so it won't be a great loss if this early sowing succumbs to some bad weather. If they grow okay then I'll pot them on and they will eventually be planted out in our raised bed at home.


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Getting Ready

Monday was another decent March day although it wasn't as mild as Sunday. So far March has been kind to us and it will be a bit of a disappointment and a shock to the system if we get a bit of a cold spell.

On the plot the grass had dried out so I decided it was time for the allotment paths to get their first strim of the year.
Some of the beds on the plot are now starting to dry out. I lifted the weed control fabric on two of our beds. I reckon if it stays dry these beds should be ready to cultivate by the end of the week.
These will be the first four beds to be planted up. The one in the fore ground will be early potatoes Casablanca and then progressing round in a clockwise direction will be onions, peas and early brassicas. The brassica bed was prepared a few weeks ago and is ready for planting. The early potatoes won't be planted through weed control fabric as this makes harvesting, as and when needed, more difficult.
Part plan for plot 42 in 2017  (notes from 2016 left as reminders)
The weed control fabric has been rolled up and moved to the end of the appropriate bed ready to be reused once the bed has been dug over.
Now all I need is for the weather to remain dry for the rest of the week and for my cultivator to start up after its long winter break.

Monday, 13 March 2017

More Potatoes in Tubs

Sunday turned out to be a lovely mild March day as the temperature reached 15.3°C or 59.5°F the highest of the year. After a bit of a dull start to the day there was a decent amount of sunshine in the afternoon making it feel so much better. We decided on an afternoon at the allotment to get a little more tidying up done and to plant a few more potatoes in tubs.
Temperature & Solar Radiation Records for 10-12 March 2017
We managed to pot another three tubs of Casablanca early potatoes. These will grow on in the plot greenhouse. They've joined the two tubs that we planted up a couple of weeks ago.
Potatoes - Casablanca
I reckon that the beds on our plot are still a bit too wet to dig over. I'm not too worried as I don't think I've anything that needs planting just yet especially as we have a few early potatoes planted up in those pots. A nice dry week would do the beds a great deal of good. Not being able to get any digging done I decided to do some tidying under our greengage trees.
I think that this will probably be the last of the major tidying up jobs to get done as attention switches to sowing and planting crops.

Sue did a bit more on our new bug hotel as well as some more weeding of our fruit tree beds
I've included a video of our gardening activities of the last few days.

By the time we left the plot on Sunday the sunshine had disappeared.



Sunday, 12 March 2017

Wow Cauliflowers to Harvest!

It wasn't that brilliant a day on Saturday as it remained dull and cloudy all day. It was another reasonably mild day for the time of year.

We headed for the plot without any real plan of what we were going to do but there's always something that can be done even if it's only a bit of tidying up. When we arrived Sue asked me if I'd had a look to see how our cauliflower plants were doing.
This is the plan of our brassica bed planted up at the beginning of September last year. The plants haven't done particularly well over winter and the Amsterdam and Moby Dick cauliflowers didn't make it through the winter. Most of the other plants have just about survived but when I last looked a few visits ago I wasn't holding out much hope of anything to harvest.
Cauliflower - North Foreland
This is what Sue found when she had a look to see how they were doing. We'd four medium sized heads ready for picking. These were a nice surprise. Looking at the remaining plants we may be lucky enough to get some Aalsmeer cauliflowers and a few small cabbages.

Well as you can see from my video below the frogs are back in the pond and doing what frogs do at this time of year.


They are about a month earlier to arrive this year compared to last year but we thought their arrival was very late last year so maybe now is more their usual time. We are trying to come up with a way to stop all their frogspawn being eaten by the fish. We're toying with the idea of using a very close mesh planting basket with some frogspawn scooped into it. This will be left in the pond for frogspawn to turn firstly into tadpoles and then froglets. At this stage they should be safe from the fish. Watch this space.



Saturday, 11 March 2017

Mildest Day of the Year

It wasn't that good a day as it remained cloudy all day although it did stay dry. It became our mildest day of the year by the smallest of margins as the temperature reached 14.3°C (57.7°F) taking over from 14.2°C (57.6°F)reached on 20 February.
Temperature Record for 10 March 2017
We headed over to Lancashire to the East Lancashire Railway Spring Steam Gala. It was miserable and murky as we headed over Saddleworth Moor but  the weather did improve a little during the afternoon.
Our starting point was Burrs Country park where there always seems to be other photographic opportunities between the trains.
It's not a bad spot for photographing trains either.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Worse Than I Thought

Thursday was another lovely sunny day. However, it was spoilt in the morning by a gale force wind which abated through the early afternoon.

Remember back in early January I blogged that we had one of those storms with "no name" but it did more damage in the garden than any of the "named" storms. It left one of our fence panels looking a bit worse for wear.
Damage from storm on 11 January 2017
I didn't think at the time it would be too much of a job to do a repair. My intention was to remove the panel and replace the broken willow filling before reinstalling the panel. That idea didn't last very long once I began trying to remove the panel. Most of the screws holding it to the posts came out without too much trouble but there's always one or in this case two, one in each post where the head of the screw had burred and there was no way of unscrewing it. After a bit of messing about it was obvious that most of the framing timbers in the panel had seen better days and were now rotten.
Fencing panel removed 09 March 2017
As you can see there wasn't much that resembled a fence panel by the time it was removed. There's now a gap in the border that needs filling.
I've recycled any half decent pieces of timber to use down the allotment. They will be used for labelling up our rows of vegetables.
Not much to show considering I originally thought that I'd be able to repair the damaged fence panel. My thoughts are now turning to how to replace the panel. The easiest option is to just buy a new panel but I'm not sure how easy it will be to get one into position without doing too much damage to the planting around it. My other idea is to build a new panel in situ which I think is my favoured option at the minute.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

First Fruit Blossom Out

After a little bit more overnight rain it brightened up towards lunchtime with some lengthy sunny spells. There was a strong breeze which took the edge off the temperature.

In the greenhouse our first fruit blossom of the year is out. Our peach, nectarine and apricot have all come into flower at the same time.
Nectarine - Fantasia
Apricot Flavourcot
Peach - Avalon Pride
Of course no self respecting pollinating insect is going to be flying around the greenhouse so early in the year so Sue will be very busy with her pollinating brush.