Trees and Storm Arwen

Storm Arwen hit the UK yesterday with some tragic consequences. Fallen trees were behind many of the incidents including the loss of life, power outages, blocked roads and train cancellations. Trees are, of course, beautiful and essential to our general well-being and we should be caring for them better than we currently do. At this time of year, the propensity for stormy weather combined with trees still in leaf increases the likelihood of scenes like this.


Tree cover in Herefordshire is around 15%, well above the average for the UK (13%) and England (10%).

Reports of trees blocking roads are not uncommon in this part of the world.

Trees are a valuable, and renewable, resource for building materials and a key part of any natural environment. We enjoy having them around in villages, towns and cities because they look magnificent, absorb pollution, and provide shade for us and a habitat for wildlife. On a wider scale, they are important carbon sinks for our carbon dioxide emissions.  We should be caring for those trees we have and planting many many more (though only in the right places). Trees need care and maintenance, especially during their early and late years, if they are to live long and prosper.

We were fortunate to escape any damage from Storm Arwen. Wind gusts of 58 km/h (36 mph) and average hourly wind speeds of 12 km/h (7.5 mph) was as bad as it got on 26/27th. Overturned bins and planters were the only evidence for a storm that reached over 157 km/h (98 mph) in other parts of the UK.


Seasonal Changes in the Garden - September 2021

 In the northern hemisphere, September is the start of the meteorogical autumn. It is still warm enough to enjoy the outdoors and plenty to do in the garden. It is also a busy month bringing in the harvest before any chance of frost.

See here for links to the first 8 months of 2021. At the start of September (1st), there are roses, sunflowers, cosmos, hydrangea, geraniums, petunias, fuschias and more to enjoy and keep the bees interested. Butterflies are less common with just a few red admirals.


By the end of the month (30th), the colour palette is much reduced, nights are getting cooler and there is a nip in the air in the morning and evening. Apart from potatoes, parsnips and winter greens, which will stay in the ground through autumn and winter, the rest of the harvest has been gathered in. On the patio table, an overgrown courgette (marrow) and some of the Festival squashes are on their way to storage. 


Meteorological data for September 2021 are provided in the table below. September was a lovely warm month with daytime temperatures only dropping below 20 ℃ for 6 days at the beginning and end of the month. The Met Office also measured this month as having the highest CET temperature anomaly of 2021 (so far). Although rainfall was significant, 70% of it fell in the cooler last four days of the month. Last September (2020) was also a very pleasant month as I recall.

September 2021 (2020)

Weather Parameter

Value

Dates

Average Monthly Temperature 

16 oC (15 oC)


Maximum Monthly Temperature

32 oC (29 oC)

7th

Minimum Monthly Temperature

6 oC (3 oC)

29th

Number of Air Frost Days

0 (0)


Number of Hot Days (> 25 oC)

5 (7)

5th - 8th, 24th

Monthly Precipitation

53.0 mm (17.4 mm)


Greatest 24 h Precipitation

17.8 mm (6.6 mm)

28th - 29th

Number of Dry Days

18 (20)


Monthly Sunshine Hours (estimated)

125 (135)


Average Wind Speed

2 km/h (2 km/h)


Highest Wind Speed

32 km/h (37 km/h)

26th, 27th

Maximum Barometric Pressure (Sea Level)

1033.8 hPa (1031.3 hPa)

1st

Minimum Barometric Pressure (Sea Level)

998.7 hPa (992.4 hPa)

27th

Average Barometric Pressure (Sea Level)

1018.0 hPa (1017.6 hPa)






Bee Rescue

 What do you do when you find a bee trapped in a spider's web? If it is alive and buzzing, and you are Mary, then you don't call International Rescue but quickly find a couple of sticks with which to extricate the stricken insect from its sticky trap and place it on the operating table or, in this case, a nearby plant pot filled with soil (and plant!?)


Then carefully, very carefully, you start to remove the web entangling the queen bumblebee in order to free its legs and wings. At the moment, there are quite a few queens in the garden, fattening themselves up ready for their winter diapause ('hibernation').

It proves to be a delicate and time-consuming task because the bee is constantly trying to free itself. In the end, one last break in a web strand and the bee is able to wriggle free and fly away.

No animal was hurt in the recording of this rescue, unless you count the spider who lost his dinner.

Green Manure

 Green manures are fast-growing plants that provide ground cover which, at a later date, can be dug into the soil to add nutrients and improve soil structure. There are different types depending on the time of year they are sown; usually mixtures of legumes and grasses. For my purposes, I need to cover bare soil in the kitchen garden over winter - otherwise, the local cat population just adopt my vegetable plots as new toilet areas. Usually, I make do with covering the uncultivated ground with black plastic to suppress weeds, keep the cats off and prevent nutrient wash-out. As an added bonus, slugs think they are hidden on the surface of the soil and can be picked off with ease.

In the past, I have not had much success with green manures. My summer vegetable plots remain productive until well into October. By which time it is often too late to get the green manure established enough to survive winter. In any case, I thought I would give it another go after finding a packet of seeds with a use-by-date of 2018!!

The photo below shows three 'plots' of green manure sown at the beginning, middle and end of October. I think it is fairly obvious which is which. The white sticks are holding chicken wire netting in place to deter the usual four-legged suspects and are removed once the plants are established (as was the case with the earliest sowing). We have had a very mild October and November so far.



Some of the advantages of green manure are:

  1. Suppresses weeds by providing ground cover
  2. Retains soil nutrients by returning those drawn up by the plants to the soil when dug in later
  3. Legumes will fix nitrogen
  4. Reduces nutrient washout
  5. Provide shelter for beneficial insects such as ground beetles
There are very few disadvantages:
  1. Can harbour slugs & snails but we will deal with them later.
  2. Needs to be dug in and left for two weeks before sowing/planting (because the composting bacteria responsible for the decaying process get first use of the available nitrogen needed by new plants)
  3. Mustard green manure (a brassica) might encourage club root - so avoid brassicas as the following crop.
 

Seasonal Changes in the Garden - August 2021

August is a strange and intermediary month representing the last of summer and the first of autumn. Days can feel like high summer (hot & still) or autumnal with early morning and/or late evening chill. The garden still displays much of its colour and vibrancy but it is also the start of harvest-time. This photo, from 3rd August, shows there is still plenty of life left in the garden but with hints of autumn in the changing leaves of the acer and the ripe red berries of the mountain ash. See here for links to earlier months.


The Paradise Garden is still a great place to sit quietly with a mug of tea or coffee, maybe a piece of cake, and a good book to while away the warmer parts of the day in the company of bees and butterflies.


By the end of the month (31st), not much seems to have changed. The buddleia and lilies have gone over but there is a second flowering of the roses and the sunflowers, cosmos and fuschia have finally appeared. The Rev Wilks apples have developed that pink tinge which means they are nearly ready for picking. On the patio, a fresh batch of green coffee beans (Indian Monsoon Malabar) is roasting.


August 2021 was a warm, dry month (c.f. August 2020 which was hot and wet). Our rainwater butts (approximately 2500 L) just about coped with the dry weather.

August 2021 (2020)

Weather Parameter

Value

Dates

Average Monthly Temperature 

17 oC (18 oC)


Maximum Monthly Temperature

26 oC (36 oC)

4th

Minimum Monthly Temperature

8 oC (5 oC)

27th - 29th

Number of Air Frost Days

0 (0)


Number of Hot Days (> 25 oC)

4 (7)

4th, 10th, 22nd, 26th

Monthly Precipitation

25.0 mm (121.8 mm)


Greatest 24 h Precipitation

7.4 mm (52.8 mm)

2nd - 3rd

Number of Dry Days

18 (16)


Monthly Sunshine Hours (estimated)

148 (154)


Average Wind Speed

3 km/h (4 km/h)


Highest Wind Speed

31 km/h (53 km/h)

6th

Maximum Barometric Pressure (Sea Level)

1033.0 hPa (1023.1 hPa)

31st

Minimum Barometric Pressure (Sea Level)

993.7 hPa (993.0 hPa)

6th

Average Barometric Pressure (Sea Level)

1017.3 hPa (1012.6 hPa)


Seasonal Changes in the Garden - July 2021

 Midsummer in the UK and what should be the warmest month of the year, July. See here for the link to June and earlier months.

July 2nd and clear evidence the grandchildren have been round; plastic tumblers and the table-top firepit has seen recent use. Front-of-house, the roses and hydrangea still going strong and the red dahlias are starting to show. The Paradise Garden is full of colour though not so easy to see from this point of view.

Here is a different view of the Paradise Garden: white campion and toadflax in the foreground with snapdragon, delphiniums, lilies, roses, geraniums, petunias, more lilies, foxgloves around the edge from left to right.


Mid-July and it's time for a tea party with Mary's band so the gazebo goes up to provide some shade. Temperatures reached 32 ℃ on a hot sunny day with high UV Index so shade was essential.


In contrast, the end of the month (July 30th) finished much cooler (high temperature 18 ℃), wetter (9.2 mm) and windier. The buddleia (aka summer lilac and butterfly bush) in the Paradise garden is now flowering although this was not a day for butterflies.


The monthly weather summary for July 2021 from our Davis Weather Station is tabulated below. Warm and wet at the beginning and end of the month with a hot, dry period in the middle.

July 2021 (2020)

Weather Parameter

Value

Dates

Average Monthly Temperature 

19 oC (17 oC)


Maximum Monthly Temperature

34 oC (33 oC)

18th, 20th

Minimum Monthly Temperature

11 oC (7 oC)

9th

Number of Air Frost Days

0 (0)


Number of Hot Days (> 25 oC)

17 (7)

1st, 2nd, 8th, 12th - 23rd,, 25th, 26th

Monthly Precipitation

71.2 mm (32.4 mm)


Greatest 24 h Precipitation

14.8 mm (9.6 mm)

27th - 28th

Number of Dry Days

19 (20)


Monthly Sunshine Hours (estimated)

204 (178)


Average Wind Speed

3 km/h (4 km/h)


Highest Wind Speed

35 km/h (43 km/h)

6th

Maximum Barometric Pressure (Sea Level)

1030.7 hPa (1030.1 hPa)

17th

Minimum Barometric Pressure (Sea Level)

993.0 hPa (1000.3 hPa)

6th

Average Barometric Pressure (Sea Level)

1014.8 hPa (1009.7 hPa)



Globally, July 2021 was one of the hottest months on record though its exact position depends on which global temperature data set you use. It was the second warmest July in Europe and equal fifth for the UK. For the Met Offices's weather station at Ross-on-Wye, it was the fourth warmest since 2000 (2006, 2013 and 2018 were warmer). My observations don't go back that far so all I can say is July 2021 in Hereford was above average warm. Worryingly, July 2021 falls within the cooling cycle (La Nina) of the El Nino Southern Oscillation, as shown by the Oceanic Nino Index (ONI), so temperatures were suppressed and it could have been much warmer both locally and globally. 

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