Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Into Winter Mode

Tuesday was another gloomy day in what seems like an endless stream of cold gloomy days. The weather has put allotment activities on hold. I've rather unknowingly slipped into winter mode where visits to the plot are only made to see what’s available for harvesting.

Surprisingly we've still got some tomatoes in the greenhouse. Some look a little worse for the cold night time temperatures but most still look good enough to use without having to convert them into a tomato sauce.

Still to be harvested from our home greenhouse is this year’s sweet pepper crop. It’s not been a good year for us and our entire crop is pictured below. One half decent size pepper and one not quite knowing whether to turn red or not.
Must check up to see if we still had tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouse at the end of October last year.

Copyright: Original post from Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrettt

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Gloom Returns

Saturday’s bright, sunny and cold weather didn't last long, just a cold snap as forecast. We returned to gloom and damp again on Sunday and Monday.

On Saturday my blog and weather station reached their third birthdays. Doesn't time fly by!

The Met Office have released their 3 monthly forecast for the winter period. It’s really just a set of probabilities released for contingency planning. I read it to be suggesting the winter months might be slightly colder than average. If your interested click here for the link to the Met Office forecast.
Click on the image to view chart in full on Met Office we site

Whilst the forecast might not be of too much use to gardeners there are some easy to follow charts showing weather patterns for temperature and rainfall for November and also for the 3 winter months. It shows just how much variation there is across the UK and from year to year.

Copyright: Original post from Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrettt

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Cold and Frosty

We had a day out to Carlisle by train on Saturday travelling north along the East Coast Main Line to Durham before turning and heading west to Carlisle.

The train was a special charter train hauled to York by diesel. For the remainder of the journey it was steam hauled by 60009 Union of South Africa. 

Both locomotives are pictured at Carlisle station where the weather was bright and sunny but cold. As we sped north, I just managed a few pictures, taken through the train windows, of the flooded fields and snowy conditions  It was a bit of a task to keep the window clear of condensation and there was plenty of steam and smoke from our locomotive.

Copyright: Original post from Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrettt

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Brighter and Colder

At last the gloomy weather came to an end on Friday and at times we saw some rather pale wintry sun. It’s the first time in four days that the cloud has lifted enough to allow some sunshine to break through. The penalty was much cooler weather with the temperature remaining in single figures despite the sunshine.

In the afternoon I took our part-time dog (she’s a dog all of the time just part-time with us) for a walk in the park at Rothwell. At times the wind was bitter but some of the trees in the pale sunlight looked spectacular in their autumn colours.

We've eaten the Brown Turkey figs picked yesterday. They were  a little too small to be able to sample the taste properly. They certainly looked like miniature figs when prepared, I’m not sure what else I expected them to look like. They appeared quite delicate once cut in half to reveal the lovely colour inside.

Our fig tree already has its next crop of smallish figs but I’m not too sure that we’ll be able to get them through the winter in our cold greenhouse. Some layers of fleece might do the trick if we’re lucky and the winter turns out to be fairly mild.

Copyright: Original post from Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrettt

Friday, 26 October 2012

The Gloom Goes On

The miserable gloomy weather has persisted through Wednesday and Thursday again without any hint of brightness. Thursday has been a little brighter and the sunshine or rather brightness chart below shows the only reason I’m reporting this.

As you can see Thursday has been marginally brighter but compared with the rest of the month it could be so much better.

We made the effort to protect the roots of our potted outdoor fruit trees and moved our osteospermums and hydrangea into the cold greenhouse in readiness for a cold spell due to arrive on Friday night. We had five small figs on our Brown Turkey plant in the greenhouse. They don’t seem to have grown much all summer but they looked a little purplish on the outside and felt a bit soft so I decided to pick them and see how they tasted. All five weighed in at just 75 gms.

Copyright: Original post from Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrettt

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

New for Old

The gloom continued on Tuesday. I suppose the only good point is that it’s not been too cold with the temperature varying by only 1.8°C through the day with a maximum of 12.7°C.

Our yellow rose is still producing new buds despite being rather neglected. It had a bad start to the year when it was hacked back to ground level and its roots partially encased in the concrete foundations to the new summerhouse. Its gone on to regrow and is now better than it has ever been producing lots of flowers all summer.
Even though an old mouldy flower has been left on (too wet to dead-head) it’s still producing new flower buds even in this damp and miserable weather.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Frost On the Way?

It really did feel like late October on Monday with damp, drizzly and cloudy conditions all day without the briefest hint of any sunshine. It does look like things are going to change by the weekend with much colder clearer weather spreading from the north.
This is one scenario for early Friday night as the cold weather sinks south from Scotland. Of course the timing is bound to change before the weekend. It might be a case of our first keen frost of winter so any plants needing protection will have to moved into the greenhouse. Our tubs of osteospermums will need to be given some protection as we are experimenting to see if we can over winter the plants in the greenhouse. This way we hope to get them into flower earlier next year. Our potted hydrangea will also be moved into the protection of the cold greenhouse.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Did I Hear Indian Summer Mentioned?

I’m sure I heard mention of an Indian Summer on the TV weather forecast last week. Well I suppose they got the month correct but other than that not much sign of it arriving yet.
Sunday started out sunny but by midday the mist came in and remained all day. It remained cool all day with the temperature only reaching a maximum of 10.6°C certainly nothing "Indian Summer" about that.
Whilst sorting out some records I noticed that the mean temperatures for 2012 are already lower than last year and they’re only going to go lower during November and December. For the records here are the numbers.
The gloomy weather hasn’t stopped this Kaffir Lily from putting on a display in our puddle pond.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

A Bit of a Nerve

Saturday was a decent day with some sunny periods. It was mild for a change too. After all last week’s rain we decided it would be too wet to do much on the plot.
It seems The Potato Council are blaming the poor potato harvest on gardeners and allotmenteers who grow their own. Nothing to do with the wet weather and cold conditions.
Click on image to read full article

For the second year in a row our potatoes weren’t affected by blight. Our potatoes were lifted and put into winter storage by the end of August. A few stragglers were lifted early in September but there was virtually no difference in the final weights of this year’s and the previous year’s crops. I can understand the farmers problems where fields of late potatoes are under water and crops are reduced. I certainly wouldn’t want to leave my crop in the ground until October although I know this is the traditional time for lifting potatoes.

Our potatoes were lifted in August from this bed which is now planted up with a green manure crop to improve the soil condition for next year.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Wet in North Yorkshire

We spent a few days in Stokesley in North Yorkshire travelling back home yesterday morning. There was plenty of rain whilst we were there but fortunately for us most of it seemed to be overnight.

The talk there was that the farmers are unable to get their winter crops into the ground as it’s too wet. Having seen the state of some of the fields I can certainly understand where they’re coming from.
Mid morning heading back home through the Vale of York it was still misty in places but the mist cleared as we headed south.

We’ve had a decent drop of rain at home too but it’s also been windy with a gust of 28 mph recorded at 12:45 on Tuesday that’s the strongest gust recorded this year. Not really what we expect at this time of year, but there again who knows what to expect this year.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Frost Damage

After a couple of days enjoying the local countryside we made a visit to the plot mainly with the intention of getting our winter onions planted. It was another cold night with the temperature down to a chilly 1.9°C. The first thing we checked on at the plot was for frost damage. The dahlias looked in good condition as we approached and I always think of these being the first plants to suffer from frost damage.
Next to the dahlias are some sunflowers and our wild flower mixture. These weren't showing any signs of frost damage either.
It was a different picture on other parts of the plot. Our courgette plants had certainly suffered from the couple of chilly nights and have decided enough is enough.
I don’t think they've any intention of producing more courgettes this season and the remains can be removed to the compost heap. Not far from these courgettes our every bearing strawberry plants, Flamenco, still have some flowers which appear to have escaped any frost damage as the centres of the flowers haven’t turned black.
We did get round to planting our onions which Sue will be covering in a blog post later in the week. Next to the new onion bed are some nasturtiums which had self sown and are really weeds but have been producing some colour and providing food for any late butterflies that are about. Rather a surprise then but these “weeds” have just been caught by the frost. Who would have thought it!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Almost Zero

It was cold on Saturday morning with the temperature down to 1.3°C at 07:00 in the morning. As it didn't warm up too much all day it produced our coldest day of autumn 2012 with an average temperature for the day of only 6.1°C.

We had a trip to Wensleydale. It was a pleasant enough autumn day in the Dales with a reasonable amount of sunshine. 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Bright After Over Night Rain

It poured down during the night but cleared up nicely through the day with plenty of sunny intervals. It was blustery though. We had a walk alongside the Calder and Hebble Navigation in the pleasant afternoon sunshine.

If you’re a keen watcher of my online weather station you may have noticed some disruption yesterday. In its wisdom Windows Firewall decided it didn't like me FTP’ing files. Briefly all the pictures and files on my weather web site are automatically uploaded to the web from my computer by a process called FTP or file transfer protocol. Not only did Windows decide it didn't want me to do this it also deleted the list of files that are uploaded to the web by this process. I think I've sorted out most of the files but I’m sure there’ll be some I've missed which will take me a little while to sort out. Fortunately this doesn't affect any of the actual weather data records.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Another Poor Day

Thursday was dull and cool almost a repeat of yesterday. Rain had been forecast from early afternoon but it didn't arrive until early evening with the heaviest of the rain reserved for over night into Friday morning.
As the weather wasn’t too good I decided to use our recently harvested quinces to make an apple and quince compote. I’d forgotten just how awkward quinces are to prepare. Although I’ve read that they can be difficult to peel I don’t have a problem with that it’s removing the core that causes me a problem.  
It’s just like preparing an apple until it comes to removing the core. Removing the core is easy with an apple but very difficult with a quince. Once peeled and quartered it has all the appearance of an apple until that point.  The outer casing to the core is hard so it’s like trying to remove the stone from an unripe peach or nectarine. I find it easiest to cut the flesh away from the core.
This might seem like a lot of effort for what seems to be an unloved and difficult to obtain fruit but having eaten quince for the first time last year it’s a wonderful tasty and aromatic fruit.
There’s more about our quinces on Sue’s blog.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Lots of Late Tomatoes

Wednesday wasn’t a very good day weather wise. It was cool and cloudy all day.

Our tomatoes have surprised us by ripening well in the greenhouse despite the chilly weather of late. It’s resulted in us having lots of late tomatoes to use. As Wednesday wasn’t too brilliant outside I decided to make some more tomato chutney and even had some tomatoes left to convert into a sauce to be frozen and used through the winter months.
This is a real bonus as I thought at one stage we would be lucky to get any tomatoes at all let alone having enough to make chutney with unless of course it was green tomato chutney.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Second Cropping Plum Tree!

After yesterday’s misty gloomy day it was bright sunshine for most of Tuesday. Once again though it was cold overnight with the temperature falling to 2.4°C.
We made an afternoon visit to the plot to do some more tidying up. It was a lovely afternoon feeling warm in the sunshine. We’d done our bit of tidying, digging up the sweet corn stems and clearing away the runner bean wigwams. We’d enjoyed a coffee with a plot neighbour and harvested one or two bits and pieces detailed here. Then when I was barrowing the last of the weeds to the weed compost heap and passing our Victoria Plum tree I noticed some ripe fruits.
This was rather strange as we finished picking our Victoria plums several weeks ago. Now I can remember that when the tree was in fruit it produced a few flowers. I thought it was odd at the time for the tree to be well into fruit and have new flowers too. Like everything else this year I put it down to the weather. Obviously these late flowers have gone on to produce an extremely late but very welcome second crop of plums. Certainly none of our trees, to the best of my knowledge, has ever done this before.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

A Little Bit of Sunshine - Eventually

Monday started off dull, misty and cold. Whilst we probably just avoided a frost with an overnight low of 3.7°C it was pretty cold all morning. The mist hung on into the afternoon.
So October is carrying on where September left off with some cool weather for early autumn. As it wasn’t too pleasant outside I decided to update my records for autumn 2012 and see how it compared with past seasons. At the moment if we consider September, October and November as the three autumn months 2012 is certainly on the cold side.
The table above shows the warmest, coldest, and expected autumn temperatures for the 09 October for each individual record. It’s easy to see that we’re much nearer the temperatures for the coldest autumn in 50 years than we are to last year’s average or indeed the expected average. The temperature in the table is the average daily temperature for the 39 days between 01 September and 09 October for each autumn season. Could we be in for a strange October in which the temperature increases as we head through the month towards winter rather than falling as expected?

Monday, 8 October 2012

Sunny and Cold

Sunday was a lovely sunny day and for a few hours in the afternoon the temperature wasn’t too bad. The first week of October has been generally cold for us and the forecast doesn’t show any improvement with the temperature hardly expected to reach double figures in the next week. This start to the month puts us close to the coldest daily average temperature for October in 100 years which was in 1919.
Last year at this time we were still enjoying that very mild ending to September and first week or so of October. No such luck this year. Do hope this isn’t an omen of the winter to come.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Making a Late Show

Saturday didn’t live up to the forecast. It was a mixture of sunny spells but with some very dark ominous clouds around for much of the day although in the end we didn’t have any rain. It was cold overnight into Sunday with the temperature falling to 3.7°C.

Despite the cool start to October we’ve still some flowers in the garden refusing to accept that autumn has well and truly arrived and are still putting on a display worthy of summer.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Very Sour Cranberries

There was some overnight rain amounting to 3.8mm with it remaining dry for the rest of the day. It wasn’t too pleasant a day as there were plenty of clouds about and it was pretty cool. The wind was strong to gale force in the afternoon.
Yesterday’s harvest from the plot included a few cranberries.
This little lot weighed in at 181 gms. I decided to convert them into a compote to use with some yogurt but I wasn’t too sure about how much sugar to add. I reckon for fruit that might be considered a bit on the sour side half the fruit’s weight in sugar is usually plenty adding considerable less for sweeter fruits.
After adding the sugar the cranberries were warmed steadily to allow the sugar to dissolve and the berries to soften as they were fairly solid when picked. Once they had cooled a little I had a little taster and it was difficult to imagine any sugar had been added at all. They were still really tart so I decided to go for jam making levels of sugar adding half the weight of the fruit again. The berries were warmed again just to dissolve the and the taste test repeated. They tasted better but I’m sort of glad we haven’t lots of berries to use up. Perhaps we picked them a little too early?

Friday, 5 October 2012

Autumn Update On Green Manure

Plenty of sunshine again on Thursday but there were some hefty showers about in the afternoon one of which we were treated to down on the plot.
I thought it might be a good time to report on the progress of my experimental green manure crops. As I mentioned on yesterday’s blog I haven’t managed to get any red clover to germinate in three separate sowing through summer. On the other hand winter tares and phacelia have been much more successful.
I sowed my first bed of winter tares on 25 July once our early potatoes had been lifted. It had germinated by the 13 August although it didn’t appear as thick as I imagined it would be when I sowed the seeds. I was in two minds whether to sow some extra seed amongst the emerging shoots but in the end decided against. I assumed as I’d followed the sowing density on the packet I ought to see what would happen.
By the end of August the winter tares were starting to thicken up but it still looked a little bit sparse to me. I was a little bit surprised that it wasn’t getting much competition from germinating weed seeds but that seemed to be the case.
Now by early October it’s filled out well and I can see that I would just have wasted seed had I scattered extra in late August to make up for what looked like rather poor germination.
It will be interesting to see how this over winters. As this green manure is a nitrogen fixer this bed will be planted up with brassicas next season to make best use of this. This may fit in nicely with my four yearly crop rotation system on this part of the plot. Winter tares should be dug in before flowering but I’ll just have to leave some to see what the flowers are like to satisfy my curiosity.  

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Preparing for Winter Onions

Wednesday was a pleasant enough day so I thought I’d better prepare a bed on the plot for our winter onions. The original plan was to have a green manure crop to dig in prior to planted our onion sets but the red clover failed to germinate.
My first job was to strim the grass around the bed. The grass hasn’t stopped growing all summer due to the wet weather. The ground was still wet from last week’s rain so digging over the soil was out of the question. Perhaps it was just as well the clover hadn’t germinated.
The wheelbarrow was still half full of water from last week’s wet weather. As the bed couldn’t be dug over I decided to remove the largest weeds and to then see if I could use the cultivator to loosen up the top couple of inches of the soil enough to allow the onions to be pushed in.
This worked quite well. After a couple of passes with the cultivator the soil didn’t look too bad. I sprinkled on fish, blood and bone fertiliser and then used the cultivator again to work this into the surface of the soil.
We originally planned to re-use the weed suppressant fabric used for our carrots for this bed of onions but unfortunately it just wasn’t anywhere near big enough. I had one last length of membrane left and decided to use that on this bed. After all these onions will be planted in October and remain in the ground until June or even July next year. That means lots of weeding would be needed for this crop.
It was a little bit too breezy for laying the membrane down but a few well placed bricks helped the job along. The long edges are held down by soil. We still have to decide the best way of cutting the fabric to plant our onions  but we don’t need to make a decision until our sets arrive.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

A Red Tomato Glut

Tuesday wasn’t a brilliant day by any means. Whilst we didn’t actually have much rain it seemed wet all day and it didn’t seem like a day for visiting the plot. As you can see no serious rain but well spread throughout the day.
Believe it or not after all our problems of waiting weeks for our tomatoes to ripen they’ve all decided to turn together so we’ve a mini glut. I decided it would be an afternoon in the kitchen and set about to make some tomato chutney, red tomato chutney. I decided to use the recipe from the BBC Good Food Guide. I stuck to the recipe as near as possible. My onion was a little too large but it all went into the pot.
Now it doesn’t look anything like as good as it tastes. Perhaps it will look more appetising once it’s put into some jars. However it has been taste tested and passed with flying colours. I’ve still some tomatoes left so I might have to make some tomato sauce too. I don’t think I’m going to have to bother with green tomato chutney with the pace that our tomatoes are turning at the moment.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

First Sweet Corn

Monday started off a sunny autumnal day but clouded over and drizzled late morning and into the early afternoon before clearing up to become dry and sunny as the day had begun.

We were just about out of fresh vegetables so a trip down to the plot was needed. It was drizzling a little when I set off. Besides needing some vegetables it was my first visit since last week’s heavy rain so I was interested to see how our crops had managed.

I was pleasantly surprised as we had lots of raspberries ready for picking. I’d assumed these would be damaged by the heavy rain but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Both our red "Joan J" and yellow "All Gold" had plenty of large undamaged berries a bonus at this time of year especially after the bad weather of last week. "All Gold" obviously got the message that it was heading for the compost heap if it didn’t get its act together. I think it’s earned a reprieve.
I picked our first two cobs of sweet corn for the season. When picked the cobs looked OK but would we have lots of sweet corn kernels inside.
I decided it was about time to see if our carrots "Flakkee" had performed as well as "Early Nantes". I lifted about a fork’s width and a bit. The soil was wet, claggy and sticking to the carrots so although it goes against my better judgement I gave them a quick wash under the tap to see if the carrots were nibbled or damaged by carrot root fly.
Satisfied that they were in good condition after their quick wash I gave some beetroot a quick rinse too as that came up caked in soil. It’s much easier to remove the worst of the soil under the tap at the allotment than in the kitchen sink.
We had the sweet corn for dinner and it was delicious. One cob had been very well pollinated and one not so well but if all our cobs are as good as these at least we will have some sort of harvest from the plants this year.