Saturday, 8 December 2018

Turned Out Wet & Windy

Wednesday turned out to be the wettest day of the week with steady rain all through the daylight hours. In general terms it's been a fairly mild start to the month.
Temperature, High Wind Speed & Rainfall Records for 06-08 December 2018n
We'd been down to the allotment on Tuesday for a few fresh vegetables and the ground was already on the wet side. Our grass paths can get rather slippery through winter. I'm guessing that further rain through the latter part of the week will have made our clayey soil too wet to dig. It's just as well we've done all our main winter digging.
It was a cold and miserable day on Tuesday not a day for messing about on the plot. We harvested some carrots, leeks and parsnips.
Once we'd washed the parsnips and carrots and tidied up the leeks we spent a few minutes making a video of how the plot looks in December.

Since Monday we've had 24mm (0.94in) of rainfall up to mid morning on Saturday, giving us one of the wettest starts to December I've recorded. To add further to the miserable weather it's been blowing a gale since late on Friday night. The gales are forecast to ease in the early hours of Sunday morning. 

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Winter's Here

The first day of December marks the start of meteorological winter. To be honest it seemed like it arrived a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately for us we just managed to get our winter digging done at the allotment and most of our beds are as prepared for spring as we can manage.
We had a very mild last few days to the month which ensured that the average temperature for November was ever so slightly above average at 7.7 C (45.8°F) compared to a recent average of 7.4°C or 45.3°F over the last eight years.
Novembers 2010 - 2018 Average Temperatures and Rainfall 
Rainfall was surprisingly a bit below average considering that we had some precipitation on 23 of the 30 days in the month. It was, without doubt, the dullest November I’ve recorded in 8 years. Although I wouldn’t claim my sunshine records are super accurate due to the positioning of the sensor but the values this year are far lower than any previous years.
Potteric Carr Nature Reserve
Of course as November brings autumn 2018 to a close we can compare this autumn with the previous eight autumns.
 Autumn 2010 - 2018 Average Temperatures and Rainfall 
After a summer that hit the number one position, temperature wise it was a little bit disappointing for autumn to finish a lowly seventh out of nine years. Autumn this year has turned out a little bit wetter than normal so I can't say we've managed to get our winter digging done because of the dry weather.

We've still some jobs to do at the allotment over winter but the weather over the next couple of weeks looks like it's going to remain unsettled with more wet weather to come so it might be that we just make a quick trip or two to the plot to harvest some fresh vegetables rather than get any other jobs done.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Allotmenting On Hold

We still have some jobs at the allotment that we would like to get done through winter but we do have some limits on visiting the plot. If the weather is cold and wet we will normally give visiting a miss unless we are desperate for some fresh vegetables. This week was forecast to be cold with frequent showers throughout the week as well. That’s turned out to be a very accurate forecast.
 Temperature & Sunshine Records 11-24 November 2018
The chart above shows last week's and this week's records overlaid for comparison. Last week is represented in red and yellow with this week's records in blue and green. 

All week has been dull and damp without any hint of sunshine. Our highest temperature on Thursday came as darkness had fallen when the temperature managed to climb to 5°C or 41°F. It was dull all day with drizzly rain on and off. If you look closely you can see a small bump representing the sunshine record for Thursday. It was the equal lowest value for a November day matching the value set on 07 November 2013. 
Friday continued in much the same vein. The forecast doesn’t give much hope of any improvement from this dank and dreary weather until the middle of next week. I’m hoping that might be wrong.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Winter’s Arrived

The weather models and forecasters were correct and this week has seen an end to our lovely autumn weather. Last week temperatures were a little above normal reaching a rather heady 13.5°C (56.3°F) whereas this week they are definitely below and there’s a bitingly cold east wind blowing with daytime temperatures struggling to reach 10°C or 50.0°F.
Tuesday was the poorest day so far this month with plenty of showers, a daytime high temperature of just 5.9° (42.6°) and not even any brighter spells between the showers.

It’s a good job we got our winter digging done as this week has also seen an end to our dry spell. Having got ourselves up to date at the allotment, digging wise that is, we had a day train chasing on Saturday and visited the Great Central Railway on Sunday where they were holding their final gala of the year before the "Santa" specials begin.

Our train chasing on Saturday was to see 6233 Duchess of Sutherland now running in her old London Midland & Scottish livery of Crimson Lake. She was heading the first Yuletide Express of the season from London to York.
6233 Duchess of Sutherland at Colton Junction
The "Last Hurrah" of the season gala held by the Great Central Railway saw the final gala appearance of 70013 Oliver Cromwell.
70013 Oliver Cromwell departs Quorn & Woodhouse station with a passenger train to Leicester North
It's now in need of a major overall as its 10 year boiler certificate has expired, or will have by the end of this year. I wouldn't want to be footing the bill for the overall, and I'm not sure the National Railway Museum who I believe owns the locomotive have the money readily available either, so it might be some time before this locomotive makes a gala appearance again. 

With the possibility of some cold weather over the next few days I decided on Monday that it was time to move our dahlia tubers out of the greenhouse and into the garage. 
They’ve been left in the greenhouse for a couple of weeks and have dried out nicely. My plan is to store them in paper potato sacks alongside our potatoes kept in the garage for winter storage. I tried this last year and it worked very well so I’m giving it another go this year.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Winter Digging Finished

I’m not sure why this year has been any different but for the first time in quite a few years we’ve actually managed to get all our winter digging done. 
The weather has been very good this year but I can’t convince myself that that’s why we’ve accomplished all the digging we had planned to do. Certainly, the dry spell of weather has helped and it’s noticeable now that even though we haven’t had a great deal of rain the grass at the plot remains wet all day long. I think we've got the digging done just in time before any proper wintry weather sets in. The well trodden path to the shed had become muddy and slippery and required a covering of wood chippings to make the path less hazardous.
Lots of our beds are been left with the intention that winter rain and frost will break down the soil. The long hot dry summer has left its mark on many of our beds resulting in the soil becoming hard and compacted.
We're pleased with the progress we've made getting all our beds dug over this year. Hopefully this will give us a flying start next spring, unless of course we have another cold and wet spring, like this year, in which case we've learnt that it much better to wait for conditions to improve rather than sow or plant into ground that is cold and wet.

We do have some other jobs we would like to get done over winter. Our raspberries need to be re-staked, the greenhouse glass needs a good wash, our old cold frame has to be cleared and renovated and we have one bed on plot 30 that is waiting to be cleared of weeds before it can be dug over. I’d like to coppice one of our hazel bushes for bean and pea sticks too. I’m sure they’ll be other jobs that will crop up over the course of winter.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

A Let Off

We hadn’t visited the plot for a week as we’d been busy with other things. At the end of last week we had a visit to Potteric Carr and had a walk around the nature reserve.
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust - Potteric Carr Nature Reserve
Then on Saturday I took Sue train chasing in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. On the way to the Dales it was pleasantly sunny but by the time we arrived at Dent Head Viaduct there was a lot more cloud about. There was just about enough light to capture some video footage of the train heading over the viaduct.
Dent Head Viaduct
The wet and windy forecast for the weekend never really materialised and the dry and mild November weather continued. A month's expected rainfall is equivalent to one full column of blue over the month or around 50mm (2in).
Temperature & Rainfall Records 14 October - 13 November 2018
At the allotment we wanted to clear the bed where our sweet peas and some annual flowers for cutting had grown over summer. As we didn’t get too much rain over the weekend I wasn’t anticipating any problems digging over the bed once it was cleared of dead flower stems.
August 2018
It didn’t take long to clear away. The waste material was used to start a new compost heap. Once that was done we could make a start digging over the bed. We had a couple of interruptions from light rain showers and made use of one of the interruptions to have a cup of coffee.
We would have liked to harvest some leeks, carrots and parsnips but the weather didn’t play fair as it came on to rain heavily. We abandoned the idea of harvesting anything and headed for home.
In between the showers, drinking coffee and doing some digging we managed to make a video of our afternoon at the plot.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Settled Weather Results In Allotment Progress

So far the settled weather conditions that we've enjoyed ever since last May and which brought us a hot dry summer have continued into autumn. However, there seems to be a chance that this is coming to an end with wet and windy weather arriving in off the Atlantic Ocean over the weekend.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 10 October to 09 November 2018
The dry spell of weather has allowed us to complete many of the jobs we wanted to do on the plot before any really nasty winter weather set in. A couple of bonfires to get rid of piles of dry prunings, cleared away lots of dry debris and we've managed to dig over most of our beds for winter a job we didn't manage to do last year. Sue has covered most of our allotment activities in her post A Touch of Frost.
Wednesday has been our wettest day of the month with 3.6mm (0.14in) of rain bringing the monthly total up to 4.2mm (0.17in) which is a pretty dry start to November. 
More unsettled weather is forecast over the weekend bringing some wet and windy weather but then it looks like more settled weather will return by the middle of next week. We've a couple more beds that we'd like to sort out at the allotment and providing we don't get too much rain over the weekend we might be able to do that next week.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Making the Most of the Fine Weather

With the weather forecast for wet and windy conditions over the weekend I thought it would be a good idea to lift our dahlia tubers. All the foliage had been blackened by the frosts last week. We haven’t had any rain to speak of for a couple of weeks now so I was reckoning on the tubers being reasonable dry and in good condition for winter storage.
It was a lovely November afternoon and whilst I was lifting dahlia roots Sue was planning on getting another bed dug over.

The ground was certainly on the dry side in our perennial bed but that made the job of digging out the roots so much easier.
It didn’t take me too long to lift the roots and I removed as much loose soil from around the tubers as I could without doing any damage to them.

I’d planned to empty one of our compost bays and add the material to one of the beds dug over last week. There wasn’t as much good compost as I’d hoped. The material on top of the heap had remained dry through the long hot summer rather than breaking down. I added all the suitable material I could find to one of the beds dug last week. There was enough to cover about one half of the bed.
Sue thought that the bed she had dug over would be better left uncovered for the winter weather to break it down for next spring.

The weed control fabric has been rolled up and left at the end of the bed.

Once we’d finished digging beds and lifting dahlias it was time to do a little harvesting. We needed a cabbage and as all our late summer cabbages are now finished we cut our first Kilaton autumn cabbage.
Once we’d dug a few carrots and picked a few spinach leaves it’s was time to get our dahlia tubers loaded into the car and head home.

I’m planning on drying the dahlia tubers off in the greenhouse before storing them in potato sacks in the garage over winter. This method worked well last year so I’m going to give it another try this winter.

Perhaps the weekend weather won’t be as bad as it’s forecast to be and we’ll be able to get some more plotting done.

Of course there's a video to go with the afternoon's jobs.

Friday, 2 November 2018

A Frosty End to October

October ended with some cold frosty nights which meant that despite a reasonably mild start to the month the average temperature for October finished a little bit below average.
Average October Temperatures 2010 - 2018
For us it resulted in the earliest frosts since 2010 when I began keeping records.
Hour by Hour Temperatures for Octobers 2010 - 2018
The chart above shows that we had 8 hours of temperatures below 0°C (32.0°F) this October and that no other Octobers in the table have had any temperatures so low.

Rainfall for October was very marginally below average. Most of the months rain came in two wet days around the middle of the month and since then it has been more or less dry with just a few very light showers. 
October Rainfall 2010 - 2018
It's meant that we've had some good weather for tidying up the allotment before any proper winter weather sets in.
We've made some good progress at getting some autumn digging in and the dry conditions meant we could get some tree prunings burnt and out of the way.
We decided to check on our parsnips to see if the roots were anything like as good as the tops.

As you will have noticed from our parsnip reveal we have covered our carrots and parsnips with straw to give them protection from any frosty winter weather.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Coldest October Day

After that bitterly cold start on Monday morning it went on to become our coldest October day in 8 years with an average daily temperature of 2.4°C (36.3°F) taking over from 25 October 2010 when the average was 4.2°C or 39.6°F.
Temperature Record for 29 October 2018 - Low Temperature -1.5°C (29.3°F) - Average Daily Temperature 2.4°C (36.3°F)
Despite the cold there were some decent sunny spells on Monday and, in the afternoon, we headed to the allotment. We'd decided it was time to stop thinking about protecting our carrots and parsnips against any frost and snow and get on and do it.
A couple of bales of straw did the job and our carrots and parsnips now have a nice warm duvet to protect them from any frosty weather.

There's a video below covering some of the other jobs we got up to at the allotments last week.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Below Zero - An October First

I've had my weather station since 2010 and during that time it's never recorded a temperature below 0°C or 32°F in October. It's been close on a couple of occasions, 0.2°C (32.4°F) on 25 October 2010 the nearest to freezing, then 0.6°C and 0.7°C recorded earlier this month or 33.1°F and 33.3°F if you prefer.
Those lowest October figures have now been reduced by quite a margin as the overnight low into Monday morning was -1.5°C (29.3°F) our first below zero temperature I've recorded in October since 2010.
Temperature Records for 29 October 2018
Gardening folk law reckons that our parsnips should now be okay to dig as a frost should make them sweeter but at what cost to our carrots. We are planning to cover our carrots with straw to protect them from any frost and normally we would be okay for a week or so based on past frost dates. Last night's temperature moves our first frost date from the middle of November to the end of October. We'd better get some straw and cover our carrots and hope that this morning's frost hasn't done too much damage.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Arctic Blast Arrives

The well forecast Arctic blast arrived as scheduled on Saturday. Saturday's highest temperature was a chilly 6.7°C (44.1°F) which is the lowest high temperature for October that I've recorded since 2010. The previous October record low daytime temperature was 7.3°C (45.1°F) set on 26 October 2012.
Temperature Records for 22-28 October 2018
It's forecast to remain on the chilly side until the middle of the week.

We have made some good progress on renovating beds on plot 30 as well as preparing other beds for winter.
I’m not sure how these two beds on plot 30 got into such a state. At the end of last year both beds were growing crops, one with leeks and the other with winter brassicas, both of which were cleared away this spring. The third bed which is still covered with weeds was cleared last autumn but it was too wet to be dug over.

At the beginning of spring the weather was very unusual in that we had a very cold spell of weather with some late snowfall followed by a spell of very wet weather. All this meant that gardening wise we had a very late start to spring as we had to wait for the soil to dry out.

What we didn’t appreciate at the time was that we were going to go from very wet to very dry conditions without anything in between. Whilst we were busy planting and sowing beds with summer crops the beds to be used for autumn and winter crops were getting drier and drier such that by the time we wanted to dig them over our clay soil was baked hard like concrete. The only thing to do was to wait for some rain to arrive.

I’m hoping that now we’ve made a start at sorting out plot 30 the weather will remain good enough for us to get the job finished. We certainly managed to clear all the apple tree and fruit bush prunings away with an early bonfire. 
Of course the problem is that beds on the rest of the allotments need to be dug over for winter. The last thing we want is for more beds to fall into the same state so Sue has been busy getting some of these beds dug over ready for next spring.
This one's been dug over and the weed control fabric has been replaced and covered with wood chip. These four beds shouldn't need any more work on them until they're ready for planting up next spring. I'm planning on leaving the two beds with green manure growing in them until early next spring before I cut down the crop and incorporate it into the soil.
Sue's also got this bed dug over which had a crop of broad beans in it through summer. We'll replace the weed control fabric and then cover it with wood chip to keep the fabric in place.

We’ve got a couple of other jobs that we’d like to tackle over winter too if we get a chance but I’ll save those for another post.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Good Progress - Then Gales

Over the weekend and into the start of this week we've had some fine autumn weather and good progress had been made at the allotment getting beds dug over before any proper wintry weather sets in.
Sue got this bed dug over on plot 42. All it needs now is a covering of weed control fabric and it can be left until next spring. The other three beds on this plot are all sorted out for winter as two of them are planted up with a green manure crop and the remaining bed has already been dug over and covered with weed control fabric.
We had some beds that looked like this through summer and I'd decided that there was little we could do with them until some decent, wet weather arrived. Although we've had some wet weather these cracks haven't disappeared but at least the soil looks a little bit more like soil than concrete. 
I decided to make a start on digging the bed on the right of the above photo. I had a few substantial tree prunings to clear away and one end of the bed was overgrown with weeds which had grown despite the dry weather.
It was slow going as despite some rain the ground was still on the firm side. Wellies weren't really required, but as they've got a substantial, protective tread on them, they are pretty good when digging is on the hard side.
It took a couple of afternoons but the bed is now dug over and I'll leave it uncovered for the winter rain and frost to break it down. I will have to get my string line out to straighten up the edge of the bed to remove the higgledy piggledy edge.

However, progress has slowed down with the arrival of gale force winds on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. These three days have turned out to be the windiest days of the month with gust speeds equalling those from this month's named storms and the average wind speed on Tuesday being the highest of the month.
Temperature & High Wind Speed Records 01-25 October 2018
On Thursday morning, the windy weather has abated but with the weekend forecast to be cold, with a strong, northerly wind blowing, progress might slow down even more over the next few days. There's a progress video below.