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? 

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Forecast of a Frost!

I've noticed that some pretty cold temperatures are forecast for the next couple of nights.
Weather Forecast from
With such a topsy turvy spring I wouldn't be at all surprised if we get a late frost to add to the mixture.

I'll try to take a few precautions at the allotment if I get a chance. I'll earth up our Casablanca early potatoes again to make sure all the haulms are out of harms way.
Early Potatoes - Casablanca
I did earth up our early potatoes last week but I'll need to do them again to protect any haulms that have emerged since then. I covered our early strawberries Cupid with some fleece as the plants are in flower and they'll be damaged if frosted.
Strawberries - Cupid
I'll have to see what I can do to protect our potatoes growing through weed control fabric as they can't be earthed up.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

From Waterlogged to Watering In 6 Weeks

The weather has been pretty good over the last few days and if the forecast is correct it’s going to stay like it for the next week or so. However, as you know I’m a gardener so it’s unlike me to be happy about the weather and now is no exception. A month or so ago, after a very wet March followed by a wet start to April,  our plot was too wet to dig. Now it's too dry, well at least the top few inches are, but deeper down in a few spots it’s still quite wet.
Rainfall & Temperature Records April 2018
Rainfall & Temperature Records 01-15 May 2018
So far May has produced only 9mm of rainfall in several small spells so its done nothing of any use on the plots. It’s now a case of undertaking serious watering, especially where we have newly sown seeds. Our peas, carrots, parsnips and flower seeds all require regular watering as the surface of the soil soon dries out in the warm sunny weather.
Peas - Onward
The year's runner bean and climbing French bean bed which was dug last week had to be turned over using a fork first and the resulting clods of soil broken up with the tiller.
 Newly Dug Over Runner Bean and Climbing French Bean Bed
Until we get a sensible amount of rain that’s the only way I’m going to get anymore beds dug without having to dig them with a fork first. I'd like to get another brassica bed dug over but looking at the state of the ground it's going to be hard going.
There are some seriously wide cracks forming in the soil and the surface is baked hard. I might have to consider watering the bed first before I even consider trying to dig it over. 

There's not much rain forecast over the next week but who knows the forecast has been wrong before.

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

Friday, 11 May 2018

Courgette Problems

The forecast was for some overnight rain Wednesday night into Thursday morning but it didn't happen. We had a few spots of rain late on Wednesday night but not enough to trouble the rain gauge. Thursday was quite sunny and very pleasant with temperatures around what we'd expect approaching the middle of May.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 05-11 May 2017
So far this month we've only had 4.8mm (0.2in) of rainfall and parts of the plot would benefit from a drop of rain. Over the course of a month or so the allotment has gone from too wet to almost too dry. We gardeners are hard to please as far as the weather goes but the fact is we are now having to water parts of the plot. I've still got a couple of large beds to dig over and confusingly I'm not too sure if they'll turn out to be too wet or too dry to cultivate. I might find out if we visit the plot on Friday afternoon.

I posted last week that a sowing of courgette seeds, Defender, hadn't germinated. It wasn't a case of poor germination as none of the seeds sown germinated and they were in date and purchased as new seed this year and not last year's leftovers. 
Seeds sown 22 April 2018 - photo taken 09 May 2018
As a follow up on 03 May I sowed the remaining 6 seeds of Defender and 9 seeds of a yellow variety of courgette called Atena Polka.
Photo taken 03 May 2018
This was a bit of a test and I thought at least a couple of Defender seeds would germinate and I'd be able to compare the difference in germination times of the two varieties. 
Photo taken 09 May 2018
A week on and you can see that all the Atena Polka seeds have germinated and not a single one of Defender has.

I've bought another packet of courgette seeds, Zucchini a green variety, from our local garden centre and sowed some of those yesterday.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

A May Record Breaker

It all seems very odd that after such a cold start to spring we've had a second record breaking hot day. On 19 April we had a record breaking April high temperature of 28.8°C (83.8°F) and yesterday Bank Holiday Monday 07 May we reached the same temperature again setting a new record high for May. Due to that exceptionally hot day in April, it meant April’s highest temperature was higher than May’s. That’s now no longer true with both months now tying with the same value.
Temperature Record for 07 May 2018
It also means that Bank Holiday Monday just makes it into the top twenty hottest days I've recorded over the last eight years.
As you can see they are the only two spring days to make it into the top twenty. Oddly the hottest two spring days in over eight years of record keeping have occurred only 17 days apart and after an unusually cold start to spring. It's been an odd sort of start to the year weatherwise.

Monday, 7 May 2018

This Catching Up Is Hectic

The weekend's weather was lovely for early May and it looks like it's going to continue on through Bank Holiday Monday.
The weather steadily improved through the week. We're playing catch up at both the allotment and in the garden and it's made of what is a busy time of year even more hectic. On the allotment it hasn't meant that we haven't stopped for coffee breaks to sit down have a drink and watch the wildlife.
We can usually guarantee a visit from a robin, blackbird, blue tit or goldfinch during our coffee breaks but on Saturday we had a much rarer visitor.
In fact I think it's the first time we've spotted a squirrel on the plot. Was it lost or did it have ulterior motives? As for what we got done on the plot during the week it's mostly covered in the video below.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

A Sense Of Normality Is Returning

After a much delayed start to the gardening year a sense of normality is beginning to return. After a dull morning and early afternoon Friday eventually turned into a very pleasant day.

On the plot our first potatoes are through. Our Casablanca potatoes and trial potatoes were all planted on the 08 April and all are now sending up their first shoots.
Potato - Elfie
I did consider covering the shoots of our trial potatoes which are growing through weed control fabric with some soil or well rotted wood chippings but there's no indication of any very cold nights over the coming week so I think I'll risk leaving them uncovered. Our Casablanca potatoes aren't planted through weed control fabric and will be "earthed up"  as the haulms grow.

The early fruit tree blossom on our plum, greengage and pear trees is now fading and our apple trees are taking over.
Apple Tree - Egremont Russet
Our Egremont Russet apple tree is full of blossom. It's only a small tree and last year the weight of fruit it carried caused it to break away from its support. We didn't get round to fixing a new support over winter but it doesn’t seem to have done any harm to the tree. If all the blossom turns into fruit it's going to have a heavy crop again this year.
Apple Tree - Tickled Pink
Our apple tree Tickled Pink is also coming into flower and certainly has more blossom than last year when we only managed about four apples. Last year was the first time this tree had fruit and the apples were tinged pink all the way through which is unusual. As you can see the flowers are dark pink too. Maybe we'll be lucky enough to have a few more Tickled Pink apples to pick this year

Friday, 4 May 2018

It's Not All Down to the Weather

We're now starting what promises to be a spell of warmer and drier weather. We've started playing catch-up at the allotment getting beds dug over. However, not all this year's seed sowing has gone to plan. On the 22 April I sowed a batch of seeds which went into the indoor growlight to germinate. 
List of Sowings on 22 April 2018
Notice the one I've circled in red. Courgettes are the first ones on that list that I would have expected to germinate. Looking back at past years, 4 days inside and maybe 7 days in the greenhouse is their normal germination time. This year's seeds placed under our growlight and 12 days after sowing look like this.
There's nothing to be seen as all the other seeds sown that day have now germinated and some have moved on into the greenhouse. I'm not holding out much hope of those courgette seeds germinating now. I've sown the "Defender" courgette seeds I had left along with a yellow variety "Atena Polka" yesterday (Thursday) and left them in the greenhouse to germinate as the temperatures forecast for over the next week are pretty reasonable. 
I don't know why that first sowing of three seeds didn't or haven't germinated. I can't remember having any problems getting courgettes to germinate in the past. I'm now hoping that at least some of the remaining batch of 15 seeds germinate or I might be having to purchase some more. I can't really blame the weather can I?