Saturday, 28 August 2010

A Day of Firsts

I was excited to find this when I dug among the leaves in the pumpkin bed. It's a Crystal Apple Cucumber - it should grow a bit bigger than this, but it is the first one I've managed to grow and there are a few more in there. Having said that, I've tried to grow this cucumber outdoors for a couple of years with no success previously and I've come to the conclusion that it really isn't suitable for our climate - maybe in a greenhouse, but not outdoors. So there won't be any next year.
This was another surprise - a solitary apple on my Blenheim Orange apple tree. This tree flowered for the first time last year (after 6 years in the ground) but didn't set fruit. I realised it was because it needed two pollinators and I had lost one to apple canker a couple of years earlier. So I went and bought a Spartan tree this spring to help it along. It flowered sparsely (Blenheim Orange can be a biennial fruiter) but it did set fruit, as did the Spartan. Unfortunately the extreme dryness of the spring meant that the June drop was very severe and I thought I had lost all the apples. So today, when I spotted this I was over the moon. My first Blenheim Orange apple - it's been a struggle, but we're getting there now.
And the Spartan tree also has two apples, again a first for me. I think Spartan is my very favourite apple and while you can buy them in good greengrocers now, I've long wanted to grow my own. This should be ready in October, along with the Blenheim Orange.
Now I have grown pumpkins before, but it has been an extraodinarily good year for them. Today I counted seven, but there could be more under the foliage - the largest number I've ever managed to grow. This is Small Sugar, it generally turns out a little under football size and the first fruits are just starting to turn orange.
Here is the first marrow I allowed to grow to full size - I hardened it off in the shed after cutting and now the skin is hardened, I've brought it home. It should keep for a good while yet. On the right is my first summer cabbage, a small one which I had for my lunch yesterday. The apples are some small windfalls from the Katy tree. As you can see, the courgettes are still going and there are more to come - an excellent year for them.
The weather is unusually cold for the time of year. Some of the trees are starting to turn already, and I'm concerned we may be in for an early and cold winter. So when we take up a whole crop, we're clearing the ground and doing the winter composting now. We did the same last year, and it paid off since we couldn't get at the ground for a couple of months. Better to be prepared for the snow to come, rumour has it the salt mines in Cheshire are working 24/7 at present as early frost/sleet/snow is forecast...
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