Sunday, 11 December 2016

Jerusalem Artichokes

Today I dug up about half the Jerusalem artichokes,  some are huge and there are several pounds worth. Nice for a winter soup.  Easy to grow,  even in damp clay,  the only problem with them is they are thuggish and move to grow where they want to,  not necessarily where you want them.  I have already moved some to a new part of the plot,  so the rest have to come up.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Last big crop of the year

Today I picked the Spartan apples which was a decent crop from a young tree.  The last of the tomatoes  are off and the plants are now in the compost heap.  The pumpkins had a poor year due to very low summer temperatures but they did produce two fruits.  The autumn raspberries are still going strong,  there will be more if the weather stays as good as it is right now.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Autumn Doings 2016

As the season nears its end, there is still lots to do.  These cornflowers are coming to a close but still pretty.

The autumn raspberries have been magnificent, providing lots of fruit each week.
While the apple crop is poorer than normal due to the temperatures at pollination, the late summer increase in temperatures has encouraged the marrows and we have a heavy crop, more to come.

So thoughts turn to next year and this corner of the plot is top of the list.  This corner and the left side used to have raspberries, very old plants that I inherited.  They didn't produce much but I left them there for several years, until a shed was erected next door which took most of the light from this end of the plot.  Over 2-3 years a lot of the raspberries died, others grew away, towards the light and nettles took over.
So the only thing that can be done is to make the shaded area a compost/manure area.  This means digging up all the raspberries by hand.  Hard work, but as raspberries root themselves fairly near the surface they can be removed with time.

The plan is to move these artichokes up to the top corner, where the shade will not affect them too much as they will quickly grow above the wall and fence.  We will also remodel this whole area, making two beds with a grass path in between into one larger bed.  We will then move the two enclose beds you can see here down the slope, relaying the path behind at the same time.  The path was laid when the apple trees were small, it has slipped downhill a bit and is too close to the trees. 

Phase 1 is now complete, all the raspberries have been removed (the ones on the left are next door!) and you can see one remaining pile of stalks and roots in the centre of the picture.  All the compost bins have been moved to their final positions.  The two small ones at the top are standing above the water pipe  which enters at this point - not a good idea to grow plants over that!  The corner has been composted ready for the artichokes, so phase 2 is now the remodelling of the bed edges - the slabs on the left mark the edge of the old bed and these need to be moved as there is no light here, so we will make a new, broad path along the edge in front of the compost bins.  Lots still to do but good progress made.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Everlasting Flower

Does exactly what its name suggests,  lasts for ages in a vase.  Love these flowers.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Picking Peas in August

 This year's topsy-turvy weather has brought a first - picking peas in August.  Normally they would be finished by now, but surprisingly this year we picked the first courgettes before the peas.  They are still flowering so we will have more, but the crop will be nowhere as good as normal.
 Conversely, the outdoor tomatoes have done well, with lots of fruits maturing.  These are Totem, a reliable bush variety.
 An experiment for this year was this heritage variety - snowberry.  Small fruits on a cordon bush, which ripen to yellow, not red.  We have a few trusses maturing, they are very tasty.
 The garlic has been poor, but it did go in late. Usable but not as good as I would have liked.
While I was digging up some potatoes in a particularly weedy patch, I saw a flash of orange which turned out to be the belly of this newt.  It's been years since I've seen one, and he must have been hunting slugs among the potatoes. I released him nearby to carry on his good work!

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Wentworth Castle 18th Century Park and Gardens

Wentworth Castle Park was laid out in the early 18th Century and is a great example of early landscaping.  The house was built at the same time, the gardens, park and surrounding areas such as the walled kitchen garden are slowly being restored.
 The park is extensive and contains two kinds of deer - fallow deer are in this photo if you look carefully!
 Red deer are just about visible in the distance here.  They help to manicure the trees, which all have very flat bottoms.
 The house is built on a hill and at the bottom of the slope is an area called the serpentine where artificial lakes were created, designed to look like a river.  After an absence of maintenance over many years, they lack their former glory.  Here you can see how trees have grown into the ponds.
 This one has a lot of muddy water in it but is rather unkempt.  Hopefully they will be able to improve it in future years.
 This is the Rotunda, said to be based on the Temple of Vesta in Rome.  It is way across the park from the house, and recently restored to its original appearance.
 The house was used as a military hospital during the Second World War, and some soldiers were apparently fit enough to walk over here and commemorate their visit...
 The laurel wreath on the back of the monument gives the construction date as 1746.
 A double avenue of trees leads back to the house which is just over the horizon.   This avenue was almost entirely removed by agriculture, and was restored in the last ten years both by planting new trees which you can clearly see here, and by moving semi-mature trees from elsewhere on the estate.  This is exactly what the 18th century landscape gardeners did, but without machine power!  So the large trees you can see here did not start life in this spot but were dug up by a kind of tree scoop and replanted.  Very impressive.
 While some areas of the gardens at the house are rather wild and overgrown (a work in progress), others are more formalised.
 Large drifts of planting are very effective.
 I think this is very effective, with the white and pink side by side.
 This flower garden is not original but formed out of an old car park, just a few years ago.
 No 18th century house would be complete without a ha-ha, and this one is no exception.  Invisible from the house, it keeps those pesky sheep at a distance and stops them peering in the windows! 
 This Victorian themed garden has lovely displays of contrasting flowers and foliage, with chocolate leaved dahlias contrasting with other plants including yellow chard.
 An inscription on another garden monument commemorates Lady Wortley-Montague, who introduced a smallpox inoculation technique into the country in the early 18th century.  This technique was used to inoculate Jenner, who later developed the process of vaccination. 
 Down a long hill from the monument back to the house is this lovely avenue of lime trees, much bigger than they look in the photo, most beautiful.
 The final part of the tour was the Victorian conservatory.  It is spacious and not over-planted, as it is used for weddings.
 While everything in the photo looks like it has been here a hundred years, all is not what it seems.  The tiles were made and placed recently based on photos of the originals.  The conservatory fell into disrepair and became dangerous.
Following a public appeal it was dismantled and taken away for restoration which took months.  Can you imagine the complexity of that process?  They first had to figure out exactly how it was constructed, then make replacement parts for the missing/damaged bits, restore the surviving parts and then reconstruct it.  An amazing achievement.

Wentworth Park is near Barnsley in South Yorkshire.  The park is extensive and good shoes are required, the full walk round is about 4 miles but you can walk smaller sections.  There are lots of butterflies, deer and some nice flowers in summer.  In spring I believe the azalea garden is good, and they do have a lot of rhododendrons so a spring visit may be worthwhile.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

2016 - A Strange Weather Year

 2016 has been the weirdest year for weather.  The temperature in December was higher than in April, and of course we had a very wet winter, culminating in serious flooding.  This New Dawn rose was 3 feet under water, yet survived intact and has flowered later and for longer than normal. It has been flowering for a month now, and is putting out lots of new shoots, so the flooding seems to have been beneficial.
 Everything has been late this year, with poor germination and pollination generally.  Only about 60% of the broad beans germinated, all the runner beans failed and I had to resow the peas due to germination failure.  I thing this was due to exceptionally heavy rain and low temperatures at the time.  There are still broad beans to pick and the peas haven't yet produced full pods, which is extraordinary for the end of July.
 Everything seemed to hinge on when exactly things flowered/were sown and the temperatures at the time.  The Blackcurrants did well, they flowered before the redcurrants above which didn't set as well but not too badly.  The last to flower of the soft fruit were the whitecurrants, which hit a very cold spell and have produced almost nothing.
 The potatoes haven't minded the weather though, with the main crops almost ready for picking.  Likewise the garlic, which likes a bit of cold at the start, has done well and looks to be a good crop.
 Beetroot are very susceptible to temperature and soil humidity, but I managed to sow them in a warm dry period, with temperature well into 20s centigrade and they are doing well.
 The plums bizarrely started to flower in snow, which worried me, but only a week later the temperature was 25 degrees, so the bulk of the blossom set well.  The apples were later and caught the next cold spell.  I went to thin them and found I didn't need to.  I took around 6 apples off 3 trees, even the always prolific Katy has very few fruits.
 You can actually see the effects of the weather on the trees.  Some branches flowered earlier than others, so what I have found this year is that I have entire branches without fruit, and a sprinkling on others.
 I haven't grown early potatoes for a few years, but this year I decided to put in some Charlotte for an early crop.   They did quite well despite the weather.
 Like the beetroot, I managed to get the carrots in during a warm dry spell, and you can just see them under the mesh here.  Should be a good crop.

I sowed some cut flowers, but germination was fitful and wood pigeons took a liking to the cornflowers.  But they are growing now and I have picked the first few.  Another new plant this year is a heritage tomato, called Snowberry, which has just produced its first yellow fruit.  Very pretty, looking forward to tasting it!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

From Winter to Spring in One Week

This was the scene a week ago, two days with snowfall and frost.  We've had such a cold spring.

One week on, we are wearing short sleeves and the temperatures are 10 degrees centigrade higher.  Lots of things are loving it, such as these narcissus.

 Everything is growing very fast now, these apple blossom buds were barely there last week, they will be out this week.
 The plum tree started flowering in the snow, which worried me, last year the late frosts killed a lot of blossom.  But happily it saved most of its flowers until this week, so I am anticipating lots of fruit this year.
 The strawberries are growing on too, with the first flower buds visible.
I have a lot of catching up to do now after the slow spring, today I planted out courgettes, pumpkins, marrows and lettuce which were all started indoors.  Lots more to plant this week.