Sunday, 30 April 2017

Catching Up A Bit

The cold spell of weather of last week is over as it's turned milder with temperatures nearer average for late April. It does mean that we have a bit of catching up to do gardening wise.

On the plot we've managed to sow our parsnips.
We used what has now become our standard method of sowing parsnips through slits cut in weed control fabric. Drills are hoed in the slits and filled with compost and the seeds sown two to a station in the compost. Another one of our Aalsmeer cauliflowers headed up and was cut. I checked the root and it didn't show any signs of club root. It's a variety I'll try growing again.
The improvement in the weather meant that we were able to start moving plants from the greenhouse into the cold frame to harden them off. Moving our new perennials took up all the remaining cold frame space.
Sue planted up our raised bed salad patch.
There's now a little bit of space in the greenhouse for some of our tomato seedlings which are growing indoors under our growlight.
These are Sungold seedlings sown on 10 April and they should really have been moved outside to the greenhouse and transplanted last week but I didn't see any point in doing that with outside temperatures falling to around freezing point each night.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Cold Spell Continues

There's not much gardening going on as the cold spell of weather continues. Plants are starting to get to the stage where they need to move on to the next stage whether that be from inside to the greenhouse, greenhouse to cold frame or cold frame to allotment. Parsnips and carrots seeds need sowing soon. I can't see much point in doing any of the above with daytime temperatures remaining below 10°C (50°F) and nightime temperatures down to almost freezing point.

In the greenhouse though it looks like our peach, apricot and nectarine trees have, so far, survived the cold nights with their fruitlets intact. We have tiny fruits developing on each of the trees.
Peach - "Avalon Pride"
Apricot - "Flavourcot"
Nectarine - "Fantasia"
Now if only the weather would improve our gardening season could restart.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Winter Returns!

It's the end of April and I should be reporting that yesterday was the warmest day of the year so far whereas in reality Tuesday (4.5°C or 40.1°F) was the coldest day we've had since the 28th February when the average daily temperature was 4.1°C or 39.4°F.
Temperature, Rainfall & Solar Radiation Records for 25 April 2017
The chart above doesn't really do the day justice. Our average high temperature should be about 15°C (59.0°F) in late April not the 8.7°C (47.7°F) it managed.
We had showers throughout the day which fell as a mixture of hail and sleet. In one particular sunny spell in the afternoon I was tempted out into the greenhouse to prick out some cabbage plant seedlings. The sunny spell didn't last very long.
The showers didn't last long and the day's rainfall won't have done anything to help water our dryish allotment. I did manage to transplant a tray of cabbages Lodero and Kalibro. I don't think they would appreciate the watering-in they got with icy cold water.
The forecast is for spring to return by the weekend.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Sunny But Cold

Well, the forecast turned out to be correct for Monday. The morning started off dull and cool with a few heavy showers about. Again we didn't have any great amount of rain and it certainly won't have had any effect on our now rather dry allotment. The rainfall for the day came to 0.8mm (0.03in) bringing our monthly total up to 7.8mm or 0.31in.
Temperature, Solar Radiation & Rainfall Records 23-25 April 2017
The forecast held out the promise of some afternoon sunshine which duly arrived but unfortunately, it was accompanied by a strong to gale force wind. 

I had thought I might transplant some of our seedlings in the greenhouse into modular cells but the gale force wind put me off. 
Instead I spent the afternoon editing Saturday's video taken at the North Norfolk Railway spring gala. I'll have to prick out the seedlings soon or they will grow very leggy.

Tuesday morning has started off sunny and cold with the overnight temperature falling to 0.2°C or 32.4°F. It's not what we want as the gardening season gets into full swing.

Monday, 24 April 2017

A Poor Forecast

Sunday was a lovely sunny day. 
It was a case of preparing us for what is forecast to be a few cold days of weather with northerly winds coming our way straight from the Arctic.
Graphic from
As you can see from the graphic above Tuesday night looks as though there could well be a widespread frost.

On the plot our early peas Onward and potatoes, planted at the beginning of April, have started to push through the soil. 
Peas - Onward
Potatoes - Casablanca
If we do have keen frost, they may wish they'd waited another week.

At home in our indoor growlight tomatoes, peppers and courgettes have germinated well, apart from a pepper called Snackbite, which is very reluctant to show any signs of life. 
Tomatoes - Sungold
Courgettes - Atena Polka & Defender
The seedlings are at the stage where they need potting on but, as that means transferring them from indoors into a cold greenhouse, I'm going to delay transplanting them for a few days. Hopefully, the cold weather forecast will be over and done with by the end of the week.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

A Break In Norfolk

We spent a couple of days away in Norfolk. Judging by my weather stations reading the weather might have been a little bit sunnier at home. Norfolk was cloudy and cool with a stiff sea breeze blowing at times.
Welney Wetland Centre
On Friday we visited the Welney Wetland Centre which is on the Ouse Washes in Norfolk. As you can see from the photo it's an open and flat landscape with not much protection from the wind. As with most of our visits to nature reserves the birds kept themselves out of range of all but the most powerful zoom lenses.
There were lots of avocets nesting in one location and they dared to get a little bit closer than the other birds.

On Saturday we visited the North Norfolk Railway who were holding their annual spring steam gala. The steam locomotives were a little bit easier to photograph than the birds but the weather hadn't improved at all.
Down by the beach some were making good use of the breeze that was blowing.
Sorry about the quality of the photo but the beach was quite a way off and the image is a screen grab from video working at absolutely maximum zoom range.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Confusing Club Root

The weather hasn’t been anything spectacular over the last few days. I suppose it’s been pretty average weather for mid to late April.

If you follow our blogs you’ll know that we suffer from club root on our allotment. A soil borne disease that affects brassica plants and a disease that there’s no treatment to prevent it available to gardeners. I tend to keep a record of the beds on the plot affected by club root and make sure I don’t plant brassicas in these beds. All our beds are on a 3 or 4 year crop rotation and therefore they aren’t planted up with brassicas year after year.

Last summer I ordered some plug plants from one of the seed companies. It was a collection of various types of brassica plants.  The intention was to provide crops from late winter through into the spring of this year. They were planted out on 06 September 2016 and were planted through weed control fabric and covered with environmesh to protect them from pigeon damage.
Planted on 06 September 2016
They were in a bed that I hadn’t marked up as being affected by club root. However, after initially starting to grow well, winter weather and what I believed to be club root started to take a toll. By the end of winter the plants didn't look very well at all.
Photo taken on 05 February 2017
They all had stunted growth, almost no root and could be pulled out of the ground with very little effort. I consider this to be typical of the problems caused by club root. The plants were pulled up and destroyed.

There were a few plants of cauliflower Aalsmeer that didn’t look completely dead and I decided to leave them in the ground and see if they would pick up and produce some cauliflowers. 
Photo taken on 05 February 2017
Well to my amazement they have or I should say one of them has so far and I think a couple more will very soon.
Cauliflower Aalsmeer 15 April 2017
As I thought all the other brassicas in this bed had succumbed to club root I decided to dig out the root of this cauliflower and see if it had any signs of club root. It took a little bit of digging up a sign that it probably wasn’t affected.
Cauliflower Aalsmeer  Root 15 April 2017
Looking at the root it's clear that the plant didn’t have club root and as the picture shows the root looks healthy enough with no bulbous parts which are the tell-tale signs of the disease.

So, I’m not sure now whether this bed is affected by club root or not. Most of the varieties we grow are club root resistant ones but the choice of varieties is limited and I like to try something different for a change.  Maybe Aalsmeer has some club root resistance or maybe only part of the bed is affected by the disease or even better it was the winter weather that affected the plants and not club root at all. I might try brassicas again in this bed before dismissing it entirely for brassicas. I'll certainly be checking the remaining cauliflower plants roots when digging them out in a few weeks time.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

It's Still Getting Colder

It never got very warm at all on Easter Monday or Tuesday although in any brief spells of afternoon sunshine it didn't feel too bad. Overnight into Tuesday morning the temperature dropped to 0.9°C so we'll have had a little bit of ground frost around dawn. It also meant that Tuesday was the coldest day of the month based on average daily temperatures with 7.0°C or 44.6°F.
Temperature & Solar Radiation Records for 18 April 2017
On the plot  plum and pear blossom has been replaced by apple blossom.
Our quince Meeches Prolific has joined in with the apples too.
We hadn't visited the plot for about a week which is unusual for us at this time of the year. The grass paths had grown long since the last visit and were in need of strimming before they got completely out of control.

While I strimmed the paths and cultivated a couple more beds Sue planted more potatoes and onion sets. 
We're now planning where to sow parsnips and carrots. I think we have some beds dug over but they need covering with weed control fabric. 
Our beds have dried out a lot through April and it’s a while since we had any decent rainfall. It won’t be long now before they become too dry to cultivate without a drop of rain.

Monday, 17 April 2017

What's This In My Tomato Seedlings?

The weather was fairly typical of a Bank Holiday. It was dull and cloudy for most of the day with a bit of drizzly rain on and off throughout the day. This turned into more persistent rain in the evening.
Temperature & Rainfall for 16 April 2017
I'm always behind everyone else when it comes to sowing tomato seeds. I sowed some a week ago now on 10 April and they went into our indoor growlight to germinate. Some only took four days to germinate and they are growing away well.
Tomato Seedlings Sungold & Gardener's Delight
Sungold were the first variety to pop their leaves through the compost followed a day later by Gardener's Delight. However, a variety called Golden Crown are taking a little bit longer to germinate but I've spotted an imposter amongst them.
It didn't take any great observational skills to spot it. It germinated first and emerged from the soil with 2 leaves already showing rather than that little loop of stem that you see when tomatoes are just popping through the compost.

I think the imposter might be a Ipomoea "Morning Glory". Last month I was clearing out last year's "Morning Glory" plant as it dies off over winter in the greenhouse. It produces lots of seed and I save a few of these each year when the old plant is composted.
Maybe one of the seeds accidentally fell into the bag of compost and finished up in with the tomato seeds. In any case I'll grow the seedling on to see what it turns into.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

April's Getting Colder

As it's April and spring it doesn't seem too much to expect the temperature to be increasing as we head through the month but unfortunately the opposite is happening.
Temperature & Rainfall Records for April 2017
Based on average daily temperatures Saturday turned out to be the lowest of the month at just 8.4°C or 47.1°F. We had a bit of everything on Saturday, with sunshine and showers accompanied by a strong to gale force wind. It was a day for doing a bit of seed sowing in the greenhouse.
In truth we didn't have much rain. The day's showers amounted to only 1.0mm (0.04in) bringing April's total up to 2.8mm or 0.11in giving us a dry month so far.

We're having another attempt to grow some melons this year. We have tried in the past without much success. This year we are trying a variety called Emir.
There were 10 seeds in the packet and I decided to sow 5 of them leaving the others to be sown in a couple of weeks time.
The seeds have placed under our indoor growlight to germinate. I'm not expecting any problems getting them to germinate but they might not be very happy when they are moved into the greenhouse to grow on. I'm planning on sowing the other 5 seeds in a couple of weeks time. The plan is to grow the plants in our cold frame on the plot but I may try some in our home and plot greenhouses and maybe even one in our cold frame at home. More options might give us a better chance of at least one ripe melon.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Our New RSPB Reserve Is Open

Although the weather wasn’t anything very special for the middle of April we decided on a visit to our newly opened RSPB Reserve at St Aidan’s. The reserve isn’t very far from where we live so it was just an afternoon visit. The reserve is part of St Aidan's Country Park which is owned by Leeds City Council but looked after by the RSPB. Difficulties over land ownership have delayed the opening of the site. St Aidan's Country Park is the site of the former St Aidan's opencast coal site which is within the flood plains of the river Aire.
It's like many of the nature reserves around us that have come about as the result of previous coal mining operations. Unlike all the other reserves though a massive piece of the past remains preserved at St Aidan’s.
The excavation of the coal was done by an enormous walking Dragline Excavator. When the works were completed this massive machine remained on site and has been preserved by the Friends of St. Aidan's BE1150 Dragline.
These draglines aren’t powered by conventional diesel engines as you would expect but are sort of connected directly into the National Electricity Grid so huge is their energy demand when working.

In March 1988, the St Aidan’s opencast site suffered from a failure of the banks and flood-protection of the river Aire causing massive flooding of the site. A lake of about 100 ha (250 acres) and up to 70 m (230ft) in depth was created, and coal extraction was halted for 10 years. Remedial works cost around £20 million and included rerouting the River Aire and the Aire & Calder canal. It’s thought old mine workings beneath the opencast site may have contributed to the failure of the river banks. Water was eventually pumped out of the lake and open cast coal mining completed.

The site is large and open and a cold wind was whistling across most of the site making it feel colder than it was. We still managed to see a few birds though even if they were a bit camera shy.
Great Crested Grebe
Reed Bunting
No doubt we'll be making a few return visits hopefully when it's a bit warmer.