Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Coldest October Day

After that bitterly cold start on Monday morning it went on to become our coldest October day in 8 years with an average daily temperature of 2.4°C (36.3°F) taking over from 25 October 2010 when the average was 4.2°C or 39.6°F.
Temperature Record for 29 October 2018 - Low Temperature -1.5°C (29.3°F) - Average Daily Temperature 2.4°C (36.3°F)
Despite the cold there were some decent sunny spells on Monday and, in the afternoon, we headed to the allotment. We'd decided it was time to stop thinking about protecting our carrots and parsnips against any frost and snow and get on and do it.
A couple of bales of straw did the job and our carrots and parsnips now have a nice warm duvet to protect them from any frosty weather.

There's a video below covering some of the other jobs we got up to at the allotments last week.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Below Zero - An October First

I've had my weather station since 2010 and during that time it's never recorded a temperature below 0°C or 32°F in October. It's been close on a couple of occasions, 0.2°C (32.4°F) on 25 October 2010 the nearest to freezing, then 0.6°C and 0.7°C recorded earlier this month or 33.1°F and 33.3°F if you prefer.
Those lowest October figures have now been reduced by quite a margin as the overnight low into Monday morning was -1.5°C (29.3°F) our first below zero temperature I've recorded in October since 2010.
Temperature Records for 29 October 2018
Gardening folk law reckons that our parsnips should now be okay to dig as a frost should make them sweeter but at what cost to our carrots. We are planning to cover our carrots with straw to protect them from any frost and normally we would be okay for a week or so based on past frost dates. Last night's temperature moves our first frost date from the middle of November to the end of October. We'd better get some straw and cover our carrots and hope that this morning's frost hasn't done too much damage.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Arctic Blast Arrives

The well forecast Arctic blast arrived as scheduled on Saturday. Saturday's highest temperature was a chilly 6.7°C (44.1°F) which is the lowest high temperature for October that I've recorded since 2010. The previous October record low daytime temperature was 7.3°C (45.1°F) set on 26 October 2012.
Temperature Records for 22-28 October 2018
It's forecast to remain on the chilly side until the middle of the week.

We have made some good progress on renovating beds on plot 30 as well as preparing other beds for winter.
I’m not sure how these two beds on plot 30 got into such a state. At the end of last year both beds were growing crops, one with leeks and the other with winter brassicas, both of which were cleared away this spring. The third bed which is still covered with weeds was cleared last autumn but it was too wet to be dug over.

At the beginning of spring the weather was very unusual in that we had a very cold spell of weather with some late snowfall followed by a spell of very wet weather. All this meant that gardening wise we had a very late start to spring as we had to wait for the soil to dry out.

What we didn’t appreciate at the time was that we were going to go from very wet to very dry conditions without anything in between. Whilst we were busy planting and sowing beds with summer crops the beds to be used for autumn and winter crops were getting drier and drier such that by the time we wanted to dig them over our clay soil was baked hard like concrete. The only thing to do was to wait for some rain to arrive.

I’m hoping that now we’ve made a start at sorting out plot 30 the weather will remain good enough for us to get the job finished. We certainly managed to clear all the apple tree and fruit bush prunings away with an early bonfire. 
Of course the problem is that beds on the rest of the allotments need to be dug over for winter. The last thing we want is for more beds to fall into the same state so Sue has been busy getting some of these beds dug over ready for next spring.
This one's been dug over and the weed control fabric has been replaced and covered with wood chip. These four beds shouldn't need any more work on them until they're ready for planting up next spring. I'm planning on leaving the two beds with green manure growing in them until early next spring before I cut down the crop and incorporate it into the soil.
Sue's also got this bed dug over which had a crop of broad beans in it through summer. We'll replace the weed control fabric and then cover it with wood chip to keep the fabric in place.

We’ve got a couple of other jobs that we’d like to tackle over winter too if we get a chance but I’ll save those for another post.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Good Progress - Then Gales

Over the weekend and into the start of this week we've had some fine autumn weather and good progress had been made at the allotment getting beds dug over before any proper wintry weather sets in.
Sue got this bed dug over on plot 42. All it needs now is a covering of weed control fabric and it can be left until next spring. The other three beds on this plot are all sorted out for winter as two of them are planted up with a green manure crop and the remaining bed has already been dug over and covered with weed control fabric.
We had some beds that looked like this through summer and I'd decided that there was little we could do with them until some decent, wet weather arrived. Although we've had some wet weather these cracks haven't disappeared but at least the soil looks a little bit more like soil than concrete. 
I decided to make a start on digging the bed on the right of the above photo. I had a few substantial tree prunings to clear away and one end of the bed was overgrown with weeds which had grown despite the dry weather.
It was slow going as despite some rain the ground was still on the firm side. Wellies weren't really required, but as they've got a substantial, protective tread on them, they are pretty good when digging is on the hard side.
It took a couple of afternoons but the bed is now dug over and I'll leave it uncovered for the winter rain and frost to break it down. I will have to get my string line out to straighten up the edge of the bed to remove the higgledy piggledy edge.

However, progress has slowed down with the arrival of gale force winds on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. These three days have turned out to be the windiest days of the month with gust speeds equalling those from this month's named storms and the average wind speed on Tuesday being the highest of the month.
Temperature & High Wind Speed Records 01-25 October 2018
On Thursday morning, the windy weather has abated but with the weekend forecast to be cold, with a strong, northerly wind blowing, progress might slow down even more over the next few days. There's a progress video below.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Carrot Success - Watering Pays Off

It seems that on our trips to the allotment through summer we spent most of our time watering crops. One of those crops that we concentrated our "watering time" on was our carrots. Last year our carrots failed miserably and we wanted a better crop this year. Our carrots were sown on 04 May and germination was excellent.
Carrots - Early Market, Flakkee & Autumn King sown 04 May 2018
Not only was germination good but the young seedlings avoided the ravages the slugs normally carry out and went on to provide some really good plants. To keep carrot root flies off the crop, as usual the carrots were covered with environmesh from sowing right through into the middle of September.
25 June 2018
Summer brought with it drought conditions. Our carrots by this time were growing well and we decided to water them well on a regular basis in the hope of getting a good crop.
17 July 2018
Judging by the tops the carrots were enjoying both the water and the hot days we were having. In the middle of July we decided to dig up a few carrots and see if the magnificent looking tops had produced any decent carrots.
 Carrot - Early Market - harvested 17 July 2018
We were very pleased with the roots we dug up and we've been digging up a few roots on most of our visits to the plot. We are still harvesting "Early Market" a variety we've grown as an early variety and we hadn't investigated any roots of our main crop varieties to see how they had performed. Last week we decided it was time to see how they'd done.
Carrots - Autumn King - harvested 19 October 2018
Carrots - Flakkee - harvested 19 October 2018
I didn't intend to harvest any great amount of carrots but just enough to see if like "Early Market" the carrots lived up to the expectation that the tops provided. Fortunately, for us that's proved to be the case and it looks like we have a bumper crop of carrots without too much pest damage. We aim to leave the carrots in the ground over winter and harvest them as required. To protect them from any frost damage I'm aiming to cover the tops with straw to give them some protection from any cold and frosty weather.

The video below shows our first Flakkee and Autumn Kings carrots being dug up.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Checking Out The Professionals

We've been busy doing other things and haven't visited the allotment for almost a week. After the warm wet weather of last weekend, through the week it's turned much drier and cooler with temperatures much more like we can expect in the middle of October. 
Temperature & Rainfall Record 13-19 October 2018
Thursday was a lovely sunny day and we decided on a visit to Clumber Park to have a walk around the lake and photograph a few birds.
I can't usually manage to walk around the lake without photographing a squirrel or two as they scurry around amongst the leaf litter. It looked like they were busy burying sweet chestnuts for winter storage.
I think it always worth a look around the walled kitchen garden to see if there are any tips to be picked up for use at home or at the allotments. The walled garden wasn't as bare as I thought it might be considering it's the middle of October.
If you'd like to see more of the walled kitchen garden there's a short video below of our look around. 

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Confusing Weather

The weather this month has certainly been confusing. Early last week the temperature fell to around freezing, cold enough to nip some of the dahlia leaves.
Some of the leaves had been turned brown but the plants weren't completely frosted and we still had some flowers to pick.
Then Friday saw the arrival and departure of storm Callum which brought us some windy weather but very little rain. Saturday saw another weather system bring heavy rain overnight Friday into Saturday before more windy weather arrived through Saturday.  Although it wasn't much of a day for being out and about on Saturday it was a noteworthy day for its record high temperature this late into October. The temperature reached 22.6°C (72.7°F) with an average for the day of 18.7°C (65.7°F) also a record high this late into the month.

The windiest day this month here was the 02 October with a peak wind gust of 28mph compared with 20mph and 25 mph respectively for Friday and Saturday. 
It's raining steadily on Sunday morning so I don't think we'll be visiting the plot today. We did manage a visit last week to trim back our apple hedge which had got a little bit out of control and needed attention as shown in the video below.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

A Brief Return to Summer

After the cold weekend, the weather's turned much milder and we've had a few very pleasant days, summer like days. On Wednesday afternoon the temperature reached 21.3°C or 70.3°F which is the first time this month we've been above the 20 degree C or 70 degree F mark.
 Temperature & Rainfall Records 05-11 October 2018
On Wednesday afternoon to make the most of the fine weather, we decided on an afternoon trip to RSPB Old Moor. Storm Callum is due to arrive during Thursday night bringing wet and windy weather for Friday and into the weekend.
RSPB Old Moor
It's usual for the birds to do a disappearing act when we turn up and Wednesday afternoon wasn't any different. The birds that were in range of our lenses decided to look the other way and keep a very low profile.
This sparrowhawk was looking in the right direction but was determined to make getting a photo as difficult as possible. It was perched in a hedge in deep shade with a very low afternoon sun behind the hedge.
We're planning a bit more tidying up on the plot this afternoon (Thursday) before the arrival of storm Callum.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

A Cold One

The early hours of Sunday morning turned out to be a cold one with the temperature falling to 0.7°C or 33.3°F.
Temperature Records 07 October 2018
That makes it the coldest October night I've recorded since 25 October 2010 when the temperature fell to 0.2°C (32.4°F). Of course that means it's the coldest October night I've recorded this early into autumn. The average temperature for Saturday was only 7.4°C (45.3°F) also making it the coldest day I've recorded this early in autumn.

It's not forecast to warm up much today so I might peel, chop, cook and freeze some of the quinces that we picked on Friday. As I've passed our quince tree on the allotment it didn't give me the impression that it was that heavily ladened with fruit this year. However, that impression turned out to be wrong as our Meeches Prolific produced its heaviest ever crop to date of 33kg or 73 lbs.
Preparing quinces is a bit of a challenge. They might look a bit like pears but unlike pears they have a very hard core so they can't be cored easily. The best way I found of preparing them is to peel the fruit and then carve as much flesh as possible from the quince avoiding the hard central core. Once prepared the flesh will be cooked until it softens and then frozen in crumbles or as a compote for use over winter.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Purple Sprouting Under Attack

Friday morning was dull and it felt pleasantly mild but, by the time we headed for the allotment in the afternoon the temperature had fallen considerably. The forecast was for light rain to begin falling during the afternoon. As it turns out that was pretty accurate.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 04-06 October 2018
We needed to pull a few more carrots and to cut a fresh cabbage to replenish our supplies of fresh vegetables. If we had time I planned to pick our quinces. However, as I had a look for a suitable cabbage to harvest I noticed that our purple sprouting broccoli was being demolished at a rapid rate by large white butterfly caterpillars. 
Purple Sprouting Broccoli
All our brassicas are covered with environmesh to protect them from butterflies laying their eggs on the leaves but obviously somehow a butterfly had managed to get through the cover or maybe had managed to sneak in when we were harvesting cabbages or cauliflowers.
As you can see this trio were happily munching their way through this leaf. 
These two were just about to start on a fresh leaf. It seemed the easiest course of action was to carefully remove the caterpillars by hand and also pick any up that got knocked off and fell to the ground. I'm hopeful that these plants will recover to produce a decent crop. Fortunately, we have some other purple sprouting broccoli in another bed which haven't been found by any butterflies.  Once all the caterpillars had been removed they were disposed of by giving the birds some extra protein. 

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Three Unwanted Records For September

Looking at the average figure for September 2018 you wouldn't think it was any sort of record breaker but that's not the case from my weather station records. It now holds two records relating only to the month of September and those are the lowest September temperature of 3.1°C (37.6°F) and the highest wind gust speed of 30mph.
September Rainfall 2010-2018

September Average Temperatures 2010-2018

Whilst this September only ranks as the fourth wettest most of the month's rainfall fell on one day. On Thursday 20th September we had 41.6mm (1.64in) of rainfall making it the wettest day I've recorded in any month since 2010.
Rather amazingly we went from that very wet day at the beginning of April through to that record breaking day in September with very little rain as we recorded our driest summer since I started recording our weather.

October hasn't got off to a brilliant start with a cold day on Monday followed by gale force winds through most of Tuesday. The average wind speed for Tuesday was 6.5mph which was higher than we had for all the named storms in September. The only other day this year with a higher average wind speed was the 3rd of January with 8.6mph.

On the plot it's now a case of getting as much tidying up done before any really bad weather sets in.
At least following that very wet September day the ground at the allotment returned to resembling soil rather than concrete and I could make a start at getting some beds dug over for winter. I hardly dare say that we could do with a drop more rain as the ground has once again dried out. I'm planning on leaving these beds uncovered until they get some wet and frosty weather on them to break the soil down. I'll consider replacing the weed control fabric early next year before any weeds begin to germinate.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary http://ossettweather.blogspot.co.uk/ author M Garrett