Saturday, 29 December 2018

Sudden Stratospheric Warming Underway

It's not been a bad week for December. Last weekend was wet before turning cold for a couple of days but since then it's been dry and mild although not very sunny.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 23-29 December 2018
We needed some fresh veggies for Christmas dinner so we had a trip down to the plot on Monday a cold Christmas Eve afternoon.
It didn't take long to collect some sprouts, leeks, carrots, parsnips and a savoy cabbage. It certainly hadn't been cold enough to freeze any of our vegetables. That might be our entire sprout harvest for the year but the savoy cabbage "Sabrosa" was a pleasant surprise. I didn't really think they'd formed a decent tight head but that wasn't the case.

Later in the week we braved the holiday traffic and had an afternoon trip to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park. Although there was a little bit of sunshine when we arrived around lunchtime, it didn't last very long. I did manage a photo of a lioness making the most of a bit of winter sunshine.
By the time we'd walked around to the polar bear enclosure the sunshine had disappeared leaving a rather dull but mild afternoon.
Yorkshire Wildlife Park
Last Wednesday I posted that the weather models were predicting a Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW) event to take place over the North Pole during the Christmas period.
Output from The Tokyo Climate Center
The models were correct and as the chart above shows the temperature over the North Pole has risen dramatically by some 50 degrees Celsius over the last few days. We'll now have to see if this SSW has any effect on our weather. A similar occurrence last year was thought to have resulted in "The Beast From The East" bringing us a cold and snowy late winter and early spring. On the other hand SSW's, as I understand it, have occurred without any dramatic effects on our weather. We may have to wait a few weeks before we know one way or another. 

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Merry Christmas

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Winter's First Milestone

The winter solstice which took place a couple of days ago marks the official start of winter but to me it marks the first milestone of winter as the daylight hours are now increasing each day. Imperceptible at first, especially on dull winter days like we've been having, but nevertheless daylight hours are getting longer by the day.
Solar Radiation Levels for 21 June & 21 December 2018
As gardeners will be aware light levels have a great deal to do with how plants grow. For comparison purposes the chart above show the solar radiation values for 21 June 2018 and 21 December 2018. Values in summer exceed 1000W/sqm whereas in winter they struggle to reach 100W/sqm. Whilst not a direct comparison of light levels it shows how much less energy we get from sunshine on the shortest and longest days of the year.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 17-23 December 2018
As I mentioned above it's been a dull miserable week, or more, weather wise. We haven't been to the plot for a couple of weeks now but we'll have to fit in a visit to harvest some fresh vegetables for Christmas dinner.
Everywhere is now very wet and soggy so it's going to be a messy job digging up carrots, parsnips and leeks. Still it's probably better than venturing out to the shops at this time of year!

There's been a challenge circulating amongst gardeners on YouTube to answer six questions regarding their gardening year in 2018. If you're interested our answers are covered in the video below.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Not Gardening Weather

There's not much going on regarding gardening at the moment but there may well be something afoot weather wise. Over the weekend storm Deirdre came and went producing for us nothing more than an average winter storm. We’d had a few very cold days leading up to the arrival of Deirdre and all the forecasts were that as Deirdre arrived she would bring some snow. As it turned out that wasn’t the case and we just had a wet and miserable day on Saturday.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 13-19 December 2018
The weather talk now has moved on to a major event that the weather models are predicting will take place towards the end of the month. The prediction is that a Sudden Stratospheric Warming will occur in the upper levels of the earth’s atmosphere. Current predictions are for this to occur over Christmas Day or Boxing Day.
From Gav's Weather Videos
The model view is looking down at the north pole in the centre of the image. Normally the pole would be covered with the purple and blue colours indicating extreme cold. The red colours indicate the Sudden Stratospheric Warming predicted to take place.

If this happens it will take several days or even a couple of weeks before it affects our weather and it’s by no means certain that it will have an effect and exactly what it will be.

The last Sudden Stratospheric Warming occurred at the beginning of last year and more than likely resulted in the Beast From The East which brought us a spell of very cold and snowy weather during late winter and early spring 2018. 
02 April 2018
Taking place even earlier this time, it’s possible that we could be in for a very cold January, February and possibly even March. I’ve seen comparisons with winter 2010 which turned out to be one of the coldest winters on record. 

Of course, this is only a weather model prediction so there’s always a chance, that like the snow forecast for last weekend, it won’t actually happen.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Getting Colder

It's got colder as the week has progressed with Friday turning out to be the coldest day of winter so far with the temperature only making it up to a high of 2.9°C or 37.2°F. For much of the day, the temperature remained below freezing resulting in an average temperature of -0.1°C or 31.8°F, the first time this winter the day's average temperature has been below freezing.
Temperature Records for Friday, 14 December 2018
We only had one visit to the allotment last week. We needed some fresh vegetables and I thought I'd see if I could get some new posts erected for our raspberries. 

The row of raspberry canes is along the boundary between our plot and our neighbours.
The old posts snapped last summer and needed to be replaced ready for this year's canes to be tied into them. The old posts had completely rotted through at soil level and most of the canes were supported by the wires threaded through the posts rather than the posts providing support for the wires.
The ground was fairly soft after the recent rain and the new posts were easily hammered into the ground. Holes were drilled through the posts and the old wire was re-threaded through the new supports.
The raspberries didn't enjoy last summer's hot dry weather and only produced some rather feeble looking canes to carry this year's crop. At least they can be tied to some decent supports.

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.