SEPTEMBER 2008                                                                                          Back to August 
Monday 1/9/08
Another miserable day with heavy showers. Decided to do some tidying up in the polytunnel. The melons have started dying back so we picked the rest of the fruit to ripen in the conservatory. There was also a lot of botrytis on the tomatoes - much more than I remember is earlier years this early in September. No surprising given the 100% humidity during most of August.

Tuesday 2/9/08
Well, it's official. This August was the wettest and dullest since records began in 1928. I can only remember 3 days with more than a fleeting glimpse of the sun. According to the news 'This August has been the dullest in the UK since records began - with just 105.5 hours of sunshine, against an average for the month of 165 hours.' That must have been in the South - there was nowhere near that much sun round here.
I tried twice to go for my daily bike ride and several times changed into my gardening clothes only to be driven back by yet another heavy shower. The forecast is no better. To think that this time last year I was wondering whether I ought to buy some more water butts in case we ran out in summer. The current 6 have been more than enough!!

Wednesday-Friday 3-5/9/08
Very little to report other than it continues to rain heavily with very few dry intervals and even those are with heavy cloud and no sun. About 3 inches have fallen judging by a bucket left out in a clear area of the garden. Shouldn't complain; conpared with the hurricanes in the Carribean and floods in northern India our weather isn't really that bad.
Managed to do a little weeding and turned over the ground recently vacated by the later broad beans and early carrots. I have covered this with woven polythene sheets to keep it weed free till the time comes to plant something else. While I was doing this I noticed both lots of main crop potatoes had been badly battered by the heavy rain and very little foliage is left on them. Time to dig them up before they start to rot down the stems into the tubers; they obviously aren't going to grow any more after this.

Saturday-Sunday 6-7/9/08
Two better days with little rain but still overcast. Started digging the maincrop potatoes. A very poor yield which isn't surprising given that there was very little sun in August and no the heavy rain has completely destroyed the foliage.

Monday-Wednesday 8-10/9/08
Back to heavy showers again so got very little done in the garden but managed to continue clearing the dense undergrowth from the part of the garden nearest the road. This was completely neglected for many years when I was suffereing from MCS and still at work. Finally nearly ten years since I retired there is a chance I might get it back under control.

Thursday-Friday 11-12/9/08
Two much better days. Sunny intervals and just the odd light shower.
The only trouble with clearing the overgrown parts of the garden and cutting hedges is you need to do something with the large pile of twigs and branches. For this we use a chipper and shredder. Not one of the useless electric ones you can buy at B&Q but a proper estate sized one. with a 5.5hp petrol engine with a large hopper for soft waste and twigs up to 12mm thick and a chipper chute for large branches up to 70mm.

The shreddings coming from the other end go into one of our 5 large compost heaps (1.5 x 1.5 x 1m) and 6-12 months later and 3 or 4 turnings over you have a large supply of nutritious mulch and compost. This gets used directly for growing the strawberries and squashes and for earthing up the potatoes. In later years as it breaks down it inproves the texture of the soil for growing other vegetables and fruit.

Quite a lot of work but it is worth it.Smile

Saturday-Sunday 13-14/9/08
The weather is definitely improving. I ran out of petrol for the shredder so went back to tidying up the garden.

Noticed that the viola,,pansy, wallflower and sweet william plantlets were getting rather big for the 12 cell trays I planted them in earlier. It is too early to plant them out as the summer bedding is still in full flower so I decided to pot them on into 6 cell trays to keep them going. Quite a big job as there are around 400 of them altogether. I also potted on some basil, rosemary and parsley into 5" pots for use during the winter.

For potting on I usually make up a compost of 1 part spent coir or peat compost to 3 parts seived soil from the turf mound behind the polytunnel, adding some JI no 3 fertiliser.

For those unfamiliar with a turf mound it is an old-fashioned idea which was used in the old large gardens of the past. . Somewhere in a spare corner of the garden you start to build a mound of grass, perennial weeds and, vegetable detritus not suitable for composting because it is infected or contains large roots or seed heads,After 4 or 5 years you start a new mound and after another 4-5 years a third mound. The mound rots down and eventually you are left with a humous rich soil perfect for making potting compost or for refreshing the soil in flower beds or the greenhouse. It is not perfect because it usually still has viable seeds in it so you can't use for seed sowing only potting on.

Monday-Thursday 15-18/9/08
The wearher is quite settled, warm with suny intervals during the day and quite cool at night, only 5°C on Wednesday night. I hope we don't get a frost. It would be a shame if now we finally have some sunny weather some of the summer bedding starts to die back.

Continued to cut back the overgrown shrubs and self-planted saplings in the neglected part of the garden near the road and chipped and shredded some of it.

Another lizard appeared in the house walking across the kitchen floor. We can never work out how they get in. Both the outer doors are double glazed PVC with a lip and are nearly always closed. As usual Pat picked it up and carried it to the polytunnel. It is nice and wam and there and there are plenty of insects to catch, including several colonies of tiny black non-biting ants.Friday 19/9/08
A really good day with plenty of sunshine and light winds. We cycled over to Whixall Moss in the afternoon and went for a walk round. It was very quiet with very few people except on the canal where there were still quite a few barges. Canal holidays seem to have becomve very popular in the last few years. With weather like this it must be very relaxing for city folk to cruise slowly through the Shropshire countryside.

Took some more photographs from which I will choose a few for the website. No real signs of autumn yet the glorious yellows, reds and browns will be here next time we visit in October.

Yet another lizard appeared in the kitchen. This time a female (the previous one had an orange belly and was therefore a male).

Saturday-Sunday 20-21/9/08

The weather continues to be fairly settled with sunny intervals during the day but cool at night with mist in the morning. Continued to clear the bottom of the garden and even had to water some of the outside troughs and pots, something I haven't had to do for most of the summer!!

Monday-Friday 22-26/9/08
The weather continues settled. Why couldn't we have this in July and August?
Dug up the rest of the main crop potatoes seeing as they had died back after all the earlier wet weather. Despite the mass of foliage on the top in August the tubers below were tiny. We usually get more than a bucket full of tubers off each plant. This year we got half a bucket off 18 plants. Hardly more weight than the seed potatoes I planted!!

Remember those small tubers from the first ealy potatoes I placed in the refrigerator to kid them into early growth? It worked. I planted them in pots in the polytunnel and quite a few have sprouted. I will keep potting them on and hopefully they will grow and produce new potatoes early next year; maybe even by Christmas. At least you can control the conditions in when they are under cover.

I sowed some Aquadulce broad beans in 9 cell trays and put them in the polytunnel to germinate. These will be planted out in November to overwinter. Unless the weather is very cold we should be a good crop of beans next April. The odd frosty night actually seems to make them grow better as it causes them to sprout more side shoots.

I am trying an overwintered pea, Excellenz, as well this year. These I have sowed in 12 cell trays, 3 peas to each cell. Peas seem to germinate better if they are in groups rather than single. 

Yet another creature turned up in the house; this time a toad. How do they get in?

Saturday-Monday 27-29/9/08
Went out for my usual bicycle ride in the morning and was about 200 yards from the house when I suddenly started feeling really fatigued and breathless. I must have breathed in a trigger chemical somewhere on my route.  I just about made it home and my respiratory function was less than 25% when I measured it. I recovered after 15 doses of Ventolin but needed 400mg of Ibuprofen for the arthralgia. Had lunch and went out to work in the garden but 2 hours later started feeling really unwell with a bad secondary reaction - the worst I have had for several months.

The asthma and arthralgia continued most of the weekend with the usual constipation phase of IBS and fatigue followed by the loose phase of IBS on Sunday night and Monday morning. I got through more than half a canister of Ventolin trying to keep my asthma at bay and was taking ibuprpfen and paracetamol alternately every 4 hours for the aching. Finally on Monday afternoon the symptoms started to subside. Not helped by a man turning up to read the electricoty meter. He stank of aftershave but I couldn't really refuse him entry. I  opened both outer doors and several windows and hid in my office for a couple of hours till I was sure it was all gone.

A complete wasted weekend which is a shame as we seem to have had the best of the weather.

Tuesday 30/9/08
The weather continues settled. I continued to clear the bottom of the garden.

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