Pecking Apples

apple harvest

The apple trees in the orchard are feeling the strain from the weight of fruit on their branches, I guess it’s time to stock the larder cupboard.

orchard

Armed with my ladder and apple crates, I’ve started to pick apples to use for cooking. And I had company. The hens enjoyed the sunshine and wandered off under the safety of the trees, the rescue girls stuck to me like glue as usual. However, they were great ‘quality control inspectors’, jumping in and out of the apple crates, pecking apples. They just have to be involved in everything I do, from harvesting fruit to sweeping leaves.

chicken orchard

apples

hen orchard

We have plenty of fruit from our orchard to make warm crumbles, delicious pies and tarts, thanks to a wonderful summer. Did your fruit trees produce plenty of fruit this year?

Our Very Own Orchard

apple tree

Chilly evenings and dewy mornings, my favourite time of year is fast approaching. The mature fruit trees in our garden were planted many years ago in rows, giving the appearance of an orchard. We’ve always wanted our very own orchard and that’s how we refer to our wonderful old trees.

Bramley apples

Bramley apples

Victoria plum tree

Dripping with fruit in shades of green, purple, red and yellow, the garden has never looked so colourful since moving here late January. Greengage and early plums are finishing now, tipsy wasps litter the lawn, feasting on fallen fermented plums alongside occasional Red Admiral butterflies.

fallen apples

Early plums

Early plums

One of the pear trees

Wasps gorging on fruit

Wasps gorging on fruit

The garden is very wide and therefore open in most places, fruit trees are a great way to provide cover to free-ranging chickens from aerial predators. We have a few more fruit trees to plant this autumn; Scrumptious apple will replace a small ornamental cherry that isn’t doing very well, Cox’s Orange Pippin and a Bramley apple. It’s almost time to release them from their temporary containers where they’ve lived happily since moving here.

Apple tree, possibly a Cox?

Apple tree, possibly a Cox?

Another apple, not sure of this one

Another pear tree

Another pear tree

Bramley apple tree

Bramley apple tree

Again, not sure of this variety of apple

I’m jam making again with gorgeous Victoria plums, it’s unbelievable the amount of fruit the Victoria tree has produced.

Victoria Plum

Victoria plums

Our lovely Victoria plum tree

A pretty Comma butterfly seemed to watch me from one of the pear trees, it stayed quite still while I snapped away with the camera.

comma butterfly on a pear tree

underside of a comma butterfly

There are two pear varieties and three apple varieties in the orchard that we need help with identifying, along with an early plum (mid July fruiting). If you recognise a variety from the photos please do leave a comment.

My Verdict on Cucamelons

cucamelon

I meant to post about my Cucamelon harvest a couple of weeks ago but time has just eluded me lately. I only managed to grow two plants so I wasn’t expecting great things when it came to picking the fruits, however, I filled a small punnet  with my harvest which is pretty good going. But, that’s where my praise for this quirky-looking crop ends I’m afraid. I have to admit, I don’t like them.

I find the texture of the skin strange, for me, this takes away any enjoyment of the flavour – which isn’t exactly exciting either. There’s a tiny hint of citrus, but other than that, it’s like chewing on a tough cucumber. I think it’s safe to say I won’t be growing them again.

Sorry Cucamelon fans!

Cucamelon

cucamelons

After a shaky start with germination problems I’m pleased to see Cucamelon fruit, growing on the vines. The fruits resemble miniature melons (about the size of a grape when ready for picking), with a refreshing flavour of pure cucumber with a dash of citrus running through. The fruit on my vines being super tiny at the moment were tricky to photograph.

Despite claims of Cucamelons being dead easy to grow, I only managed to grow two plants. I finally had success with Mr Fothergill’s seed, kindly sent to me to try. Unfortunately, my James Wong seed failed to produce anything but to be fair, I’d say the lingering cold spring caused the problem because I used that packet first. Using my own sowing experience to offer advice to anyone wishing to grow Cucamelons for the first time, sow as much seed as you can to increase your chances and in a constantly warm environment such as a greenhouse or conservatory if you don’t have a heated propagator. Cover the seed tray at night with a clear plastic lid to keep warmth in.

cucamelon

My vines have been trained along wires in the greenhouse, the beautiful weather we’re enjoying (or melting in) has really brought the plants on. Once I’ve gobbled up all the fruit and the fruiting period is done and dusted, I will lift the main roots before the first frosts arrive and store in compost in the garage or shed over winter, planting out again the following spring for earlier fruits. Hopefully!

Bumper Strawberry Crop

strawberries

This year has been superb for strawberries. I’ve been picking large, super sweet fruits in great volumes at the allotment and giving away punnets to friends and neighbours to avoid waste. After doing a bit of research into the reasons why strawberries are so good this year, it seems the cool spring almost certainly played a part. Plants flowered later and had longer to put down roots. Because of a lack of sunshine up until now there was a longer gap between flowering and picking, fruit stayed on the plants for a longer period of time, absorbing extra nutrients, resulting in big, juicy and sweet fruits.

I have plenty of fruit to make jam, so that should keep me busy this week!

 

 

Framberry Plants

framberry plants

A parcel of Framberry plants arrived on my doorstep from Mow It, Sow It, Grow It during the week. Once again, I was impressed with the careful and thoughtful packaging (fully recyclable) to ensure the plants arrived as fresh as a daisy.

framberry flower

What is a Framberry? It’s a new fruit for 2013, resembling a strawberry but tastes like a raspberry! I’m a sucker for anything unusual and I couldn’t resist giving these a go. Grow them as you would strawberries, they’re hardy enough to be grown outside in our UK climate too. My little plants are healthy and strong, they have flowers already so all I have to do is keep my fingers crossed for fruit this year!

If you’d like to try them yourself, place an order at http://www.mowitsowitgrowit.co.uk/buyframberryplants.html

With thanks to David at Mow It, Sow It, Grow It.

Wordless Wednesday

blackcurrant flowers

My Pineberry Plants are Flowering

pineberry flowers

I’m really pleased to see flowers on my pineberry plants, I got the plants last spring and was really looking forward to tasting the fruit. However, my pineberries had other ideas and decided to go into crazy-reproduction-mode, insisting on throwing out runners at an alarming rate instead of fruiting. I tried snipping the runners off to encourage fruit to set but I couldn’t keep up, eventually I gave in and potted up runners instead.

Now I have plenty of Pineberry plants, the younger plants have flower buds forming too.

potted pineberry runners

pineberryflowers

I’m looking forward to seeing the first fruits appear, they resemble a strawberry but are white in colour, rather than the usual red. They’re supposed to taste of pineapple and this is the reason I cannot wait to eat them!

How to Prune Autumn Fruiting Raspberry Canes

Autumn fruiting raspberries should be cut down to ground level to in February or March to encourage fresh growth

Autumn fruiting raspberries should be cut down to ground level to in February or March to encourage fresh growth

An allotment visit was needed today to cut the autumn fruiting raspberry canes down. Autumn raspberry varieties fruit on the current years growth, cutting all canes down to ground level during February or March helps to direct energy where it’s needed, encouraging fresh new growth (canes) from the base. The new canes will eventually bear fruit in late summer/autumn.

Cut each cane a couple of inches above ground level.

Cut each cane a couple of inches above ground level.

This is how your row of autumn fruiting raspberries should look after pruning

This is how your row of autumn fruiting raspberries should look after pruning

It was quite cold in the wind and raining on and off, apart from one other plot holder we were the only ones there.

Here’s a reminder on how and when to prune summer raspberries http://thegardensmallholder.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/tiding-summer-fruiting-raspberry-canes/

Pineberry Parcel

At the beginning of the year I contacted David Lindsay at Mow it Sow it Grow it, to place an order for pineberries. Having read all about them I really wanted to grow them myself. Looking at pictures of pineberries, the fruits look very much like albino strawberries which are said to have a taste similar to pineapple. My parcel arrived early last week, inside the carefully packed box were 2 healthy plants, very similar to regular strawberry runners.

They are pricey, setting you back £15.99 for 2 plants. However, the fruit is pretty expensive to buy from a well-known supermarket here in the UK, long-term my plants should pay me back handsomely. Pineberry plants are available to buy bare rooted from other stockists, they are much cheaper although the quality is said to be ‘poor’, I personally cannot comment on that but if you’ve bought some this way I’d be interested to know how yours perform, more importantly how they taste.

If you fancy splashing out on a couple of plants pop over to http://mowitsowitgrowit.co.uk and place an order. I’m so looking forward to watching the fruits develop, I hope the taste lives up to my expectations.

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