Sunday, 30 August 2009

Autumn Fruit

Ok, this isn't a fruit - it's actually my Mum imprisoned in the brassica cage. I require labour from her in exchange for vegetables and she insisted I post this picture to show how I mistreat her! She complained she couldn't stand up properly - I told her she was supposed to be weeding so didn't need to! (I did let her out eventually)
Autumn is definitely here now, I've spent all afternoon in front of a roaring fire with my knitting. It's almost time to switch the heating back on, but I try to put that off as long as possible. So here is the promise of things still to come - the Worcester Pearmain apples are coming on well.
This is the Katy tree, loaded with lovely red fruit. Not ready yet - I tried one the other day and it was a little tart. I'm glad I put up the supports or the branches would have broken by now.
As per my previous post, the plums are now ripening and are delicious. Here is the tree with most of its fruit still on.

There's still plenty to do as autumn crops finish and I prepare the ground before putting the plot to bed for the winter. One more glut to come - the autumn raspberry crop looks like it will be a record! And of course all the apples will be ready at once, so I have to arrange storage for them. Lots to do.

Friday, 28 August 2009

First fruits

This is the first pumpkin (Small Sugar)- the plant died so I have brought this indoors to continue ripening on my kitchen dresser. They do ripen quite well indoors, surprisingly.
I'm really proud of these - the first Victoria plums my tree has produced in the five years it has been in the corner of the plot! There are lots more to come, but they aren't ripe yet. The basket you see is also my first attempt at basketmaking last winter - like most first attempts it was less than successful and is a long way from being round. I'm going to have another go this winter.
This is a helichrysum flower - you can dry these flowers as they have a high silica content and keep for years. Unfortunately the slugs love them, so I only have a few plants this year.
Here's another helichrysum, fully open this time and with a moth enjoying the pollen!

The weather now consists of alternate days of cloud/sun and cloud/rain/torrential downpours. This is not great for the tomatoes, which are slowing up markedly. The courgettes don't seem to mind though. I'm still working on clearing the strawberry patch, am half way there now!

Hopefully, more gardening tomorrow, fingers crossed.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Late Summer Gardening

At this time of year the pace of work starts to reduce and I start to look towards the next year. As soon as a vegetable bed has finished producing, I clear it and try to get it prepared for the spring. If we get a cold spell in the winter, the soil can be frozen for weeks and so every bit of work now saves time later.

Above is the last tub of compost from last year's bin - it's good stuff, and has been spread on a couple of beds which needed some "oomph".
Horse manure has started to arrive at the allotments - local horse owners dump loads of this by the gate. It's all free and rots down well. I cleared the last few scraps of old manure from the pile, and then started this new one. I have another pile of manure which I created last winter and that will be used in spring, so this one will be built into early 2010 and used in 2011. The corrugated sheets on the right create a lid which lets in light to heat the heap, but keeps off excessive rain.
After clearing the old broad bean plants from the bed, I started on the strawberries, cutting away the old and dead leaves and removing weeds. I peg down any runners I find at the same time. As you can see from the picture, this job is going to take a while given the size of the strawberry patch!
The tomatoes are growing well - the warm, humid weather of the last few days has suited them. Since I grow my toms outdoors, I don't get early tomatoes but there's nothing nicer than a good crop in September - the last flourish of summer.
The courgettes are still producing large fruit, there is still some spinach and I picked a massive three pounds of runner beans!

Happy gardening...

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Clitheroe Castle

Today I had a trip out to Clitheroe. There aren't many castles in Lancashire, but Clitheroe has a little one, just the Keep still standing on the top of a hill. Clitheroe is in the middle of the Ribble plain, and the ground around is largely flat, so the castle stands out well. The closest hill is Pendle, which you can see in this photo which I took from the castle. The village of Pendle is on the other side of the hill and this area is the location of the famous Pendle witch trials of the 17th century. And yes, you can buy broomsticks and other such things in Pendle!
Here's the castle - there is a bit more of the keep hidden by the perspective but basically it's just a tower. The castle and park around it have recently been revamped, with a new museum and cafe too, hence the visit. In the foreground is the war memorial - a feature of most towns and villages, but this is a particularly fine one, of a soldier leaning on his rifle.
Here it is again, from the side. The beds are filled with massed geraniums, red and pale pink, with a planting of pale purple violas too. I love geraniums, but can't keep them over winter in our climate.

We visited the new museum in which I learned, among other things, that hippopotami used to splash around in Clitheroe many, many years ago before the last ice age! Of course every small town museum is obliged to have a display about its famous sons and Clitheroe tries hard to do this. Unfortunately, no-one really famous has ever been born there so they give a list of tenuous connections; the painter Turner visited (he visited just about everywhere in the country, so this isn't news), so did Lord Nelson, and Tolkien "loved the Clitheroe area". What that means is he couldn't stand industrial Clitheroe, but he did stay at Stonyhurst college up the road. To be fair, it is true he wrote some of Lord of the Rings at Stonyhurst and the gentle rural landscape of the Ribble plain is said to be the inspiration for his vision of Middle Earth. I'm not entirely sure hobbits still live in Lancashire, though!

But the museum is pretty good for a small town, and is placed in the Steward's house by the castle. They have recreated the original Victorian kitchen and in it is the biggest sink I have ever seen. Handily they had put this tub in it for scale - the double sink is huge and carved out of one piece of stone. No wonder no-one ever wanted to remove it!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

The Things you find in a compost bin...

A long gap in my gardening this week - due to bad weather and a bad back, but I finally got back outside today. I decided to finish clearing the onion bed and prepare it for next year. I thought the soil needed some TLC, so decided to empty the compost bin onto the bed.

There were a few surprises in the compost bin:
  • three toads - one large, one medium and one tiny!
  • half a dozen empty coconut shells (from bird feeders) which my Mum put in before I suggested they would not decompose!
  • a small number of ants
  • my lost cheeseknife and my lost potato peeler (above)
I do have a habit of sweeping up cutlery in my veg peelings and I knew that the knife and peeler were in there somewhere. Last year I retrieved a vegetable knife (I had to buy a replacement while I was waiting for it to show), and I did have another potato peeler, but I have missed my cheese knife. So they just need a good clean before I put them back to good use.
I took the remaining broad bean pods off the plants today and put them to dry in the shed, with a similar number of fairly dry pea pods. I have never managed to grow my own bean seed, so this is a first for me. I have no idea whether it will work, and I will buy seed as well to be on the safe side, but you can never have too many beans and peas.

The courgettes are doing well, as you can see from the photo - one giant one heading to become a marrow!

I hope to do some more gardening at the weekend, so another post should follow in a couple of days.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Great Garlic, 'Orrible Onions

The garlic was dying back so I decided to dig it up today. The bulbs are great, probably the best ever. This is a year's supply, I split it with my Mum and we store it in garlic pots. So, a big success here. Turning, however to the onions:
these are the miserable specimens I have grown this year. I say "grown" but some of them have signally failed to do this, remaining the same size as they were when I planted them! The soil may be partly to blame, a newish bed and the soil quality isn't as good as elsewhere, so I will work on it now it is cleared. Still, most people round here have had a poor year for onions, even the man who grows huge onions has found they are smaller than usual, so I'm not alone - it must have been the weather.

Today's veg - lots of runner beans and courgettes. The tomatoes are coming on well too, after I fed them a few days ago - we have had blight in the area and lots of people have lost plants, but my blight resistant ones are standing up well. Hope the current sunny weather continues.
These are the lettuce towers - just about to put out flowers. This is the first time I have ever seen them do this - I started them so early they have had lots of time to go to seed. The tallest are about 4 feet from the ground!
The summer raspberries are just about finished now, but the autumn ones are flowering well as you can see from this photo. A lot of fruit is set and more flowers are on the way.
My first pumpkin now has a nice thick skin and is starting to turn orange - from the base. I now have 5 pumpkins at various stages of development, which is a good crop - still time for one or two more to develop.
Finally, here is a picture of Nigella Miss Jekyll, which I grow for cut flowers. It's just starting, so I will have lots of these to put in vases soon. As I type, I can see the flowers on the windowsill right in front of me, and they are very pretty in the late afternoon sun.

P.S. Not content with having a toad living in my compost bin, today I spotted a mouse running around the base of the bin as I opened it!

Friday, 7 August 2009

This is a beetroot ... no really, it is!

This is my vegetable disaster for this year - the beetroot. I've struggled to grow them for years, but changed variety last year and had a bumper crop. I thought I had cracked it but clearly not. They germinated reasonably, but not spectacularly, and then the weather turned colder and wetter. Some died through the wet, the slugs got others. So this miserable specimen is the best I have! I may start them indoors next year...
My Katy apple - about another month before they are ready for eating. I have taken advantage of the good weather to start my fruit tree/bush pruning. Yesterday I did the currants and the red gooseberry. The red gooseberry decided to grow along the ground for the first few years, before finally shooting upwards in the last year or so. So I was finally able to cut away the low branches this week.
Here are the runner beans in full flow - I have already had a few beans from them, but there are plenty more to come. It's good timing - the peas are just about finished now.
At this time of year a lot of the weeds are flowering - this one is endemic and I don't allow it to grow for long among my vegetables, but it is pretty.
These are some vetches (pea family) at the base of a holly bush.
Himalayan Basalm - considered an introduced pest of the highest order, it grows prolifically around here. But the flower is quite stunning, even more so in massed ranks.
This sedum type plant grows on the wall behind my raspberries - I suspect it's been there for decades.
Here is another sedum on a low wall - you really couldn't get a plant to do this in your garden! Nature does things so much better - this is an old wall without mortar, hence all the wonderful growth.
Finally, my first ever photo of a butterfly! This painted lady was basking in the sun on the path - it's quite faded and tatty so has probably travelled a long way. There was a big influx of these butterflies from Southern Europe in spring, but they tend only to reach the north in August/September. This is the first I've seen this year.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Flat Batteries

The weather has finally settled in a rather drier mode, so I got out in the garden with my camera. I took two pictures before the batteries died, then tried the rest of the batch I had charged recently to find them all flat. So these two pictures are all I have at present - more tomorrow after a charging session.

Thought I would cut the grass too, but the strimmer battery also gave out after 10 seconds. On the subject of cutting, I desperately need a haircut as I can hardly see through the frizz, but my hairdresser's number is on my mobile, the battery of which is also dead. And no, I can't remember the name of the salon to look it up in yellow pages. So it will have to wait until tomorrow when I have charged everything up!

Above is a picture of a tiny tomato - actually there are some bigger ones which I only noticed this afternoon. Quite a lot have set now, all we need is some sun.
These are my fennel flowers - I use the seeds in herbal teas (good for the digestion).

Anyway, I got out and tidied up the potato beds which are now empty. I've learned through bitter experience that it is best to weed and prepare vegetable beds as soon as they are empty, even if it is months before I'm planning to use them again. So I have two beds ready for the winter. The third potato bed has the leeks, which have settled in well after their move, only about 10 lost to slugs.

Then some emergency weeding, to rescue some parsnip and beetroot. The beetroot are particularly pathetic specimens and I hope to post a picture later in the week. Very depressing, but every year you have some things which do well, and some things which don't.

I've also fed a lot of the plants, which have had nutrients washed away from their roots by the torrential rain of recent weeks. And I have a toad living in my compost bin - it's like an all you can eat buffet in there, with flies and slugs galore. Only problem is I don't like dumping a batch of compost on the toad's head, so I have to lift him/her out while I deposit the next load!