Thursday, 31 March 2016

Early April ?

The last couple of days have been rather mixed with a few sunny spells but lots of cloudier conditions. We certainly missed the worst of storm Katie just getting some heavy rain but without any gale force winds. We've had some heavy showers since then bringing our rainfall for March up to 78.6mm by early on Wednesday morning. That's made it by far the wettest March of the last few years for Ossett.
The plot may will be in need of a few good drying days before we get round to planting any potatoes and maybe our first couple of rows of peas.

This little patch of cyclamen have been in flower since late February and are still going strong.
It was bought one year ago on a visit to RHS Harlow Carr.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Drying Out Well but Not Anymore!

After a superb Good Friday the weather behaved as forecast and the remainder of the holiday turned out to be pretty poor weather wise. Saturday and Sunday both seemed to be days waiting for the rain to arrive. On Saturday it was cloudy all day with rain in the air for most of the day but we didn’t get much heavy rain until around teatime. Sunday was sunnier but a blustery day with the treat of heavy showers through the day but once again they held off until the middle of the afternoon.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 26-28 March 2016
The heaviest of the rain was reserved for the early hours of Easter Monday with 15.4mm (0.61") by mid morning.

The plot had been drying out nicely after a wet start to March but after the last few days it’s probably back to square one and a few days of decent weather are required to dry the ground out ready for digging and planting.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Teasing Us!

Thursday continued the spell of dull and cloudy weather but Good Friday was the best day of the year so far. The temperature reached 15.3°C in the afternoon. With plenty of sunshine and a gentle breeze it was very pleasant. However, the forecast for the weekend is for unsettled weather with outbreaks of rain which means Good Friday’s weather was only a teaser to let us know how nice it can be in March.
Temperature and Sunshine Records 23-25 March 2016
The good weather on Friday allowed us to make a start on tidying up the plot and get some ground ready for planting our first crops in the next few weeks.
The first task was to get all our grass paths strimmed. At least with that done the plot looks a bit more cared for. I didn’t get all the bed edges trimmed as I forgot to take the edging tool down to the plot. These two beds might need digging over before planting. The top bed will be planted up with our early brassicas which, at the moment, are growing on in modules in the home greenhouse. The bed in the foreground is for our early potatoes.

I also managed to finish cutting down of our large conifer tree.

It’s made a large amount of debris though but much of it will be reused on the plot. It made three large trunks which are a bit like mini telegraph poles with kinks in them. Lots of the smaller side branches will make pea sticks leaving just green leaves to be left to rot down and use as a mulch on the blueberries.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Desirable One Bedroom Properties to Let

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were dull and cloudy continuing the current spell of dry weather. The temperature reached about expected for mid to late March but without the sunshine it didn’t feel very spring like.

At least on Tuesday I got our bird boxes cleaned out and ready for any new occupants this year.
Last year we had a pretty poor occupancy rate for our nest boxes. In total we have 2 sparrow terraces, like the one above, with apartments for 3 pairs of birds in each terrace. Then we have 2 single nest boxes with cameras. One is set up as a robin or possible blackbird box as it has the front removed.
This is our main box with a wired camera but so far over the couple of years we’ve had it it’s had no takers. Last year a couple of great tits deserted the box after a few weeks of spending nights roosting inside.
This was the only nest I found which was either made by a blue tit or great tit which had been built in the far end terrace of one of our sparrow boxes.

Of course, the birds don’t always make use of the properties we make available for them. Last year we had a robin which nested somewhere to the back of our garage possibly making a nest in a camellia bush. A blackbird made a nest up in the courtyard garden in the ivy which grows on the fence.
I’m not sure whether I should have removed this old nest or not. I’ve left it in place incase someone fancies a renovation job. It would be good to get one of our camera boxes occupied this year.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Up and Running

The weather continues to be a bit hit and miss as far as sunshine goes. Saturday remained dull and cloudy all day whereas on Sunday we had a decent amount of sunshine.

I harvested a few salad leaves (mizuna) for our Sunday lunchtime sandwich. These were sown at the beginning of October last year and have made it through winter to produce a few early leaves for picking now.
I’m not sure of the other leaves mixed in with the mizuna.

As I was picking the leaves I noticed that the first few seeds sown last week were just popping through. Guess what- it's mizuna. These are our first seeds to germinate this spring.
At least we seem to be making a start to the new season.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Brilliant Then Naff

Thursday was a lovely March day with lots of sunshine, a gentle breeze, and feeling pleasantly mild as the temperature reached 12.9°C (55.2°F). Friday, on the other hand, was dull and cold with the temperature only managing 7.4°C (45.3°F). 
Temperature and Sunshine Records for 17 March to 19 March 2016
As Thursday was such a nice day we set about rearranging our cold frames in the courtyard garden. It didn’t prove to be as tricky as I thought it might be and the frames weren’t too heavy for the two of us to manoeuvre into their new positions. 
It’s certainly given us a little bit more space between the cold frames which we intend to use for pots of herbs. As it was such a lovely afternoon I couldn’t resist any longer and sowed some radishes, spring onions and salad leaves in our newly positioned raised beds.
Friday wasn’t the sort of day to encourage us out into the garden. However, as our early brassica collection of plants arrived, in the lunchtime post, from Marshalls Seeds I thought I’d better get them out of their packaging straight away.
We’ve ordered this collection for a couple of years now and I’ve never really been impressed by the quality of the plants when they arrive. But I’ve found with a bit of tlc the plants pick up to produce excellent plants for transplanting into the allotment in a few weeks time. They will almost certainly produce our first real crop of the new season.
Last Year’s Cauliflower Plants Mayflower on Arrival and after Some tlc.
So this year’s plants are now transplanted into modules and will be left in the greenhouse for a week or so before being moved to the cold frame to be hardened off ready for planting in the plot towards the end of April.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

The Equilux

I must admit I didn’t know there was such a thing but by all accounts today is the equilux. It means the hours of darkness and daylight are equal on that day.

The last couple of days haven’t been too bad. Nice in the sunshine, if it’s out, and sheltered from the breeze but rather cool otherwise. With high pressure dominating the weather continues to be rain free.
This is my chart of March temperatures over the last few years. Whilst this year is a bit on the cool side it’s nothing like that ridiculously cold March of 2013 when we had snow and bitterly cold days.
23 March 2013

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Some Weather Stuff for a Change

Monday turned out to be another lovely March day with dawn to dusk sunshine. The forecast is for the weather to continue much the same all the way through to the beginning of next week, but with varying amounts of cloud.

Although it’s been sunny and felt very spring like in the sunshine, the actual temperature hasn’t been all that high. The warmest day of the month so far was Saturday 12 March when it reached 13.3°C (55.9°F). Strangely the record for the mildest day of the year so far, is held by 24 January 2016 with 14.7°C (58.5°F).
March so far has been fairly cool as recent previous March records show with only 2013 having a lower average temperature. Hopefully a decent end to the month will see the average temperature rise up a little towards the monthly average.
It’s also worth noting that the averages temperatures for December and January were higher than that for March to date and there’s very little difference between February and March. Seems like a mild winter followed by a cold start to spring.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Heavy Lifting Day

Sunday was a rather nice March day. Whilst it wasn’t particularly warm, with little or no breeze and some sunshine it felt very pleasant.

Sunday’s jobs were to get some onion sets and shallots into modules to get them off to a good start. Once these are growing well they will be transplanted into the plot. There is no way we could prepare some ground for them on the allotment. It just far too wet and soggy. So they have the luxury of a few weeks in the greenhouse and coldframe before moving down to the plot.
In spring 2014, we added a couple of coldframes and a raised bed in an unused area behind our home greenhouse. This area had become a dumping ground and we thought we could make much better use of it. Unfortunately, we didn’t get either the raised bed nor coldframes in the positions we really wanted them in. It was all a bit rushed so that we could make use of them.
Now was a good time to do some moving.
I started by emptying out lots of the soil into plastic bags. Once I’d removed a bit more than half the soil I optimistically decided to see if the raised bed would move. It wouldn’t so I decided the only option was to empty out all the remaining soil. Once this was done it was possible to gradually move the bed into our preferred position by using a pick axe under one edge. After lots of pushing and shoving we eventually moved it into its new location. 
The bed was filled back up with soil and is now ready for its first sowings of the year.

All that remains now is for our two coldframes to be repositioned before we need to start hardening off our plants.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

A Day Out and a Bit of Pruning

We had a day out in Lancashire on Friday visiting the East Lancashire Railway’s spring steam gala. It was misty and murky travelling over the Pennines but the mist disappeared and the sun came out making it feel like spring had actually arrived. 
Saturday morning wasn’t too bad either and we decided on an afternoon at the allotment. I’ve been planning for some time now to cut down a conifer tree that has been growing on the plot for almost as long as we’ve had an allotment. 
You can just see it to the right of this photo taken a couple of years ago. There’s nothing wrong with the tree except that it shades three beds and it’s starting to affect how our crops grow in these beds. Sad as it is I decided it was time to fell it. It didn’t take me as long as I expected. It had produced three main trunks from the base rather than one really thick one.
All I’ve got to do now is tidy up the mess. I think that’s going to take me much longer than it did to cut down the tree. I’ll have to remove the side branches from the main trunks before I even consider trying to move the tree trunks due to the weight of them.
I was pleased that I managed to get the trunks to fall in the right directions and avoid demolishing either our shed or our kiwi fedge. 

I did have time to dig up a few parsnips as well and the ground was very wet. Trying to dig it in its current state will do more harm than good so it will be left for a couple of weeks until it dries out a bit. We’ve plenty of other tidying up jobs to be getting on with!

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Doing It As the Experts Suggest

At least it didn’t rain on Thursday although it was dull and cold for most of the day. The clouds did lift a little bit very late in the afternoon to reveal some small patches of blue sky.

Last autumn we watched the expert TV gardeners’ planting up large display pots with plants that will look good through winter planted in the top with layers of bulbs underneath to give spring colour over several weeks. We decided to gibe this a go.
Our display has been standing on the patio all winter and it’s looked pretty good but now we have a problem.
The spring bulbs under one of the heathers have started to grow and have pushed the heather completely out of the soil. I don’t remember the TV gardeners saying that this would happen. I’m planning on trying to replant the heather carefully, and hopefully avoiding any damage to the heather or bulbs that have uprooted it.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Too Cold and Wet for Digging

Wednesday was another very wet day with rain from first thing all the way through to teatime. Another 14.0mm of rain added to the first eight days of the month bring the total for March 2016 up to 55.2mm. That’s the wettest March in the last seven years. The previous highest March total I’ve recorded was 53.8mm in 2015.
Apart from the first day of the month it’s been on the cold side too with a couple of overnight frosts thrown in for good measure.

Photography has been confined to indoors.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Indoor Jobs

We’ve been busy inside over the last few days. We decided on a new carpet for the lounge, dining room and study. Once the carpet had arrived and was ready to be fitted we had the job of moving as much downstairs furniture as we could so the carpet fitter could move in. At first, everything was very ordered but by the time we’d finished moving stuff the whole of the house was in chaos. Computers unplugged and turned off. How would we remember where all those different cables plugged in?
This was my infallible method take some photos and everything would be fine. Turned out it wasn’t that infallible. The carpets are now fitted and the house is gradually returning to normal as stuff’s moved back to where it belongs.

Outside the weather’s not been too bad, in fact, Monday was a lovely sunny day even if it was a little on the cold side. It was lovely to see some sunshine. Our palm tree looked quite tropical in the bright sunshine.
Now if only it would stay dry we might be able to get on with some gardening.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Just a Test

I'm trying to write a post on my iPad and include some pictures that are stored in Picasa web albums.
So I've added my sparrowhawk photo as an experiment.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Was It the Warmest Winter on Record?

I’m guessing it depends on where you live and exactly which records you use as a comparison. If you’ve read any of my blog posts you will know that I like to use the Met Office Central England Temperature Records for comparison purposes.

The Met Office description of this record is given below:
Hadley Centre Central England Temperature (HadCET) dataset  
The CET dataset is the longest instrumental record of temperature in the world. The mean, minimum and maximum datasets are updated monthly, with data for a month usually available by the 3rd of the next month. A provisional CET value for the current month is calculated on a daily basis. The mean daily data series begins in 1772 and the mean monthly data in 1659. Mean maximum and minimum daily and monthly data are also available, beginning in 1878. 
Brief description of the data 
These daily and monthly temperatures are representative of a roughly triangular area of the United Kingdom enclosed by Lancashire, London and Bristol. The monthly series, which begins in 1659, is the longest available instrumental record of temperature in the world. The daily mean-temperature series begins in 1772. Manley (1953, 1974) compiled most of the monthly series, covering 1659 to 1973. These data were updated to 1991 by Parker et al (1992), who also calculated the daily series. Both series are now kept up to date by the Climate Data Monitoring section of the Hadley Centre, Met Office. Since 1974 the data have been adjusted to allow for urban warming: currently a correction of -0.2 °C is applied to mean temperatures.

So I thought I’d look to see where last winter comprising December, January and February come in this temperature series. I’ve placed the coldest winters and mildest winters in the table below.

This covers the last 357 years with the coldest winters in the left hand column and mildest winters in the right hand column. Looking at the bottom of the right hand column this shows that the winter of 1869 was milder than 2016 pushing last winter into second place. Working out the same average for last winter using Ossett temperatures gives an average of 6.7°C.

So it was close but it wasn’t the mildest winter “ever” based on this record.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Snow, Rain and a Sparrowhawk

We had a bit of a covering of snow on Friday morning and it kept on falling until the middle of the morning when it turned to rain. Then the rain carried on for the remainder of the day.
It was probably just as well it fell as rain as by the end of the day we’d had 27.6mm (1.09”) moving it into sixth place in my wettest days since 2009 chart.
The rain washed any remnants of the slushy snow by late afternoon. In the first four days of March, we’ve had a total of 40.0mm (1.57”) of rain which is almost as much as we’d expect in the whole of the month. It’s not going to do much to help our allotment dry out ready for spring planting. Here’s hoping the rest of the month will be drier.

We did spot a male sparrowhawk in the garden. It was obviously looking for a meal from amongst the smaller birds on the feeders in our magnolia tree. As far as I could tell it didn’t have any luck. 
It perched in the tree for a few moments with its head hidden behind a branch making getting a decent photo a bit tricky. It didn’t help that I was messing about with my camera trying to set it up to do slow motion video as the sparrowhawk flew in. It did have one quick look down to see what I was doing before it was on its way again looking for lunch.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Turns Out They Were Right

The cool start March has continued with both Wednesday and Thursday turning out cold and windy. We’ve missed out on any further frosts but only just. The last week of February was dry and I was beginning to think that the allotment would at least be drying out a little bit ready for a bit of digging. We’ve had some rain on each of the first three days of March so I’ve put that thought to the back of my mind. 
Friday morning has brought some more wet snow and more snow and rain is forecast throughout the day. I’m guessing the allotment won’t be drying out all that well!

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Spring Has Sprung?

Spring has sprung or has it? I know proper spring doesn’t start for a few weeks yet but Tuesday has got March off to a bit of a milder day than we’ve had recently. We’ve had a little rain, not much, only enough to wet everywhere and there’s been a bit of a breeze. 
The forecast isn’t very inspiring though. The possibility of snow showers and below freezing temperatures at night is not what I want to see in a spring forecast. After a mild winter it’s turned colder as a gardener’s thoughts turn to seed sowing.
The forecasts have been wrong before so I’m hoping they’ll be wrong again!