Sunday, 24 June 2012

The Monsoon - Part 2

On Friday I dropped in at the allotment to put cloches on some of my plants and seedlings, to prevent them being washed away under the heavy rain.  I really should have brought my wellies home with me, as it turned out!  I kept an eye on the river all day and while it was high, it was not                     unduly so.  Checked the Enviroment Agency website, not even a flood alert, so I was fairly relaxed.  Until I went outside just before 7pm and saw this.  This river is outside my house, on the other side of a high wall, and at this point the top of the water was a good bit higher than the bottom of my house.  Hmmm, I thought.
So then I went to the other side of the bridge and saw this.  S**t!  To explain, the bottom edge of  the pipe support is our gauge for how high the water is or is likely to get.  At or below the pipe support, ok, not to worry.  Above that, you really should worry.  I went back indoors and almost immediately the automated phone call came - flood warning.  Actually, this was the last time I actually saw that pipe for several hours as the water ultimately went well over it.
First thing, fit the floodgate to the front door, which is one of the lowest in the street.  Then on with the boots (should have brought the wellies home!), waterproof and collect the flood brush.  I only use this brush for two things - dealing with flood water or brushing soil off the paving stones in the very occasional dry spells we get.  By this time sandbags were being distributed, and this floodgate was reinforced with them later.
Then I saw this standing water and knew we were in trouble.  In the centre of this picture is a grid; all our surface water drains into the river, unless... you've guessed it... the river is in flood.  There are two of these grids near my house, and the water from the river comes up them, fast.  Happily, just to the right of this picture is my kitchen drain, which goes into the sewer.  The flood aversion technique, then, is to brush the water into the sewer drain as fast as you can to keep the level down.  Within 10 minutes of taking this picture, the pavement was invisible, drowned in the water.  So a group of us worked here and at the front of my house to move the water, while another, larger group managed to get the lid off the main sewer in the middle of the road to move the faster-rising water over there.
It took three hours of constant sweeping and bailing by 30 people, by 9.30pm I was convinced we had won the battle but we had to keep on just in case. By 10pm the river was clearly past its peak and receding, as were the pools of water in the village.  It goes down as rapidly as it comes up and by 10.45pm there was no water left.  Someone told me today that the water was rising by 2 feet every 5 minutes at its peak.  It was certainly a new record, judging by the graph on the Environment Agency website, the river peak was a full 50cm higher than the previous record.  But by 10.30 I was able to retreat inside, remove my wet boots and socks and put away the broom for the night.  After all that exercise, I certainly slept well!
Not everyone was so fortunate, a group of houses elsewhere in the village was flooded, just as they were 10 years ago.  A horrible experience.  But my floodgate is put away until the next time.

On the allotment, the wind tore the cloche protecting my tomato plants in two.  I've lost some courgettes, the beetroot is iffy and the snails have attacked some of my potato plants given the perfect munching conditions.  On the plus side, I have loads of marrows, which I transplanted today, so they should make up for the lack of courgettes.  The standing water which made an appearance on the allotment on Friday has gone, we just have sodden soil yet again.  Plus an overgrown slug and snail population and summer plants which must seriously think its autumn.

British summer weather strikes again...  Roll on winter, it can't be worse than this, can it?

Monday, 18 June 2012

Another summer, another monsoon!

For the third year in a row we have been hit by torrential summer rain.  It was so bad I covered up some of my plants with clochesto protect them from both the rain and the snails which followed it.  These broad beans were bent over by the rain.  I have now righted them using canes and string to support them.
These flowers, on an old purple sprouting broccoli plant, were also knocked about a bit.  This plant will shortly be removed, but it's providing food for insects at the moment, so we'll wait a bit.
I spotted bumble bees (above) honey bees and hoverflies on it and in the sunshine it has a lovely scent, surprisingly.
Last time I had the chance to do some work here, I got half way through weeding the strawberry bed, as you can see!  I waded through this bed after taking this photo to pull up as much grass as I could.  At this time of year my aim is to keep the undergrowth down so as not to encourage the slugs.
Before the rains came, I fed everything with either seaweed fertiliser or a plant specific fertiliser, so the food would get washed in.  These potatoes are very happy.  I always use potatoes which are both slug and blight resistant, to make my life easier.  This year it's Cosmos  and Desiree.
 I put the tomatoes under a cloche but left the ends open for insects.  These tomatoes (Tumbler) have already set fruit and all the plants are now either flowering or about to.
In addition to the rain, we also had strong winds and the garlic got knocked about a bit.  I must say I've never ever see this - most of the garlic had been pushed around so much each stem is now surrounded by a gap between it and the soil, you can just see it in this photo.
I did lose a few plants to snails and slugs - some cabbages, a pumpkin, a few lettuce and runner beans.  But most have survived well.  I put a cloche over the lettuce, which really did the trick and as well as these bigger plants, we also have lots of seedlings.  But as you can see from the photo, the big challenge now is to weed everything again!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Medieval Construction Methods

 My Other Half likes to construct pea and bean climbing frames, and generally chooses a Heath Robinson approach to building, lots of sticks and twine.  He has surpassed himself with this creation.
He's a history buff, currently completing a PhD, which seems to be taking forever, but I digress...  In the winter he watched too many programmes on medieval cathedral building and so he announced to me that this pea frame is constructed using geometrical patterns, specifically the triangle.  I can just about see that, can you?
Anyway, while he was playing with sticks and string, I got on with the gardening.  Here's an update on my home-grown seeds experiment.  At the bottom of the picture are the marrows, at the top you can just see four pumpkins.  Pretty good germination rate, I think.  My experiment with the cat litter slug repellant has had mixed results - up here I have a zero casualty rate, in the lettuce bed I did lose some plants.  As the weather has now turned wet, I have resorted to slug pellets, you can see them in most of these photos.  Would love not to have to use them but its a straight choice between having vegetables or not.
My tomato plants have settled in well, put on some growth and got flowering in earnest.
The potatoes are growing very fast now.  I sprinkled these with special potato fertiliser before the rain and then earthed them up again.  The other crops got a dusting of seaweed meal fertiliser.
Here are the lettuces, red and green.  I have sowed more in the gaps between the plants now.  These plants were started indoors last month. 
 The soft fruit is coming on well, these redcurrants are swelling nicely, as are the gooseberries. The rain will bring them on now.
 This photo is unfortunately slightly out of focus but the first broad beans have set.
 The strawberries are all flowering now, so I'm looking forward to a bumper crop.
 Here's the new foal (it's not mine!), which went outside for the first time about 10 days ago.
And I couldn't resist taking a photo of this lamb, which has the pinkest, most rabbit-like ears I've seen on a sheep!