Cases of manure contamination are still cropping up see here so it's still important to take care when acquiring supplies. This is especially important in areas where Forefront weedkiller is available.

Monday, October 20

In need of nutcrackers

Harvests are steadying up a bit now as most of our crops being collected for storage are now in.

Amazingly we are still managing a few posies of sweet peas. The plants have grown so tall that Martyn has to cut the highest flowers for me. The stems are quite short now but what can we expect in October. We've tried to pinpoint whether we have done anything differently this year and all we can think of is that we have picked the flower more regularly and efficiently. Not having to spend lots of time weeding has meant that we have had time to look after plants better.

The cauliflowers are continuing to produce but the remaining sweet corn was past its best and the plants have now been removed.
14 October
The tomato, pepper and aubergine plants were stripped of any remaining fruit and then removed. The remnants will have to ripen off the plant.
15 October
The last lot of potatoes - from the topless plants - have been dug. We are still picking Joan J raspberries but yellow All Gold fruit just doesn't thrive in damp and windy conditions. It is a plant that need the weather to pamper it. Most of the fruit is spoiled.

The alpine strawberries are still flowering and fruit production is slowing down and will stop completely once fruits attack the flowers. Usually we pick the last fruits at the beginning of November.
17 October
Now I know technically I harvested the cobnuts a while ago but for want of knowing any better I laid out the clusters of nuts to dry.
It's all been a case of trial and error as to what to do with them. I started to wait for the nuts to fall out of the husks naturally but now I go through them and remove any nuts that part easily from the casing.
Unfortunately a few years ago we decided to throw away our old nutcrackers as we just hadn't used them for as long as we could remember. Whilst we only had a smattering of nuts, Martyn was carefully breaking into them with a hammer but as our bowl filled up we decided that we had better replace the nutcrackers.

I was going to look for a recipe in which to use the nuts but we are enjoying them as snacks instead and they really are tasty. I hope this year isn't just a one off harvest.

A complete list of our October harvests here.

Once again I am linking to Harvest Monday over at Daphne's Dandelions.

Saturday, October 18

The Chop

A break in the miserable weather meant we were encouraged to do a bit of work on the plot. Having watched blackcurrant bushes being pruned on TV, I thought I would tackle ours. To be honest other than one bush being cut back hard due to having big bud and a little bit of tidying of branches heading across the paths, the bushes haven't ever been pruned properly. Blackcurrants fruit on newer wood and so the idea is to cut the old wood back to the ground to encourage new growth from the base of the plant and also to thin out the branches to allow good air circulation and reduce the risk of fungal diseases etc.
Loppers and secateurs were wielded and the scene above was reduce to that below. Here's hoping I've got it right. I have to admit to leaving some old wood as it had new growth coming from it, probably due to not pruning in the past. I'll deal with this next year.   
After the blackcurrants I moved on to the gooseberries which I prune hard every year and so am much more confident that severe pruning doesn't equate to lack of fruit. Gloves were deployed, or at least one glove, as gooseberry bushes are of a vicious nature. (I pity any baby that was found under a gooseberry bush!)

I didn't take a before photo but believe me the bushes below are mere skeletons of their former selves.
Here the aim is to open up the bush, so branches growing up in the centre and any shoots heading into the middle were removed. The remaining branches were thinned so none crossed one another and again there was plenty of space to allow air to circulate. Gooseberries can suffer from mildew and good air circulation helps reduce the risk of this.

I have to admit that in the past I worried that I hadn't left enough wood on the plant but we have always managed a good crop.

The jostaberries were tackled next. These have had to be pruned each year as left to their own devices they would grow far too large. This year the aim was to try and do the job correctly to improve fruit production. I reduced the amount of old wood and again thinned out the branches to give an open centre.  Some of the old branches were quite thick and so a saw joined the team of pruning equipment.
The larger bushes in the photo above, with one exception, are the jostaberries after pruning. The bush in the middle of the foreground is a whitecurrant that has been left unpruned. Maybe it needs pruning as it has never yet fruited well.

My last pruning job of the afternoon was the easiest - the blackberry. Three words that I never thought that I would use in the same sentence - 'pruning', 'easiest' and 'blackberry'. The blackberry in question however, was our thornless Loch Ness. The canes produced this year which will fruit next year had already been tied in and so it was just a few simple snips to cut  this year's fruited canes down to ground level.
All in all a good afternoon's work.

A short digression

I was asked what bitter pit looked like and so below is a photos of one of out affected quinces alongside one that is unaffected. Sometimes if the brown areas are cut away you can 'rescue' some of the flesh.

Thankfully this year we only had one or two affected fruits. By the way bitter pit is our best guess at the problem, if you think that it is something different let me know.

Wednesday, October 15

Large Hips and Small Hips

Monday, October 13

Harvest - Needed two runcible spoons

This week's harvest is dominated by a good harvest of quinces and a couple of surprises.

Martyn wrote about picking the quinces on his blog here and he is now working his way through them stewing and freezing for use later. 

The colour of the stewed fruit was a bit surprising.
The variety that we grow is Meeches Prolific which produces pear shaped and sized fruit. A couple of people on the site have actually mistaken the fruit for pears. The fruit is really hard and any attempt to eat the fruit raw is likely to result in a visit to the dentist. We were concerned that the fruit could have developed bitter pit bit so far only a handful of fruit have been spoiled.
We seem to have quite a few cauliflowers coming together so we are hoping that they last in the ground until we need them.

The cabbages are really solid and produce a large amount of edible leaves so we have been cutting them in half and sharing them with my sister.

The major surprise of the week was the late potato harvest. The potatoes - Harmony - were planted at the end of April and never seemed to grow, Hardly any top-growth formed and so we had assumed that they wouldn't have produced a crop. Martyn decided to dig the bed more to tidy up than to harvest potatoes. The surprise was that potatoes were actually revealed and decent sized tubers at that. About half the bed was dug last week so we are likely to find more potatoes yet.

9 October

The second surprise was finding a rather small Crown Prince hiding in one of the buddleias.It was growing on a spare plant that had been growing in the courgette bed.

I think that I may have picked the last of the sweet peas now as the plants are looking very tired but they have produced masses of flowers this year so I'm not complaining.

A complete list of our October harvests here.

Once again I am linking to Harvest Monday over at Daphne's Dandelions.

*runcible spoon - I can't think of quinces without the words to The Owl and the Pussycat going through my head. I thought a runcible spoon was a made up item but apparently it is a spoon with fork-like prongs or a fork shaped like a spoon whichever way you choose to look at it.

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

Saturday, October 11

Glory Days

Last year Linda  - The Tenacious Gardener sent me some seeds as part of a giveaway. One packet  contained Morning Glory - Heavenly Blue. It wasn't the type of seed I would usually sow but I was happy to give it a go.

Seeds were sown at the end of April and middle of May under the growlight in an upstairs room.  The seed leaves are a rather strange shape.
We ended up with about half a dozen plants. All except one were planted outdoors and all except for one disappeared without a trace. The one surviving plant was in the garden greenhouse in a pot. This was more or less an accident, we had nowhere to put this plant and so decided to try it in a pot. 

If you have read my greenhouse updates you may remember that each month a flowerless Morning Glory has been a feature. In the photos below (taken in September) the plant bears heart shaped leaves and nothing else.
As room became available in the greenhouse we have been moving fruit trees inside. The last one to take its place was the peach and so I took a photo  on 1 October to record when it was moved. It was at this point that I noticed something bright blue in the viewfinder. I'm not sure how I missed it but I always think you see far more through the eye of a camera.
Further inspection revealed more buds which quickly grew. The buds develop in groups of varying sizes and remind me of a candelabra complete with lighted candles. In succession each will explode into a striking blue flower.

The bud spiral unwinds to form a funnel that then opens into a large circular flower.
Each saucer-shaped flower head is about 10cm (4") across and initially is a vivid blue with a white centre.  It's relationship to the bindweed that plagues our plot is clear.
The flower only lasts a day or two. The intense blue begins to fade after a short time and the flower develops pinkish purple stripes. The photo above shows the contrast in colour between a freshly opened and a faded flower.
 Gradually the edges of the flower begin to roll inwards.
 The flowers continue to curl until they form a tightly packed bundle.
If the flower had been successfully pollinated it should go on to produce clusters of seed pods.

Our plant is very late to flower, presumably because we didn't sow the seeds early enough, so I don't know whether it will form seed pods. Maybe I should try hand pollinating or kidnap a few bees and hold them hostage in the greenhouse.

Linda also sent me a packet of Cerinthe which was another flower that I had never tried to grow before.
So thank you Linda for giving me the opportunity to grow something different that I probably wouldn't have chosen to but found to be fascinating.

Wednesday, October 8

Can't resist a raindrop