Tuesday, 25 October 2011

rasps keep coming

The autumn raspberries are prolific this year. Here's 250g I picked this afternoon.

There are still more on the canes and as long as the frosts hold off I should be picking them till November. Actually, this year has been an excellent one for soft fruit which is some compensation for the disastrous tree fruit crops.

Starting with the first rhubarb in early April we've had fresh fruit of one sort or another for over seven months and there's loads in the freezer to make pies and crumbles.

Tomatoes have performed only moderately this year. The last few are hanging in the greenhouse to ripen. In previous years I've managed to be eating fresh, home-grown toms in December but you win some, you lose some.

the last few toms
I don't bother buying tomatoes in winter as I find them tough and tasteless and it's no great hardship to do without them. The thing about growing your own food is that you soon get accustomed to eating with the seasons and I'm sure this is better for our bodies.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

winter crops

The last couple of weeks have seen very little gardening activity, mainly due to the poor weather. However, today was a glorious autumn day it was a pleasure to be out  and getting on with a lot of general tidying and weeding - something I usually neglect during the busy summer period. Part of what was originally a rockery I’ve turned into a herb bed and I’ve been trying to excavate the roots of perennial weeds growing there. Couch grass and creeping buttercup are the bane of my life, and I suspect of many other gardeners as well. If you leave one little bit behind it will regrow so you have to be  very observant and sift through the soil to make certain you’ve got it all. And then there’s the  ground cover plants that the previous property owner thought would be a good idea. Wrong! it’s only a good idea if you can put a solid barrier between them and the rest of the garden otherwise you have roots and runners constantly trying to take over.

The veg. plot now has a few bare patches where crops have been lifted but there’s still plenty out there to put towards a meal.  The container grown salad crops have been moved into the greenhouse to give some protection from the weather.
Here are radishes, various types of lettuce and spring onions. The 'empty' red box has the latest sowing of AYR lettuce which have yet to emerge. Inside the greenhouse last year it got down to -15 but the salad crops survived and then had a head start in the spring.

It is nice to be able to pick a few leaves to stick in a sandwich in the middle of winter and it keeps the continuity going. For me there is no single growing season although things are obviously much more hectic in the warmer months. I'll be sowing sprouting seeds through the winter and before you know it the first of the new year's crops will be starting off in the propagator.

Friday, 14 October 2011


Spent part of today potting up strawberry runners. I've done about thirty so far and there's loads more which I'll offer to a couple of local charity shops if they'll take them.

 I've got more strawberry plants than I can use but I just hate the thought of composting them. If anyone can get to north-west Cumbria and wants some they'll be more than welcome to take what they need.

While I was furtling around among the plants I found one in flower and with small fruits developing. They're not going to come to anything now but it does illustrate what a funny old year it's been.

The autumn rasps are still fruiting like mad and I'm putting a small tubful in the freezer every couple of days. I'll figure out what to do with them later.

For some reason there's been an abundance of bird life in the garden today. Not just the usual sparrows, thrushes and blackbirds but a couple of robins, half a dozen blue-tits, a wren, two goldfinches and a chaffinch. I think they might have been sussing out the plot ready for a dawn raid. I'll probably wake tomorrow to find everything gone :-)

Sunday, 9 October 2011


Not the wizard, the little falcon. I don't know why but it always gladdens my heart whenever I see one. Perhaps it's because they're so elusive that they have a kind of magical quality. Anyway, as I took the dog out this morning one darted across the hedge on my left, swooped low along the road then took off into the fields on the right. They do nest around here but we only see them perhaps half a dozen times in a year if we're lucky.

Then when I got back home I had to rescue a robin that had become trapped in the greenhouse so, all in all, a bit of a birdy day. Oh, and the geese have started to come down from the north to overwinter on the marshes...a sure sign that winter's on its way.

I've sown some sweet cicely in modules today (the recommended sowing time is autumn). When we lived in the north east it grew in profusion along the banks of the river Tees and I would gather the leaves to use in fruit pies and the dried seeds also as a flavouring. Since we moved here I've not seen a single plant so I thought it might be nice to see if it would grow in the damp shady area at the bottom of the garden.

Another thing that I miss here is the wild garlic. The fresh leaves are wonderful in a salad or a sandwich so I'm going to have a bash at growing it from seed. Again, autumn is supposed to be a good time to sow it.

I suppose all gardeners get fascinated by the weird and the deformed things that they sometimes grow so here's my offering for today: a siamese-twin Roma tomato.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

jam and pickle making day

Decided to have a jam making session to reduce the amount of stored fruit in the freezer. I tend to make use of whatever fruit is available rather than following any particular recipe. Today’s was cherry and blackcurrant and I added some chopped crab apples for extra pectin. As long as you remember to mix low pectin fruit with a high pectin type you can’t really go wrong. Unless you want just strawberry jam, in which case you’ll need to add some pectin.

six jars of cherry and blackcurrant....yummy

Talking of jam making, I saw a recipe on t’internet today which recommended keeping jam in the fridge after opening. WHY? The whole point of jam is that the sugar preserves the fruit and even if you do get a bit of mould on top you can always scrape it off. There seems to be an obsession with some people that all our food should be sterile. I’m pretty sure that many of the allergies and intolerances suffered by people today are because they’ve never been exposed to anything that might trigger an immune response and when they eventually are exposed their bodies over-react. Sterile food, sterile homes, sterile offices....give me muck and mould any day!

Soap-box session over.

In yesterday's decent weather I pulled some beetroot and am currently boiling a couple of pounds ready for pickling. I love the earthy smell of beetroot cooking in their skins and keep a couple of small ones back from the pickling to slice and use in sandwiches.

These were grown in a 12 inch square pot. Beetroot are a good vegetable to grow if you have limited space
Because of stuff left from last year the preserve cupboard is now full. Mind you, I've done a lot more pickled onions than last year.  I found seeds for a variety called de Barletta in either Lidl or Aldi and they quickly make a perfect pickling size bulb. They can also be easily grown in a container which is even better.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Autumn sunshine

Unseasonally warm recently with temperatures up to 24˚C and wall-to-wall sunshine. It's been a great help to the autumn raspberries and I've been picking a tubful of big juicy fruits every couple of days.

The Christmas potatoes are coming along a treat as well with lots of lush top growth. I have three bags with four tubers in each but what I need is no frosts for the next month or so to give the spuds chance to develop.

I can always bring them into the greenhouse which usually remains frost-free till the outside temp. drops below about -5 but I'd prefer to leave them outside to gain full advantage of any sunshine.