Wednesday, 28 September 2011

leafing through....

After the recent strong winds there are many leaves to be gathered up for the leaf mould cages and so the cycle of death and rebirth begins again.  Although it’s not officially leaf-fall yet a lot of the trees were badly wind burned and have shed them early. It’s interesting that you can have one side of a tree all brown and crisped and the leeward side is still green. It Just shows how damaging the wind can be, and not just  for the physical battering it can give.

Crab apple tree burned at one side but green at the other

Thankfully the apples are OK and there's plenty of them
I've almost filled one cage with dead leaves so no shortage of leaf mould in the future. If anyone else is doing this don't forget to bag up far more leaves than you initially have space for as the pile will reduce in size by at least two thirds as it rots down. The extra can be added when space comes available.

The geese have started to fly down from the north for their annual winter holiday. The entire population of barnacle geese from Svalbard overwinters on the Solway marshes. That's up to 30,000 birds just of the one species and it's quite a sight (and sound) when they suddenly all decide to take to the air. No goose pictures but two butterflies taking advantage of today's sunshine on the marigolds.
Red admiral and small tortoiseshell

Monday, 26 September 2011

onions away!!

The first green shoots of the overwintering onions have appeared so things are looking good. I read somewhere that in the north of England and Scotland you should not plant them any later than the end of August but if I did that mine would put on too much top growth before the cold weather. I have put them in as late as mid October and they’ve come through the winter with no problems but that was before the last couple of very cold ones.

Overwintered onions seem to do well here with very few bolting. Not like overwintered broad beans which have been a disaster every time I've tried them so I'm not going to bother again. My solution to that problem is to make early sowings in late winter in containers in the greenhouse and that has worked well for the last two years.

I went through to the caravan today and noticed some excellent crops of sloes and other wild fruit. We have a large blackthorn bush either side of the caravan which is very convenient, but her indoors says we're not wasting good gin by sticking berries in it! Looks like it'll have to be jam and jelly again.

sloes (purple) and haws (red). they are on separate bushes!

I have loads of fruit in the freezer ready for a mammoth jam-making session if I ever get round to it. Trouble is there's lots of other stuff still to be done outside, even though the planting season is now behind us. I like re-designing things and moving stuff about, and there's frames and supports to make for climbing plants next year, oh and there's also this and that and........I like to keep busy.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

toms nearly finished

This year's tomato crop is almost finished...much earlier than previous years. It's been a bit of a disaster for me this year although I have been picking them regularly since 19th July. Enough fresh ones for salads, etc. but not many for preserving. Never mind, the cucumbers and peppers are still prolific and will hopefully keep going until the first frosts.
this plant has so far given us eleven cucumbers!

sweet peppers starting to ripen
I know some people complain about the price of F1 cucumber seeds but one 'La Diva' plant has given us eleven good sized fruit with the promise of at least another four or five. Not a bad return on the investment. I do also grow open pollinated cukes but I like the characteristics of some of the F1s.

For the last few days we've been 'entertaining' my mother and her sister which has meant taking them to see the countryside of north Cumbria and southern Scotland. Today we went to the area known as back o' Skidda'. It's quite different from most people's idea of the Lake District, being much less rugged and still very much a working landscape.

back o' Skidda' from Caldbeck common
colour-washed cottages in Caldbeck village
Overwater, one of the lesser-known lakes

Thursday, 15 September 2011

red admirals, painted ladies and tortoiseshells

No, it's not something that Russian naval officers get up to on shore leave.

After the recent gales which did a fair bit of damage around the garden today was a perfect autumn day with clear blue skies, distant views and hardly a breath of wind. And lots of butterflies.

red admiral

small tortoiseshell
On days like this I just like to potter. It seems a shame to get serious about work when the rest of creation is just enjoying the sunshine. But I did manage to get some general tidying up done and made quite a few plans for next year. They may or may not come to fruition but that's the thing about plans, isn't it?

At the moment I'm suffering from a surfeit of compost. Both 'daleks' are full and are alive with red wrigglers. The open heap is now about four feet high and I have five large sacks of decomposing vegetation and kitchen refuse. There's still loads of stuff growing in the veg. patch so I can't do any spreading for a while yet and when the leaves fall there'll be more to add to it. The privet hedge needs clipping and the lawn needs mowing and.....

I love compost!!

Monday, 12 September 2011

apple crop :(

Severe gales today so I've been trying to rescue my apple crop before the slugs and birds get them.

This lot was under one of the trees this morning and I've been out again this afternoon and picked up a load more. There are still some clinging to the trees but I suspect they'll be on the ground by tomorrow morning. The pears have also been stripped and they are far from ready, being still rock-hard. Looks like I'll be searching for recipes to use unripe fruit.

This is what happens when a storm surge coincides with a high tide. It makes for difficult travel until the tide goes back out again.

I normally walk the dog along here...but not today!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

parsnips for dinner

With my chicken dinner today I just fancied some parsnips and, as there were none in the freezer, that meant emptying out one of the flower buckets. Now I know people will say snips are not at their best till they've been frosted but when a man needs parsnips he's gotta have parsnips!

Contents of one flower bucket. 2lbs of parsnips
Some people have trouble growing parsnips but my method has worked well for the last four years. It may not produce show-stoppers but it does give me all that I need.

I fill plastic flower buckets with a mix of home-made compost, spent grow bag medium and sharp sand with a handful of blood, fish and bone. Seeds are sown in March in the greenhouse where they stay until the plants are three or four inches high. Thinning can be done if needed and I leave around a dozen plants per bucket which then go outside on to the garden soil. And before anyone asks why not put them straight in the ground it's because my soil is full of stones and they usually fork.

seeds sown
Initially I just put drain holes in the buckets but the roots always bend sharply trying to find a way out. My new method is to remove most of the bottom of the bucket but leave a rim which gives rigidity. Buckets are set on old quarry tiles and filled with mixture as before. Now when they go outside I just slide out the tile from under them and they send their taproots straight down. End result: much straighter parsnips. the ones in the top photo are from a bucket with just drain holes and you can see the bent roots which have been trimmed off.

Tub with bottom removed. It's the same technique I use for spuds.
By mid June the parsnips are growing away nicely and have sent their roots well down into the soil.

So there you have it. If you have trouble growing parsnips why not give it a try.

Friday, 9 September 2011

pickling about

A day for pickling about and trying to organize all the stuff that's coming from the veg. plot at the moment. I've done two jars of onions, one of beetroot and have shallots and red cabbage soaking in brine for bottling tomorrow.

No pictures, I'm afraid. Anyway you'd have to be a bit funny to be excited by pictures of pickled onions.

More very strong winds forecast over the coming few days so I'll be picking up windfalls again. I just hope some manage to stay on the trees until they're ripe.

I was out with the dog this morning and noticed that there's an abundance of wild fruit again this year. Rowan berries, elderberries, haws, blackberries, crab apples and sloes. Not as many sloes as previous years but plenty of everything else. Trouble is I have so much garden fruit in the freezer waiting to be jammed that it would be pointless picking wild fruit just for the sake of it. I'll leave it for the birds.

As I don't like to post without a picture of something here's Skiddaw earlier in the year.

Yes, we do sometimes have blue skies in the Lake District.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


Unfortunately not windfalls as in profits or legacies from elderly relatives. These are the result of recent high winds.

I’ve been out picking up windfall apples. Most are not quite ready yet but will be fine as an addition to jams and chutneys. Looks like I’m going to be busy over a hot stove for a while.

Taking the advice of Stephen Shirley I gave a good helping of wood ash to all my soft fruit last spring. Yields have been fantastic and the autumn raspberries are no exception.

Many of the fruit are over 3cm long and very juicy. I just hope I can harvest them before the birds.

My tomato crop this year has been a bit of a failure, largely down to one variety, costoluto fiorentino, which seemed to suffer badly from blossom end rot then succumbed to botrytis. The feeding and watering regime has been the same for all the tomatoes so that one is a definite no-no for me in future. The old favourites Roma and Shirley have given good crops but I won't have as many for preserving as in previous years. Actually that might not be such a bad thing. I won't have to make so much chutney!!