Fruit Garden, Harvest

Blueberries in November

Earlier this year we planted our first blueberry bushes in lovely old bath tubs. I wasn’t expecting much from their first growing year to be honest, but was happily proved wrong.

Two blueberry bushes provided steady pickings throughout summer right through to autumn, enough to keep the blueberry fans of the family satisfied. It’s now November and we’re still picking berries.

I spotted this vintage mini trug recently from one of my favourite online garden shops, with berry picking in mind it’s perfect for the job.

The temperature has really dropped during the day and nights are chilly, the bushes are just starting to display their beautiful autumnal colour in patches. I’m so pleased we introduced blueberries to our kitchen garden, if you’re interested in growing them too take a look at our growing guide post https://thegardensmallholder.wordpress.com/2017/03/12/blueberries-in-tubs/ for helpful information to keep them happy.

Fruit Garden, Grow Your Own Guides

Blueberries in Tubs

No matter how much growing space you have, sometimes you just have to use containers. Blueberries require an acid soil and our soil doesn’t quite cut the mustard, so to keep our little blueberry bushes happy I planted them into old galvanised bath tubs filled with ericaceous compost and placed them in a sheltered spot on top of a wide gravel path. This should provide perfect conditions for them.

Blueberries also require plenty of water, containers are notorious for drying out quickly during prolonged dry weather but we’re hopeful the size of the bath tubs and they fact they’re non-porous will be beneficial. However, blueberries are shallow-rooted and can dry out quickly so we need to make sure we water regularly during warm weather. We plan to use a mulch of pine leafmould to help retain moisture (we have an endless supply here thanks to the enormous pine trees that shade our chicken runs) and use water from the water butts to keep them happy.

Blueberries are usually part or fully self-pollinating but it’s better to grow two rather than just one as cross-pollinated plants tend to produce larger fruit. To ensure reliable, heavier yields try growing more than one variety. At the moment we have ornamental variety ‘Hortblue Petite’, a high bush (Vaccinium corymbosum) but a more compact version. We’re on the look out to add another variety soon.

Reading this back we realise how much pampering they require but it’s got to be worth it for the end result. Fingers crossed for our first picking of blueberries this year, we’re not expecting great things yet but excited just the same.

Fruit Garden, Grow Your Own Guides

Preparing a New Raspberry Bed

raspberries

I’m currently preparing a new bed for planting raspberry canes. I really miss the raspberry patch from our previous kitchen garden, snacking on fresh juicy raspberries from the garden was one of the highlights of summer. So, I’m putting this right by making a start on the first raspberry patch here in the garden smallholding.

Bare-rooted canes are available to purchase from November and usually cheaper than potted canes, so I’d better get my skates on because I’m battling couch grass at the moment and I really want to be sure I’ve got rid of it, or as much as I possibly can before planting my canes. I’ve decided to grow autumn fruiting raspberries in this new bed, extending the picking season through to October. The berries of autumn-fruiting varieties are often larger than summer ones, and dare I say it, tastier. They’re also easier to prune (although summer canes are really not too difficult once you know how) and there’s usually no need for support posts.

new raspberry bed

As easy as raspberries are to grow, a little extra effort should be afforded when preparing a new bed. It’s important to clear the site of perennial weeds before planting as these are difficult to control once raspberries are established due to their shallow and delicate roots. I’m going to plant 5 canes in the new bed, a variety called ‘Polka’ has grabbed my attention. Once the bed is thoroughly weeded and well dug over I will add plenty of organic matter such as well rotted chicken manure (thanks girls!) before planting my canes.

Fruit Garden, Orchard

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?

Fruit Garden, Orchard

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.

Fruit Garden, Harvest

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!

Fruit Garden

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!

Fruit Garden, Harvest

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!

 

 

Fruit Garden, Product Reviews

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.

Fruit Garden, Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday

blackcurrant flowers

Fruit Garden

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!

Allotment, Fruit Garden, Grow Your Own Guides

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 https://thegardensmallholder.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/tiding-summer-fruiting-raspberry-canes/

Fruit Garden

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.

Fruit Garden

The Early Strawberries are Flowering

As I was tidying the strawberry bed yesterday, I noticed the early varieties starting to flower. Wet from rain the night before, they glistened and glittered in the morning sunlight. Open flowers were laden with raindrops,  offering water like tiny glowing goblets.

I can almost taste the strawberries to come.

Fruit Garden, Vegetable Garden

A Few Hours in the Warm Sunshine

I woke to a beautiful sunny day, I took the opportunity to take some early morning photos. Although the recent rain was needed, it was nice to have a break from it. The sun disappeared by mid-morning and the sky looked an angry grey, I felt sure the rain would be back. The sun burst through the gloom and stayed for the rest of the afternoon, allowing me to spend a long time in the garden.

I spent a few hours pottering around in the garden. Well I say “pottering” but what I really mean is I actually tackled a few jobs that I’d been putting off. My usual definition of pottering involves a bit of day dreaming, starting something and then moving on to something else without finishing what I started before, a bit of head scratching at why the garden looks messier than when I first started, oh and wondering where the time went.

The rain has helped the grass to put on lush growth

Anyway, one of the jobs I was avoiding was to tidy up the strawberry bed. The plants went berserk last summer, sprawling runners rooting anywhere and everywhere. I potted up a few stray runners to plant out at my allotment and moved some that insisted on growing in the most awkward of places. The autumn raspberries were sending new canes out everywhere, I found one coming up on a path so I traced that back and took it out, then tackled others that were growing out of the boundary I had set for them.

I really enjoyed working in the warm sunshine, randomly sprinkling packets of wildflower mixes in a bed right next to the wildlife pond. Should be gorgeous in summer. I also sowed a few rows of parsnip (my trusty and favourite ‘Gladiator’) and ‘Resistafly’ carrot, a Nantes type with good resistance to the dreaded carrot fly.

Did you get outside in the sunshine today?

Fruit Garden, Vegetable Garden

Forcing Rhubarb

Last year I treated myself to a terracotta rhubarb forcer for my birthday, using the money I’d been given as a gift. The forcing jar spent much of the year nestled alongside the rhubarb looking rather stylish, eventually disappearing behind a jungle of rhubarb leaves. My rhubarb crown is just over 3 years old so I’m going to start forcing it. I grow Timperley Early rhubarb, as the name suggests you do get an earlier crop than other rhubarb, forcing this variety isn’t going to make that much difference with cropping time but what I’m after is the beautiful pink stems and sweet champagne flavour that forcing produces.

You can force established rhubarb by covering the crown with a forcing jar, an upturned dustbin or water-butt will do the job just as well. Doing this creates a dark and warm environment inside, forcing the stems into premature growth. Once you force a crown you should allow it to crop naturally the following year, forcing it year after year could seriously weaken it. Some gardeners force the same crown annually with no problems and would disagree with the advice above, I just tend to be a bit more cautious. A good tip is to grow 3 crowns, allow one to recover from being forced the previous year, force one and let the other crop naturally, when it should. However, keep in mind that rhubarb is a thug once established, each crown needs plenty of space and they’re hungry plants.

I’m looking forward to tucking into champagne flavoured crumbles and fools.

Fruit Garden, Harvest

It’s a Good Year for Autumn Raspberries

It’s a good year for autumn raspberries, how do I know? – because I’m still picking them! I grow Joan J autumn canes and they’re still exploding with huge plump fruit with no sign of stopping despite a few frosty nights. The fruits are much larger than our summer variety, being darker in colour creates a dramatic statement against a heavy grey autumn sky.

Cropping can start from July right through to October or early November, weather permitting. I notice they tend to get better and better as the temperature drops off, they’re not troubled by birds either so you get the lot.

The only downside is knowing what to do with them all!

Fruit Garden

A Good Year for Plums

Our young Marjorie’s Seedling rewarded us well this year with a decent yield of gorgeous deep purple fruits tinged with blue which I’m pleased to have captured in the photograph – they really are that stunning to look at. They’re not at all bitter or sharp and make good eaters, we’ve enjoyed eating them fresh from the tree without the need for pulling silly faces. Marjorie’s Seedling are good cooking plums too, a perfect choice for jam making and other scrummy plummy recipes.

If your garden is a frost pocket in spring then Marjorie’s Seedling may be the answer to succeeding with plums, flowering later than other plum trees it stands a better chance of setting fruit.

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Fruit Garden, Gardening Tips

Tidying Summer Fruiting Raspberry Canes

The summer raspberries are just about coming to an end now, they fruited well for new plants and being a mid to late summer variety they’ve been a real treat all summer long. Some of the canes are finished and looking scruffy so I decided to start the raspberry cane tidy up.

Canes producing fruit throughout summer will probably look tired and dead looking now, especially if they’re early fruiting varieties. Cut these canes down to just above ground level. You should have fresh new growth too, these are new canes which will produce fruit next year so don’t cut them down, tie the new canes onto the frame support instead.

Raspberries will appreciate an autumn mulch around the base with well-rotted manure or fresh compost. We had a bit of a glut with our summer raspberries even though I only planted 3 canes so I’d better look for some interesting recipes to store away for next year.

The autumn variety raspberries are fruiting now, I’ll never get tired of picking and eating raspberries – especially because they’re so expensive to buy!

Chickens, Fruit Garden, Harvest

August in the Garden Smallholding

August is the time to reap the rewards, a time when the garden really starts to give back what you so carefully and lovingly put into it, providing regular harvests of fresh fruit and veg, packed full of flavour. An array of crops are ready for harvest this month including sweet corn, golden-yellow cobs bursting with sweetness, a flavour so intense to rival any shop bought produce. Pick them and enjoy straight away, I guarantee you will always find the space to grow them year after year.

The fruit garden will spoil you for choice now too, jams, jellies and chutney are just crying out to be made, a great way to use up a glut of vegetables. Add apples or plums to chopped vegetables and make tasty combinations, a reminder for months to come of the wonderful produce your garden/allotment provided. August is a good month to plant a new strawberry patch using well-rooted runners, a great way to gain more strawberries for free. Perpetual strawberries will extend the picking season until the first frosts, sadly they don’t produce runners freely but it’s well worth buying plants to keep you picking strawberries much longer than usual. Autumn fruiting raspberries are kicking in now, big dark red (almost plum colour) berries are a welcome treat. The summer raspberries are still producing but are noticeably coming to an end.

The temperature has dropped quite a bit recently with a distinct autumn ‘nip’ to the air, leaves are beginning to fall from trees that have taken on a rusty autumn appearance already. I certainly think autumn is creeping up on us faster than usual. Even though I’m enjoying late summer flowers, the occasional warm day and mouth-watering fresh food, now is the time that I start to think about what I can plant or sow for the coming months ahead. Garlic can be planted out from October through to winter as long as the ground is workable, as well as autumn peas (under cloches) and broad beans. I’ve decided to sow Meteor, an autumn variety of pea in the greenhouse from October time, field mice are plenty here due to being surrounded by farmland – my peas don’t really stand a chance otherwise.

Our hens have been laying well considering they are quite old, well, in ex battery terms they are, we’ve had a steady supply of lovely eggs since early spring. Each morning for the past week the floor of the coops have been littered with feathers, a sign that moult has begun and laying will decline soon. Poultry spice added daily to the mash or pellet feed is really useful at this time of year, it helps birds get through the moult and gives them a bit of a boost during cold weather.

Don’t forget natures free kitchen cupboard, elderberries are ripe now and can be used for jelly and jam making, we’re lucky to have a free supply growing wild as well as uncultivated blackberries. Enjoy your August garden!

Fruit Garden

Overrun with Strawberry Runners!

My strawberry patch was an explosion of runners recently, the patch had become overcrowded with baby plants self-rooting all over the place and was in desperate need of thinning out. I set to work by digging up well rooted runners gently with a hand fork, potting them up as I went. Smaller plants have been left where they are for now in order to establish a better root system. I’m aiming to plant the largest plants at the allotment sometime this month, this should allow them enough time to settle in before the cold wet weather comes.

If you were to compare prices to garden centres right now (strawberry plants are mighty expensive at the moment) I’ve at least £40 worth of strawberry plants that I’ve gained for nowt. Strawberry plants are brilliant!