Thursday, October 30

It's not over 'til the keen frost stings

Winter may be creeping inexorably closer but the plot hasn't been tucked up to sleep just yet.

There is still lots to do - mainly tidying up and getting the beds into a fit state for winter. Happily our use - some may say overuse -of weed control fabric not much weeding is required.

Beds are being cleared of any crop debris, fabric removed and soil dug over. The fabric is then moved to the appropriate bed for next years crops. The fabric is cut to suit particular crops and so rotates as appropriate.
The fabric is covered with a mulch. Hopefully the covered soil will receive some protection from the battering rain and will warm up a little faster in spring. Not all the beds will be covered. Beds with rougher soil will benefit from a bit of weathering and beds destined for first early potatoes will also stay uncovered. As Martyn wrote in his blog post, although planting potatoes through the fabric was a success it did make it difficult to lift individual roots of first earlies so these will be grown conventionally.

Fruit beds have been tidied. Top left is the redcurrants area, as this is covered with weed control fabric only a little weeding was necessary. I also cut out any branches that were broken or trailing on the ground or making it difficult for me to move around the plants. The tops of the bushed were trimmed back so that they didn't push against the netting that covers the top of the 'cage'.

The blueberry bed - top right - just needed a general tidy.

Although we will be planting up a new strawberry bed this year, the old bed will be left this year and so had a general tidy up.

We like to weed selectively. The pear bed below may look as though it needs weeding but the weeds are actually candytuft seedlings which I am leaving to grow and hopefully produce a carpet of colour early nest year. I've been collecting and sprinkling other annual seeds in this bed to try and encourage other annuals to colonise this bed.

Other 'weeds' such as self sown foxgloves have been transplanted into more appropriate locations.

A few flowers are hanging on in the annual flower bed, mainly cosmos. In other beds the biennials - wallflowers, sweet Williams and sweet rocket- are growing well along with ammi that I think I sowed at the wrong time.
A few single dahlias are still flowering but I forgot to take a photo of them.

Crops are still managing to grow. Autumn planted onions and garlic are off to a good start.

Other crops will be ready to harvest shortly or will be stored in the ground until we need them.

Once the keen frosts put in an appearance all this will change. Tender flowers will wither and the alpine strawberries will stop providing fruit. Hardier plants will enter a sleepy period where they will survive - hopefully - but not grow.

The ground will harden and digging will stop and we will hide away in the warmth finding other things to enjoy until milder conditions return.

Wednesday, October 29

Reminds me that I need my hair cutting

Tuesday, October 28

First hellebore

Spotted this week - our first hellebore to flower.

I'd better get cracking trimming off old leaves.

This was the first plant to flower last year too.
16 November 2013

Monday, October 27

We thought it was all over - It is now!

This week has been the end for some crops whilst others just tick over nicely providing us with fresh vegetables rather to eat than large amounts to freeze.
The raspberry canes are just about hanging in there but the fruit is much smaller both in size and quantity. 

The pears are from Invincible which tried to live up to its name by sending out a second late flowering after the first set of immature fruits were aborted. This has resulted in a few mini fruits which may or may not be edible. We have yet to try one.
20 October
The cauliflowers are in full flow and so some has to be frozen. Being under netting means that we don't bother trying to bend over the leaves to protect the curds and as a result some have developed a slight pink tinge but this doesn't affect our enjoyment.
23 October
So it had to happen. Each week we have thought that we had picked the last of the sweet peas. Well now they are over in more ways than one. The support structure blew over in recent strong winds but I did manage a final small posy and I didn't need Martyn to cut the flowers at the top of the plant. Half were left standing but wouldn't you know it? That was the half with hardly any flowers.

Lastly for this week we had a few would be volunteer potatoes. The ones below were unearthed when Martyn dug over the bed where they had been growing. They were from the bed that was most affected by blight but these tubers were still in good condition - except of course for the one that was accidentally chipped in half.
24 October
A complete list of our October harvests here.

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

Friday, October 24

Time Out

If you read Martyn's earlier post you will know that kast week we had time out from gardening to make one of our frequent visits to our local RSPB reserve - Fairburn Ings.

Any thought that autumn was now well and truly upon us could no longer be denied.
Autumn has well and truly taken a grip.

Many of the birds were taking full advantage of the food on offer hopefully building up their reserves to survive whatever winter may have in store.
As we stretched our legs other stretched their wings.

Others preferred to chill out ever hopeful for a ready meal.

As usual we arrived home with a huge number if photos to sort through. If you are interested our best are uploaded into our online portfolio here.

You may also be interested in a photo slideshow that I put together showing a Bewick swan bathing, I had so many photos that I didn't know how to use them so as the weather was awful I had a little play. The slideshow is on YouTube here,

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

Wednesday, October 22

Not a post for arachnophobes

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