Monday, 18 June 2018

First Veggie Harvest

Sunday saw us harvest our first vegetable crop of the new season. We decided it was time to cut the largest head of our calabrese Aquiles.
Aquiles was part of our early brassica collection from DT Brown which arrived as plug plants at the end of March.
Early Brassica Collection 29 March 2018
The plug plants were potted on and spent the next month in the greenhouse growing on before, they were transplanted into their final positions in the allotment.
They were planted out on 29 April 2018 and were covered with environmesh to prevent damage from wood pigeons. Since then they've needed plenty of watering. It's almost two months since they were planted out and under average conditions I'd have expected around 100mm or 4in of rainfall. However, this year it's been very dry and since they were planted we've had 23.8mm (0.94in) or around a quarter of what we might expect. At one stage in the middle of May I wasn't at all convinced we were going to get much of a crop off them but over the last few weeks they've definitely put on a bit of a spurt.
 Cabbage - Regency
Cauliflower - Helsinki
Our cabbages are almost ready for cutting but the cauliflowers look like they will be a week or so before they are ready. Hopefully, they'll be ready as the calabrese is finishing.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Wow! Rained Off!!

Something unusual happened on our visit to the plot yesterday. It rained! After all the hot weather and the forecast of thunderstorms, which never happened here, it took one of the coolest days of the month for a thunderstorm to occur. A few spots of rain as a warning to take cover and then it tipped it down for a few minutes. We took shelter in the shed and watched the rain do some watering for us.

Mixed in with the rain were a couple of rumbles of thunder but the storm only lasted for a few minutes.
Temperature & Rain Rate Records for 16 June 2018
I don't know how the rain at home compared with that on the plot but at home it amounted to 4.2mm (0.17in) with the fastest rain falling at 45.4mm/hr (1.79in/hr) the highest rainfall rate this year. At that rate it's probably as well it didn't last too long. The months total rainfall is now 5.6mm which is still the driest June I've recorded at this stage of the month.

It was just as well that I didn't leave picking our strawberries until the last job of the day. I finished picking these as the first few drops of rain began to fall.
Strawberries - "Cupid" & "Cambridge Favourite"
Any rain is better than no rain at all for the garden and plot but yesterday's downpour won't have been enough to convert our hard compacted ground into more workable soil.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

A Last Word On Storm Hector

Overnight Friday into Saturday morning we had what counts as rainfall these days here as 0.2mm (0.01in) fell at sometime in the night. I couldn't tell there'd even been a shower at breakfast time and I did think it was a bit odd that my rain gauge was showing some rainfall, even if it was the smallest amount it measures. A closer inspection of our hostas confirmed that we had indeed had a light shower.
We paid a visit to the allotment on Friday to do some watering and check for storm damage. I was surprised where the worst damage had occurred. I expected our cardoons to be the worst hit but they escaped relatively unscathed. The worst damage was to our newly planted out leeks as the wind had blown the weed control fabric onto the seedlings. The wood chip holding down the fabric had been blown off leaving the fabric at the mercy of the gale force wind.

The video below shows the extent of the damage to our allotments and cherry tree in the garden.

Friday, 15 June 2018

A Brush With Storm Hector

After weeks of lots of calm sunny weather the spell was broken with storm Hector. He brought us some unusually strong westerly winds for June in off the Atlantic. However, the one thing Hector didn't bring was any much needed rain.
Temperature & Wind Speed Records for 16-May to 15-June-2018
It was our third windiest June day over the last eight years but probably seemed worst after a long spell of excellent weather. There was plenty of sunshine with the gale force winds, probably the worst combination for our garden and allotment in its already very dry state.

In the garden Hector managed to blow over our pot grown cherry tree.
Cherry - "Stella"
It's the first time it's ever been blown over. The fleece around the ripening cherries probably acted a bit like a sail helping to topple the tree but I expect the tree to be safe from gale force winds through the summer months at least. The fleece isn't there for decorative purposes as the woodpigeons start devastating the young leaves as soon as they start to emerge and any ripening cherries are picked off by our resident blackbirds. It's very simple really "no fleece - no cherries" so the fleece will stay around the tree whatever the weather.

I’m guessing that our cardoons at the allotment will be looking a bit battered. We'll have a trip down to the plot to inspect for any damage today. The wait for some rain goes on!

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Planted Up As The Dry Spell Continues

Despite the best predictions of the weather models for showers or thunderstorms over the last week or so it's remained stubbornly dry apart from the odd bit of drizzle from low cloud. 
Temperature & Rainfall 14 May - 13 June 2018
It's the driest spell I've recorded from the beginning of May through to 13 June with a miserly 19.2mm or 0.76in of rainfall. The only year that comes close to this is 2010 which managed 30.3mm (1.19in) over the same period with a very dry May producing just 10mm (0.39in) of rainfall but by this stage of June we'd had 20.3mm or 0.80in.

The warm weather trend is also continuing into June, following on from the warmest May I've recorded, the first two weeks of June have continued the trend resulting in the warmest June I've recorded at this stage of the month.

On the plot it's been very slow progress sowing and planting. The dry ground has made digging and ground preparation both slow and difficult. As more seeds or plants get into the ground it means more time is spent watering and less for ground preparation, sowing and planting.
Our leeks were finally planted out yesterday and we felt with that completed it meant our beds were finally planted up. To be honest until we get a reasonable amount of rain we've no ground suitable for cultivation. All our empty beds resemble concrete rather than soil. Our leek plants weren't the strongest looking specimens but they've got plenty of time to grow on before they are ready for harvesting. One plant that hasn't minded the conditions is our cardoon. It must be deep rooted and finding plenty of moisture and with no damaging winds so far it's looking rather spectacular.
That statement should be enough to bring on some wet and windy weather!

Friday, 8 June 2018

Extra Mini Tomato Plants

The "sort of" fine weather has continued over the last week. However, with the breeze predominantly from the east or north east it's meant we've had lots of cloud coming in off the cold North Sea. Some days this has cleared by lunchtime resulting in a sunny and warm afternoon but on other occasions it's persisted all day and it's been a bit on the chilly side.
 Temperature & Rainfall Records 09 May - 08 June 2018
The one thing we haven't had is any decent rainfall so visits to the allotment involve lots of watering as well as trying to get beds dug over and planted up. So far this spring and early summer is turning out to be quite challenging on the allotment.

All our tomato seeds this year were sown on the 22 April, a little bit late even for us, but this was due to the cold start to spring. All our seeds germinated well and were soon potted on out of their seed trays. We had four varieties Sungold, Shirley, Tigerella and Red Robin. The first three varieties are all now moved on into their final growing positions and are looking just like I expect them to.
The final variety Red Robin has taken me a bit by surprise. Whilst the other three varieties grew on quickly in the greenhouse, Red Robin didn't make much progress at all and didn't look at all like it needed moving on into a larger pot. I had intended this variety to be grown on in pots in the greenhouse as a dwarf variety but clearly I didn't read the blurb in the seed catalogue so closely. It's supposed to have an excellent flavour even though it produces a mini tomato plant suitable for growing on a kitchen window sill.
Tomato Plants - Red Robin
As you can see they're not yet much more than a few inches high but already starting to produce tiny flower buds. It's going to be interesting to see how big they finally grow and how many tomatoes they produce. I'll have to start reading the catalogue descriptions a bit more closely in future.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Still Waiting For Rain

The immediate threat of any thunderstorms seems to have passed and we missed them all. The weather's not as good as it was in May with lots of cloud coming in off the North Sea and stubbornly refusing to clear through the day.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 06 May - 06 June 2018
We've had no rainfall to speak of now for over four weeks. However, the cloud is thick enough to produce very light drizzle at times, especially overnight, and this seems to be just enough to allow the slugs and snails to munch their way through our seedlings each night.

We've had a couple of days away leaving the plot and garden to fend for themselves. We visited Kenilworth Castle and the Severn Valley Railway. Judging by the flow in the river Severn somebody's been getting more than their fair share of rain.
River Severn at Arley (02 June 2018)
Back at home it was a case of getting some more ground dug over so that some tomatoes, winter squashes and brassicas could be planted out. 
This bed had been soaked the evening before but was still looking very dry after it was dug over and broken down with the tiller ready for planting. At least we're now managing to harvest something other than rhubarb.
No amount of watering seems to be able to do the same as a decent drop of rain. There doesn't appear to be any forecast over the next few days but the thoughts are that this pattern of weather will break up as we head towards the middle of June with a more Atlantic pattern of weather bringing more unsettled conditions and hopefully some proper rainfall.

Finally, and a little bit later than normal due to our trip to the West Midlands a summary of May's weather.
As you might have guessed May turned out to be the warmest I've recorded. I've seen some reports that May 2018 was the hottest on record but from the Central England Temperature Records I'm sure that record still belongs to May 1833 with an average temperature of 15.1°C or 59.2°F.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

What A Spring!

Wednesday remained dull all day. At times the cloud was thick enough to produce some light rain although it was never heavy enough to do any good as far as watering the garden and plot goes. 

There was enough to wet the leaves of plants but not the soil surrounding them.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 01-30 May 2018
The rain scale of 50mm or 2in represents an average month's rainfall so it's certainly been a very dry month.

As May comes to an end so does meteorological spring and what a spring it's been. I keep all my blog photos archived by year and season, for example spring 2018, and each time I add a new photo to my blog I see the first few photos I used for my first blog posts of spring.
Archive blog photos - Spring 2018
As I add photos to my last blog posts in May this window opens reminding me of the very cold and snowy start we had to spring. After a dry February, March turned out to be very wet with a mixture of snow and rain on top of some very cold days and nights. April started off very wet with almost a month's rainfall on the second day of the month, and a bit more snow, adding to the problems caused by an extremely rainy March.
Snowfall - 02-April-2018
Then the weather changed and rather than record cold or wet we were talking record hot days as the temperature hit 28.8°C or 83.8°F making it one of the hottest April days on record. Blossom on our fruit trees started to open and we had a real treat as all our fruit trees produced the most blossom I can remember.
Plum Blossom - 21-April-2018
What we didn't appreciate as April drew to a close was that we weren't going to get much rainfall all the way through May. After complaining that we couldn't get any planting done because the ground was so wet we were about to encounter the exact opposite where sowing and planting was difficult because the ground had become so hard due to the lack of rainfall. We even got to air our views on BBC Radio Leeds.
 BBC Radio Leeds Visit 26-April-2018
For most of May the weather has been hot and sunny and there's little doubt this May will turn out to be one of the warmest on record. However, it's also been a very dry month and we've found getting crops into the ground very slow and the more crops that are sown and planted the more watering there is to do.
Still To Be Dug 28-May-2018
Our roses are coming into flower on the plot and early indications are that, like the fruit blossom, they intend to put on a fantastic display.
Rose - Jacqueline du Pre
As meteorological spring moves into summer there doesn't seem to be any great change in the weather forecast for the first few days of June. Hopefully we will start to harvest a few more crops as we move into summer as spring has been limited to rhubarb, a few herbs and cut flowers. 

How long will this spell of mostly fine sunny and dry weather continue?

Monday, 28 May 2018

What Rain?

There was plenty of coverage on the TV news last night about thunderstorms in the south of the country and flooding from heavy rain especially around the Birmingham area. Not for us though. It was warm or maybe hot, sunny and breezy in Ossett with the afternoon temperature making it up to 24.8°C or 76.6°F.
Temperature & Rainfall 22-28 May 2018
It was back to watering duties at the allotment as all signs of Friday's rainfall have disappeared. To be honest, while any rainfall is appreciated at the moment, Friday's effort didn't do much at all for our parched allotment.
I haven't made any effort to dig over some of our beds which are bone dry and resemble concrete rather than soil. From the weather forecast this morning it seems the only water these beds are likely to get over the next week to ten days is from a watering can. 

I've managed to get a bed prepared for our runner beans and climbing French beans and yesterday Sue finished off tying in canes for the supports. 
The beans themselves are growing in pots at home and will be ready for transplanting over the next week or so. The problem is as more and more crops get sown or transplanted the amount of time spent watering increases as well. 

Saturday, 26 May 2018

A Drop of Rain

As forecast we had some rain on Friday. It rained on and off through most of the day giving us a total of 8.0mm (0.31in) by late afternoon when it stopped. It's brought our monthly May total up to 17.0mm (0.67in) but still well short of our average of around 50mm or 2in.
Temperature & Rainfall Records for 25 May 2018
It was the first day this month with zero hours of sunshine and oddly whilst it was one of the lowest daytime temperatures of the month it was the mildest night.
Rose - Etoile d'Hollande
It will be interesting to see how the rainfall has affected the ground at the allotment and if some of those hard, dry and cracked beds can now be dug over. I suspect that our vegetables will have enjoyed a drink of rainwater rather than tap water. 

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Fading Fruit Blossom

Although it's taken most of the morning for the sun to break through over the last few days the exceptional warm and dry spell of weather has continued this week. The only downside for us being the lack of rain which means digging over beds for planting is slow going and there's lots of watering of seeds and seedlings to be done at the allotment. Heavy showers are forecast for Friday and if they materialise they’ll be most welcome. 

On the plot the best of the fruit blossom has finished and our perennial flowers are starting to take over. Our first roses are opening.
Rose - Jacqueline du Pre
The first of our poppies are also coming into flower.
On the plot Sue managed to get our sweet peas planted out. The support for the sweet peas is constructed from our coppiced hazel bushes. The ground was very dry so we gave the planting area a good watering before and after planting.

I erected bamboo canes ready for our runner beans and climbing French beans. We’ll have to do some improvement to the soil before planting if we want a decent crop of beans. I’ve only just sown the beans in pots at home so hopefully we’ll get some rain before they’re ready for planting out. That will be the first stage of improving the soil where they are to be planted.
Our Onward peas, which are growing really well, I also got some twiggy sticks added along the rows for support.
Using twigs seems a very flimsy form of support as each piece is pushed into the ground. Each year I have my doubts about whether or not this method will work but it always has to date.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Rain Required!

We haven't had much rain over the last month and there's no doubt that parts of the allotment are in need of a good drink. 
Temperature & Rainfall Records 20 April - 20 May 2018 (50mm represents an average months rainfall)
I still need to get some beds dug over on the plot but it's becoming more onerous as the beds get drier and drier. I did manage to dig over one bed on Friday afternoon but I had to hand dig half of the bed and then use the cultivator to break down the soil.
It takes much longer and it's much harder work than just being able to run the cultivator through the bed. The remaining beds to be dug over are in a worse state than the one I managed on Friday. 

Below is a photo of one of the beds that still needs to be dug over. It's in the photo above past the wallflowers and looking rather pale.
The cracks are getting wider by the day. Even now they're big enough to loose our car keys down.
It's not that I'm in the habit of putting car keys down cracks in the allotment it's just that I hadn't anything else handy to give a scale to the cracks. There's not any rain in the forecast over the next week so I might have to water this bed before I make any attempt to dig it over.

I've no doubt that once this spell of lovely May weather breaks down we'll finish up longing for some dry sunny weather but at the moment a decent drop of rain would be much appreciated.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Just For Good Measure

Fortunately all our seedlings growing in our home greenhouse and our crops outside at the allotment survived Thursday morning's low temperature of 2.2°C or 36.0°F unscathed. To give them a real test Friday morning has turned out to be equally as cold.
Weather station summary for May 2018
I've had a quick look in the greenhouse this morning and once again our seedlings have come through looking unscathed although I'm not so sure it won't have given them a bit of a setback. The overnight low temperature in the greenhouse was 4.3°C (39.7°F).

One of yesterday afternoon's jobs at the allotment, after an inspection for frost damage, was to start getting some supports in for our Onward peas which are growing quickly.
There's a real mixture of twiggy branches used as supports for the peas. There's elder, hazel and a mixture of fruit bush prunings used. They seem to provide flimsy support compared to using pea and bean netting but surprisingly they usually do a good job. Once they're no longer suitable to use as pea sticks they will be broken up and added to the compost heap.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

A Sting In The Tail - A Late Frost

Well I can't fault that forecast of a frost as last night, or rather around dawn on Thursday morning, the temperature dipped down to 2.2°C or 36.0°F.
Temperature & Solar Radiation Records 17/05/2018
Over the last eight years, it's actually the lowest temperature I've recorded this far into spring. It takes over from a late spring low of 2.8°C (37.0°F) which funnily enough occurred on the same date in 2012. After record breaking high temperatures this spring it's now a record breaking low. As most gardeners will be aware it's not the high temperatures that cause damage it's the low ones. On Wednesday afternoon I took what precautions I could to protect our strawberry flowers and potatoes.
Strawberries covered to protect flowers
Early potatoes Casablanca earthed up as protection
Our strawberries are in flower and if the flowers are frosted the centre of the flower turns black and that's the end of that flower producing a strawberry. There's no coming back. There's less damage if potatoes are frosted as ours have always recovered from frost damage but harvesting is delayed by a few weeks as the potato has to produce new shoots and leaves.

If all my protection measures work I'll be able to tell if my efforts were worthwhile from our kiwi.
This is how the tender new shoots looked on Wednesday afternoon. Usually at any hint of a frost these turn brown and crunchy although like our potatoes the kiwi goes on to produce new shoots and doesn't appear to suffer any long term damage.

This spring is turning into a gardening roller coaster with record high and low temperature as well lots of rain and snow early on and now a long spell without any rain at all. I wonder what summer will have to offer?