February 2014                                                                                                                         Back to January


Saturday 1st.

0 to 8 to 5°C 3.46kWh 1.4kW max. Wind and rain overnight but cleared to a sunny but still windy day with a few showers in the late afternoon.


Though the wind made it feel quite cold started to move plants back into the polytunnel, starting with the trays of soil for the wild flower mats which need to be left to germinate the coarser weeds so I can pull these out before sowing the wildflower seeds. This has been put back considerably by the polytunnel not being covered for the last month. Same applies to the pots of Spring bedding, primulas, bellis, viola, pansies and dianthus which should also have been moved into the polytunnel at the end of December. Normally they would be ready to take out by now, not just being put in the warmer polytunnel to get them going.


Sunday 2nd

6 to 9 to 4°C. 3.04kWh 1.5kW max. Sunny intervals with a few light showers. Southerly blustery wind.


Finished moving the pots of spring flowers into the polytunnel .Of the nearly 950 plants only one seems to have died which is surprising given the waterlogged conditions they have suffered. Some of the violas opened flowers within a couple of hours of coming inside; you could smell the perfume as soon as you came through the door.


Monday 3rd

5 to 7 to 5°C. 838Wh 150W max. Overcast and windy with no sun but also no rain.


Continued to tidy up the polytunnel and move back all the equipment back into it. Pat went for her six week shopping expedition into Shrewbury.


Tuesday 4th

1 to 8 to 5°C. 3.15kWh 1.4kW max. Sunny intervals with a strong southerly breeze. The wind increased after dark and became blustery with some heavy rain. Still much better weather than further south.


Pat bought a new toy while she was shopping yesterday. A robot floor cleaner which moves around the room cleaning all the floor, even the corners and under low furniture. It is quite fascinating to watch. It seems to build a map of the room as it bumps into the furniture and the walls, only finishing when it has covered everywhere.


Wednesday 5th

5 to 7 to 6°C. 655Wh 100W max. Wet and windy all day.


More bad weather forecast for the next few days. When will this unseasonable weather come to an end?


Thursday 6th

6 to 7 to 3°C. 1.03kWh 400W max. Overcast with a few brighter spells in the morning but started raining again in the afternoon.


Friday 7th

3 to 10 to 5°C. 4.31kWh 1.6kW max. The overnight rain had cleared by the morning to a really sunny day with only a few fluffy clouds but you could see much darker clouds further south where the really bad weather has been all the time since before Christmas. Out of the strong wind it felt quite warm.


I have got a lot of work on with my software, fixing little problems which are coming up during the third party verification so only had time to prune the roses and split some more wood in the afternoon. A bit early to give the roses their final prune but the absence of frost this winter means they are still growing and even opening new small flower buds. I don't want them growing too tall so I have cut them down to the 2nd bud on most of the secondary stems.


Saturday 8th

4 to 9 to 6°C. 2.31kWh 1.5kW max. Sunny but very windy morning with a few short showers. In the afternoon it clouded over and became even windier with some very heavy rain for a while in the afternoon and then back to heavy showers before clearing in the late evening. The ground is getting very soggy, especially in the surrounding fields; I do hope we don't have problems with the septic tank backing up like it did around this time last year. Even so we are certainly having the better weather than most parts of England and Wales.


While it was still dry this morning I managed to dig over one of the raised beds in the fruit cage which had brassicas last year and planted some strawberry runners in it instead. You might find it a strange rotation of crops between soft fruit and brassicas but they both need protection from the birds.


In the afternoon I switched on the propagator and sowed seeds:

Tomato Shirley : this is a very good salad tomato for the polytunnel.

Tomato Bejbino : doubles as both a salad and cooking tomato and ripens earlier than Shirley

Tomato Marmande : a cooking tomato which usually ripens all over at once rather staying green at the calyx end.

Tomato Malinowy Henryka : This is one I am trying for the first time. It is supposed to be redder than most salad tomatoes and more juicy but not sweet (we don't like the sweet tomatoes which seem to be popular in the supermarkets these days)

Sweet Pepper Antohi Romanian :early start with a very long season and multicolored depending on how long you leave them on the plant

Hot Pepper Mixture : from medium to very hot; the smaller the fruit the hotter but not always!!

Aubergine Moneymaker : very early and very prolific over a long season

Leek Porbella : Very long and sweet white stems. Can be ready to pull as early as October but we usually leave it till December.

Leek Elefant : A good main crop leek. This year it has grown really well in the very wet soil at the far end of the kitchen garden.

Calabrese Aquiles : Very early with medium sized heads which usually come again after cutting.

Celery Octavius : Green American type ; doesn't need blanching. Our main vegetable in the late autumn and early winter but last year it was destroyed by the rain not the frost!


Also I placed early Broad Bean Turbo and first early Pea Excellenz seeds in seed trays between wet paper towels to germinate in the house before planting them in pots.



Sunday 9th

5 to 9 to 0°C. 4.31kWh 1.5kW max. Sunny intervals with a few short showers. Not as windy as the last few days. Cleared in the evening and looks like there may be a frost by morning which is very unusual for this winter so far.


Still tidying up in the polytunnel in the morning. In the afternoon we cut back the old raspberry canes and pruned the cherry, plum, apple and pear trees.


Monday 10th

-3 to 4 to 0°C. 875Wh 300W max. Frosty start with thin cloud and a few light showers of sleet. Very little wind made it feel warmer than in previous days when the thermometer was actually higher.


Dug over the salad bed and some more of the beds in the fruit cage. The soil was surprisingly easy to dig given the amount of rain which has fallen on it in the last few weeks. It must be all organic matter dug into it over the past 40 years.


Tuesday 11th

0 to 6 to 0°C. 2.31kWh 1.4kW max. Rained overnight with continuing sleet and wet snow in the morning, clearing to a mainly sunny afternoon with clouds building as it came dark. A few light snow showers in the evening before the temperature dropped to freezing as the sky cleared.


Moved 8 barrow-fulls of well rotted compost into the chicken run much to the delight of the hens. They will spend the next few days mixing it well into the soil as they scratch for worms and other small beasties. Then it will be ready for the broad beans and peas and they will lose the run till these are finished but they have plenty of other places to go. They are so good at keeping the ground clear, particularly round the borders of the kitchen garden, and eating all the vegetable waste that I would keep them even if they didn't lay any eggs.


Wednesday 12th

1 to 7 to 4°C. 700W 150W max. A very windy day, probably the windiest we have ever esperienced in the last 40 years we have been here. The weather station was only recording 20mph with 35mph gusts but it isn't in the most exposed part of the garden and the local weather station reported average wind speeds in the afternoon of 40mph and gusts up to 60mph. Not a lot compared with other parts of the world or even coastal regions of the UK but it was worse than we have had before.


The wind became very strong in the afternoon and was really battering the poytunnel with its new skin but it survived with only a few small holes from flying branches. A few miles north of here in Whitchurch a school lost its roof and damaged several other propeties nearby and Shrewbury had quite a few damaged buildings as well.


I am writing this on Thursday because just after the worst of the wind the electricity went off and didn't come on again until just after midnight. Other places in the UK fared much worse and were still without power late into Thursday.


Thursday 13th

1 to 10 to 2°C. 6.21kWh 1.7kW max. A very different day with clear skies and almost unbroken sunshine though still feeling cold in the wind which was much less than yesterday.


Repaired the damage to the polytunnel skin with clear plastic repair tape. There were six holes altogether but only two were more than a cm across.. The main one was caused by one corner of the potting station. This was quite a long way from the skin but the wind was so severe that the constant movement of the corner stay behind it had bent it out of shape, pushing one corner forward and the other back till it touched and punctured the poythene. The cross beam of the door had also snapped, though it was quite rotten in places and needing replacing. I have temporarily splinted this with a piece of timber and gaffer tape and I will fix it properly on  a quieter day.


Outside the wind had blown off the roof overhanging the front of the woodshed but the main roof is still intact. Again, it was very old and needed fixing. Apart from that the only signs of the storm were lots of twigs and small branches scattered all over the garden. On my cycle ride I saw several large fallen branches pulled onto the verge and several trees down in the fields; the sound of chainsaws went on all day. The biggest casualy was and old Victorian dutch barn whose roof was a mass of corrugated iron the the field on the other side of the road. It had also taken half the wall in front of the farmyard as it crashed through.


Friday 14th

2 to 6 to 8°C. 157kWH 50kW max. Another wet and windy day though nothing like as bad as Wednesday. We still had another 9mm of rain in the last 24 hours though this was a lot better than the 20mm+ further south where there is more flooding in the Somerset levels and the Severn and Thames valleys.


The electricity went off around 11am but then came back on again though at very reduced power of around 140volts and 40Hz ( normally 245volts and 50Hz).

It was interesting to see what appliances still worked with this supply. The computers, router, microwave oven and halogen oven didn't work at all and neither did the well pump which would have been worrying if it was going to be like this for more than 48 hours. The circulation pump for the upstairs radiators also didn't work which could also have been a problem if the water got too hot in the boiler behind the log fire.

The energy saving lights worked but were dimmer and more flickery because of the reduced frequency, incandescent bulbs were very much dimmer and redder and fluorescent tubes wouldn't work at all (probably because their starters need a higher voltage)

Both FM and DAB radios worked though the volume was a little variable (the voltage was fluctuating between 135 and 160 and the frequency between 40 and 44). I was surprised that the direct drive record turntable was working at constant speed though the amplifier was of varying volume, sometimes cutting out for a fraction of a second. The television was working but not very well at high definition; we didn't try the digital recorder.


I assume the power company was having problems maintaining a full supply, there were reports of many lines being damaged mainly by falling trees since Wednesday. Eventually the full power was restored early in the evening.


Saturday 15th

7 to 8 to 3°C. 2.87kWh 1.6kW max. Sunny intervals with a few blustery showers.


Not feeling too well today so didn't do much in the garden. The tomatoes and peppers are starting to germinate in the propagator. The peas between wet paper towels are nearly ready to plant in cells so hopefully I will be able to do that tomorrow.


Sunday 16th

1 to 8 to 3°C. 5.43kWh 1.6kW max.  A much better day with plenty of sunshine, very little wind and no rain.


Still not very well but managed to plant the sprouted peas in 12 cell trays. Sowed the rest of the packet in the same way. It is called 'sowing in succession' to try and spread out the harvesting period but in our experience this hardly ever works; the later sown ones always seem to catch up.


Monday 17th

2 to 9 to 7°C. 678Wh 100W max. Overcast with drizzle and short spells of light rain.


Not a day to be working outside even if I was feeling a bit better.


Tuesday 18th

6 to 12 to 6°C. 4.34kWh 1.6kW max. Sunny morning but mostly overcast afternoon and evening though with no rain. Very mild for mid-February.


Planted out the germinated Turbo broad beans into 9 cell half-trays and the calabrese seedlings into 12 cell trays. The tomato seedlings are nearly ready for transplant so cleaned the other propagators in readiness. These hold 4 half trays each and are not thermostatically controlled like the big propagator and are only 20 watts; enough to raise the temperature 8 - 10°C more than the outside but not to reach the 20-30°C required to germinate tomatoes, peppers, squashes and especially cucumbers which need at least 30°C. They are just to protect the tomatoes from temperatures below 5°c while they get to the 3 leaf nodes stage and will only be switched on on cold nights.  Given recent temperatures this isn't going to happen much this spring. Getting tomatoes going early is important if you want ripe fruit by late June. Without the propagators we have sometimes had very few ripe tomatoes even in early August.


Also forked over the bed where I intend to sow the parsnips. Once this has dried out a little the soil will need seiving otherwise the roots are likely to fork. They need sowing early because they can take up to 6 weeks to germinate even under glass or fleece. We are still eating the parsnips I sowed at this time last year and will probably still have some in early April; parsnips are more than 12 month crop.


Wednesday 19th

5 to 12 to 9°C. 4.31kWh 1.6kW max. Bright sunny morning but becoming overcast in the afternoon with a little light rain in the evening. Still feeling very mild for February.


We still haven't had a single frosty day this winter apart from a couple of mornings when the temperature droppped below 0°C but only for a short while. It worries me that many garden pests will have survived in large numbers. When I pruned the roses recently, some of which are still flowering, there were some greenfly on some of the buds. However, there are also ladybirds about already too.


Mixed potting compost from 4 blocks of coir, 20L of water, 2L of perlite and 4 scoops of compost fertiliser equivalent to JI3. Used this to prick out the Shirley, Bejbino and Marmande tomato seedlings into 12 cell trays to go in the smaller propagators.


Thursday 20th

9 to 12 to 1°C. 3.63kWh 1.4kW max. Sunny intervals with a few blustery showers including when I was out on my bike ride:+( Very mild overnight but this evening the skies have cleared and it is much colder.


Started sneezing when I went out early this morning. The hazel and willow catkins are starting to open and I am slightly allergic to their pollen. I don't recall them being this early in previous years.


Dug over the chicked run in preparation for using it to grow beans and peas this year. The hens were really excited with all the worms I dug up; there were so many they eventually were so full they couldn't eat any more. They won't be pleased when I fence some of it off to plant out the Aquadulce broad beans which I have been overwintering in the polytunnel (and conservatory while it was re-skinned).


Friday 21st

1 to 9 to 5°C. 4.17kWh 1.6kW max. Bright morning but overcast and windy with some showers by the afternoon.


Time to start tidying up the garden for Spring, starting with cutting back the giant grasses and herbaceous plants down the side of the drive and the crocosmia and shrubs round the lawn. The new privet hedge has survived the winter without losing any of its leaves and is beginning to grow again so gave it Growmore. This will also the encourage the narcissus and bluebells growing beneath it.


The last and the biggest of the original wood sheds is on its last legs, having been damaged by rats gnawing round the bottom of its walls nearly all the way round; it will soon collapse completely. So I have ordered a new metal shed to replace it. This is the same make as the two I have built in the last few years but bigger. I don't intend to knock down the old one and build it straight away but they are 30% off at the moment so it is well worth getting it and storing it for later.



Saturday 22nd

2 to 12 to 7°C 5.87kWh 1.7kW max. Mostly sunny and still in the morning but came increasingly cloudy and windy by late afternoon with a few spots of rain


While it was still tried again to tighten up the polytunnel skin which had slackened in the strong winds of the last few weeks since we first fixed it. Had to dig out a lot of the wet heavy muddy soil yet again before we could pull it tight. Put all the soil back plus some more and hopefully this will have settled before we get any more strong winds.


Sunday 23rd

7 to 13 to 10°C. 1.62kWh 600W max. Overcast with a strong warm southerly wind.


I was hoping to finish tightening the other end of the polytunnel today but the wind became very blustery overnight so it have to wait. Trouble is the longer it stays loose the more likely it can be damaged by these high winds; there has never been such a long period of stormy weather.


The wind had partly brought down an old damson tree which was leaning over onto the road so the first job this morning was to cut some of this away. Even on Sunday morning the traffic makes this a difficult job; it is impossible on weekdays. To think one of the reasons why we bought this house 40 years ago was because it was on a quiet road!!


At least it is so warm I don't have to worry about the propagators not maintaining a high enough temperature for germinating seeds. I sowed sweet pepper, Golden Acre cabbage and Bristol onions today.


Ordered the summer bedding plants from jerseyplantsdirect.com

This year I am trying to grow things the rabbits don't like, geranium, impatiens, mimulus and double begonia. These all come as '100 plug plants + 70 free' in 180 cell trays and usually there are at least this many. Hopefully, unlike last year, we won't get a very cold spell in the middle of March when I have just planted them into larger cell trays.


Started to sieve the soil for the parsnip bed. After 2 hours we were just over half way. A lot of work but it is the only way to get parsnips without forked roots in our stony soil. Even though this particular bed has been sieved several times before there always seem to be more stones turn up from somewhere; it is almost as though they work their way up from lower down. Then for a change I finished fencing off half of the chicken run so I can plant the beans and peas there, starting with the Aquadulce broad beans overwintering in pots in the polytunnel.


Monday 24th

6 to 13 to 8°C. 3.85kWh 1.7kW max. Mainly overcast but with a few brighter intervals particularly around midday. Some light rain in the evening.


Very little wind so managed finally to anchor down the polythene all the way round the polytunnel. This last part involved having to take up the paving stones outside the door, dig out the soil beneath them, pull tight the polythene and then put the soil back while Pat kept each section tight. Finally put back the paving stones but these will need to be adjusted after everything has settled. Needless to say this took most of the afternoon but it is a relief that we have finally finished and it will probably not need doing for at least another 7 years (will I feel up to doing this again when I am 77 or 78?)


The early potato seed tubers have chitted nicely and are beginning to feel soft so it is time to start planting them, initially in 3L pots but they will end up in 10L pots of maybe 17.5L polypots later. Did this with the Arran Pilot and will do the Swift and Casablanca tomorrow.


Tuesday 25th

4 to 12 to 3°C 4.18kWh 1.7kW max. Strong southerly wind with sunny intervals and showers, quite heavy ones in the afternoon. Cleared after dark. The wind was very strong around lunchtime making my bike ride quite hard.


The second lot of Excellenz peas have germinated between their wet paper towels to planted these in 12 cell trays just like the first batch which have now starte to show above the soil. Then back to planting the Swift potatoes in 3L pots.


Wednesday 26th

2 to 10 to 5°C. 4.81kWh 1.7kW max. Sunny intervals with a slightly weaker wind. A few spots of rain in the afternoon and evening.


Finished seiving the soil for the parsnip bed but not before a rabbit had tried to dig under the part we had already done. This was after I had chased it away when it tried to dig a burrow through the narcissus bulbs in front of the conservatory and under the oriental poppy bed next the garage a couple of days earlier. It has also scraped up primroses, crocuses and snowdrops down the side of the drive and beds in the back garden.


I am now throughly fed up with the wildlife in this garden. Squirrels dug up and redistributed the crocuses last year, they are now growing in all sorts of odd places, and it is a constant battle to stop them getting into the vegetable garden and, along with rats and mice, digging up the peas and beans just after they have germinated to get at the seed. Mice and rats dig under the chicken run to steal their food and rats have gnawed all the way round the last of wooden sheds causing it to collapse. I have also given up growing sweet corn because the squirrels, rats and mice eat it before it is ripe.Miice also tunnel under the sheds and make nests inside them chewing up plastic bags and sheets, potatoe polybags and fleece sheeting and nibbling their way into bags of vermiculite and coir blocks. . I wouldn't mind if they just chewed up one polybag or nibble at one coir block but instead they take a little from each; almost as if they are trying to bore their way though all of them.


Rabbits ate much of the summer bedding last year and would have eaten the salads if we hadn't grown them behind wire mesh. I am about to put out the spring bedding and I know they will eat this, especially the violas and pansies, and they seem to prefer the wild flowers in the wild garden to the grass.


So,reluctantly, I have decide to try and get rid of, or at least reduce the presence of, these pests. I have ordered some cage traps suitable for catching rabbits, rats and squirrels depending on the bait you put in them and started putting poison blocks inside the sheds to get rid of the rats and mice.I have also ordered two solar powered mole deterents as these creatures are also becoming a nuisance digging under the flowers beds and the lawn.


I planted out the Aquadulce broad beans today. Hopefully the squirrels won't dig them up like they did last year and before I can either deter or trap them.


Thursday 27th

6 to 9 to 1°C. 6.03kWh 1.7kW max. Sunny intervals and only a light breeze. Quite Spring-like but it is turning colder and sleet or even snow showers are forecast for tomorrow.


The rabbit traps came. Quite easy to assemble though one of them had an oversensitive trigger so needed some adjustment; a good job I had the others to compare it with. Baited one of them with the top off a Brussel Sprout plant and the rest with thin slices of carrot. Placed them in the wild garden, on the lawn, behind the garage, behind the hedge between the drive and the vegetable garden, and round the back near the turf mounds. These are all places where they have recently been digging deep holes. Nothing caught yet but didn't expect this as they aren't very active in the afternoon; we shall see what transpires overnight and tomorrow morning.


The two mole deterrents came as well. These are solar powered with long poles which go into the ground and vibrate. Placed them both near the latest crop of mole hills and, as instructed, further into the garden so they are driven into the field.


Then back into the polytunnel to plant the Casablanca seed potatoes in 3L pots and start transplanting the leek seedlings into trays.


Friday 28th

1 to 7 to -2°C. 2.55kWh 800W max. Mainly overcast with a few brighter intervals and some very light wintery showers.


Haven't caught any rabbits yet but they have been eating the trails of apple leading to the traps and might follow them in some time in the next day or two.


I can't really wait till they have gone to start moving the pots of spring flowers out of the polytunnel to the front of the house and conservatory, even though some of them are likely to be eaten. I will need the space in the polytunnel soon for other things. So moved 40 pots of primula, bellis, pansy and viola which are now flowering nicely. We will see how many get eaten overnight.


Decided to make a cold frame over part of the salad bed using the old double glazed windows we replaced last year. Once the soil has warmed up I will sow some lettuce, salad leaves and radish.