Friday, 23 March 2012

Promise of Grapes

Thursday continued the spell of fine weather with another sunny and mild day. It looks like this weather will continue over the weekend and in to next week.

In the greenhouse our grape vine is just starting into bud. As the tiny buds start to open it’s hard to image the rather uncontrollable vine it will become by the middle of summer as it threatens to take over the greenhouse.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

A Surprise Find

Just some very nice late afternoon sunshine after a mostly cloudy day. There was no breeze so it felt very mild in the sunshine.

Last year on the plot we decided it was time to renovate our old strawberry beds. As the strawberries had been planted in March 2008 the plants had become overgrown with weeds. Drastic action was required and we decided to clear the strawberries and start a new strawberry bed.
This was the state of the beds last autumn with the strawberries cleared. The ground was like concrete and trying to remove weeds was impossible. The beds eventually got very roughly turned over and the left for the winter frosts and rain to do their work.

The dry start to the year has left the soil in excellent condition for digging or rather cultivating. It’s not too wet and dry enough to break up into good friable soil. So I made the most of the good weather clearing out as many weeds before running the cultivator through the beds. Whilst breaking up one clod of soil infested with couch grass I was surprise to find this newt curled up inside.
It was moved to another part of the plot well away from any harmful cultivator tines.

Once cultivated the 3 beds looked in good condition and ready for planting with some early potatoes in a couple of weeks time.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

To Water or Not?

As high pressure dominates and controls our weather at the moment Tuesday was another fine day with long sunny spells, mild and dry.

Our garlic and shallot in the greenhouse were ready to plant out down on the plot and I thought it was about time I got my green manure trial started by sowing a bed of Phacelia.
I’d already prepared this bed for sowing so all I had to do was scatter the seed followed by a gentle rake just to settle the seed in. As you can see from this picture the soil looks fairly dry so I thought about watering the seed in. The problem is watering the ground just tends to form a thin crust on the top of the soil as it dries out. I decided not to water as there is some moisture below and I'm hoping this is enough to germinate the seed. 

Last year the plot needed plenty of watering to produce some reasonable crops. Fortunately we’re not in one of the areas where a hosepipe ban is starting at the beginning of April. However we do seem to be rather short of rain over the last couple of years. The table below shows the rainfall figures for the last couple of years and to March this year. 
This year has started off even drier than than the previous two years so it looks like plenty of watering will be required again.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Springwatch in Ossett

Monday wasn't a bad day again with the weather almost a repeat of Sunday except that we didn’t get any early morning rain.

Our new wired bird box camera is now up and running and whilst a few tweaks are still required to improve video production I’m pleased with the way it’s working. I thought it was a bit of a shame not to make use of our old nest box. It might be provide a perfect residence for a pair of our many blue tit visitors to the garden. I gave a little thought to where it could be placed so that I could still make use of the wireless camera. The end result is two bird boxes both fitted with cameras.
The software for this camera doesn't have any sophisticated motion detection software but we will still be able to grab pictures and video if any birds take up residence. I do know that a blue tit had a very quick inspection immediately after the box was erected. I have no idea if it’s been back or any other prospective residents have made a visited since.

I might have to turn my attention back to getting some gardening done now. 

Monday, 19 March 2012

Germination Times

After early morning rain Sunday turned out to be a pleasant day with plenty of sunny spells and just a light breeze.

At this time of year it’s a daily treat looking around the garden to see which bulbs and shrubs are coming into flower and checking for new buds and shoots on trees and perennials. A daily check is required on all our seeds to see if any need watering and to check which ones have germinated. Out of interest I’ve started making a note of the germination times for our seeds and added the details to one of our web pages here.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Measuring Up

The heavy rain forecast for Saturday didn't arrive which isn’t that unusual and I shouldn’t be surprised. It amounted to 1.2mm from a short spell of rain mid morning and one late evening. More showers before dawn on Sunday morning amounted to another 1.8mm. This month’s total is up to 12.8mm (0.5”)

The poor weather didn’t stop the blue tits from making several more visits to investigate whether the nest box meets their exacting standards for setting up home.
Who needs a tape measure to check out the dimensions of your new property when a wing span will do the job nicely. Of course we don’t know if the same bird that visited several times or that different blue tits were checking out the box. The video below gives an idea of just how thoroughly the birds check out the box before deciding to nest.

Just to note that what looks like the entrance at the top of the picture is a window to allow in extra light and the entrance to the nest box is to the top left of the picture just out of sight.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Teething Problems

Friday was another fine day with plenty of sunshine and mild. 

It was a day for connecting up all the bits and bobs of our bird box cam and seeing if we could manage an image to check on the comings and goings of our anticipated nest box family. Sure enough without too much of a fuss an image appeared of the inside of our new nest box. Now our software only captures images when movement takes place. This is fantastic as it avoids having hours of blank video to look through to check for visitors. An old garden cane pushed through the entrance hole to the next box confirmed that any movement would be captured. All we had to do now was hope for some visitors.
This morning I planned to post a picture of our empty pristine new nest box. Fortunately and much to my surprise as I started trying to locate a suitable image on my computer this blue tit popped into the nest box just in time. So instead of an empty nest box I've posted a picture of the first blue tit checking out a new detached property for its family.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Last of the Settled Weather

The settled weather of the last week is due to come to an end just in time for the weekend. On Thursday we had to wait until lunchtime once again for the sun to make an appearance after some early morning mist took its time to clear.

I made some more progress sorting out our new bird box camera. The advantage of wireless is that as no cable is required it’s not necessary to drill through the house wall. As our new camera is wired I wasn’t particularly relishing drilling the small hole required. As it turned out it wasn’t too much of a problem. I’ve just got to try and sort out the software to capture the action and we’re ready for our new family.
In the afternoon I turned my attention back to preparing the base for our new summerhouse. I’m concentrating on laying the whole paving slabs first before starting to fill in the tricky bits around the pond. I’ll need to take some of the old rubble to the tip before I can finish paving the remaining summerhouse base.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Burning the Leftovers

A few weeks ago Sue pruned back our extremely thorny blackberry bush. It’s not a task I enjoy and I'm happy for her to do it. I don’t tend to have enough patience for all the careful pruning required. Sue just asked where to put all the wickedly prickly stems. Just leave them on the ground by the blackberry I’ll see to them later I said.

Next it was our buddleias that Sue cut back. Where to put the prunings was all I got asked and the answer was put them with the blackberry remnants. Next it was the rose and the heap of prunings got bigger.
So this was the state of the prunings today. After some mild days and no rain I reckoned that they should have dried out well and be ready for burning to tidy up the plot. With rain forecast for the weekend it seemed a shame to risk them getting a soaking.
They certainly burnt well. I was kept busy piling more debris on the fire as the dried stalks burnt so quickly. I didn't have time to stop feeding stems onto the fire and  by the time I took this photo most of the burning had taken place.
By this time all the debris had been burnt and the bed next to the blackberry looked much tidier. It had only taken just over 30 minutes to burn the whole lot.
I made sure all the ‘unburned’ bits around the edges of the fire were picked up and placed on the hot ashes to burn away and that the fire had died down before I left the plot.

Before visiting the plot again I’ll have to decide which is the most appropriate bed to spread the wood ash on. With all the rubbish burnt I’m not planning any more large bonfires before autumn or even next spring.

So now I’ve fulfilled my contribution to all the pruning work!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

A Wildlife Sort of a Day

The amount of sunshine each day is reducing as the week progresses with a resulting fall off in temperature too. Just a little late afternoon sunshine on Tuesday with a high temperature of 10.6° about average but all the same a little disappointing after the milder weather earlier in the week.

We’ve made some improvements to our nest box camera this year and added sound. This camera is wired so we are hoping that we wont suffer any of the picture quality problems we had last year from our wireless camera.
The new camera is now in place and waiting for its 2012 family to take up residence and to star in our very own reality TV show.

In the pond the latest frog spawn has so far remained out of reach of our ravenous fishes. At times the frogs sit on the frog spawn appearing to be guarding it against any marauding fish.

The frog spawn might be fairly safe whist the water in the pond remains at it present level but should we have some rain and the water level rise then nature may have a different fate in store for it.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Progress of Sorts

Monday morning was dull and cloudy but in the afternoon the sun came out to give us a lovely afternoon.

I spent the afternoon working on the base for our new summer house and at last I can start to see it taking shape. I’ve now got some shuttering in place defining the area required and that enormous pile of rubble has shrunk considerable as it’s been spread around the base to help provide a solid foundation.
In the greenhouse our first broad beans have started to germinate. These were sown on the 26th February so it’s taken just over 2 weeks for the first seeds to germinate.
We had considered trying an over wintering sowing down on the plot last autumn but decided to try our luck with some peas instead. As it turns out that was a failure the worst frost of winter killing off the small pea plants. Other bloggers seem to have faired a bit better with broad beans but have suffered losses of some plants due to frosts. Our module sown broad beans usually provide us with a good crop so I think I will continue in future with our tried and tested method and leave autumn sowings to the more adventurous plotters.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Frog Spawn Heaven

Sunday was a beautiful spring day with sunshine from dawn until dusk. The wind felt cool in the morning but the afternoon was pleasantly mild.

Our frogs seem determined to produce more frog spawn making up for that gobbled up by our fishes. If all today’s frog spawn turned into frogs we’d be in serious trouble.
There was plenty of croaking going on as the frogs squirmed about amongst their freshly laid spawn. 
They seemed quite up for having their pictures taken

In the afternoon we made a visit to the plot. Amongst other jobs one bed was cultivated ready to be sown with green manure. The bed will eventually be used for winter brassicas which will not be planted up before the mid to late of summer. I’m intending to use Phacelia which is a quick growing hardy annual green manure that is supposed to germinate at low temperatures and grow in most soil types. It can be sown from March until September. 
The soil had dried out nicely and cultivated very easily so all I need to do now is sow the seed and my green manure experiment will be well under way.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Isn't nature cruel?

Saturday continued the mild spell of weather. An early morning shower meant a damp start to the day but it soon dried up as the sun came out. The day was spoilt somewhat by a strong to gale force wind.

Sue’s covered the details of the shenanigans going on in our pond here. I’m amazed the fish could get at the frog spawn in such shallow water but they would appear to have eaten the entire lot in yesterday’s photo. Not that it’s stopped our frogs producing heaps more so we will have some really well fed fish at this rate. It didn’t stop the fish begging for more food when I walked by the pond this morning either.

Rather late this year I got round to cleaning out our nest boxes. 
The sparrow terrace at the far end has been moved from another part of the garden. The sparrow terrace between the two windows had two nests from last year to be removed. We think one blue tit and one great tit took up residence last year rather than any sparrows. The remaining box is our camera box which last spring produced a brood of blue tits. I wonder if they’ll be so well used again this year.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Remaining Mild

Friday continued the mild start to the month. We had some reasonable sunny periods although it was a bit blustery at times. It clouded over late in the afternoon with enough cloud to allow a little light drizzle.

In the afternoon I made a little more progress preparing the base for the summerhouse. Approaching the pond I heard several “plops” as frogs headed to the bottom of the pond and safety. It wasn’t long before they surfaced again and I was treated to a chorus of croaking as I connected up my new pond filter.
Obviously I haven’t been the only one making good use of the mild weather. Usually virtually all this frog spawn is eaten by our fish, although this pile is laid in shallow water and it might be difficult for the fish to get at. Maybe this year we will have tadpoles and baby frogs. Watch this space for updates.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Leeks and Sweet Pea Sowings

It was mostly dull on Thursday with only a few very brief glimpses of sunshine.

I’d decided to sow our leeks earlier this year. Last year they were sown on 8th April so this year’s seeds are in a whole month ahead of last year which I suppose thinking about it is quite a bit earlier. Perhaps it’s the mild start to the month that’s encouraged me to sow the seeds now. Last year at the beginning of March we had a series of keen overnight frosts from the 2nd to 11th March with temperatures falling as low as -5.1°C so there wasn’t a lot of encouragement to make an early start to seed sowing. I also made a start sowing some of our sweet peas today too. These were sown on the 2nd April last year so I’m well ahead of last year at the moment. Hopefully by the time any of these seeds have germinated any danger of really cold nights in the greenhouse will be past.
I managed to make some space for the seeds on the greenhouse floor next to our onion sets which are now all starting to shoot. The onions and shallots will be the first plants to move out of the greenhouse and into the cold frame to make way for more seed sowings.

Our second camellia which only receives a light pruning each year is also in flower. Unfortunately I can see the time approaching when this too will need a major pruning. In the meantime it continues to produce some spectacular flowers.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Mixed Bag

Wednesday’s weather was pretty mixed. At times we had some nice sunny spells but these quickly gave way to some very unpleasant windy, squally showers. Not that we've had a great deal of rain in the first week of March but our 9.2mm is already more than we had in the whole of March last year which was a miserly 7.2mm. 

You may remember that I wasn’t the most popular gardener in town when I pruned back our overgrown camellia. Well I’m pleased to say I haven’t actually killed the shrub completely but it’s in a sulky mode and has produced all its flowers looking at the fence and garage rather than giving us a show.
I'm hoping it will eventually re-grow and produce a more shoots on the side where it was severely pruned. Pruning it back also made space for more perennials in the back border so it’s not all bad news.

My replacement pond filter arrived. I’m surprised by how small it is compared with the filter system I have at present.

As the filter can be buried almost up to the inlet and outlet pipes it should be possible to make the filter part of the garden landscape as opposed to my old system which was so large that the garden had to be constructed around the pond filter.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

More of the Same

Tuesday was another gorgeous day with sunshine all day long. High cloud developed late in the afternoon resulting in some showers late in the evening.

After a winter break from preparing the base for our new summerhouse I thought it was about time I made a little more progress. I’d really like to have most of the work completed this month before the allotment season gets into full swing in April. I’ve had to bring forward my plans for replacing the pond filter though. The winter seems to have taken its toll on my old filter and it has started to leak. Rather strangely water just appears to be seeping through the plastic. 
So I’ll bring forward my plan to replace my old filter system with a new fangled modern design. This will take up far less space which was the aim all along. I did manage to get some paving slabs laid so at least I feel like I'm starting to make progress on the summerhouse base. Up to now its all been demolition but now at last new construction is beginning. 
Not a lot of progress but it going to be slow going. Due to lack of space I have to mix the concrete by hand and in relatively small batches. So it will just have to be a steady plod.

In the morning I’d been in the greenhouse sowing a few seeds when I spotted a tiny snail making its way around an upturned plant pot. I decided to try a bit of close up photography to see if I could get a decent picture.
Besides photographing the snail I did eventually manage to make a start sowing a few seeds which are detailed on each of our March 2012 sowing pages for vegetables and flowers

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

What a Change

Monday was superb with sunshine almost all day long. The temperature was only around average for the time of year and the wind was on the chilly side but it felt pleasant out of the breeze and in the sunshine. 

The two web cam pictures grabbed in the middle of the afternoon highlight the difference between the two days.

The downside is that clear skies overnight resulted in a frost with temperatures early Tuesday morning down to -1°C.

Monday, 5 March 2012

I Might Have Known

Sunday was dull, wet and cold. I should have known that writing a blog post about the lack of rain could only result in one outcome. A wet day. The temperature was a bit of a shock too, as after a mild spell of late, a return to more normal temperatures wasn't a welcome change.

It rained steadily all morning and into the afternoon. It was never very heavy and had produced 6.4mm by the time the rain moved away. 

Late in the afternoon we had a little weak sunshine but it didn’t stop Sunday from been our wettest day since 24th January when we managed 6.6mm of rain.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Rainfall - Do You Get Too Much or Too Little?

Saturday was dull all morning but cleared up in the afternoon finishing off mild and sunny.

Rainfall or lack of it has been making the weather headlines over the last week or so. It seems you either get too much or virtually none at all with parts of the east and southern England already having drought conditions after a dry winter following on from last year’s dry spring and summer.

I noticed that “The View From Bag End” up in West Cumbria is recording the rainfall month by month this year. I suspect that Cumbria is probably one of the wettest areas of the country to garden in. Always up for a comparison I’ve copied the idea and added a table to my blog. Last year we were certainly well short of our expected rainfall but not as dry as the worst affected areas.

With just February’s figures to compare “The View From Bag End” take a comfortable lead in the rainfall table. It might be a little unfair as January was a wet month for us. 

Have you any figures to help compare your rainfall figures wherever you do your gardening?

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Sorting Out Our Exotic Fruits

Friday wasn't a patch on yesterday’s weather as we had a mostly cloudy day although it did brighten up a little in the afternoon. It was another reasonably mild day to be out and about in the garden.

Our Apricot “Flavourcot” arrived yesterday and had temporarily been placed in a large pot with some wet compost just like our newly arrived Nectarine “Fantasia”. I thought the sooner these were potted up into some larger containers the better. Both trees appeared to be still in their dormancy stage so even though they had both dried up in transit I’m hoping they’ll both be forming some nice green buds in a few weeks time. The more we look at the nectarine tree the more we think that the brown buds are starting to green up and that the tree is starting into growth.
Our kiwi can be seen in the picture with its pot wrapped in bubble film for extra protection over winter. This seems to have worked as its already got some lovely green shoots appearing. This was potted up into a larger container as it seemed to struggle a little last summer.  
If you look closely its just possible to make out the new green shoots on our Kiwi. Our expectations aren't high. We’re not really expecting a bumper crop of peaches, nectarines, apricots and kiwis but who knows we might just manage a couple of fruits from each tree.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Basking in Sunshine

Thursday was a superb day. Surprising it didn't produce our highest temperature of the year but it certainly felt like it should have done. It was very pleasant on the plot, warm enough to enjoy a cup of coffee sitting outside in the sunshine without a coat. A first this year.

Other creatures down on the plot were also making the most of the sunshine. Underneath the loganberry ia a discarded piece of old timber and it had turned into a little haven for ladybirds and spiders to sit in the sunshine and soak up the warmth. It was only when I replayed the video at home that I noticed just how many spiders were on the piece of wood. I only really noticed one when shooting the video.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Mild Spell Continues for Our Extra Day

Wednesday continued mild and dull. 

A quick look at my weather station temperature figures shows that February has finished a little below average, the last 2 weeks of mild weather not quite offsetting the 2 very cold weeks at the start of the month. One thing for certain is that for us February has turned out to be a dry month with just 13.2mm of rainfall.

Last summer was very dry and the plot required lots of watering to keep crops growing. In the end some crops like our sweetcorn just didn’t produce due to combination of lack of water and cool summer temperatures. I’m hoping for a little more rainfall through summer this year. I might be regretting that statement by August!