Monday, June 5

Beating the blackbirds

I didn't think that I would be writing a harvest Monday post this week. It's not that we haven't harvested anything. We are still harvesting salad leaves, some radish and a few herbs but there is a limit to how many times I want to write about and photograph the same thing. 

Then this happened...

... we spotted, peeping out from under the foliage, red strawberries. The problem was that the blackbird spotted them too and so one of the most important jobs of the week was to get the precious fruits protected.  Nets were retrieved from their overwinter hiding places and all was made safe from hungry beaks although sadly not any passing slimy mollusc.
We also noticed that the redcurrants were turning red and again the blackbirds were lurking around the bushes waiting for the optimum moment to indulge in much feasting.

The job of protecting the redcurrants was a much longer task. Earlier in the year, we had removed last year's homemade cage in order to tidy up and restyle the bed and so a new cage had to be constructed. This was to be a taller and much more substantial affair. One in fact that would not limit admittance to person's under 5'2" (about 1.6m). There was the added complication of a hawthorn tree to negotiate. The job was finished just before the redcurrants arrived at the edible to blackbirds stage. The blackbirds are not pleased and constantly register their disapproval. Soon their attentions will focus on the blueberries but we are ready for that.

We also noticed that the alpine strawberries are fruiting which seems rather early for them.

3 June
The alpine strawberry plants are suffering from a lack of rain and so I have given them a good watering. I am trying to decide whether I should water the larger fruiting strawberries. I don't want to spoil the taste of the berries but then again if the plants shrivel up there will be no berries to spoil.

The onion above is one that has overwintered and we are harvesting as required. Many of the bulbs have tried to produce a flower so I have been busy snipping off the buds but despite that the centre of the onions are often spoiled.

4 June
Yesterday we picked the first lot of strawberries. The different varieties are kept separate so we can assess their performance.

Another treat was the first pickings from our calabrese. The variety is Aquiles which was planted out on the plot on 1 May. These brassicas were grown on in 5" (125mm) pots before planting out. These heads were enjoyed with dinner. Surprising the heads turned a darker green after cooking.

I'm picking lots if flowers from the bed that was sown mid September of last year. There is an abundance of cornflowers but I had to take care not to cut flowers that were being browsed by the bees. The sweet Williams are now also flowering and some were added to the cutting material.

You may remember that as well as cornflowers I also sowed a packet of mixed hardy annuals. From this mix grew more cornflowers, a tall umbellifer which I think will have white flowers, that I have yet to identify, and some nigella.

To be honest nigella has never appealed to me and so I have never grown it before. Now, having seen the real thing, I am a convert and I will be growing some next year. It seems to be one flower that photos do not do justice to.


So far nothing else has materialised from the mix so maybe other varieties were not hardy enough to overwinter. I will sow annuals again this September although if we have a harsh winter the results may be less successful. Have you overwintered any hardy annuals that you would recommend?



32 comments:

  1. How is it that Blackbirds know the EXACT moment that strawberries/fruit are ready? They are so clever. I love your cornflowers & nigella - I never get sick of those blues, just so pretty.

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    1. The problem with our blackbirds is that they take the berries just before they are ripe enough for us, Julieanne. Once we have had enough redcurrants and we let the birds in they don't seem to want them.

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  2. That is a great looking netting arrangement you made for the redcurrants. I need to get something over and around our blackberries as they are starting to turn. Those garden 'discoveries' often seem to lead to more work, but there's a payoff coming in the form of harvests.

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    1. We don't net our blackberries, Dave as the birds leave plenty for us so we don't resent them having one or two.

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  3. those nigella are a very deep blue and look lovely (and so do your photos)

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    1. Strangely the nigella seem to turn a deeper blue once they have been cut for a while, David. They seemed a much lighter blue when I first cut them.

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  4. We are nowhere near ready for the annual battle yet, and are about a month away. I don't have to water though, as it has rained in endless torrents since midnight and is forecast to continue through Friday.
    I've never cut nigella for the house, but when mine finally open {you are way ahead on those too} I will do so this year.

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    1. It's rained here today, Deborah but not In torrents. We are due a rainy week apparently.

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  5. Your netting reminds me to consider some around our newly- planted sweet potato slips. Pretty sure we have a rabbit around. The flowers look great; nice deep blue color.

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    1. We are trying a couple of pots of sweet potatoes in the greenhouse wvhiker. Fortunately we don't have a problem from rabbits.

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  6. Oh I get tired of battling the birds! So much so that I just don't bother to grow much fruit, especially since what I do save from the birds often gets attacked by rodents. So I buy fruit. Love those flowers, beautiful!

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    1. At least we don't have an issue with rodents, Michelle

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  7. Hmm, I think I need to examine our strawberry plants - I haven't noticed any red so far...

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    1. I hope that you soon have red strawberries, Belinda.

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  8. The strawberries are early this year, I don't have any ripe yet but hope I will soon. You can't beat the first strawberry of the year, looks like you are going to have a marvelous crop. Glad to hear you are a convert to Nigella, a lovely flower, one of my favourites.xxx

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    1. I thought they were early too, Dina. I bought a packet of nigella seeds today.

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  9. I love nigella - I first saw it at the Bloggers Fling last year in Minneapolis and had to track down one of the attendants at the park to tell me what it was. That one will be finding a place in my garden once my beds on done. The one annual that comes to mind is calendula - it self seeded quick thickly in the spot where it grew last year - I was quite surprised. And if it overwinters here, it will certainly have no problems there!

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    1. I planted calendula seeds last year Margaret but the slugs devoured them over winter.

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  10. Beautiful flowers! Your strawberry looks so yummy!

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    1. I am hoping for lots more yummy strawberries, Endah

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  11. It seemed so strange looking at your cut, flowers: nigella, cornflowers and sweet Williams... at you sure you didn't pop over to our plot in the night lol. Good that you have hopefully foiled those blackbirds this year: our nets are also over the fruit bushes so harvests may be ours, not theirs!! And looking at your strawberry plants Sue, I think I grow mine far too close together, so some changes will be made come the Autumn!

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    1. Some people do plants strawberries much closer together than we do, Kathy. In fact some just allow all the runners to root and have a solid bed. I just think maybe air gets round them a little bit better if they are spread apart and they soon close up quite a lot when they are in full leaf.

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  12. Yum, strawberries already, lucky you. I saw a vase of Nigella on another blog and thought how lovely they looked, I'd have never thought to grow them as a cut flower.

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    1. It was one of the advantages of sowing a packet of mixed annual flower seeds, Jo that's the way I found out that I liked nigella. I probably would never of bought a packet of nigella seeds previously.

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  13. Good grief - you put me to shame, how I blush at your abundance! Grrr to the pilfering birds and thoughtless slugs and bugs, it's a war on the plots out there, never ending war. We can but do our best. Loving your flowers, nigella is a fave of mine and I had forgotten my love for cornflowers - so many wants :) x

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    1. I hope that I have managed to help you re-ignite your relationship with cornflowers, Carrie.

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  14. Birds are terrible, but your netting system is pretty amazing. We've always had problems with birds destroying young plants, but it's squirrels that ruin the tomato fruit.

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    1. The birds don't bother with the tomatoes, Phuong it's the blight that is the problem in that area. Our most discrete destructive birds are wood pigeons.

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  15. Well done! It reminds me that I need to think of a way to protect my raspberries soon!

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    1. We don't bother netting the raspberries, Lotte as the birds don't take too many so we are happy to share.

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  16. The badger has started eating our strawberries! I have had to improve the defences.

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    1. Badgers take a lot more effort to prevent them from damaging a harvest than a blackbird does, Brian. You have my sympathy.

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