Monday, 13 September 2021

A mini September heatwave

September has started off warmer than August. However, the heatwave to start the month was short-lived like most of the hot weather this year. It gave us our hottest weather since the middle of July.

Temperature Records January - September 2021

On the 7th September, the temperature reached 29.4°C (84.9°F) equalling our 12 year September record high temperature. The previous occasion was on 13 September 2016. The spell of warm weather means that by the 13th of the month the average temperature of 17.2°C (63.0°F) is the highest I've recorded in the last 12 years. The previous highest was 17.1°C (62.8°F) in 2016

On Thursday we took Ruby for her regular walk around Nostell Priory.

There are now the first few signs that autumn is here. The summer flower meadows have been cut and baled ready for use through winter.

Nostell Priory wildflower meadow - 15 July 2021

Nostell Priory wildflower meadow - 09 September 2021

As we walked around the lake some of the trees are just beginning to show their autumn colours.

The forecast was for the hot weather to break down with heavy rain and thunderstorms. As usual for us, the rain and thunderstorms didn't materialise. Our last decent rainfall was at the end of July. The allotment is now very dry and any autumn digging is on hold until we get some rain. The forecast is for some rain on Tuesday afternoon but will it be correct. 

Saturday, 4 September 2021

Meteorological autumn is here - what happened to summer?

Meteorological autumn has arrived but quite frankly it seems to have been here for a few weeks now. 

August was, without doubt, the poorest of the summer months finishing in eighth place out of the last 12 years. It also finished up as the driest over the same period.

August Temperature & Rainfall 2010-2021

I was surprised, last week when the UK Met Office said that we’d had a good summer well up the table of warmest summers. I’d have said that we’d had a pretty poor summer so I was surprised to find that, based on average temperatures from my weather station, this summer ranks third out of the last 12 summers. Perhaps average temperature isn’t always the best way of telling whether we’ve had a good summer or not.

August would have had a lower average temperature if it hadn’t been for a run of above average nighttime temperatures. Generally, daytime temperatures were around average or below and we didn’t have any “hot “ days at all, with the month’s highest temperature only managing 24.3°C degrees.

Allotment wise, with fruit and vegetables, as usual it has been a bit of a hit and miss season. Most of our tree fruit suffered badly from the cold weather in April and May with late season frosts damaging the apple, pear and plum crops. However, we've had one of our best potato crops for a good number of years. 

Casablanca Potatoes - 02 July 2021

Our early pot-grown potatoes were a disaster this year but all the ones grown on the allotment produced excellent crops. This year for some reason our potatoes avoided any wireworm damage and had very minimal damage from slugs. After a poor year last year, with one bed of onions failing completely, this year's crop has been excellent with lots of good-sized onions.

Onions - Hercules, Centurian & Sturon

We also had an excellent crop of garlic for the first time in many years. Our first sowing of peas failed completely, once again probably due to the cold weather in April and May but later sowings have been much more successful. 

Now we are into autumn we would normally be thinking about harvesting our apples and pears but we've very few of either to harvest this year.

It's certainly time to start getting beds cleared of their summer crops so that they can be dug over before any really bad weather sets in. The more clearing and preparing we can do through autumn and early winter the better prepared we will be for the start of the next growing season.

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

A Broad Bean Experiment

The last week hasn’t been anything special weather-wise for the middle of August. It’s been cloudy with temperatures hovering around average. However, we haven’t had any rain which is good in some respects, allowing us to get out and about, but the allotment could do with some good rain.

Temperature & Rainfall Records 01-15 August 2021

We are trying some autumn cropping broad beans again this year. Last year I bought some plants but they didn’t arrive until the end of August and they never managed to get established before the weather turned very autumnal. The plants were on the leggy side when they arrived which didn’t help. 

Last year's broad beans were planted on 20 August 2020

So this year I decided to try growing the same variety from seed. The variety is Luz de Otono. I sowed them on 3rd July almost as soon as suggested on the seed packet. They germinated well and were growing outside in the cold frame at home.

Plants were grown at home in 2021

They were planted out in the allotment a few weeks ago now, and having got established are beginning to flower. Last year at this time we were still waiting for the plants to be delivered, so this year’s plants are a few weeks in front, but will it be enough.

Beginning to flower on 15th August 2021

As it happens one of our plot neighbours has sown some normal broad beans, probably around the same time as our autumn cropping broad beans were sown. This will be an interesting comparison to see if either crop goes on to produce some beans.

Normal broad bean seeds sown to crop in autumn

There’s a video below showing both broad beans in each plot in the middle of August.

Monday, 9 August 2021

A cool start to August

August has started off on the cool side with plenty of showers thrown in for good measure. On the 3rd August, the overnight temperature fell to 7.6°C, the lowest early August temperature I’ve recorded in 12 years. In fact, since our mini heatwave finished in July our daytime temperatures have generally been below expected for around midsummer and this is the coolest start to August since 2010.

Temperature & Rainfall Records 09 July to 09 August 2021

The showery nature of the weather means it seems like we’ve had more rain than my rain gauge has measured. Although we’ve had showers nearly every day, so far this month our total rainfall is 15.6mm which can be considered around average for the first week and a bit of the month.

We have a stack of jobs beginning to pile up at the allotment. There are beds that now need clearing of their summer crops and potatoes to be lifted. The grass paths haven’t been strimmed for several weeks now and are very unkempt. It’s going to take a good afternoon’s work, perhaps even longer, to get them tidied up. I’m not too keen on strimming wet grass as it sticks to everything.

Some beds need clearing so the ground can be prepared for more planting. One bed needs digging over ready for some dwarf French beans to be planted out. These were sown in pots at home several weeks ago and will soon be ready for planting out. We’ve also got to prepare a bed for some sweet Williams which like the French beans were sown a few weeks ago.

Sweet Williams ready for planting out

I’m in the process of lifting some Apache and Osprey potatoes from one bed and hopefully this bed will then be prepared for a crop of overwintering onions.

Monday, 2 August 2021

July - A wet month with a drought

July has been an odd month. It started off on the cool and wet side before turning dry and hot. 

Through the middle of the month we had our heatwave with 7 consecutive days above 25°C and this coincided with 13 days without any rain.

Temperature & Rainfall Records 01 - 30 July 2021

This combination was enough to dry out the ground, and certainly the allotment and garden were in need of some wet weather. The drought was broken by thunderstorms, which arrived on the 27th of the month bringing some much welcome rainfall.

I was expecting the ground at the allotment to have had enough rain to make it much easier for digging, but I was surprised at just how dry the ground remains when I lifted some Casablanca potatoes on Saturday the last day of July. I did manage to dig over the bed ready for planting out some late cropping French beans plants.

For the records here's how this July compared with those since 2010.
July average temperatures and rainfall 2010-2021

In summary then, a wet month with above average temperatures and a drought in the middle. I've included a video showing how dry our ground was when I lifted our Casablanca potatoes.

Monday, 26 July 2021

The heatwave has finished - has summer?

The hot weather has ended after 7 days with no sign of a return according to the weather models. A couple of days made it into my table of top twenty hottest days of the last 12 years in eighth and tenth place.
Top twenty hottest days 2010 - 2021

It's clear from that table that our hottest weather generally occurs through July with 10 of our hottest days falling in July. Six of the hottest days have been recorded in August and four in June.

At the allotment, our problem isn't the hot weather but rather a lack of rainfall. It's 12 days now since we had any rain and the hot spell has dried out the early July rainfall.
These Charlotte potatoes looked like they'd run out of water so I decided to lift a couple of roots to see. Sure enough, the ground was very dry and as I'd expected the potatoes were small and had stopped growing prematurely. I decided I might as well lift the whole lot. The bed needs a good dig over but that's going to have to wait until we get a decent rainfall.

In the cold frame at home we have some Safari dwarf French beans waiting to be transplanted into the allotment.

I'm reluctant to plant these out until we get some rain. We recently planted out some autumn cropping broad beans and winter brassicas and through this dry spell they are needing plenty of water to keep them going.
Broad Beans - Luz de Otono

A mixture of Brassicas - Cauliflower & Cabbages
It's a busy time harvesting so I'm trying to keep watering time down to a minimum in order to spend as much time as possible harvesting. If you've picked blackcurrants you will know what a time consuming job it can be.
There is some showery rain forecast for this week but the day and time of these showers changes all the time and of course, given the very nature of showery weather we could miss out on them altogether.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

A new hottest day of the year

Tuesday, became our hottest day of the year taking over the record set on Sunday.
Top Twenty Hottest Days 2010-2021

Tuesday became our eighth hottest day of the last 12 years. It was a bit too hot to do any serious allotmenting however, the hot sunny weather means we’re kept busy watering. The sunshine has brought our dahlias into flower.

The plot is probably at its fullest at the moment but this won’t be for long as I’m about to start lifting our potatoes.

The hot weather is due to end by the weekend and hopefully we’ll get a drop of rain to keep our crops happy.

Sunday, 18 July 2021

Hottest Day of the Year Brings Issues

Saturday became the hottest day of the year with the temperature reaching 31.3°C or 88.3°F. 
Top Twenty Hottest Days 2010 - 2021
We decided it was a bit too hot to do any serious allotmenting and spent a day sorting out our harvest picked on Friday.
However, we couldn't put off visiting the plot on Sunday which was another hot day. The forecast is that the high temperature might well be with us through to next weekend. I didn't want to leave the plot greenhouse tomatoes another day without giving them a drink.

As soon as I started filling up the watering can, I noticed the brown tell-tale signs of blight on some of the leaves of our early Casablanca potatoes.
A quick check around our other potato varieties and they all seemed to be clear of blight at the moment. It's a disease that can spread very quickly though, so we will need to keep a careful watch. It seems that as soon as we get a couple of humid nights blight strikes. It's not that we can do much about blight other than removing any diseased leaves and hope the potatoes under the soil remain unaffected. On our next visit, we'll start lifting some of the early potatoes and then we will find out if the potatoes have been affected.

It's not our only potato problem. It's been a reasonably wet start to July with around average rainfall for the entire month in the first couple of weeks of the month.
These Charlotte potatoes look as though they've done all the growing they are going to do. At first glance, they look as though they have run out of water and need a good drink. I'll probably lift one root to see if there are any decent potatoes under the haulms. I'm guessing any potatoes are going to be small.