Monday, 28 September 2009

Autumn Crocus and other autumn goodies

Several years ago I bought some autumn crocuses, which flowered for one year and then died. This was the only one to survive, and each year it pops up for a little while to brighten my day.
We had a trip to Leighton Moss RSPB reserve yesterday, and they have a stretch of trees completely covered in ivy, which is now flowering. It's a beautiful sight, humming with insects, and provides fruit for the birds through the winter. I also keep ivy, but it's not as pretty as this.
I think these berries are guelder rose, there are a few small bushes of it near home, but here there were big tree-size bushes, covered in bright red berries. Unfortunately the bush isn't really garden material (too scruffy!) or we'd see a lot more of it around.
Here are some redshanks (note the orange-red legs!) having a snooze with one eye open, standing on one leg. They're really comical birds, very active and noisy when awake.
And some deer - eight of them were lazing around a pool. Tricky to get pictures in the flat, cloudy light, and this was the best I got. A mixture of males, females and juveniles feeding among the reeds and grass. Sorry the pictures aren't better quality, but it's difficult taking them in a hide and the d...ned animals kept moving!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

More Produce

At the moment, work is a 6-day business, so I really don't have time to get out in the garden. Instead, I just pick whatever is ready. Here we have runner beans, courgettes, raspberries and, shock! ripe tomatoes grown outdoors.

I'm amazed that the tomatoes have ripened, but I'm not complaining. I may have some more next week. The raspberries are now mostly made into jam, yum. If the frost stays away, we should have fruit into November. The canes are covered in fruit, so here's hoping.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Late September

Sorry about the lack of postings - I am now in one of my busy times with work and so don't have as much time to do other things. So a quick scoot round the late September garden will have to do for today.

We are settled in a longish spell of dry, sunny weather, sometimes quite warm. So there are a few jobs to be done before it breaks - the first being painting the shed, which didn't get done last year due to all the rain. Here is the newly painted shed. Of course quite a lot of the paint ended up on me, my clothing and in my hair...
Here is one of the autumn raspberry plants - we're picking every few days now, it has been a very good year for them, like all the fruit in the garden.
Cosmos flowers.
This is the last and biggest of my pumpkins, Small Sugar. It's just starting to turn now - the others are orange already, but this one has taken its time.
Even my outdoor tomatoes are ripening in the autumn sunshine, which is very surprising. We are forecast to have another couple of weeks of mostly sunny and dry weather, so there's hope for the green ones yet!
These are the leeks - plus weeds. These are late winter leeks, for eating after Christmas, so at present they are pencil thick and will bulk up later. It looks like a good crop - the dratted slugs got about 20 or so, but these will survive now.
We went out for a walk on the moors today in the sunshine. Most of the heather has long since finished flowering, but there are a few clumps of pink heather still pushing up their blooms.
These are ruins of some of the quarry buildings. The chimney is a local landmark and was in danger of falling down a few years ago. It has been stabilised now, along with some of the buildings around it. This quarry was deserted around 100 years ago, but when we were there today there were lots of birds around and even a stoat, plus a few people walking through. A lovely sunny day.

I hope to get back to the gardening soon...

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

More Apples

These are the Worcester Pearmain apples, 6 lbs in total. The tree doesn't produce as much as the Katy tree, but they're tasty! The fruit is almost over now - only the autumn raspberries left, which should go on for a few more weeks. I will be getting another apple tree this winter, so watch this space!
Michaelmas Daisies - not in my garden sadly, but I saw these when I was out and about this weekend. A characteristic plant for September and October, these daisies confirm that autumn is here and winter around the corner.

PS The plum jam was excellent!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Katy Apple Time

Early in the week we had some strong winds and more windfalls from the Katy apple tree. So I decided to pick all the apples and here they are! An excellent crop, increased from last year. Very little damage - I didn't bother netting them this year from insects and birds, and the only damage I could spot was from slugs when apples fell on the ground. These are eating apples and will keep for a month.
I also cut some herbs for drying - sage (left), rosemary (bottom) and peppermint (middle). The autumn raspberries are coming on well now too (right).
I still have a lot of plums in my kitchen, so decided to make some jam. I wasn't sure how well they would set, so added 2 chopped apples for extra pectin. It's a bit of an experiment!

Other jobs done this week so far: I pruned the summer raspberry canes which had fruited back to the ground, I did some more weeding in the strawberry patch and I noticed that the cabbages are finally starting to look like cabbages and not pathetic weeds!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Plum Time

The weather has warmed up a bit and a dry day meant I could get out to deal with the fruit and vegetables which needed picking. Here are the plums - my pride and joy for this year! After producing nothing for five years, the tree has suddenly outdone itself with over 15 pounds of fruit. The wasps have taken some and one of them wasn't keen on me picking the rest, stinging me on the finger. I survived.
But what do you do with 15 pounds of plums? After a really good fruit year, my freezer is full, so I reverted to the old fashioned method - bottling. A couple of weeks ago I bought some Kilner jars in preparation. So last night I made 5 jars of bottled plums. I still have lots left, and may have to cook some more this week.
The strong winds over the weekend brought down some apples (Katy). These aren't quite ripe, so I cooked them as apple compote (pips removed, skins left on, stewed with sugar). The rest are ripening well now and should be ready for picking in a week or two. There were also a few courgettes and some runner beans.
The garlic and onions had been drying in the shed for the last month, so yesterday I took them out for cleaning and storing. Here's my garlic, in its pot for the winter.
Unfortunately a mouse has once again found its way into the shed and was working through the pea seed I left to dry. Here's a sample empty pod! In the next few weeks I need to clean out the shed, find the hole and stop it up!

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Indoor Gardening

The weather has been truly dreadful this week, with strong winds and torrential downpours which the UK Met Office mysteriously calls "showers". Not in my book, they're not. As I type, the wind has gone, the skies have cleared and I see the first bit of blue sky in days. Not much use at this time of day, but it's nice to see it anyway.

And the temperature - well, today it reached the dizzying heights of 14C (57F) which is rather low for early September. All year we have had extraordinarily strong winds here which have added wind chill to the technical temperatures, so it actually felt colder than that. Global warming, my a..e.

So no gardening this week. Instead Mum and I went to the garden centre on Thursday - she wanted a crocosmia but they didn't have the one she really wanted. So she bought a couple of pot plants and we browsed the bulbs. I bought two sets of hyacinths; one Christmas flowering and one for spring. The Christmas one is an unusual apricot shade, and it will be nice to have the colour and scent at the darkest time of the year.

In a few weeks I'll pot the Christmas ones up (I'll do the others a bit later) and stick them outside in a sheltered spot with a lid on to keep out the light. Once they have grown sufficiently, I'll bring them inside - it should be the end of November or beginning of December by then. As long as we don't have a freeze they will be ok outside - I'll have to think again if we have a repeat of last year's December snow!

Also this week I've moved all my house plants to their winter positions, with the Christmas cacti on the warm windowsills so that when I put the heating back on (normally end September, but maybe sooner this year) they will get the warmth they need to flower. It's one of those jobs that separates the seasons for me - a marker.

The weather is forecast to be better next week, so I hope to get out there to do some weeding and pick fruit!