Fruit Garden

Blackcurrant Scent

Is it just me or am I the only one who finds the scent of blackcurrant foliage irresistible?

It’s an unusual smell and probably not to everyone’s liking but I just adore it. Now that my blackcurrant bush is bursting into life with fresh zesty leaf bud, I’m finding the urge to smell it difficult to resist. In fact, I spend so much time inhaling the lovely blackcurrant aroma that I’m sure a leaf bud will disappear up one of my nostrils very soon.

Fruit Garden

Planting and Pruning my Blackcurrant Bush

Last summer I purchased my very first blackcurrant bush, a variety called Big Ben. As the name suggests the berries are huge! Big Ben is a good blackcurrant for eating fresh from the bush and it’s resistant to powdery mildew and leaf spot. It was fruiting at the time of purchase, producing lots of strigs but I wasn’t entirely sure where it was going to be planted so I decided to leave the bush in the pot for the remainder of summer, keeping it well watered during dry spells.

Eventually I planted it out in late autumn, roughly 2 inches deeper than it was in the pot to encourage the bush to send up lots of fresh shoots for the following year. Once planted I cut all growth back to a few inches above soil level, it felt a bit harsh but this should encourage a stronger root system, sturdy new growth and bumper crops. Apart from an annual mulch I can leave the blackcurrant to get on with it for the next 2 years, then prune to encourage new growth by removing 1 in 3 old stems to ground level, removing damaged or crossing stems and light trimming to keep the centre fairly open during winter while it’s dormant.

There is just about enough time to prune your older bushes if you have not done so already. Enjoy those juicy berries this summer!

Fruit Garden · Pests & Diseases

Hit and Miss Gooseberries


I have two Gooseberry bushes, Invicta and Careless. Both have flowered profusely this spring and are now laden with small forming fruits which I will lightly thin towards the end of the month to allow for larger fruits mid summer.

Yesterday I noticed some of the fruits on the Careless bush are showing signs of  mildew, it did well last season but I know this variety can be susceptible to mildew. Pah! My veg bible advises cutting out congested branches to improve air circulation and removing any infected branches straight away. Oh, and to plant resistant cultivars. Whoops.

However, Invicta (mildew resistant) is going great guns so far so I should be OK for Gooseberries this year.

Fruit Garden

The Plot Thickens – Bring on the Digger!

Don’t turn your back on freshly dug earth……

It could turn into this nightmare……


We took our eye off the ball with the remainder of the plot and look……. a jungle! Drowning in a sea of bindweed and other annoying weeds, our orchard area was looking bad, very bad indeed. Fear not, the weeds have since been dealt with! Actually, we cheated a bit. The mini digger we ordered to level the ground got to work on most of the weeds and root systems, only a little hand digging was needed to finish off. We don’t feel bad about not putting the man power in, we did a lot of digging and swearing just getting the brambles out. The plot has now been levelled and a brand spanking new fence has been erected which is helping to keep the Muntjac deer off the veggies. The little darlings managed to munch their way through half of the broad beans, but that’s OK, I’m not a huge fan of broad beans anyway.


The young plum tree we planted a while ago is doing well, no fruit this year but its putting on lots of growth, however, the apple trees are laden with fruit. I’m still thinning them to help their young branches cope with the weight before they snap, as well as providing support by way of bamboo cane framework. I’m looking around at pear trees at the moment, a pear tree would be nice to add to the collection. Any recommendations?

Fruit Garden · Harvest



The gooseberries are finished fruiting now and the final pickings did not even make the kitchen. Well, there was not enough fruit to make anything from them anyway, so popping them into our mouths was the obvious solution of course. Leaving them any longer was just an open invite for the birds.

We have 2 young bushes, Careless and Invicta, both very immature at present but they still produced enough fruit for a tasting session. I plan to make something yummy from them when they are more productive, any recipe ideas?

Fruit Garden · Harvest



Our strawberries are ripening now but its a mad dash to get to them before the birds do! We are growing  Elan and Loran varieties. I must get round to building some sort of fruit cage, I’m not a fan of netting for one reason or another. How do you cover yours?

Fruit Garden

Thinning Apple Scrumptious

Apple Scrumptious

Our young apple Scrumptious tree produced more young fruit than we expected it to. This variety of apple are quite large and with the tree being very young, we felt the tree would benefit from being a little less top heavy.

To be honest, we assume the tree felt the same way as removing some of the young fruit was not hard to do at all. We left each fruiting branch with either 1, 2 or 3 young apples, depending on how strong the branch was. Got to say, very impressed with this young tree so far. Hope the taste of the fruit lives up to its name.

Fruit Garden

An Underground Surprise


Not a nice surprise at that.

On attempting to get our mini orchard off to a flying start by planting some of the fruit trees recently purchased, (including our rather lovely Scrumptious apple) we hit something hard with our spades, lurking just below the lawn. “Oh, it’s just a large stone” I said in hope. Surely it couldn’t be anymore loose bricks and rubble? We have already dug up enough of those from the vegetable garden plot to build a small house. OK maybe a slight exaggeration, but there are rather a lot of them.

On attempting to dig a little to the left, then a little to the right of the offending hard mass, we still hit it. We kept trying by going a lot further from the area but it was no good. “More bricks here then Rich, better get these out”.

Easier said than done. On further investigation which generally involved lots of probing and prodding with our forks whilst pulling very miserable looking faces, frowning and generally looking fed up, we had no choice but to keep trying to dig around the area until we found a way down and into the soil to lift the bricks out. At last we managed to find some soft ground and started to dig down, only to find the hidden foundations of a previous outbuilding. Oh no!

Looks like an earthquake

It all started to make sense. Whoever pulled down this building obviously buried all the bricks into what is now our vegetable garden, then chose to leave the foundations, fill them in, turf and forget about it. The foundations go down at least four bricks deep, on top of a thick layer of cement in a trench. We have removed the first two layers of bricks but we have to remove it all. Trouble is it gets more difficult the further down you go. Starting to see why they were buried and forgotten. Grrrrrr.

At least our kids had fun sitting on the foundations!  So, we soldier on with this setback and hope to get the trees planted very soon.

J & J playing on foundations as kids do

Bring back bramble roots, all is forgiven!!

Fruit Garden

Apple Scrumptious

Apple 'Scrumptious'

We have been looking around for more apple trees to join our young Cox’s Orange Pippin. After some research we decided on Discovery, still debating on a few others.

Discovery was proving difficult to get on the rootstock that we wanted, so we had a chat with the fruit buyer at our local garden centre. He pointed out a tree that we had not heard of before. Scrumptious, a modern early variety. Its parentage includes Discovery, the fruit it produces are red which ticks the box for fruit colour that we wished for. As its name suggests, the fruit is said to excel on flavour. A self fertile tree with good disease resistance as well as  frost resistant blossom. We were told to expect some fruit this year from this young tree so we shall see how it does.

Fruit Garden · kitchen garden

The Vegetable Garden and Orchard -Well Eventually!

Apologies to The Garden Smallholder readers lately (especially Do What You Love) for my lack of posts. Aside from my love of the outdoors, gardening and our small scale smallholding, I am in fact a dab hand at decorating. I can now be found most days head to toe in dust, paint and old wallpaper scraps. Attractive huh?

Our bedroom was crying out to be redecorated. I thought I could live with the way it was for at least a little while longer than I have, but my hands started getting that itchy feeling. I could not help myself, before I knew it I had grabbed the stripping knife and the hideous wallpaper was no more. All the walls have been stripped and I am in the process of getting them prepped. The other chore was to removed the polystyrene ceiling tiles. I have aches and pains in the muscles of my arms that I never knew existed. The ceiling is in a bit of a mess now so it needs to be skimmed over by a plasterer at some point when we are feeling a bit flush. Its going to cost a fair few pounds but the end result should look great and far safer than having a fire hazard above our heads! Trouble is I have started eyeing up our sons bedroom. OK, I have gone past the eyeing up stage and whipped the wallpaper from the walls of that room too, but you already guessed that right?

Anyway, on to the garden smallholding which im sure is far more interesting than my decorating woes. I grabbed my camera from its dusty shelf on Sunday and took some snap shots of how the vegetable garden and mini orchard looks now. As you can see its all very messy indeed. I would dearly love to get the ground cleared but im so afraid of disturbing hibernating animals. That would never sit easy with me, the death of a hedgehog or some other poor creature from my doings would really upset me. Good things come to those that wait as they say, so wait I shall.




I think its hard to visualise from these photos and angles how large this area is, it will take some back breaking to get it looking anything like a vegetable garden and orchard let alone plant anything. I guess that’s all part of the excitement. In a strange sort of way I am glad that we did not inherit a beautifully planned, planted and well tendered vegetable plot when we bought the house, because then it would not really feel like ours. Its not all doom and gloom out there though, the main garden is beautiful and has been very well cared for over the years, but there is still plenty of room for us to stamp our wellies all over which is nice. No, its the last section of the garden that we have dedicated our little dream of the good life to that needs all the help it can get.

The sheer hard work, passion and determination to get at least something in the form of a vegetable or fruit tree in the ground this year is all there, bubbling away inside of me. I pray it will be possible, the photos shout “You need a miracle!”

The good news is I have managed to secure offers of help from some big strong lads in the form of my father, brother and of course Richie so roll on late spring I say! Im not work shy, I shall be pulling my sleeves up and mucking in just as much as them. Cannot wait.