Sunday, 29 July 2018

Automatic Plot Watering System Takes Over

The lovely summer weather had to come to an end eventually and Saturday was the day. A bit of rain in the morning and a thunderstorm in the afternoon brought our dry spell to an end. The day's rainfall amounted to 8.4mm (0.33in), more than in the whole of June, and the wettest day since 24 April when we had 9.6mm or 0.38in. 
We were harvesting on the plot when the thunderstorm started. The morning's rain meant a day off watering so we decided on a few other jobs for the day. These came to an abrupt end as the rain began to pour down forcing us to take shelter in the shed. The earlier rain had softened the soil slightly and I dug up a few more drought hit Casablanca potatoes. I was pleasantly surprised by the crop which was much better than the first set off around six roots. 
It's given me hope that some of our other potatoes that still have green tops might have some sort of a crop beneath them. When the rain eased off a little bit I made a dash for the plot greenhouse to pick our first ripe tomatoes of the season. It's unusual for our plot greenhouse to provide the first ripe fruits of the year as the plants in our home greenhouse are the first ones planted up in growbags.

Sunday morning started off with more rain. Not the thunderstorm heavy type of rain, this is more steady rain which will be doing a good job of watering the allotment and garden much better than we can ever achieve with watering cans.
Temperature & Rainfall Records for 29 July 2018
It rained for most of the morning before stopping around lunchtime. Another 8.4mm (0.33in) bringing our monthly total up to an almost respectable 21.4mm (0.84in) and wetter than either May or and June.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

No Records Broken

I thought I'd wait until Friday evening came around before updating my weather records from what was not only forecast to be the hottest day ever in the UK but also it was anticipated there would be lots of thunderstorms and torrential rain around. We were particularly looking forward to some rain so that we could have a few days off watering at the allotment.
However, it got to late Friday evening and despite a thunderstorm early on Thursday evening and lots of thunder rumbling around until mid morning on Friday we avoided any torrential downpours. We did have a very short heavy shower on Thursday night during a bout of thunder which deposited 1.8mm or 0.07in of rain bringing our monthly total up to 4.6mm or 0.18in. It looked like we'd be back on watering duty at the allotment over the weekend.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 25-27 July 2018
Thursday turned out to be the hotter of the two days with the temperature making it up to 32.2°C or 90.0°F moving it into second place in my top twenty hottest days table.
As it turned out Thursday was a rather cloudy day for the most part and I can well imagine that had we had clear blue skies it might well have been a record breaking temperature.

On the plot I was giving a little bit of thought to where our over wintering onions might be planted. There aren't any obvious options at the minute.
Had it been a normal year with the usual amount of rainfall the bed in the photo above would have already been prepared for a crop of winter onions. I like to get them planted as soon as possible so they become established before any colder weather sets in. I don't fancy my chances of getting any digging done until we've had some substantial rainfall and the ground begins to resemble soil again. There's another bed that looks like this that should be planted up with some spring cabbage and spinach, together with wallflowers and sweet Williams.

Saturday morning has started off with some rain. Not a lot, 5.0mm or 0.2in but it's doubled our rainfall total for the month which now stands at 9.6mm or 0.38in. However, it's our wettest day since 25 May 2018 when we had 8.0mm or 0.31in of rainfall. 

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Summer Weather Continues

The lovely hot summer weather has continued this week although it was much cloudier on Monday and Tuesday. At the plot on Tuesday afternoon the cloud was thick enough to produce the lightest of drizzly rain.
The rain certainly wasn't enough to disturb my weather station rainfall gauge which remains firmly stuck on 2.8mm or 0.11in for this month's rainfall. That's the negative side of the hot summer as the almost complete lack of rainfall has meant lots of time spent watering the allotment.

The forecast for the next couple of days is for some extremely hot weather before we get a much cooler spell over the weekend and into the early part of next week. Along with the forecast of hot weather comes the risk of thunderstorms and consequently lots of rain. The hot sunny weather of the next few days might be the hottest weather we've had since I set up my weather station a little over eight years ago. The highest temperature I've recorded was 33.1°C (91.6°F) on 01 July 2015.

The tendency this year is for us to miss the thunderstorms and any rain. Will it be rain or heat this time? 

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Not a Record Dry Month

We visited the "Thirsk Birds of Prey Centre" on Friday and would you believe we left the centre early because it was raining.
We left in the middle of the afternoon as the rain fell steadily and it rained for most of the journey back home only drying up for the last few miles of our journey. It did manage to rain a little bit at home but only by the smallest margin my weather station records 0.2mm (0.01in) but it was enough to prevent this July from becoming the driest month I've recorded. Up until yesterday it was tying with April 2011 with 2.4mm or 0.09in.
Temperature & Rainfall Records July 2018
The cloud cover was heavy enough overnight to deposit another 0.2mm (0.01in) rocketing our month total up to 2.8mm or 0.11in. If you look closely enough at the chart above you can just make out that it "rained" on the  13th and 16th of the month but not the amount of the last couple of days. An average month's rainfall would be represented by a full height column of blue. 
Temperature & Rainfall Records 19 - 21 July 2018
By changing the rainfall scale it's possible to see that the rain fell at around 16:00 on Friday afternoon and 03:00 on Saturday morning.

I don't think it's going to have helped out with watering the allotment. Watering cans at the ready again today.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Drought Hit Casablanca Potatoes

On Monday afternoon I decided to lift a few of our Casablanca early potatoes. The photos tell the story better than any words.
Last year two rows of Casablanca potatoes produced 30kg. I lifted one quarter of this year's crop which produced 1.5kg. If anyone had asked me which beds had the best soil for cultivation at the beginning of the season I'd have said the four beds on plot 42 which is where these potatoes were planted. I've no idea how to get this soil back into a workable condition. I had planned to sow a green manure crop once the bed was cleared of its potato crop but that's not possible with the ground in its current state. Some rain might improve things but there's none of that in the forecast for the next seven days.

We did have some rain late on Monday night which amounted to 0.8mm (0.03in) but that won't have any effect at all and the sunshine early on Tuesday morning will have dried up any moisture left on the top of the ground.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Hottest Day of the Month

July has been a hot month but until Sunday none of the days had been hot enough to make it into my table of top twenty hottest days. Sunday changed that as the temperature reached 29.7°C (85.5°F) moving it into 12th place in the table but at the expense of loosing another of this year's entries which was set on 28 June at 29.0°C or 84.2°F.
Top Twenty Hottest Days (2010 - Date)
Our early crop of calabrese was over very quickly which I put down to the hot, dry weather. I thought the same might happen to the cabbages and cauliflowers. I couldn't decide whether the best option was to continue watering them or leave them on the dry side to see if they would last longer. In the end I decided to keep watering them. They've lasted much better than I expected but the crop is now coming to an end.
Cauliflower - Helsinki
Cabbage - Regency
Calabrese - Aquiles
Although the main calabrese heads were soon over we're managing to harvest a few side shoots on most visits to the plot.

It won't be long now before the bed needs clearing. My plan was to clear away the brassica plants, dig over the bed and then sow it with a crop of green manure using Buckwheat and Grazing Rye. However, that was assuming the very dry spell of weather had come to an end and the bed would be in a suitable state to dig over. As the dry weather and almost total lack of rainfall continues I'm not sure what state the bed will be in once the weed control fabric is removed. At the moment there's not much rain forecast in the next 7 days so I'm not hopeful of the weather being any help in preparing this bed for sowing green manure.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Dry Spell Broken - Just!

It didn't really live up to the Met Office severe weather warning of thunderstorms and heavy rain for Friday afternoon and evening. All we managed was 1.6mm (0.06in) of drizzly rain late on Friday evening but it was enough to bring to an end a rain free 24 day period.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 14 June - 14 July 2018
That's the longest spell without any rain in the last eight years. It's not the easiest of records to spot but I reckon the next longest spell of dry weather was 14 days in May 2010.

The forecast of thunderstorms beginning on Friday lunchtime didn't stop us having the day out at RSPB Bempton Cliffs on the Yorkshire coast. It's a great place for spotting the nesting sea birds at this time of the year.
RSPB Bempton Cliffs
We've now got lots of photos and video of the gannets, guillemots, razorbills and puffins to sort out and edit.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Are Your Runners Beans Setting?

I’ve seen a few posts on Facebook about the first trusses of runner bean flowers not setting any beans. I've also seen a few lucky gardeners picking their first beans. I’m assuming that the flowers failing to set beans is down to the weather. On our watering visit to the plot I decided to check out how ours were doing as they’re just coming into flower.
Runner Bean - Firestorm
The runner beans certainly aren’t setting any beans despite the best effort of this bee to pollinate them. Hopefully, they’ll decide to set some beans higher up as the plants continue to climb up the supports.

It was better news when I checked out our climbing French beans Cobra. Checking out the lowest flower trusses they are beginning to set some beans. 
Climbing French Beans - Cobra
Hopefully, conditions aren’t too bad and our runners will get the message and start setting fruit too. The beans should go on growing well into autumn so there’s plenty of time for the beans to form. In the meantime we've plenty of cabbage ready and a steady stream of cauliflowers to cut.
Cabbage - Regency & Cauliflower - Helsinki
Our calabrese still keeps producing a few side shoots too so we've plenty of fresh vegetables for the cooking pot.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Sweet Pea Picking

We still haven't had any rain, although the last time I checked, one weather model was hinting at some rain on Friday night into Saturday morning. Thunderstorms, at one time predicted for Thursday night, seem to have disappeared. It must rain sometime, mustn't it?
Temperature & Rainfall Records 09 June - 09 July 2018
Trips to the allotment have taken on a bit of a routine in order to get everything watered as best we can. We fit other jobs in between watering but we make sure we harvest as much as possible on each visit.
Sometimes I think it's a bit of a shame to cut flowers, grown on the plot, for displays at home. However, we get to see them more when they are cut for home. Usually, one of our last jobs is to pick all the sweet peas. If the flowers are left they set seed forming pods and the sweet peas stop flowering.
It's not a very time consuming job and as soon as they are cut the flowers are placed in a small container of water to keep them as fresh as possible for the journey home.
By the time we've finished picking the sweet pea trellis looks like this.
It's usually a couple of days before we visit the plot again by which time with any luck we'll have another batch of flowers ready to pick. On our return we expect the sweet pea trellis to look something like this.
With a bit of luck this will go on through the summer and into early autumn.

Friday, 6 July 2018

What To Do First? - Water or Pick

We headed to the allotment on Thursday afternoon. To be honest we weren't sure what was going on as these big black things in the sky had blotted out the sunshine. Was the world coming to an end?

Seriously though when we got to the plot we didn't know whether or not to begin by watering plants or picking fruit.
We've heard that those big black clouds can act as giant watering cans if you're lucky enough to get the right sort of black clouds which we were kind of hoping that these were to save us some time doing this.
So on the grounds that it would be better to pick some fruit first, thinking it might get wet in the rain, we set about picking raspberries, jostaberries, blueberries, gooseberries and a few strawberries for good measure.
We left the plot at just after half past six and the clouds had more or less cleared away and the rain had never arrived. There's always another day.

An odd weather record I noticed this morning is that July 2018 is the driest start to July in the last eight years for us. In all the previous eight years we've had some measurable amount of rainfall in the first four days of the month.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Hottest and Driest

If you've read any of my blog posts over the last month you will not be surprised that June 2018 turned out to be the hottest and driest June I've recorded in the last eight years. Surprisingly, it's only turned out to be the hottest by the narrowest of margins as you'll see in the table below.
Average Temperatures June 2010-2018
Looking through the daily temperatures even though we've had some hot days overnight the temperature has fallen down to 10°C (50°F), or even slightly lower, which is below average for June.

However, June has also turned out to be a very dry month with really no useful rainfall at all. The total for the month amounted to 7.8mm (0.31in) but even that fell in several small amounts and didn't do any good in the garden or allotment. It was the third driest month of the last eight year and it followed on from a very dry May which is just off the table below in eleventh place with 18.2mm or 0.72in. To put these two months into perspective we'd normally expect around 100mm or about 4in of rainfall over this period.
 Driest Months 2010-2018
That lovely lush green landscape we had in the middle of spring has disappeared and been replaced with landscapes that wouldn't look out of place at the end of a long hot summer. Most of our grass paths at the allotment and lawn at home are now a golden brown and needing some rain to freshen them up. No doubt once the rain comes it won't know when to stop but for the moment we've forgotten what wet weather is!
It's all meant lots of watering at the allotment in an attempt to keep things growing but at least now we are beginning to harvest some fruit and vegetables which makes the effort worthwhile.
The weather models don't suggest that the weather pattern is about to change anytime soon. The current forecast is for the dry weather to continue for another two or maybe three weeks although there is the possibility of thunderstorms cropping up on some days.