Thursday, 30 June 2011

Normal weather resumes

A dull day with just a little very light drizzle around lunchtime. The temperature could only manage the high teens on Wednesday a far cry from the low thirties of just a couple of days ago.

Our home greenhouse tomatoes are looking healthy but perhaps a little late in flowering and setting fruit. I’m trying Blondkopfchen for the first time. It’s producing trusses with masses of flowers but no fruit has set. 

Another new variety for me is German Red Strawberry which looks like it will produce fewer tomatoes that will be rather large maybe miss-shaped fruits.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The heat is over

Temperature normality was restored on Tuesday with a top temperature of 20°C. It was a mostly cloudy day and as usual we missed any showers or thunder storms that were reported to be around.

The plot remains very dry, I don’t expect two days of blisteringly hot weather has helped, so it seems to be lacking its usual lushness for the end of June. A result of four dry months in a row.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

A hot coincidence and a Battle of Britain fly past

Monday was even hotter than yesterday reaching 31.6°C in the early afternoon. On the same date in June last year we recorded our highest temperature of the year and by coincidence it looks like that will be repeated this year. Locally it was the hottest day since 2006 as it’s not often we manage 30°C or above. I've shown yesterday’s temperature chart for posterity.

As we were preparing for our BBQ on Sunday we were treated to a Battle of Britain fly past.

I’m not an expert on second world war aircraft but I think one was a Spitfire and the other one a Hurricane, but that’s just a guess. The film is short and wobbly as I didn’t really have time to sort out my camera. It was a case of run for the camera, turn it on, point and hope for the best.

Monday, 27 June 2011

That was hot!

Sunday produced a scorcher out of the blue although it had been accurately forecast. It was warm from early morning and just kept getting hotter. By early afternoon it was just over 29°C. We’d planned a BBQ on the allotment with our plot neighbours on the strength of the forecast. What a result!
Our gazebo was hoisted for the first time this year to give us some shade to enjoy our late afternoon BBQ. As I threatened yesterday I sowed some more carrots (Early Nantes). Sowing seeds involved just about the right amount of effort on such a hot day.

As you can see from the temperature chart the temperature was above 28°C all afternoon yesterday only falling back to 16°C overnight. Looks like the forecast for another hot day for Monday will be correct - after that it’s back to more usual temperatures. The high of 29.1°C at 13:15 is the highest I've recorded since October 2009.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Chickweed heaven

Saturday was another alright sort of day with some sunshine but plenty of cloud in the afternoon when we visited the plot.

Some more overnight rain had done wonders for the top few inches of soil on the plot and it was a good chance to do some weeding or more to the point chickweed removal. The amount of chickweed had rather sneaked up on us and our carrots had disappeared under a blanket of the stuff. There was lots around our peas but they were coping well although it was starting to take over the lettuces next to the peas.
These peas and lettuces now have a fighting chance as the strangle hold the chickweed had has been removed. Why can the weeds manage so well without much water. Our carrots had certainly suffered the worst of all our crops from the chickweed. Perhaps covered in environmesh the weeds are hidden from view. 

I’m wondering about sowing some more carrots and testing out the left over mulch from the strawberries to protect the seedlings from weeds.

After all our weeding it was a bonus to have our first picking of broad beans which went from plot to plate in about an hour. The beans were young and sweet and certainly didn’t need skinning after podding. 

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Best crop ever!

Friday wasn't too bad a day with some sunny spells and not too windy. Although we had some rain yesterday the ground was dry and the sprinkler was set to work on the plot.

Our crop of potatoes planted in bags in the greenhouse on 1st April have produced our best ever crop from a potato bag. Normally I expect a rather small crop of at the best medium or egg size potatoes but consider it worthwhile because of the flavour and earliness of the crop.
This bag of Winston emptied yesterday was my best ever weighing in at 1.45kg. The largest is the size of a fine jacket potato.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Caught one

We managed to catch one of those heavy showers that everyone else is getting all the time, or so it seems, on Thursday. Most of the rain fell in a short burst mid-afternoon followed by a few more light showers adding up to 3.8mm. 

This continues a rather amazing sequence of rainfall. It’s rained on 12 of the last 14 days yet we’ve only managed 27.2mm around half the monthly rainfall expected in June.

I think our broad beans will be ready for picking by the weekend. I tested one pod and the beans inside were extremely small. Don’t want the beans to get large and tough so a tasting will be required over the weekend.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Long overdue

Wednesday continued in the same set pattern. An occasional light shower, some sunny spells and dark clouds hinting at a heavy downpour that once again never materialised. 

One of the most important jobs on the plot that I find I can easily overlook is turning my compost heap. I decided that today was to be the day and set about moving the compost from one bay to the next. The most difficult job was making sure that all the toads, frantically trying to get out of harms way once the heap was disturbed came to no harm. The material was really dry making the task of moving it from one bay to the next quite easy. I think a good watering will be necessary to get some composting action going.
Compost newly transferred into this bay

The remains of the empty bay will be added to the plot as necessary to keep up the soil fertility. Any new composting material will be added to the new pile ensuring a good mix of materials.
Compost left to be spread as necessary onto plot

Isn’t it amazing how long old interwoven fencing panels last before they eventually break down. These panels have been giving me years of service on the plot long after their use as fencing panels ended.

Our sowing and harvesting web pages have been upgraded and I hope that they will now load much quicker than before. Our web page for our June 2011 harvest can be found by clicking here.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Summer Solstice

Tuesday saw the Summer Solstice come and go but we are still waiting for summer to start. Following a summer’s day yesterday it was back to much more normal cloudy weather today with some mandatory showers come drizzle continuing our pattern of non existent rainfall. Despite rainfall on most days this month June looks like it will be another month with low rainfall making it four in a row.  
Annual rainfall 2011 to 21-June-2011

On the plot we should soon have some broad beans and peas ready for picking. The broad beans are likely to be ready first followed by our peas which are now in flower and forming pods.
Early peas forming pods

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Summer for the day

Monday was a pleasant summer day with the temperature just nudging into the low 20 degrees Celsius. Of course we had the obligatory shower to try to convince us that the ground is moist enough but it’s not working. In the last 13 days I've recorded rainfall on 11 of those days but the ground is still bone dry.

On the plot we did some more planting out. These winter squash plants were planted using our now standard method of first filling the planting hole with water. The previously planted sweet corn and courgettes were given a welcome drink of water too.

Monday, 20 June 2011

The longest day approaches

Sunday was dull in the morning and early afternoon with some sunshine late on.

As we approach the 21st of the month our daylight hours reach their maximum length and the sun its peak intensity. The graph to the right shows how much energy we have received from the sun over the last year rather than the number of hours of sunshine.

Our early cabbages have spent the last few months under butterfly netting in an attempt to protect them from cabbage white butterflies and its caterpillars. It’s by no means a fool proof method as these Primo cabbages are still showing caterpillar damage and will need a close inspection to remove the offenders before any more damage is done.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

A fruity dilemma

Saturday turned out quite pleasant after a rather cloudy morning and we even had some warm brief spells of sunshine in the afternoon.

Last weeks effort to protect our new strawberry patch from the blackbirds has already paid off. As soon as the fruits had started to turn the slightest bit red our resident blackbird(s) thought that they were worth sampling. To avoid too much damage we were forced into picking the berries before they had taken on their fully ripe flavour. Now with the protection in place we were able to pick our first fully ripe fruit and it tasted superb a reminder of why it’s worth putting in the effort. 

Our rhubarb is giving me some concern. It’s been neglected in the dry weather and has suffered as a consequence. I've never thought of having to water mature rhubarb roots but this year has been exceptionally dry. I’m hoping that when the rain comes and the ground is given a good soaking the rhubarb will recover.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

What a disappointment

Friday was going to be the day our drought problems were put to rest. The rain would start around lunch time and continue all day and into Saturday morning. After some sunny spells in the morning it clouded over we waited for it to start raining. And we waited…. The link on the main 18:00 BBC news to the weather man was “when is it going to stop raining”. Problem was it hadn't started here. The wait went on and on and the rain just never arrived. All we had to show for what the forecast reckoned would be a rainy day was 0.2mm which fell around 22:00.

I’d hoped that our watering down on the plot would be over and that we would be able to get some planting done without having to first fill planting holes with water. That doesn't look as though it will be the case. 
 We did manage some rain in the early hours of Saturday morning amounting to 2.4mm. As you can see from the picture this doesn’t even manage to dampen around the plants leaving a dry shadow to one side of even a small plant.

Friday, 17 June 2011

A settled pattern emerges

Thursday continued in the rather settled spell of weather. A mixture of sunshine and cloud with the persistent threat of showers.
It was noticeable on the plot that where the soil was turned over it was damp underneath at least giving the impression that the recent rain is having some effect.

A drop more rain and the weather turning a little warmer and the summer crops will start to grow much better. It's certainly an unusual growing year.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

More rain

Wednesday was mostly cloudy and mild. The sun made a few brief appearances throughout the day. Early evening we had a couple of heavy showers giving us another 3mm of rainfall. More rain is forecast for Friday so perhaps our rainfall is starting to return to a more normal pattern.

My tomato plant growing in an air pot is doing well. It’s clearly too early to draw any conclusions as the plant still has to form enough roots to fill the plot. The plant does need more water as some water escapes from the holes in the pot when watering. Hopefully standing the pot in a tray will help to keep the soil moist. I can see that I need to remove a few side shoots before they get too large.

The tomato variety is Blondkopfchen.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Out of the blue

Tuesday was a warm and sunny summer day with just some wispy clouds in an otherwise clear blue sky. The temperature reached 23.4°C the highest since the 3rd June. It’s a day out of the blue as the forecast is for duller, cooler and more showery weather to arrive for the rest of the week and into the week end.
Wispy clouds
The plot is at last starting to fill up. Some areas are beginning to take on the bountiful look of that short season of plenty. It seems that the worst of our drought might well be over as more showers and rain are forecast in the next few days which will benefit our crops and save on watering.
Look of summer
Other parts of the plot are still in drought mode. Despite the recent rain the soil is still very dry and recently planted crops like these sweet peas and squashes are still struggling to find moisture rather than putting on a growth spurt which is expected in June with warm days and daylight of almost 17 hours a day.
Still in drought mode

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Grub up

Monday was mostly dull and cloudy. Much of the morning and early afternoon promised more rain but it held off unfortunately. 

The unsettled nature of the weather resulted in more work sorting out our border at home. This is one of those quick jobs that turns into a rather mammoth one. As it wasn’t too hot I thought it would be a good day to dig out or grub up our Fatsia root. What a job! After digging around the root, in really dry soil which kept filling the excavation back in I concluded it need a pick axe to get the job done. A combination of pick axing and sawing through the major roots eventually resulted in the root giving way.
Fatsia root
When re-planting this area we will need to consider very carefully the requirements of the plants as despite yesterday’s rain the ground was very dry.

Some branches were removed from our crab apple tree (Malus Profusion) to hopefully allow a little more light and rain to reach the border.
Debris to be cut and composted
There was then just the little matter of cutting up all the pruning's and debris so that it can be composted. 

Monday, 13 June 2011

At last a wet day!

Sunday was our wettest day since 26th February this year when we had 11.4mm of rain. Sunday didn’t quite manage that amount but we did have 8.0mm spread throughout the afternoon and evening.
A bright sunny but cold start to the day ended around mid morning when it clouded over before it began to rain at 13:00 and continued to rain steadily until 21:00.

I’m hoping this will be enough to seep into the soil and give crops like potatoes some much needed water.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Cold nights

At least it was warmer through the day on Saturday but we are having a series of particularly cold nights for June. Overnight temperatures for the last couple of nights were 5.7°C and 5.2°C and last night Saturday night into Sunday morning the temperature fell to just 4.7°C. All 3 nights are colder than any June night time temperatures from last year.
Minimum temperature 4.7°C

On the plot we planted out runner beans, sweet corn, squash and courgettes. I’m not sure these tender crops will appreciate such cold nights. Our runner beans were planted in holes which had been filled with water and then after planting given a drink to settle them in.
The far wigwam is Enorma, then Painted Lady with Lady Di in the foreground.

Sweet corn variety Sweet Nugget was planted in the same bed as our courgettes, All Green Bush and Jemmer. The ground is bone dry and all the planting holes were first filled with water to give the transplants a fighting chance in this prolonged dry spell of weather.

Our crop of plot greenhouse tomatoes are growing well and looking much better than last year’s crop. Some of the plants are just coming into flower which they never got round to doing last year. Next job will be start feeding them.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Cool and damp

Friday was rather miserable only brightening up in the evening to give a bright cool end to the day. Most of the day was damp rather than wet as we had a couple of short light showers together with some drizzle at times. Once again the rain will have no affect on the garden as the amount was just 0.4mm.

Early evening was the best part of the day

It wasn't particularly warm either with the temperature just about managing to reach a maximum of 14°C. Last year we were just beginning the best part of summer as it was common for the day time temperatures to exceed 20°C each day. That’s not expected to happen this year.
The average temperature for Friday was just 10.3°C making it the coldest day since May 13th.

Runner bean plants ready for transplanting

These runner beans are in desperate need of planting out as they are really starting to out grow their small modular cells. That’s going to be tomorrow’s job down on the plot along with some sweet corn, courgettes and squash plants. No doubt there will be some weeding to do and then there'll be plenty of watering to do. 

Friday, 10 June 2011

How green is your grass?

Thursday was another dry day with any showers that were about giving us a miss. Maximum daily temperatures reach the high teens most days rather than the dizzy heights of 20°C or more that we might expect in June.
This is our best patch of lawn. I re seeded some bare patches a few weeks ago and have watered the newly sown seed to keep it moist to help it germinate. I’ve now got a small dark green patch of lawn which has received some water and the rest of the lawn is brown more resembling its state at the end of a long hot and dry summer.

Asking around on the plot this afternoon the thundery shower which we had at home yesterday also fell on the plot but it was impossible to tell as the top of the soil was dry with no sign of moisture below. I heard a potato farmer discussing the introduction of drought measures which would prevent him irrigating crops hence he expected a much reduced harvest. I guess my potatoes will have a reduced yield as so far they’ve had almost no rain since they were planted at the beginning of April. 

Thursday, 9 June 2011

A thunder shower

We managed a couple of showers on Wednesday. One in particular at lunch time was short and spectacular. Thunder and lighting was accompanied by heavy rain. The peak rain intensity was 39.4mm/hr and 2.8mm fell in the shower which by my calculations means it lasted about 4 minutes.
Thunder storm moves off

It would have been nice for it to have lasted a little longer but I suppose every little helps. I think it was a fairly localised shower so it could be that our plot which is a few miles away got more or worse still less rain.

The lack of rainfall has meant much less slug damage to our hosta leaves than normal. It’s good not to have lots of holey leaves and to assist I haven’t given the plants very much water. Gardening always seems to be a set of compromises.
Hosta leaves after shower

By the end of Wednesday our rainfall for the day was 4.0mm which at least left the soil looking damp on top although I don’t think it will have penetrated far into the ground. The forecast for the next few days is for the showery weather to continue. There is little sign of the blazing June as highlighted in the press a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

What showers

Once again we missed any showers that were about. It was the sort of day that always threatened showers and indeed some drops of rain fell in the afternoon. It’s what passes as rain here these days, just a trace of dampness in the air but not enough to register on the rain gauge which means less than 0.2mm.

I’ve grabbed my web cam images, stored by Weather Underground, at noon for most days in May. Some days don’t have images I’m not sure why.

One of my set tasks this year was to tidy up behind the greenhouse to try to make better use of the space. I've managed to finish this off now so we have a new little area to grow some extra crops. The area behind the greenhouse is sheltered from the worst of the westerly wind and is a veritable sun trap at times so some normally tender crops might grow well in this sheltered spot.
More growing space

We used to have raspberry canes growing on the fence which were removed a few years ago after producing tasty crops for many years. They were being smothered out by ivy growing through the fence from our neighbour. The ivy is impossible to remove as it's rooted into the fence. On the grounds that it’s good for the birds producing lots of berries for them in winter the ivy just gets cut back each summer in a vain attempt to keep it in check. It seems that the raspberries are not that easy to remove either and suckers are continually appearing in some cases well away from their original location. I noticed that some of the canes have some ripe berries. These I suppose are raspberry weeds. I’ll have to pick these before our blackbirds spot them.

Raspberry weeds

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

When will it next rain?

Monday was yet another dry day. The weather improved as the day went along with a dull and cloudy morning giving way to a very pleasant sunny afternoon. The forecasts for the next week seem to offer no hope of any proper rain just some showers if we are lucky. I think I even heard a mention of frost in rural areas.

Our early container grown potatoes having been moved out of the plot greenhouse are taking up lots of space outside the greenhouse and getting comments about how well the tops have grown. I thought it was about time to see if the roots lived up to the tops so one container was tipped into the wheel barrow and I sorted through the compost to collect the harvest. It was a pretty good harvest weighing in at 1.45kg.
Winston Potatoes
Amongst the watering and weeding I finished planting our tomato varieties into the plot greenhouse in the space left by the potatoes. The tomato plants are the best of my remaining plants and not necessarily the varieties I had planned. These are a mixture of Marizol Gold, Gardeners Delight, Moneymaker, German Red Strawberry and Blondkopfchen.
Tomatoes planted out June 2011
The challenge this year is to actually produce some tomatoes as last years' plot crop was a complete failure which I think was due to the quality of the compost used. At planting out stage there is little to choose between this year's and last year's plants.
Tomatoes planted out June 2010