Monday, October 24

Not every pear shaped fruit is a pear and not all pears are pear shaped.

17 October
The two plastic bags above  contain our smallest shallots which I brought home to pickle.

In the group photo above you may just spot some small - very small - sprigs of broccoli. Martyn cleared one of the brassica beds and found this offering before consigning the rest to the compost or - in the case of the roots - the wheelie bin.

Last week marked the last of out actual apple harvest. This time the apples in question were Queen Cox from one of our small apple trees.

We had two - cut open of course - with our coffee break during one visit to the plot. On another day we spotted a couple of Egremont Russet left on the tree. Nothing can beat a ripe apple picked fresh from the tree although equal enjoyment was provided this week by our now ripe and drippingly, juicy pears.

I think this year has been our best ever apple and pear year. They seem to have enjoyed the conditions.

We have a quince tree on the plot that people often mistake for a pear. You can see why.
This year it is loaded with fruit. It's the last of our fruit to reach maturity. Each year as summer ticks by we are convinced that the fruit just isn't growing and then it seems to suddenly put on a growth spurt. It loses its furry coat and starts to give off a lovely aroma indicating the fruit is ready to be picked.
The difference in colour of the raw fruit is due light conditions. The large photo is most true to life.
All the quince photos, except for the stewed fruit, are of different fruits and I reckon we have as many again left on the tree - it's been a very good year for quince too. The fruit isn't something to be eaten raw. The centre is reminiscent of a brick. We pick our fruit in batches to be stewed and frozen.

I keep being asked what recipes we create from our fruit and my reply makes us sound very boring as most is either eaten raw as an after dinner/lunch dessert or stewed and frozen. Some will be eaten throughout the year on top of our morning porridge but no doubt some will end up being used in tarts, pies and crumbles. The fruit is so delicious that we don't like to add too many other ingredients to it and use as small an amount of sugar as we can get away with. 

On Saturday we had an added bonus as a Delsanne pear had fallen from the tree - I must have missed it when picking. Fortunately it was undamaged and hadn't been nibbled.
Not everything has done well this year though.
It hasn't been a brilliant year for peppers and aubergines. Ours are grown in our garden greenhouse where this year the lack of sunshine has impeded growth and ripening. The aubergines have remained very small. Fortunately the variety we grow - Jackpot - produces fruit that are edible when very small.  The peppers weren't going to ripen any further and so both peppers and aubergine plants have been stripped and fruits frozen.
19 October
The autumn raspberries are not enjoying the lower temperatures one little bit and I don't expect to pick much more fruit. On the other hand the alpine strawberries should continue to fruit until the first real frosts which usually occur during November.

We are still managing to pick a few tomatoes, the ones in the photo are from outdoors on the plot.

The plastic bag above contains a batch of chives that I brought home to freeze. I read somewhere - maybe on one of your blogs - that I could chopped up the chives and fill ice cube trays with the clippings and freeze. Then I could tip out the trays and end up with little cubes of frozen herbs.
It didn't work as the chive cubes crumbled when tipped out. Still I have ended up with a small bag of frozen chopped chives.  I want to try to freeze more herbs so maybe I will need to add a drop of water to the cubes so the herbs freeze in a little ice. Anyone any tips?

Finally our mini harvest on Sunday confirmed to me that the seasons are shifting.
Swede and our trademark wonky carrots! It's been a while since we grew swedes so we will enjoy them all the more.

Today I am linking to Harvest Monday on Dave's blog Our Happy Acres

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Saturday, October 22

An annual affair

If you are a regular follower you may remember that I like to plant up at least one bed with summer flowering annuals. The flowers double up as cut flowers and payment to the industrious creatures that make such a good job of pollinating our plants.

I've been fairly pleased with how it has turned out each year but there had always been plenty of scope for improvement and this year has been no exception.

Last year I started a selection of annuals in small pots in the greenhouse.
The problem with this is that the pots take up quite a lot of space when there are lots of other things vying for position. As a result my sowing timetable is governed by when there is some free space that vegetable seedlings don't take precedence for.

This year I decided to try and cut down on space by sowing in smaller module trays.
I sowed three batches from 17 April to 31 May. The space problem lessened but the seedlings didn't grow as well and to avoid them becoming pot bound I had to plant them out when they were still very small.
Each year the seedlings seem to sit in the ground doing very little other than recover from the shock of being planted and each year I think that the whole bed is going to be a disaster but eventually thinks take off.

Some varieties fare better than others but eventually we usually end up with an attractive display.
Each year I have quite a lot of seeds left over so this year I decided to try another tactic.

In mid June I mixed all the left over seeds together and sowed the seed quite thickly in a shallow trench filled with compost.
The seeds germinated and as they did it became apparent that the seeds had been sown too thickly.
As a result some plants such as cosmos dominated and squeezed out the less vigorous varieties.
As expected the later sown varieties were really just coming into their own as the early bed was fading but the plants that dominated grew stronger and didn't suffer a set back. Poppies and cosmos in particular thrived.

Next year I will grade the seeds according to their ultimate height before mixing so that the shorter plants are given a fair chance. I will also sow the seeds more thinly.

I really need to experiment with how early I can sow directly in this way. If I need to sow some more tender plants in the greenhouse where they should have more space.

I am also experimenting with sowing annual seeds now to overwinter. My choice of varieties was dictated by what was available in the local garden centre. I bought mixed cornflowers and calendulas and a pack called hardy annuals tall cut flower mixed. We usually have self sown calendulas and so I imagine these should survive. 
I also found a packet of larkspur that had lain forgotten in the freezer since the beginning of the year. I have little hope that the seed is still viable but have sown them anyway. The enviromesh is an attempts to make access to whole rows of seedlings less accessible to slugs and also protect the seeds drills from any scratching or digging visitors
All except the larkspur germinated fairly quickly.

However by October 10 even the larkspur had germinated in spite of its time in the freezer.
The larkspur is the second row down - if you look really carefully you can just make out some seedlings.

Now it's just a case of seeing if the seedlings survive winter! Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, October 19

We can no longer deny it - autumn is definitely here!

Monday, October 17

A small but welcome surprise.

11 October
Having returned from our break in Somerset we were keen to visit the plot to gather more of the must pick crops.

In the plastic bag are the last few late sown peas.

We were pleased to find a cauliflower just ready for harvesting,

Many of our carrots have been spoiled due to splitting. I reckon this is down to the weather this year and so has really been out of our control. If the pests don't wreak havoc the weather will.

I picked the remaining Invincible pears which have now been set out to finish ripening in a spare room.
 As you can see they ranged in size from huge down to "shall I bother picking?" The first lot of pears are now ripe and are juicy and delicious.

One of our other pear trees - Delsanne - wasn't as productive but I picked the few pears on offer.
These pears are not the traditional pear shape and could be mistaken for a russet apple. If you go back to the group harvest photo you may spot the pears nestling on top of the bucket of apples.

On the subject of apples, whilst I picked pears, Martyn picked more apples from out apple hedge. He filled a bucket with the remaining Laxtons Superb type apples and filled a box with apples of another variety.
We are pretty sure that these are Golden Delicious.
We decided that it was time to bring in the Crown Prince squashes. The vines hadn't been as productive as usual but there were plenty of fruits to keep us happy and these have now joined the apples in the summerhouse.
There was a sprinkling of autumn raspberries but these are now being spoiled by the weather.

As well as the alpine strawberries did you notice a surprise addition.
Fenella has had a second wind. I cut back the old leaves a while ago and the plants regrew and have produced lots of flowers that surprised me by setting fruit.
I didn't expect any to ripen and I'm guessing the birds didn't either as although the nets have been removed the above ripe specimen survived in perfect condition. My question is will this second coming weaken the plants? Should I removed the flowers and fruits or should I wait and see whether I end up with more nice surprises?

On the subject of surprises, Did you notice the small posy of sweet peas. I wasn't expecting that either.

We are still picking a few small ripe tomatoes from the garden greenhouse and we are gathering salad leaves and a few spring onions from the Woodblocx raised bed in the garden. Below are just a couple of sample photos as we don't always remember to take a photo before we have eaten our little harvest.
14 October
15 October
Today I am linking to Harvest Monday over at Dave's blog  Our Happy Acres

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Friday, October 14

Gymnosporangium sabinae, aka Pear Tree Rust.

A few years ago our pear trees started to develop orange spots on the leaves. Investigation revealed that this was Gymnosporangium sabinae, - a mouthful isn’t it? It's just as well that it has an easier name - Pear tree Rust.

This is a rust fungus that needs both pear and juniper trees to complete its lifecycle. This left me puzzled as to my knowledge there are no juniper trees in the vicinity. How far are the spores able to travel to find a suitable host? I read on one website that you shouldn’t grow a pear tree less than 1km (slightly over half a mile) from a juniper and that spores could actually travel 6km (nearly 4 miles). Hardly something over which the gardener has any control and so I guess this is something we just have to live with.

Fortunately, although the fungus may affect yield it will not kill the tree. The fungus can only exist on a living host and so to murder its host would be counter-productive.

The first sign of rust on a pear tree is the appearance of orange patches on the upper-side of the leaves.
The orange patch darkens in the centre as a fruiting part starts to develop on the underside of the leaf. These growths develop into something that looks like a blister from which pimples appear. Spores are dispersed from these pimples  which are then blown on the wind and journey away from the pear tree in a quest to find a juniper tree on which to spend winter.      
I don’t know how it appears on the juniper but from what I read it overwinters on juniper twigs and branches as galls which release spores in spring that are on the look out for suitable pear tree hosts. I wonder if they will remember the location of our plot?
The spores produced on the pear tree cannot reinfect the pear but I did try to remove as many affected leaves as I could before the pimples burst in an attempt to cut down the number of spores being produced but I guess in the grand scheme of things this was a totally fruitless exercise. (Excuse the pun).
 I suppose the spores will wing their way back next year.  If I knew when they were coming maybe I could cover the trees to thwart them.

Incidentally the RHS are carrying out a survey of the spread of this fungus and are inviting people to submit a record of any incidences they see.. The survey can be accessed here.

Wednesday, October 12

WWT - Slimbridge