February 2011


Tuesday 1st

2 to 8 to 3°C. Sunny intervals. Clear skys in the evening


Continued to tidy up the polytunnel. Untied the grape vines and pruned them back to three buds on a maximum of six laterals. Some of the pruning have some nice swelling buds so I will try to use them to propagate some more vines.


The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) have asked people to determine the light pollution in their area by counting the number of stars they can see in the constellation of Orion, not including the four bright corner stars. The sky was fairly clear so I had a go at this and counted 21.


Light pollution even round here has increased considerably since we moved here in 1974. At that time the sky was really black at night and there was very little sign of lights on the horizon. On a clear night you could see the Milky Way running clearly across the sky and thousands of tiny star points twinkling with colours from bright white through blue and green to red.


Since around 1995 the horizon started to show an orange glow to the East (Telford?) and South (Shrerwsbury?) and now this seems to be all the way round, even to the West where I can't see any large communities on the map. When my eyes started to mist over with cataract the colours of the stars and the number I could see diminished. Now they have been fixed to long sight better than ever I had in my life before I expected to see night skies as they used to be but this isn't the case. That glow on the horizon is polluting the light coming from space and the number of stars you can see is less and their colours are difficult to determine. I certainly remember Orion being much brighter with many more than 21 visible stars - at least 9 in the belt across the middle and now there are only 4!


So does it matter that we can't see the stars like before? Maybe most people don't care but even then this light pollution is a sign of wasted energy being projected into the night sky and that is electricity wasted and more CO2  being produced. Now if you are convinced, as I am, that humans are causing global warning by burning fossil fuels than that does matter.


Wednesday 2nd

0 to 12 to 2°C. Sunny intervals with light showers. Southerly breeze.


Finally finished tidying the polytunnel. Cut the vine prunings from yesterday into sections, each with a single fat bud and placed them flat with just the bud showing in a vermiculite rich compost in 9 cell trays. 2 trays of black and two of white so 18 cuttings of each. Placed them in an unheated propagator in the polytunnel. I have never done this before so I have no idea what the take will be - the books say it should be very high. We will see.


Pat made a start weeding the raised bed. The Iris are through and some are nearly in flower. Narcissus leaves are also coming through.


Thursday 3rd

2 to 6 to 9°C. Started raining around 3:30pm with temperature rising into the evening. Now raining heavily with a strong gusty SW wind.


Sowed Bristol F1 onion seed. These need to be started early but give the gest winter keeping onions, better than sets but smaller bulbs. We still have some good sound ones from last years sowing,

The overwintered Aquadulce broad beans and the Excellenz peas both failed in the severe frost during December so I sowed new seeds of Excellenz in 6 20 cell trays and Karmazyn 6 x 12 cell trays to replace them. Put them in the heated propagator - they only need 10 - 12°C bottom heat to germinate.


Friday 4th

Stayed around 12°C both day and night. Overcast with slight drizzle and a strong SW wind.


A good day to start turning the rest of the kitchen garden.


Saturday 5th

Still around 12°C all the time but heavy rain showers in the still string SW wind.


Sunday 6th

Same as yesterday except 11°C all day, still windy and light drizzle.

Tried to do some work outside but was soon driven in by the wind and damp.


Monday 7th

10 to 12 to 3°C. The warmest was mid-morning and also the windiest. The local weather station recorded 40mph with gusts of over 60mph. Fortunately the polytunnel cover wasn't damaged. By afternoon the wind had died down and the sun came out for a short while before dusk.


Decided to extend the chicken run down the north outside of the fruit net. Not a very wide area but useful for growing vegetables, especially beans or peas up the net. They might as well enjoy themselves scratching away for seeds and small creatures, especially as they do a better job than I ever could.


This mild weather has helped to get Spring back on track. The snowdrops, aconites and irises are in full flower as are quite a few crocuses and buds are beginning to break in some of the hedges.


Tuesday 8th

-1 to 9 to 6°C. Slight frost and misty first thing but soon warmed up with bright sunshine and no wind.


Took the opportunity of the good weather to finally finish cutting back the big hedge on the drive side.


Wednesday 9th

Stayed around 8°C all day. A damp overcast dreary day.

Spent most of the afternoon trimming the new hedge along the road back tov around 120cm to encourage it to fill out. Then made a start on trimming some of the shrubs.


Thursday 10th

Stayed around 8°C all day. Another damp overcast dreary day.

Back to digging over the vegetable garden. Very little left now other than leeks and a few parsnips. We usually have Kale, Spring Cabbage and brocolli at this time of year but the December frost killed them all. Pat is having to buy vegetables, mainly carrots and turnip, but we still have plenty of peas and beans in the freezer.


The onion seeds I sowed last week are through but still in the paper-clip stage. Most of the peas are also through. The beans have germinated as well but you can only tell because the roots had coming out the bottom of their trays.

Pat noticed that the last of the stored Vivaldi potatoes, a second early, were starting to sprout so we decided to keep them as seed for a crop this year. That leaves half of the Vales Emerald, most of the King Edward and all the Golden Wonder potatoes still sound so hopefully they will last well into April.


Friday 11th

0  to 8 to 4°C. Mainly cloudy. Rained in the evening

Continued digging the vegetable garden


Saturday 12th

4 to 9 to 3°C. A really sunny day.

Went for a walk round Colemere. Unfortunately so did a lot of other people and some of them were wearing newly washed clothes reeking of artificial fragrance. Tried to not follow in the wake of any of them but finally suucumbed to quite a bad attack of asthma. Got the usual jelly legs while walking back because of this.Still feeling achy just before bedtime.


There are an awful lot of trees which have fallen since the last time we were here. Probably a combination of the very wet weather and high winds in late autumn. A lot of them were very old and very tall so it is not that surprising. There were some men from the council in clearing and cutting them up. Should be worth selling to pay for their labour - I am not sure exactly what they do with all the wood.


Sunday 13th

4 to 9 to 5°C. Rained all day.


Monday 14th

3 to 6 to 1°C. Overcast with the odd sunny interval. Cold Southerly breeze.


The polytunnel is beginning to warm up, 14°C this afternoon, and many of the chrysanthemums in their pots are showing signs of life, as are the short-stemmed lillies. So decided to give them all a high nitrogen feed to boost their growth. Did the same with the Wallflowers and Sweet William and the primrose and spring bulbs growing along the front of most of the borders, including the drive. They need a boost after the very cold weather late last year.

Pat weeded the rose beds before the underplanted narcissus get too big to work around without damage. Continued to dig the vegetable garden.


Tuesday 15th

1 to 4°C. Rained most of the day with a blustery wind.

Sarah my eldest daughter is 40 today. Happy Birthday Sarah

Trouble is knowing you have a child of 40 makes you realise you must be getting on a bit yourselfFrown


Wednesday 16th

0 to 6 to 4°C. Overcast with a cold westerly breeze.


Extended the chicken run even further so they can dig up the vegetable garden between the far end of the fruit cage and the apple trees, including the ground beneath these trees. They do such a good job clearing the ground of weeds and pests and enjoy doing it. Chickens love nothing better than scratching the earth for tiny morsels.



Thursday 17th

4 to 6 to 4°C. Overcast and still


The onion seedlings were big enough to transplant so planted them into 20 cell trays. Gave up after filling 12 of these. That's more than enough.

The peas and beans are also getting too big for the propagator. To start, as an experiment, I have planted 8 10L pots with 8 pea plants each and will leave them in these to grow in the polytunnel until they flower, at which point I will move them outside still in the pots, unless I can attract some bumble-bees into the polytunnel instead. The rest of the peas and beans I will pot on tomorrow.


Friday 18th

5°C all day. Cold breeze with a wind chill making it feel more like 0.


Even in the polytunnel didn't feel very warm but continued to pot on the seedlings even though my fingers were numb.

Potted the rest of the peas 3 plants to a 4.5in pot (x 16); they will support each other and can be planted as a single unit outside. Planted the broad beans singly to 3.5in pots (x 56) ; these will also be planted outside in the middle of March. Some of the beans had reached the top of the propagator and were damping off with black spots on the growing tip. I have had this happen before and most recovered so I will leave them for now. At worst I may need to cut off the tops but broad beans are quite good at branching so it shouldn't be problem. Eventually I would pinch out the top in any case to get them to branch but only when they are 80cm or so in height.


Started to fill the propagator again with 8 more 20cell trays of Excellenz peas. Then sowed 2 more trays with trailing nasturtium which I intend to use to grow up the new hedge saplings on the roadside in front of the kitchen garden. Also the first of the brassicas, Cabbage Golden Acre and Sprout Bedford Fillbasket. Hopefully we won't lose the sprouts to frost this year, along with purple sprouted broccoli. Even the red kale and spring cabbage were lost. We are not alone since I heard on the radio that there was a shortage of savoy cabbage and purple sprouted broccoli with many farmers losing a large part of their crop even further south.

The frost also killed off the Rosemary so  sowed some more of this. Finally sowed oriental poppy, again to temporarily fill in the spaces between the new hedge.


It never ceases to amaze me the difference in the size of seeds. I have recently sowed one of the biggest, broad bean, and the smallest, poppy - a tiny pinch holding over 500 dust sized seeds. Yet both will grow to a similar sized plant.


Saturday 19th

Around 4°C all day. Damp, cold and miserable.


Turned over some more of the kitchen garden. I should finish it tomorrow. At least the hens were happy. I kept accidentally cutting worms in half while I was digging- I think they are their favourite treatWink


Sunday 20th

3 to 4 to 3°C with a cold damp wind. Even worse than yesterday.


Despite this finally finished digging over the kitchen garden.


Monday 21st

Around 4°C all day with drizzle and light rain. So overcast, dark and miserable that even the hens decided to go to bed early!!

Only good news is that the cabbage I sowed on Friday is through. Also the Swift and Arran Pilot seed potatoes have 1cm shoots and will soon need planting into pots in the polytunnel. All we need now is some sunshineFrown


Tuesday 22nd

2 to 9 to 7°C. A much better day. High cloud cover with very little wind. It looks like the weather is finally improving.


Planted the Swift (super early) Arran Pilot (extra early) and Lady Christl (early) potatoes in 7.5L pots in the concrete block box I built last month in the polytunnel so I can give them extra protection with fleece at night. Placed around 5cm of JI3 compost beneath them and 1cm above. As they come through I will keep topping up till the pots are full.


Wednesday 23rd

7 to 12 to 8°C. Warmer but gusty wind and occasional rain. Still no sun but promised for tomorrow.


Planted cabbage seedlings into 5 12 cell trays. The sprouts are through and will need transplanting in another day or two. The second lot of peas are also showing. Sowed calabrese to replace the cabbage in the propagator.


Continued tidying up the flower beds.


Thursday 24th

9 to 12 to 10°C. Bright and breezy with a few sunny intervals especially in the morning.


Cut out the old canes on the raspberries and shortened the new ones to stop them growing out of the top of the fruit cage. Pruned the apple, plum, cherry and pear trees.


Friday 25th

9 to 12 to 9°C. Bright with high cloud but becoming overcast by afternoon. Now raining hard in late evening


Dug over the place where we had the hens before we moved them - by the compost bins. I was intending to plant potatoes here but the soil isn't deep enough so I may put the early broad beans, which are growing rapidly in pots in the polytunnel, here instead. Frost is forecast for early next week so I may leave it till after then.


Pat started to weed between the raspberries now she can get in to do so. I started planting the onion sets, Hercules, Sturon and Centurion into 12 cell trays to get them started in the polytunnel. This is much better than waiting till the soil is warm enough to plant them directly outside but the real advantage is the birds won't be forever pulling them up till they root.


Saturday 26th

6 to 9 to 5°C. Heavy rain overnight but cleared by mid morning with sunny intervals and a cold wind.


Today is my younger daughter Kirstin's birthday

Spent most of the afternoon trying to clear convolvulus out of one corner of the fruit cage. It spreads by deep underground rhizomes and you have to get rid of every little piece or it just grows again, smothering whatever it climbs up. You can't just dig it out with a spade, indeed that is the last thing you should do as that just cuts it up into small pieces and every one will form a new plant. Instead it needs to be carefully dug out with a fork, breaking up every clod of soil to make sure it has all gone. Very tedious but very important to do it right. Though I can guarantee some will be missed not matter how hard you try.


Sunday 27th

3 to 7 to 5°C. Sunny but with a strong northerly wind making it feel much colder.


Transplanted the sprouts into 12 cell trays and weeded the chrysanthemums in their pots in the polytunnel. Even in there it was cold despite the sun.


Monday 28th

Around 4 to 5°C all day. Overcast, damp and still that chilly wind.


I have run out of things to do in the polytunnel and can't work outside. Ordered some plug plants from Jersey. 100 + 60 free of Antirrhinum Rainbow, Begonia Destiny, Geranium Parade, Petunia Lake Garda and the usual mystery plant offer. Hopefully by the time these come the weather will have improved making the polytunnel warm enough to raise them till May.


Go to March 2011