Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Poor Veggies

Monday was another day of sunny spells and rather breezy. For all the sunny spells it wasn't particularly warm with the maximum temperature just making 17°C.

There’s no wonder our more tender vegetables aren’t growing very well considering the overnight temperatures. The last few nights have been quite cold for July with the last night (ie early Tuesday morning) down to 7.3°C, then 8.7°C, 10.6°C and 9.3°C for the previous three nights. The average for this stage of July is 14°C, so with cool days and cold nights is there any wonder tender outdoor crops refuse to perform? 

It has to be said though that some of the garden plants are loving these conditions. This clematis is now looking at its best. We can’t remember the variety - any ideas?

Monday, 30 July 2012

Almost Forgotten

Sunday wasn't anything special for the end of July. Some sunny periods interspersed with dark clouds it was cool and blustery all day.

In a corner of the home greenhouse are the cyclamens grown from seed last year. They weren’t expected to do much this year after flowering in their first year.
They’re in a plant pot saucer by the greenhouse door and surrounded by onions recently lifted and drying off in the greenhouse. To be honest they haven’t been totally neglected and I have kept them watered by adding water to the saucer on a regular basis. But they are putting on a good show. 

Last year the plants were in flower in December as the picture below taken on 02 December shows.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Rotting Potatoes?

Saturday wasn't too bad being sunny and windy for most of the day. It was cool in the early hours of the morning with the temperature falling to just 9.3°C. We had a few light showers from early evening onwards.

On the plot I thought it was about time I started lifting some of our early potatoes. The tops haven't died down completely but they are showing signs that they’re reaching this stage. As I’ve got lots of potatoes to lift I thought I’d make a start.

At first I was a little surprised because as I lifted some of the potatoes I initially thought some of the tubers were affected by blight. The tops however hadn’t sown any signs so I was a little puzzled. 
This is a root of Winston showing the condition of some of the potatoes as lifted. The soil is not as wet as it looks from this photograph but there is little doubt that the soil has been waterlogged for considerable periods of time this summer and I think that this has caused some of the tubers to rot.
Swift (left) - Winston (centre) and Premiere (right)
I would reckon that about 10% of the crop were like this with the rest in good condition.

Back in spring we bought three extra varieties of potatoes to trial. These were Vales Emerald, Casablanca and Marilyn. These have now all been lifted and the harvesting is summarised here

Saturday, 28 July 2012

A Day Out with the Duchess

The weather was pretty good on Thursday and Friday. It was dull Thursday morning and the sun didn't break through until early afternoon whereas Friday was mild with sunny spells all day.

On Friday we had a trip by train to the coast at Scarborough. We caught the train in Wakefield mid morning for the journey to the east coast. Our trip was on a special charter train and was hauled to Scarborough and back by “The Duchess of Sutherland” a restored steam locomotive.
Our train arrives in Wakefield
The station platforms were crowded with a mix of passengers catching the train for a day trip to Scarborough or York and hoards of photographers trying to find the best vantage point from which to capture photographs.
Our reserved table for 2 and coach for the trip
The train stopped in York, to drop off passengers who had decided to spend the afternoon looking around this historic city, before carrying on to the coast at Scarborough. We had the afternoon in the town firstly finding some lunch and then having a walk along the sea front. The resort was busy on this pleasant summer afternoon with plenty of holiday makers enjoying the spell of fine weather.
After a walk around the south bay it was time to find our way back to the railway station and board the train for the return trip to Wakefield.
As befits a duchess, our train had its own platform and we were able to board the train as soon as we arrived back at the station. We left on time and were served sandwiches, a scone with jam and clotted cream and coffee at our seats as we made our way home through the countryside of North Yorkshire. A very different and enjoyable day out.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Onion Results Are In

Wednesday was dull and warm. Apparently it was the warmest day of the year according to the BBC weather forecaster but that certainly wasn't true here as the highest we managed all day was 21.3°C.

On the plot I harvested the last of our autumn planted onions, Electric, which were planted as sets back on 04 October 2011. Other varieties already lifted are Dobies Autumn Champion, Shakespeare and Senshyu Yellow. These are all drying off in our home greenhouse.
This is how they looked when planted last October.
At the beginning of May this year the onions were starting to grow away well.
They’ve gone on to produce a good crop of onions which will certainly see us through until this year’s main crop of summer onions are ready. We harvested our first Shakespeare onions on the 26 June but it could have been any of the varieties as they were all ready to use at the same time.

Here are the weights for the individual varieties of onions harvested.
Obviously Senshyu Yellow performed the best. All the varieties produced onions of good quality and size. All the onions lifted have been disease free and just the odd bulb of each variety had seeded. The reason for the success of Senshyo Yellow I would suggest is that all the bulbs made it through winter so they’ve out produced the other varieties. I’ll now try to judge the storing qualities of each of the varieties.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Tuesday was warm and muggy and produced some long sunny spells. Not quite our hottest day of the year, that record still being held by 28 May at 28°C. It’s a case of splitting hairs where you have to as today’s high was 27.9°C.

We decided it was a little too hot for doing much on the plot and spent the afternoon doing a little gardening at home. Now to the good, the bad and the ugly. As all the good shows, let’s go in reverse order. The ugly award goes to:
The contents of the pond filter after a couple of weeks of operation. The sludge gets tipped on the garden. My theory is that it should be good for the garden. The bad award goes to:
Mildew on the back of this rose bud. Is mildew as a result of all the wet weather or the last four rain free days? So far it has only appeared on one bud but in any case we can do without it. Finally the good award is presented to:
This passion flower. I have to be honest I thought that I’d probably killed this whilst carry out preparation works for the base of the summerhouse. This is a true survivor and is flowering better than it has ever done! 

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Summer’s Best

Monday was a beautiful summer’s day with plenty of sunshine, July’s warmest day with 25.8°C, and remaining mild well into the evening. 

In the afternoon on the plot, as I walked along the path to the raspberries, a male blackbird flew out of the middle of the canes. He was very disgruntled that someone had come along to disturb him. As I picked some raspberries he continued to chortle at me from the safety of the gooseberry bushes. He was very annoyed that someone else had the nerve to  pick some of his berries.
There was plenty of evidence that he’d been having a real feast on the berries and he obviously wasn't content to finish one berry before starting another. Our raspberries aren't netted - we don’t mind loosing one or two to the birds so long as plenty are left for us. I don’t know why this male blackbird was so determined to chortle at me as there’s lots of evidence about that our alpine strawberries, tayberries, and gooseberries are providing plenty of alternative food for the birds. I bet they can’t wait for the net to come off the remaining redcurrants.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Greenhouse Update and a Summer’s Afternoon

Sunday morning was cloudy and it looked like it would stay that way but early in the afternoon the clouds disappeared the sun came out and left us with a summer’s afternoon and the warmest day of the month with the temperature reaching 25.1°C.

It seems that, for the last few weeks now, blogs outside the UK have been posting pictures of their first ripe tomatoes. So here’s my UK update where things are much slower growing this year. In the greenhouse I had to search through the tomato plants to find a couple of tiny tomatoes which still have plenty of growing to do before turning red.
This one is Moneymaker and it’s not a lot bigger than a pea and below is San Marzano probably the bigger of the two tomatoes.
We've also got aubergines and peppers growing in the greenhouse. These plants have not only had the cool weather to contend with but were also attacked by snails but they just about managed to survived. Our aubergine Long Purple Podded will soon have its first flowers. I have my doubts as to whether the season will be long enough for it to mature into a ripe fruit.
The same is probably true of our pepper Palladio which is also just developing its first flower. It’s normally September time when the first fruits are ready but at least with peppers they can always be used whilst still green.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Harvesting Onions

After a cold start Saturday wasn't too bad as far as this July is concerned with some long sunny periods and no rain.

We made the most of the weather weeding and harvesting on the plot. I also continued my green manure experiment finally deciding to try a green manure crop in the bed cleared of last winter’s brassicas. The last sowing of white clover failed to germinate completely which I can only put down to the dreadful weather so I’ve tried again in this bed by sowing a mixture of white and red clover.

I've also started to lifted last year’s autumn sown onions. These wont keep long but I think they’ve done all the growing they’re going to do so I think they’ll be better off stored somewhere dry rather than in wet soil. Our first variety Shakespeare has already been lifted and is stored in our home greenhouse and today I lifted these Dobies Autumn Champion which have made some good onions.

Our fruit harvest is continuing as our summer vegetables struggle in the wet weather. We managed a good harvest today full details of which can be found here.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Cold and Wet

Friday was a miserable day. It would have been miserable most times of the year but especially so in July the supposed height of summer. It rained most of the morning and into the afternoon depositing another 10.0mm of rain bringing July’s total up to 103.8mm or looking at it another way 2½ times our expected monthly amount.

To add insult to injury, by 05:30 Saturday morning, the over night temperature fell to a ridiculously cold value of 6.8°C. That’s our coldest July temperature in the 3 years I’ve been recording weather data.

Watching Gardener’s World last night Monty Don lifted some of the early potatoes that he had on trial. He had mixed results regarding yield and tasting quality. He did have one variety which broke up quite badly when cooked.

I’ve been lifting a selection of our early potato varieties that I am trying this year. The last one I lifted was Premiere.

The yield from just one root was pretty good I thought but on cooking these broke up badly and the flavour wasn’t anything special. I always thought that dry weather was to blame for potatoes breaking up on cooking but clearly that’s completely wrong as the plants have been continually wet since planting in April. 

Monty thought that lack of flavour in his potatoes might be due to too much rain. The best flavour of the varieties from our plot was Vales Emerald. Other varieties lifted have been Marilyn and Casablanca. Neither of these 3 varieties broke down on cooking. Another point against Premiere in this wet summer was the amount of slug damage to the tubers which far exceeded that of the other varieties although until more roots are lifted the amount of slug damage for the different types cannot be accurately determined. 

Friday, 20 July 2012

Another Ton of Rainfall

The monthly rainfall total for July has just hit the ton mark (in cricketing terms) as this morning the 100mm amount  has been notched up.
As you can see from the chart that's 3 out of the last 4 months that we had over 100mm of rainfall. Perhaps August will be a little bit drier - lets hope so!

Sunshine Wanted

Thursday was yet another dull cool day. Following on from overnight rain it brightened up a little towards lunchtime giving us hope of a decent afternoon but in the end the clouds stubbornly remained all afternoon.

The last time I was down the plot I managed to cultivate the bed that had recently been cleared of last year’s over wintering brassicas. I figured the bed was just about dry enough and with more rain forecast I’d risk turning over the soil before it was too wet once again.
The ground was still a little on the wet side but it broke up reasonably well. I'm planning on using this bed for planting autumn onions and next year’s Sweet Williams. I'm still deciding whether or not to try a quick growing green manure crop to improve the soil fertility before the onions are planted in late September. At least a green manure crop will give any weeds a little bit of competition. 

Thursday, 19 July 2012

A Day in the Dales National Park

Tuesday wasn't too bad a day and we took the opportunity to do some more weeding and harvesting on the plot. Our harvesting details are recorded here
We decided on a day out on Wednesday and made a trip into North Yorkshire and the Dales National Park. We headed up to the famous Ribblehead Viaduct on the Settle to Carlisle Railway line. It was breezy and cold up at the viaduct with the low cloud clipping the tops of the surrounding hillsides. 
Up on the tops the streams were full to bursting with water and the effects of weeks of heavy rainfall were easy to see in rapidly flowing rivers and flooded pasture land and fields. 

We had lunch in Hawes before going on to investigate some of the higher points on the Settle to Carlisle Railway including the highest main line railway station in England at Dent which is 1150 feet above sea level.
We did have some concerns when Sue spotted this young rabbit happily sitting in the middle of the tracks in line for a nasty confrontation with an oncoming train.
I’d visions of mangled rabbit and a very upset Sue. Fortunately the rabbit saw sense and hopped out of the way at the last minute much to the relief of all concerned. There aren't any pictures of the train as Sue was far too concerned about what was going to happen to the rabbit.
Heading home and coming down out of the hills the weather started to improve with the clouds lifting and the sun coming out.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

A Lunchtime Shower

Monday was a dull cloudy day which we've become accustomed to this July. Some light rain at lunchtime put us off visiting the plot.

It’s an odd sort of summer weather and not only from the high amounts of rainfall. I've clipped some data from one of my charts for the last three days. On Saturday 14th we had just over 3 hours of sunshine and more than 8 hours of sunshine on Sunday and just 20 minutes on Monday.

At this time of year, at the height of summer, I’d expect a sunny day to produce a much higher temperature than a dull cloudy day but that’s not the case. Each day the maximum, minimum and average daily temperatures were almost the exactly the same.

Still the sunshine on Sunday was very welcome and plenty more would be appreciated although the forecast doesn’t seem that promising


Monday, 16 July 2012

Weeding and Harvesting

Sunday was a sunny breezy day and another rain free day. Despite the sunshine it never felt that warm in the strong breeze much more like a sunny spring day than a summer one.

On the plot it’s a case of chasing your tail with the weeds. They seem to miraculously appear as full grown weeds the minute you turn your back on them. Of course it’s also important to harvest anything that ready for picking as after all that’s the main reason for having the plot. 
So with Sue spending most of the afternoon weeding I gathered in the harvest. These potatoes are looking good at the moment and once weeded the plot looked in good shape despite the awful weather this month.
The harvesting went well too. The broad beans Witkiem Manita are from plants I almost pulled up a few months ago because they didn't look as though they would ever be strong enough to grow any beans. (Note from Sue - And who was it told you not to pull them up?). Just shows what I know, as they’re producing a tasty crop of beans at a time when the only other vegetables we have ready are peas Carouby De Maussane which have enjoyed the cool wet weather this year.
Just for good measure our French beans Tendergreen are starting to produce a few flowers so it looks like we might be lucky enough to get some beans in a few weeks time.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Sowing More Lettuce

Saturday wasn't too bad as this summer goes. There was a little rain over night and some drizzle late in the afternoon but through the rest of the day we had some pleasant sunny spells.

My last sowing of lettuce just doesn’t want to grow. It was left in the cold frame to germinate on the grounds that lettuce won’t germinate if temperatures are too high which might be the case in the greenhouse.
These were sown on 18th June and had germinated by 26th June. My Webb’s Wonderful and Lolla Rossa were devastated by slugs and snails but some slug pellets have deterred them a little from attacking these Little Gems and Little Gem Dazzle. But three weeks after germinating they just don't seem to be making an effort to grow. Perhaps they've just been too wet and waterlogged in all the rain.

I’ve sown some more seeds of each variety and put them under the indoor grow light to geminate. Perhaps giving them a good start will help. Whilst I was in seed sowing mood I did some spring cabbage “Flowers of Spring” which with any luck should be ready for planting out by September time.
Our final winter cabbages were also planted into modules to grow on before planting out. These are a savoy cabbage “Alaska” which we are growing for the first time this year. 

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Just the One!

Well it rained again on Friday so the dry spell of one day came to an end. It was cool and cloudy all day with not even a hint of any sunshine. A maximum daytime temperature of only 14.6°C made it the coldest of the month. Roll on summer!
We did have an afternoon walk along the canal side at Woodlesford locks beside the Aire and Calder Navigation. The skies were overcast as you can see and no sooner had we finished our walk and got back into the car to head home when the rain began to fall again.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Made It - A Rain Free Day

Thursday was our first rain free day for 10 days. It was a pleasant sunny day although surprisingly the temperature never managed 20°C despite the sunshine. It was cool over night too with the temperature falling to 9.5°C.

After a slow start we’re now managing a decent harvest on each visit to the plot. The main casualty of the wet weather has been the strawberries. The last week has seen most of the fruit turn mouldy on the plants or be eaten by the masses of slugs and snails that are about.
Whilst our tayberries have been battered by the rain spoiling the berries our raspberries have stood up to the weather better. The Glen Ample and Glen Magna bushes have a thicket of new canes growing which I think has helped protect the berries.

I also made a start on taming one of our over grown beds that was originally planted with perennial flowers primarily for cut flowers. After several years it has become a bed of large perennial weeds which have swamped the flowers. The only option is to clear the bed and start again.
Stage one strimming is completed. At least now it’s possible to see just what needs doing and we can start removing weeds and digging over the bed. The laurel bush visible at the top of the picture is next in line for the lopping and sawing treatment. It was planted to give some protection against the wind but it’s grown rather too large and will have to be “trimmed” back.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Almost There

Wednesday almost produced our first rain free day since the beginning of the month. A little bit of mid morning drizzle put a dampener on things to start with but the afternoon was pretty good with no rain and some decent sunny spells. 
The plot needs a few dry days for the soil to dry out before it can be cultivated. Any digging done now would be counter productive besides being extremely hard work. Still it didn't rain on us which is rather a novelty at the moment so at least we could do some weeding, grass cutting and harvesting.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

A Dry Day Would be Welcome

Tuesday was another wet and cool day. We didn't have that much rain just 3.4mm but it was damp all day with light rain on and off and not a hint of sunshine.

Apart from the first day of the month it’s rained every day so far.
As you can see from this picture clipped from my weather station screen at 07:33 on Wednesday morning the storm total is shown as 77.8mm. A spell of 24 hours without rain is required to reset the storm total to zero. So we've had the equivalent of almost two months rainfall this month without a dry 24 hour period.

If the forecast is correct it might not rain on Wednesday and Thursday which would be a welcome break in the dreadful weather.

The rainfall has caused some serious flooding around West Yorkshire especially around Hebden Bridge. Click on the news video to see the flash flooding at its worst. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Lettuce Survives

Monday was another wet and cloudy day. The morning wasn't too bad and it tempted me down to the plot to attempt to mow the grass paths which have grown at a phenomenal rate with all the rain. 
I managed about half an hour before it began to rain. I’d spent most of my time emptying the grass box rather than mowing as the grass had grown so long. The rain soon started to become heavy and I decided to abandon any hope of finishing the job.
Before I left the plot I harvested a couple of lettuces, our first of the season. Little Gem Dazzle is on the left and a Little Gem on the right of the picture. I'm amazed that they appear undamaged from slugs, snails or torrential rain. I've become accustomed to lettuces just rotting away in damp conditions similar to these. Perhaps because they haven’t been accustomed to any luxurious dry warm weather they've actually survived all this rain. Whatever the reason I'm not complaining.  

Monday, 9 July 2012

Tomato Flowers

Sunday had a few short sunny spells but it was mostly cloudy with more rain in the afternoon.
At last the greenhouse tomatoes have some flowers giving us some hope that they might eventually produce some tomatoes. 
These are Gardener’s Delight growing in the plot greenhouse. Our first ripe tomato last year was picked on the 22nd July. Somehow I have the feeling it will be much later than that this year.