Friday, 21 September 2018

Summer Ends, Drought Ends - Big Time!!

I'm not sure of the official date when astronomical summer ends but weather wise Thursday saw our very dry summer come to a very abrupt end. The rain began reasonably gently early afternoon and continued through to almost midnight with some bouts of very heavy rain mixed in.
Temperature & Rainfall September 2018
After a very dry summer Thursday saw a rainfall total of 41.6mm (1.64in), in less than 12 hours, making it the wettest day of summer. That's a typical month's rainfall in half a day! Since May we haven't had a monthly total as high as that. It's certainly brought our drought to an end. However,  as you can see from the table below, it's also taken over as the wettest day we've had since 2010.
There seems to be a few instances of local flooding as drains not used to rainfall couldn't cope. We managed to find one such spot in Wakefield last night.
It will be interesting to see what effect all the rain has had at the allotment. Will we have gone from too dry to do any digging to too wet with almost one month's rainfall in less than 12 hours?

To add insult to injury it became very windy Thursday night into Friday morning with my weather station recording a wind gust of 30mph. That's another September record as it's the highest wind speed I've recorded in September.
The wind abated through the early hours of Friday morning and a quick look around the garden doesn't reveal any damage apart from a blown over bird feeder. That's now back in an upright position and the feeders filled up so the birds will be happy.

We'll have to plan a trip to the plot to check if there is any damage there and to see if soil conditions are suitable for digging or whether the ground will have gone from too dry to too wet. If the latter is the case we will have had an amazing turn around in the space of one day!

Thursday, 20 September 2018

A Rainy Day - At Last!

We haven't visited the plot since Monday. We've had a few other things to do and with a couple of early autumn storms turning the weather very windy we have given plotting a miss. Thursday afternoon is turning out to be wet, one of the wettest days we have had since early spring.

On our visit on Monday I made a short video of how the plot was looking in the middle of September.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Autumn has Arrived

After a lovely warm start to the month it's been downhill ever since, to such an extent that the month's average temperature is now just that, distinctly average for the middle of September.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 01-15 September 2018
There's no doubt that the allotment has taken on a noticeable autumnal feel as beds are cleared of summer crops and harvesting moves on to apples and pears.
However, one theme from summer is continuing and that is our continuing lack of rainfall. So far this month we've had some sort of precipitation on 10 days out of 16 including some rain today, Sunday. It's amounted to a grand total of 13.6mm (0.54in) falling in lots of small amounts which do nothing to alleviate the bone dry soil at the allotment and in the garden.
We did manage to plant our winter onions last week besides clearing more beds at the allotment. As the cleared beds are too dry to dig over, the backlog of beds that need digging over is building up at an alarming rate. None of the beds will be needed for planting or sowing seeds until next spring so there's no particular rush, but it's a job I like to do in short stints rather than have lots to do together.
We're not having to spend as much time watering at the allotment, as crops take longer to dry out now the weather is much cooler than on those hot summer days. Some crops though have still got plenty of time left in the ground before they're harvested. Our leeks have grown well but until some wet weather arrives they'll still need watering even if it's not as often. It would be a shame if we forgot them now after watering them for the last two or three months. The same can be said of our carrots, parsnips and winter brassicas.
The weather next week will be governed by the remnants of ex-tropical storm Helene. Whilst it might bring some mild southerly winds on the other hand they might just be strong enough to be gale force and there maybe even some wet weather as well. However, with the exact track of the storm still unknown there's a great deal of uncertainty about next week's weather.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Autumn Clearing Jobs

I'm not sure whether it's me or not but autumn seems to be well underway this year. The weather has turned cool for early September, although we are still awaiting some prolonged wet weather. At the allotment we're well into clearing beds of their summer crops. 
The above beds have been cleared of climbing French and runner beans. Ideally I'd have liked to dig over the bed but I think the soil will be far too dry and hard for cultivating even though the beans were well watered through the summer. The only rain we get at the moment comes in dribs and drabs which does nothing for our bone dry soil. I did manage to resow one of our beds with a green manure crop. The first sowing of buckwheat in early August hadn't been successful despite our watering efforts. I've resown it with Caliente mustard and I'm hoping for better germination this time around.

One of our cardoon plants has been cut down, a couple of plum trees have been tidied up by removing some of the lower branches and Sue has given our red currants a good cutting back. They were starting to outgrow their allotted space.
Plum Tree - Marjories Seedling 
Although we've spent a good deal of time cutting back and clearing beds we've still had time to do some harvesting.
Harvest Sunday, 09 September 2018
The dry weather this year has meant no blight on our potatoes and tomatoes and, whereas the potatoes have done poorly in the very dry conditions, our outdoor tomatoes have done very well. If all years could be guaranteed to be blight free I think we'd manage without greenhouse grown tomatoes. 

Friday, 7 September 2018

The Wait Goes On!

Harvesting on the plot is slowing down and the regularity of our visits are slowing down too. The start of September has brought with it some much cooler weather but so far no "proper rain". However, as the temperature cools the crops that are still growing will last longer between waterings.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 01-07 September 2018
On the plot it's a case of harvesting and clearing crops and waiting for rain before any beds can be dug over. I've managed to get a couple of beds ready for some flowers seeds and a crop of winter onions and garlic.

Last month a couple of beds were sown with green manure crops. One bed is doing reasonably well and one looks like it will need re-sowing.
This bed was sown with grazing rye in August and germination of the green manure crop has been good. There's also been excellent germination of weed seedlings too so it will be interesting to see how things progress. There's no point showing you a picture of the second bed as it's just a patch of mostly bare earth with very little signs of any germination including weed seeds. 
I'm planning to get some more beds ready to be sown with green manure crops as soon as conditions improve and I've bought some seeds ready to sow as beds are prepared. The seeds don't have to be sown until the end of October but I'd really like to get some in as soon as possible. I might rake over the bed with the failed green manure crop of buckwheat, give it a good watering and re-sow it with some of my new seeds. It's a question of deciding whether to use Mustard Caliente or Autumn Mix.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

End of a Hot Summer

September heralds the start of meteorological autumn and brings to an end a very hot and dry summer in our part of the world. The heat hasn't been the main problem for us, rather the lack of rainfall, as this summer finishes up as the hottest and driest I've recorded.
Some beds on the allotment have been unusable through summer as the hot, dry weather continued to bake our clay soil. The rainfall figures for this summer speak for themselves.
Summer Rainfall Totals 2010-2018
Our total summer rainfall has amounted to what we might expect in any one of the three summer months. No wonder we've had lots of watering to do at the allotment. Of course summer 2018 might be at the bottom of the rainfall table but the positions are reversed for the temperature table.
Summer Temperatures 2010-2018
Little did we know that as the lovely summer weather began in June it would last through into August although August didn't match the standards set by June and July.
RHS Harlow Carr in June 2018
As I've already mentioned August was the poorest of the summer months and didn't manage to top my table of August temperatures coming second to August 2013.
Only a few days into autumn and those hot summer days have disappeared but we're still waiting for some "proper rain".
Until that rain arrives our soil will continue to more resemble concrete that soil. Autumn digging is on hold as all we can do is clear the ground of its summer crops and wait for the rain to arrive. No doubt that once it starts it won't know when to stop. Hard to believe that in April we were waiting for the ground to dry out so that we could start sowing and planting spring crops.

Friday, 31 August 2018

Beginning To Feel a Bit Like Autumn

August began with lovely hot sunny weather but that certainly hasn't lasted and the last week or so has had a distinctly autumnal feel about it. Early on Thursday morning the temperature dipped down to 6.4°C (43.5°F) making it a very chilly start to the day and on Friday morning even lower at 5.2°C or 41.4°F.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 29-31 August 2018
At the allotment there's a bit of an autumnal feel too as we clear away summer crops and begin to harvest apples and plums. However, the allotment remains very dry and although crops can be cleared away to the compost heap the ground is far too hard to dig over. After rain last weekend I though I'd dig over the summer onion bed.
The onions had been lifted a few weeks ago and placed into boxes to be stored over winter. I thought the rain would have softened the soil up and it would be easy to dig over. I was wrong, in fact, it was difficult to tell there had been any rain. I did manage to turn over a couple of spades of soil but it was tough going and I didn't think it was worth carrying on.
The problem is that the number of beds that we are clearing are mounting up and ideally they all need digging over before any bad weather sets in. To make matters worse there's still no "proper rain" in the forecast for the next week to ten days so our drought conditions look as though they will continue on into the first weeks of September.

However, the good news is that the fine sunny weather looks set to return and we may well be in for a very nice spell of September weather. Apart from the possibility of a few showers there's certainly no prolonged wet weather in the forecast.
Ten Day Forecast Based on GFS Weather Model from
If you choose your photographic location carefully the plot still looks summery especially our perennial bed.
Rose - Jacqueline du Pre
Our roses have seemed to enjoy the long hot summer and have been flowering since the end of May. However, our cardoons are now looking very sorry for themselves.
The bees are now having to look elsewhere for their nectar fix as the flower heads have now died off. It's been windy enough to break some of the thick stems so the saw will have to come out and they will be removed to the compost heap. At least it's a job that doesn't depend on it raining.

Monday, 27 August 2018

I'm to Blame

It was only on Friday that I posted that it was absolutely ages since we'd had a thoroughly wet day and then a couple of days later one comes along. To make matters worse it's waited for a holiday weekend.
  Temperature & Rainfall Records 01-27 August 2018
As you will notice from the chart above not only have we had some rain but the temperature has been much cooler too which means that the rainfall isn't drying up as quickly as it falls.
Bank Holiday Monday hasn't started off very well either with a dull damp start to the morning. It's forecast to be much brighter with some sunny spells though. There isn't much rain in the forecast for the next week to ten days but hopefully Saturday’s total of 9.4mm(0.37in) will save us watering duties at the plot for a few days.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Forgotten What A Wet Day's Like

Not for the first time this summer we've got caught in some rain at the allotment. In fact it was the second time this week. It's a long time now since we had what I'd call a thoroughly wet day. I imagine it was sometime back in April, when it seemed the allotment would never dry out, since then we've really had nothing but showers. So far this month we've had some rain on 10 of the 23 days but on 6 of those 10 "rainy days" the amount has been less than 1.0mm or 0.04in. That doesn't have any effect on the dry ground at the allotment or in the garden.
 Rainfall Totals - Summer Months 2010 - 2018
It's easily the driest summer I've recorded although there's a week or so of August still left and rain is forecast for Sunday but we'll have to wait and see if that forecast turns out to be correct or it becomes another day with just a few showers.
Bed Prepared for Planting Over-Wintering Onion Sets
The very dry ground makes preparing beds for more crops very time consuming as the ground needs to be well watered before any attempt can be made to dig it over. The patch above has been prepared ready to plant some winter onions. The potatoes which occupied the bed over summer had been watered on a regular basis since the middle of July, more in an attempt to keep the ground moist enough to dig out the potatoes than increase the size of the crop. Our watering did at least make it easier to dig up the potatoes but the ground was still very dry. The soil got another good soaking once the potatoes were out before it was dug over once again and broken down with the cultivator ready for planting. Now all we need are the onion sets.

If you'd like a look around our plot I've included a video taken in the middle of August.

Monday, 20 August 2018

A Return To Watering Duties

The rainfall last Monday was most welcome but since then it's been dry. Not only that we've had a blustery wind and some sunny spells most days which has soon dried out the ground. So it's been necessary to resume watering duties.
  Temperature & Rainfall Records 01-20 August 2018
Summer seems to be gradually fading away, or at least the heat is, but on a positive note any watering we do at the allotment lasts a bit longer.
Last week's rain has started to green up our grass paths at the allotment. The last couple of months on the plot have all been about watering and harvesting with little time for other jobs. Now there's some time to catch up it suddenly seems a bit autumnal as the job of tidying up beds from summer crops begins.
I managed to clear our early brassica bed of the old roots of cabbages, calabrese and cauliflowers. I always inspect the roots of brassica plants to see if there are any signs of clubroot. As all the varieties in this bed were clubroot resistant ones I wasn't expecting any problems and indeed there weren't any signs of the disease at all.
I managed to dig over the bed even though the ground was very dry. There are other beds that are ready to be cleared and dug over once the old pea haulms are cleared away. Our onions have been lifted and stored in boxes to finish drying off leaving another couple of beds to be dug over. I'd like a drop more rain to make digging easier before I tackle them. However, there's only the promise of showers in the next week to ten days so I might have to wait a little longer. Much cooler weather is forecast over the Bank Holiday weekend so at least our watering duties will be reduced.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Wrong Sort of Rain or Soil?

The rain on Monday afternoon was very welcome and it's given us a rest from watering the plot. The rainfall over the last four weeks, added together, is now beginning to look like it might manage to make a full column of blue equivalent to about an average month's rainfall.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 17 July to 16 August 2018

Before the rain arrived on Monday afternoon I'd just managed to sow a crop of green manure then the heavens opened. If there's one thing that's bad for our soil it's heavy rain. It's not just heavy rain though as the same problem occurs using a watering can. Our soil is clayey and, after heavy rain or after it's been given a good watering, it soon starts to form a hard crust on the surface. This is especially so if it gets a bit of warm sunshine to help the baking process.

The surface of the bed, sown with a green manure crop of Buckwheat on Monday afternoon, looked like this on Wednesday afternoon. There were lots of cracks forming in the soil as it started to dry out. If crops are planted in rows then hoeing the soil breaks up the surface and gives crops a chance to germinate. This is why we normally line a shallow trench with compost when we are sowing seeds at the allotment but as green manure crops are generally broadcast when sowing lining a trench with compost or hoeing the soil isn't a workable solution. I decided to break up the surface of the soil with my rake.
The grass paths got a quick strim and I edged around the bed, not that there was much grass to cut, and the bed didn't look too bad. I'll have to wait and see if that Buckwheat germinates.

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

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Watering's Not Required

After a very long spell of dry weather necessitating watering the allotment every few days we can at last have a week off after the allotment got a good soaking from a storm on Monday afternoon. I'd finished sowing some Buckwheat, as a green manure crop, where our trial potatoes had been lifted. The seed packet said to water the seeds in well. I look northwards into the sky.
Monday Afternoon, 13th August 2018
To water or leave, hoping we'd get some rain. As we seemed to have missed most of any storms around this summer I decided to water. By the time I'd emptied a couple of watering cans full over the bed it was spitting with rain. I headed for the shed and just made it in time before the torrential rain arrived. 
We had a cup of coffee and watched the rain come down for about half an hour. The Buckwheat was certainly watered in well by the time the storm had passed. It did stop raining but threatened another downpour so we did some very quick harvesting before it began raining again.
It looks like we're going to have a bumper crop of Oullins Gage plums this year. There's still lots to pick so we might be giving a few punnets away. 

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Was That It!

I posted earlier in the week about the weather forecast for rain over the weekend. The total amount forecast to fall over the weekend was 21.3mm (0.84in) which also included a spell of rain on Monday. By the middle of Sunday morning, that forecast isn't looking all that accurate as so far we've managed only 3.8mm (0.15in) and it's not raining at present. There's the possibility of a few light showers in the forecast for Monday but nothing substantial.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 10-12 August 2018
On the allotment I'd planned for a good downpour. The weed control fabric covering the bed where the Casablanca potatoes had been dug was removed to let the rain at the soil so that the top could be raked over and allow some green manure to be sown.
Bed on Plot 42 Ready For Sowing With A Green Manure Crop
Our trial bed of potatoes was cleared and I reckoned a decent amount of rain would also allow this bed too to be tilled and planted up with a green manure crop.
Cleared Trial Potato Bed On Plot 29
The trial potatoes deserve a post of their own but it's worth noting that our efforts at watering what appeared to be dead potato tops did at least keep the soil moist enough to allow the potatoes to be dug out of something more resembling soil than concrete.
As we approach the half way point of the month, the total amount of rainfall for August is now 4.6mm (0.18in). Our average rainfall for August is 64.4mm (2.54in) so we've a bit of catching up to do to meet this month's average. Our rainfall total for May, June and July this year was 50.4mm (1.98in) set against an average for those three months of 160.9mm or 6.33in.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Still Waiting!

The forecast earlier in the week for rain on Saturday has changed with the wet weather delayed until late on Saturday night and more rain to follow on Sunday and Monday.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 01-11 August 2018
The last couple of days have seen some very light drizzly showers which have managed to wet the plant leaves but do nothing at all for the drought conditions.

However, I have managed to plant out our cabbage and cauliflower plants at the allotment.
Cauliflower "Aalsmeer" & Cabbage "Sabrosa" 
The planting process involved copious amounts of water. My original plan was to dig a hole with a trowel and fill it with water before planting but digging a hole wasn't possible in the dry ground. The dry soil just fell back into the hole as quickly as it was dug out. The ground had to be watered first before it was even possible to dig a hole with a trowel. What is normally a fairly quick planting job took all afternoon although that did include fixing the hoops in place for the environmesh. Making holes in the ground for the ends of the hoops to slot into wasn't the easiest of tasks in our dry and very hard ground.

Once planted they got another good soaking to settle them into their winter quarters. A nice drop of rain over Sunday and Monday will do them very nicely.