Monday, 27 February 2017

Behind Already?

Sunday finished up not being too bad a day. The trouble was that even though we had some sunny spells there were very dark clouds about threatening a downpour. The dry weather won out and we didn't have any more than a few spots of rain through the daylight hours. It was another very mild and breezy day.
Temperature, Solar Radiation and Rainfall Records for 26 February 2017
If you're not sure of planting dates for your crops in the UK, I came across a link to this web site that may be of some use to you. It's called

If you are in the UK there are option to select which varieties of fruit and vegetables you are growing and also where you are growing them. Once you've done this you can produce a month by month listing broken down into weeks of what you should be sowing, planting out, harvesting and pruning.
Planting, Pruning, Sowing, Planting and Harvesting Tasks for Wakefield West Yorkshire
I've had a look through the timings for Wakefield, based on my typical dates for the tasks, and they seem reasonably close and certainly act as a reminder of what jobs need doing at any time of the year.

I really need to get our leeks sown. Perhaps as a result of sowing a bit later over the last few years our leeks have been a bit on the small side. I think the other tasks are all in hand as I prepared our early brassica bed last week and our early cauliflowers will arrive as plug plants next month.

I must admit it might be a few weeks before I get round to preparing our autumn cauliflower bed. For one thing I haven't got as far as working out which bed it will be under my crop rotation system.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Allotment Progress

Despite the wet and windy weather we did make some progress on the allotment last week. Mostly it was a case of getting a few tidying up jobs done that if we don't do  now will be left for another year once the main growing season gets under way. We did get our early brassica bed ready for planting and one of our strawberry beds was tidied up too. Progress is shown in the video below.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Frost Free February?

It is just possible that we might get a frost free February.  More accurately I should say a February without the temperature falling below 0°C or 32°F. It will be the first time this has happened in my seven years of weather recording.
Temperature & Rainfall for February 2017
Like December and January, it's also been another dryish month. The drier winter weather has allowed us to get some winter digging done on the allotment but the recent rainfall has left some of the soil on the wet and claggy side.
It doesn't help that, in this bed, stiff clay is less than a spit deep and that prevents water draining away.
I've still to decide whether to cover the bed with weed control fabric. There are lots roots left in the soil which are impossible to remove in the soil's present claggy, clayey condition. I don’t want the lumps of soil to completely dry out as,  with the amount of clay in the soil, they'll resemble bricks. Covered in weed control fabric the ground will dry out more slowly which will hopefully give us chance to break down the clods of soil and remove as many of the roots as possible.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Missed Us

Storm Doris came and went and we certainly missed the worst of the storm. Luckily for us the worst of the storm passed to the south of us.
Temperature, Rainfall & High Wind Speed Records 21-23 February 2017
We didn't escape without any gale force winds though and the rainfall from Wednesday night and Thursday amounted to 12.2mm or 0.48ins. Thursday's rainfall of 9.4mm (0.37ins) made it our wettest day of the year. You can see from the table below that we've had four very windy days in a row.
Based on average wind speed and gust speed both Monday 20th and Wednesday 22nd were worse than storm Doris.
If you have been following the saga of our bird feeding station I'm happy to say that it managed to remain upright through storm Doris.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Preparing For Storm Doris

We're waiting for "Doris" to arrive over the next few hours on Thursday. We've already had some gale force winds this week which for the second time in a couple of days toppled our bird feeding station.
Normally the tops of the bird feeder come off as they hit the ground casting seed over the garden. I'm not sure how that large stone block is moved over a metre or 3 feet as the station topples over. To see if I can stop "Doris" from blowing it over I've added a piece of old paving slab onto the base of the station for a little extra ballast.
Over to you "Doris".

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Started Chitting Main Crop Potatoes

The month began with average or slightly below average temperature but for the last week or more it's been very mild for late February. Our main crop seed potatoes went into the garage in a paper sack to keep them in the cold and dark to stop them sprouting. Obviously in recent days the cold bit hasn't been appropriate so I thought I'd better check them over. It was a good job I did as they were nearly all starting to sprout.
Left in the dark in the garage these shoots would get long and leggy as the new shoot searches for light. So the condition of the potatoes made up my mind for me. They need to be placed in good light to produce good strong healthy shoots instead of weak and straggly ones.
All our potatoes have been moved from the garage into the greenhouse. They've got a couple of layers of fleece to give them a bit of frost protection. I'm sure now I've moved them into the greenhouse we'll get some cold and frosty nights.
I did check out our special individual potato tubers which have been kept in the summerhouse since we bought them.
These too have started to sprout but as they have been kept in better light the shoots are green rather than white. I'm not intending to plant out any of our seed potatoes until the middle of April at the earliest. We do have a few extra Casablanca first early tubers that won't be needed to plant up our first early bed of potatoes so I might plant up a couple of potato sacks to see if I can get a very early crop of tasty new potatoes.

We got a taster through Tuesday night into Wednesday morning of what is to come. It was wet and windy through the night although the gale force winds have abated a little bit on Wednesday morning.
Temperature, Rainfall & High Wind Speed Records 20-22 February 2017
If the weather models and forecasters are correct storm "Doris" looks like it will produce the worst storm of the winter arriving on Thursday morning and lasting into the afternoon.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Planning For Early Planting

As widely forecast Monday became our mildest day of the year so far as the temperature reached 14.2°C or 57.6F.
Temperature (red), Wind Chill (blue) and High Wind Speed (purple) Records for 20 February 2017
However, it's best not to judge a day by temperature alone. As the temperature hit the high spot so did the wind speed as gale force winds toppled the bird feeding station. I'll have to find some heavier pieces of stone to stop it from blowing over.
As you can see from the wind chill line it felt a couple of degrees colder than it actually was. Add into the mix that it was a dull day with spells of light drizzle at times then it wasn't a gardening sort of a day.

I did start working out where our early crops will be going in one of our allotments. This particular plot contains our refurbished rose bed and has four small beds which are rotated annually with potatoes, brassicas, peas and onions. The remainder of the plot is taken up with soft fruit, apple and pear trees together with our greenhouse and shed. It's usually the first plot to be fully planted up.
This is how it looked on Sunday. On three of the beds we use weed control fabric. Only our early potatoes will be planted without the fabric. These will be first earlies Casablanca and I find them much easier to harvest if they are planted in a more conventional manner. The weed control fabric gets rotated along with its associated crop. The fabric is still in place from last year crops and the first job will be to move the three pieces in a clockwise direction as viewed on the photograph. The brassica bed had three barrowfulls of compost added to it on Sunday. I'm planning to add some fish, blood and bone fertiliser followed by some lime before lightly forking over the bed. I don't want to dig the bed over as brassicas prefer to be planted in firmer soil.

I've plenty of compost left so I'm planning to add some to each of the three other beds when I rotate the fabric.
My plan is to start rotating and preparing these four beds on our next visit to the plot providing the weather doesn't spoil my plans. It is still winter after all.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Free Refurbishment Time On The Allotment

We took advantage of a mild weekend to get some more sorting out done on the allotment. I think that anything we get done now is a bonus. It's a sort of free time to get work done as there are no other jobs that need to take priority such as planting and harvesting. Our rose bed refurbishment was completed and Sue has started to clear an old rhubarb bed. Refurbishment of an area cleared of a large conifer tree last year continues and we plan a little wildlife area near the greenhouse.

The video that follows shows the progress we made over the weekend.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Smoke and Snowdrops

Saturday became our new mildest day of the year as the thermometer hit 13.3°C or 55.9°F.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 16-18 February 2017
We are in a mild spell of weather for February. After our cold, wet and windy day out on Thursday, we felt we'd have Friday out too to see if our luck would change. We decided to visit Hodsock Priory in Nottinghamshire where they open their garden especially for the snowdrop season.  We set of in drizzly rain which as we headed south turned into heavier showers. By the time we arrived at Hodsock Priory we had left the rain behind.
Hodsock Priory, Blyth, Nottinghamshire
We arrived a little before lunch. We'd planned for the possibility of having to visit a few other venues as, being our first visit to the gardens, we didn't know what to expect. We decided on a quick tour of the more formal gardens before lunch.
Lunches were served in what reminded me of the Bake Off tent.
We had a look inside the marquee on a couple of occasions and it looked busy. We decided to have a walk into the oak woodland area and return for some lunch a little bit later. However, a few minutes later, located in a clearing, in the woodland we came across the woodland cafe.
This was complete with outdoor picnic tables and an open log fire. Here we ordered a couple of sausage butties and drinks before setting off to explore the snowdrops in the woodland.
There certainly are thousands of snowdrop throughout the oak woodland.  After a walk through all the woodland snowdrops we returned to the more formal garden area for a better look around. There's plenty of other early flowering bulbs and plants on show besides snowdrops.
We needn't have planned any other visits as we spent the rest of the afternoon looking round the gardens.

Friday, 17 February 2017

When It Doesn't Go According To Plan!

Thursday became our warmest day of the year as the temperature reached 11.8°C  (53.2°F) taking over from the previous highest of 11.6°C or 52.9°F.
The weather forecasters suggested it would be warmer as we approached the end of the week and taking them at their word we decided on a day out on Thursday. We planned a day out in the Yorkshire Dales. The day was to include some video of steam locomotive 60163 hauling a scheduled passenger service on the main line between Skipton and Appleby. It's the first time for 50 years that a steam train has hauled a scheduled service on the main line. I'd planned to get some video of the train crossing Dent Head Viaduct. After lunch we planned a visit to Fountains Abbey to see some snowdrops in flower.

The weather in the Dales wasn't brilliant. Cold wet and windy sums it up. Dent Head Viaduct is high up in the Dales and the clouds were skimming the tops.
We arrived at Dent Head Viaduct in the teeth of a gale. I decided to set up the camera and tripod and leave it running to film the train crossing the viaduct. I didn't realise that for some reason the camera stopped recording before the train arrived. So all I had was some footage of a trainless viaduct very much like the photo below.
Sue decided on a much more sensible option and took some photos from the relative comfort of the car through an open window.
You'll notice to add insult to injury a smokeless steam train crossed over the viaduct. At least we had something to show for our visit to Dent Head. After lunch at Wensleydale Creamery we headed for Fountains Abbey. When we pulled into the car park it was still blowing a gale and raining. We thought it wasn't the best weather to be trying to take photos of snowdrops and headed for home.

We'll try a visit elsewhere to see some snowdrops over the next few days but steam trains on the Settle and Carlisle line will have to be put on hold until the line is fully re-opened at the end of March following its closure due a landslip early in 2016.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Some Welcome Sunshine

Monday started off cold and dull not unlike the previous few days. At the very least the drizzle had disappeared. I'd almost decided not to do a blog post for today as there was nothing more to say about our dull, gloomy weather. I'd no more photos or video to add to blog posts either. Then for a couple of hours around the middle of the day the clouds broke up and the sun came out. Brilliant!
Temperature, Wind Chill & Solar Radiation Records for 13-02-2016
It was time to grab a camera and get a few photos. Our snowdrops have been in a sort of a limbo for a week now. They're almost in flower but seemingly waiting for the weather to improve before they put on a proper show.
We've some crocus that will soon be in flower too.
All too soon the clouds rolled in again but it has given us some hope that the weather is changing for the better. Who knows we may even get down to the allotment this week.

Monday, 13 February 2017

More Gloom

Sunday was another cold and gloomy day. The highest temperature on Saturday and Sunday was exactly the same 3.6°C (38.5°F) with equal amounts of sunshine on both days, zero hours. There was a cold easterly wind blowing making it feel even colder than the temperature suggested.
Temperature, Wind Chill and Rainfall Records for 12 February 2017
The rainfall amounted to 4.0mm (0.16in) which isn't much considering it seemed to drizzle all day long.
The view of the window or through the window wasn't very cheery.
If the forecast is correct we're in for another gloomy day on Monday but through the rest of the week the weather should become milder and brighter.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Too Harsh?

The weather has been dull and cold over the last few days. So far the snow showers that were forecast haven't arrived but having said that it hasn't rained much at all. It's been drizzly with a little bit of sleety stuff mixed in at times. A little bit of brightness wouldn't go amiss after what seems to have been a week of cold and gloomy days.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 10-12 February 2017
The wind chill effect has made it feel especially cold. We certainly haven't considered visiting the allotment, choosing to wait for an improvement in the weather.

I saw an article in the gardening press this week about not pruning too harshly. Like all good articles it comes a little bit too late but I'm not sure that I would do anything differently having read the story. On the plot in the perennial bed that we are currently refurbishing we have two Sambucus nigra  "Black Lace" bushes or more commonly called black elder. Through summer these two bushes put on a brilliant display with their colourful foliage, pink flowers and finally trusses of elder berries.
Sambucus nigra  "Black Lace"
They get lots of comments about how impressive they look through the summer and a few shoots have been nipped off for other plotters to have a go at raising their own plants. However there comes a time when they get too big and somewhat out of control. Their sheer size means they cast too much shade onto the adjacent beds resulting in poor performing crops. Every year they get a light prune but they quickly grow back seemingly even bigger unless I take some drastic action every few years.
In the winter months they don't look too bad and it's difficult to image just how much shade they cast. As we are refurbishing their bed I decided this year would be as good a time as any to give them a severe pruning. First of all the straightish stems were cut out and will be used as pea sticks.
Then they were cut back almost to ground level.
Needless to say I'm not expecting them to flower this year. It will take them a year or so to recover but I'm sure that they will. In the meantime they won't be casting too much shade over the adjacent vegetable crops. There won't be any elderflower cordial from them this year but we do have a couple of wild elder bushes on the plot that will no doubt produce flowers and fruit.
The remaining sturdier stems were cut up and will be added to a bonfire to produce some wood ash once they have dried out. Below is a short video that we made when cutting back  our Sambucus nigra.

Friday, 10 February 2017

A Reminder It's Still Winter

After a few mild days and bulbs coming into flower it was all too easy to think spring might be here but Thursday was a reminder that it's still winter. Thursday turned out to be the coldest day of the month with the thermometer struggling to get much above freezing. Oddly for such a cold day it didn't actually fall below freezing.
Temperature Record for 09 February 2017
It was dull and cloudy all day without any hint of brightness with a high temperature of 2.8°C (37.0°F) and a low of 0.9°C or 33.6°F.

We didn't get any of the threatened snow showers through the day but overnight into Friday we had the merest hint of a few snowflakes around the garden.
Other plants were surrounded with something between snowflakes and ice. The forecast doesn't improve much over the next few days. Any precipitation on Friday and through the weekend could fall as either snow or rain. We'll soon find out.