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.