raspberryfool: (Gardening)
Well well, we haven't been here for a while, have we? Since my last post I've been clearing the garden of summer growth, old plants, leaves and rubbish, and to celebrate I had a big bonfire. It made plenty of ash, so that's been scattered around the fruit trees and bushes, and dug into the soil. Small pleasures please small minds...

The plums here were really quite poor this year; when I think of how many jars of jam my dad used to make, as well as plum crumbles to fill our hungry tums throughout the early autumn, I wonder whether that tree is getting to be past its fell-by date. The culprit was mostly brown rot, a fungal disease that spreads with rain from old fruit left on the branches. It spreads really quickly and ruins the crop in days; it's quite sad really. But don't get me wrong, I did have quite a few pounds of plums to make chutney with, and to give away to friends, family and neighbours, so perhaps it's just nostalgia speaking.

I was quite pleased with my potato harvest; I dug around 20 lbs this year -- all Desireé -- from the two beds I used; 'Bonfire' and 'Strawberry 1'. They were mostly quite small, though I did get some larger ones too. The soil in those beds in more suited to root crops than the heavy clay of 'West', though I'm slowly improving the soil structure in the latter. The quality is much better this year too; I didn't notice as much scab and there was hardly any other pest damage (though see later), though the ants did some superficial damage to those in 'Bonfire'.

I took down the WendyHaus in two sessions; it was really easy this time. The plastic covering was still in good condition, which I put down to the location of the top ridge in the centre rather than the edge. I think the location, tucked into a corner between a wall and a hedge, really helped too. I could have left it alone but I'm sure the wind would have wrecked it eventually and whisked it off to grace some unsuspecting neighbour's television aerial, satellite dish, or tree. Besides, the tomato plants inside wouldn't have withstood the first frost on (iirc) 23rd November, so they had to go. Nothing lasts forever; not even tomato plants!

The local moggies have been neglecting their duties. This autumn, I found two mice nesting in the alcove beside the house, right at the back inside an old tea chest beneath all my junk. In fact I'd had the same problem in the summer when I chucked the one mouse I found there into the garden. It must have found itself a mate and returned; the little gits had ripped up some carrier bags and dried poppy heads, though they didn't damage anything important. They'd been eating my potato harvest, which I stored in the adjacent shed. Fortunately they hadn't been there long (only two or three days) and hadn't reproduced, but they damaged a lot of my spuds and I've had to move the crop indoors. I might not have minded if they'd been paying me rent. They've been evicted now; I emptied the tea chest in the road and the little shits ran off, hopefully into the mouth of a passing cat. That'll teach me to leave the garden door open!

So that's about it for this year's garden waffle. The garlic is sown and growing. The pea plants are still up and flowering, although I doubt I'll get my hoped-for late seed crop. There's polytunnel planning and building to be done, and I'm hoping to pave some of the grass immediately outside the garden door. There's the usual umm-ing and ahh-ing about what-to-put-where, what to grow, what to abandon and all that stuff to worry about over winter. So I'm heading back under the duvet where it's warm and leaving the garden to the crows, blackbirds, thrushes, robins and hopefully the local cats -- rather them than a mouse infestation!

Happy Winter, Livejournal.
raspberryfool: (Gardening)
Summer has come at last and I'm beginning to feel as though all my hard(ish) gardening work is paying off. I've begun harvesting Golden Sweet mangetout pods since late May. Golden Sweet is a very beautiful variety of manegetout pea. Its tall plants produce bi-colour purple flowers the turn slowly blue as they mature. These are followed by pale yellow pods, which gradually fill with tender, sweet green peas making it a dual-purpose variety. Everyone I've shown them to loves them and it's not difficult to see why.Cut for boringness etc )

I've invested in a 22-Gallon water butt, which I've set up to capture run-off from my flat roof. Since I installed it we've only been blessed with a short, sharp night-time shower.
Water butt
raspberryfool: (Gardening)
Now we're into October and the weather is a huge contrast to last year's Mediterranean interlude, and we cannot be far from the first frost. I've picked the last of the French beans for drying and removed the canes, dug out the pumpkin, courgette and melon vines, taken down the tomato tents and sent their residents to Camp Bonfire. I picked 3 - 4 lbs of green tomatoes, most of which will probably end up in chutney. Here's a picture of last year's crop - happy days!

Here's some tomatoes I ate last year!

cut for waffle )

What's left in the ground? The leeks in 'Bonfire' have done well, but the cauliflowers in 'West' have been rather pathetic and have only provided tiny curds with well-spaced out florets. Perhaps they don't like heavy clay soils - oh well, I'll chalk that one up to experience! I had some decent plums this year, though these were a month late - and the meagre grape harvest will probably be left for the birds to enjoy. There's some autumn raspberries too; a real treat on a gloomy old day!
raspberryfool: (Default)
In the mild November afternoon, I dismantled the cover that had protected my tomato plants, keeping out the worst of the blight, or more specifically, the moisture that allows it to spread and ruin my plants. These 'tomato tents' are now firmly-established summertime fixtures in my garden. My plants had blight spots all right, but were mostly green and healthy when I removed their roof of polythene sheeting. Some plants even had hopeful flowers blooming amongst the green leaves! But they would only have survived until the first heavy frost, which could arrive any night now, and the green tomatoes hanging hopefully from the vines wouldn't have a hope of ripening in the gloom of winter, so out of their warm earth they came! I now have a couple of pounds of green tomatoes to use up. Chutney anyone?

Tomato tent 2010

I burnt the bonfire on Samhain; the mass of privet wood, holly clippings, raspberry and bramble canes and moss and other garden detritus went up rather quickly. That's another two plots cleared of their summer inhabitants! The only annuals left in the ground are the leeks and a few hardy French bean vines, which I'll be removing forthwith.

The raspberry canes are fruiting well, and I even saw a ripening strawberry, which shows just how mild it's been here, but that's not what brings these plants into flower. It's photoperiodism. Strawberry and raspberry are short-day plants, which respond to the increasing length on darkness and probably think its spring! So its the day-length that brings them into flower, but the warmth probably helps the fruits to develop and ripen.* Ain't nature wonderful?

So now it's time to clear the garden for winter. The lawns and hedges need a final trim, the grapevine leaves look resplendent as they change from green to soft yellows and glowing reds and the plum, lilac and maple leaves will need raking up. And I haven't even brought in the non-hardy geraniums as its been so mild; they look so much nicer in the garden but I don't want to lose some of them - that's another job for the weekend.

Now it's time to curl up with a warm seed catalogue and decide what to plant next year. Oh yes, it's all go in the garden!

*Don't say I never teaches you nuffink!
raspberryfool: (Gardening)
It feels like a very short time since I dug the trenches and covered those egg-sized tubers with sun-warmed earth and hoped the emerging shoots wouldn't get frozen by a sneaky May frost. The wheel turns, and today, the first day after the full Harvest Moon, was potato harvesting day. I'd actually harvested some tubers last month because their foliage had died, but most of them remained under the good soil. Potaoes are supposed to store well when harvested under a waning moon, and today just about counts. So I dug deeply into the best soil in the garden, and revealed those beautiful white tubers. The Estima had actually performed very well. A lot were tiny but a reasonable proportion were lovely mashers and bakers.

Because it's a 'second early' variety, 'Estima' matures around late July to mid-August, meaning it will mostly escape the potato-growers' number one enemy, Phytophthora infestans, or Potato Late Blight, to you and me. Blight can be devastating and it caused the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840's, so the dry summer has really done spud growers a favour. Blight also infects tomato plants, and mine are just a few feet away from the 'Midsummer' patch, which is another good reason for harvesting early.

The total haul, which I had to measure on the bathroom scales, is around 24 lbs of top spuds - not bad for £1.99 and a little effort! I lit a post-harvest bonfire to clear away the garden rubbish, cleanse the ground and make some fertile ash to spread around the garden.

Thank you, Mother Earth, for your bounty; and thank you, Father Sun, for your light and warmth. Happy Harvest all!