Saturday, 27 October 2012

autumn jobs

Bright but chilly autumn days mean that there's lots to be done around the garden and things are dry enough to move around without sinking up the ankles in mud.

First priority is gathering up leaves for the leaf mould cages. My own garden can't produce enough but there are plenty of trees in the village and along the lanes so when I take the dog out I always carry a plastic sack with me. It's easy enough to scrape the leaves into little piles with your feet and then just scoop them into the sack.

For some reason I didn't gather enough leaves last autumn to make up the shortfall due to settlement in the cages and will probably not have enough good stuff next spring. That won't be a problem in future as I've added longer poles to the cages and wound an extra width of netting around them to double the size. Thankfully dry leaves are not heavy and it's easy enough to lift the sacks over the top.

I'll also need at least 10 sacks of leaves to add to the cages as they settle but I've roped in some of the village children to rake them into piles on the greens then all I have to do is bag them. (the leaves, not the children!)

Another major task in readiness for the new season is making sure all the compost is doing what it should be doing. The two daleks are full to the brim and populated by thousands of brandling worms which are doing a fantastic job of reducing it all to dark crumbly goodness.
The open heap is now over four feet high and growing. I just keep piling stuff on and making sure there are plenty of air pockets to both aid decomposition and provide a winter home for the wildlife. Hedgehogs and toads especially seem to like the protection offered by the heap.

Spent potting compost from my many containers is either spread across the beds or piled on the heap. One thing I'm careful about is not not putting any material that has grown potatoes onto the new potato bed or into the daleks. That way, when I'm preparing my potato mix next year, I can be pretty sure there's no diseased material around to cause problems.

I find that getting as much work done as I can in the autumn allows me to concentrate on the actual growing process the following year. Hopefully it won't be quite as bad, weather-wise, as this one.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

apple day

A day of glorious autumn sunshine and, as it was also apple day, I decided now's the time to harvest this year's crop. It wouldn't normally happen all on one day but only one of the four trees actually had any fruit this year so out came the steps and up I went.

Here we have it, 34 lbs of James Grieve and when I add in the windfalls I've been gathering over the last few weeks I'd say 50 lbs+ of smallish apples.  For anyone wanting a variety that performs well in the north-west I'd recommend James Grieve as it has given us a good crop every single year since we moved here.

After sorting out the keepers and the juicers/cookers I put them in their respective cardboard trays to be dealt with later. In previous years I've brewed big batches of cider but with only one variety it's not going to happen this year. Even the crab apple harvest is very poor so I'll leave what there is for the local wildlife.

And keeping with the fruity theme the autumn rasps are still producing big juicy fruit. Not as sweet as I would like but I guess that's down to the lack of sunshine.

I know I go on a bit about how easy I find growing parsnips but I've been amazed at my own results this year. It must be that the weather has been perfect for parsnips but I never expected to produce a monster like this.
I broke the root getting it out but even so it weighed in at 743g, well over one and a half pounds.  Parsnip soup, anyone?

Saturday, 13 October 2012

cheeky chap

I keep a bucket at the back door to collect kitchen waste before dumping it in the compost bins. Normally I have it covered but this lunchtime I left off the lid and went back later to find this little fella in the bottom and looking a bit bedraggled.
young vole
He couldn't have climbed up the slippery outside of the bucket so I assume he must have jumped in from the privet hedge. Anyway, I lifted him out and sent him on his way to find an alternative food source.

Wildlife interlude over and now back to growing things. I bought a couple of bags of overwintering onion sets the other day and planted up some into containers in the greenhouse with the rest going outside. The greenhouse ones are close spaced to be pulled as salad onions early next year.

The picture was taken earlier and the week and already the first green shoots have appeared. These are in one of those supermarket mushroom trays.

In the greenhouse the big clean-up is still under way and I've managed to get half of it washed down with disinfectant. I still have the chillies and an aubergine plant in there but once they're finished I'll get on with the other half. Pots and seed trays are all neatly stacked but not cleaned yet. That's a job I like to do outside on a sunny day and I might have a long wait for one of those!

Out on the plot I still have beetroot, cabbage, carrots, chard, kale, leeks, lettuce, pak choi, parsnips, swedes and turnips so we won't starve for the next few weeks.

Monday, 1 October 2012

side-splitting parsnips

Some of you will know that I grow my parsnips in bottomless plastic flower buckets and generally get very good results. Today I was quite astounded when I lifted one of the buckets to find this amazing mass.
The roots had actually split the side of the bucket and it was only held together by the thicker rim at the top. One slit with a knife and it popped apart.

This is what came out, the ruler is twelve inches long!  Oh, and the variety is 'Dagger F1'

After trimming off all the thin ends and excess root I was left with 2.96kg or (6.5lbs) of parsnips from the one bucket. That, to me, is an exceptional yield  and one which has prompted me to start a little competition for next year. No prizes but I'd like to see just how big a yield of any fruit or veg can be achieved from one 10 litre plastic flower bucket.