Monthly Archives: August 2013

Mystery apple

The mystery apple tree

We have several gnarly old apple trees in the garden, outside of the kitchen garden and the orchard, none of which is in good condition. Two are readily identified as the classic cooking apple, Bramley’s Seedling, but two others are dessert sorts of unknown varieties. One in particular regularly provides a good crop of very tasty apples of an old fashioned sort. These are so delicious that I am keen to find out what the variety might be. Today, I posted three samples of the fruit and a length of stem and foliage to Brogdale Collections for identification. If it can be positively identified, and if it is a variety of some interest, I may well consider planting a new specimen in the forthcoming orchard. I do not want to graft from this tree, as it is rather diseased and I am not happy with the new growth. Continue reading

Potato harvest

Time to harvest some potatoes

With Arto on hand to lend some much needed manpower, we took the opportunity to lift some potatoes. Our first outdoor potato bed was planted on 14 March, with potatoes put to chit on 24 February. The second bed followed on 2 June, rather later than expected.

We had already harvested and enjoyed the first early, Sharpe’s Express, and second early, International Kidney, from the first bed, and partly also from the second. Today, though, the main crop, Pink Fir Apple, and second early, Wilja, were ready for lifting. In fact, the latter has been ready for several weeks. Continue reading

More onions, shallots, and garlic

Reasonable results with garlic Arno

Our good friends Arto and Serafiina were on hand this weekend to assist in various garden tasks, including the onion harvest. In a previous post, I remarked on the best garlic crop we have ever produced, from a late autumn sowing benefitting for the first time from the protection of the polytunnel. I wondered, at the time, how the spring sown outdoor crop might fare. Today, the bulbs were revealed and I cannot say that I am disappointed as they are rather as expected, perhaps even a little better. Some of the bulbs are rather small, whilst others are of a useful size. They cannot compare, however, with those from the polytunnel, which were larger by far, and of high quality. I have yet to try the bulbs for flavour, and will not do so for some time, as these should store for longer. Continue reading

To feed, or not to feed

Padron chilli peppers

Tomatoes, chillies, sweet peppers, and other such crops, need good fertile conditions to grow well and continue cropping throughout the season. Tomatoes in particular put on a considerable amount of vegetative growth, and produce a large amount of fruit. Providing sustenance is therefore important. Conventional wisdom suggests that feeding should commence as the first flowers appear and continue at, as a minimum, weekly intervals, with a suitably formulated feed, that is, one that is high in potash and relatively lower in nitrogen, to support fruiting rather than encourage growth. Some also advocate the use of a balanced feed prior to fruiting, although I suspect that this is not often necessary.

However, I am rather of the opinion that reliance on liquid feeds is rather unsatisfactory, and where at all possible, feeding of the soil is to be preferred, not least because it removes a burdensome task. It is the time of year, though, that I examine the plants closely to see whether a liquid feed is indeed needed – whilst I prefer not to, I do not allow the plants to suffer unduly through lack of nutrients. Continue reading

Tomato taste test

The dark days of winter, when much of the garden is tucked up in bed, waiting for the warmth and sunshine of spring to arrive, is the usual time for perusing seed catalogues and drawing up planting plans. However, it is now, when the harvest of summer and autumn produce is in full swing, that one ought to review the successes and failures of this year’s sowings, and consider which varieties are worth growing again next year and which might better be replaced with something new. Tomatoes are one of our favourites crops – indeed, if I could grow only one thing, tomatoes and chillies would be fighting it out. So, with the glasshouse full of ripe cherry tomatoes, and the larger sorts in the polytunnel not too far behind, we took some time to undertake a taste test, as well as noting which varieties have grown well or otherwise. Continue reading

First honey harvest of the year

Busy bees bringing nectar into the long deep hive

Following a quick inspection of the conventional hives, which are doing fine, although not yet producing any surplus honey, we moved on to take our first honey from the long deep hive. This is a rather odd looking hive of my dad’s design, but similar to others of its kind. It takes deep frames, and offers a very large brood area all on one level, making inspection a little easier. It also has entrances at both ends, allowing colonies to be split and merged more readily than with a conventional hive. Continue reading

Happy Anniversary!

Our first egg – one year ago today

I have been wondering what my first chicken related post might be. We have been keeping chickens for more than a year now, but have so far been very fortunate not to suffer from any significant problems, although that makes for neither an interesting nor a useful article. Today, though, was our wedding anniversary. Coincidentally, it is also one year to the day since we had our very first freshly laid egg. Continue reading

First apple of the season, and it’s a beauty

‘Beauty of Bath’ apple

This week, we have been tasting the first apples of the season, and the first crop from our young Beauty of Bath cordon. We planted nine cordon apples two winters ago. When selecting varieties, I was particularly keen to explore old varieties, and made extensive reference to George Lindley’s Guide to the Orchard and the Kitchen Garden, 1931, and Robert Hogg’s Fruit Manual, 5th ed. 1884. Eight of the nine varieties predate Lindley’s work, but Beauty of Bath is a little more recent, being introduced in 1864 by a Mr George Cooling of Bath, Somerset, and failing also to find a place in Dr Hogg’s manual. Continue reading

Onion and shallot harvest

Part of the onion and shallot harvest drying on slatted staging

In a previous post, I showed the results of our best ever garlic harvest, which produced plenty of large, good quality, and well flavoured bulbs. Certainly the weather has been more favourable this year, although with a rather cold, slow start to the spring, yet I suspect the great improvement came from growing these autumn sown bulbs in the polytunnel. I have yet to find out how the outdoor, spring sown crop has fared, as they still appear to have a little growth left in them. As garlic benefits from a good period of cold to encourage the formation of separate cloves, the spring sowing can result in disappointing bulbs.

It has been a similar tale with the autumn sown shallots and ‘Japanese’ onions. These were planted in double rows in the narrow polytunnel borders, along the edges of the beds, leaving space down the centre so that the tomatoes and sweet peppers could be planted later in the year whilst the onions and shallots finished developing. Protected from the excessive cold and wet conditions that caused difficulty with last year’s crop, these developed very well indeed. The extra warmth offered by the polytunnel allowed them to get a good start before the winter cold brought growth to a standstill. They stood well during the winter, and put on excellent growth in the spring, producing useful bulbs early in the year. Continue reading

Late sowing of potatoes

Today we made our final sowing of potatoes. At this time of year, the major seed merchants sell so called ‘second cropping’ potatoes; a rather silly name as they are neither cropping for the second time, nor are they necessarily one’s second sowing. However, tubers sown now – at least here in the south – should provide a crop of new potatoes towards the end of October and through November, and may well stand in the ground in good condition until the end of the year, offering home grown new potatoes for the Christmas festivities.

Many of the small, cleanly scrubbed, potatoes offered by the supermarkets that masquerade as new potatoes, are nothing of the kind in my view. A new potato has a thin skin that is easily rubbed off, and an unmistakable fresh dug flavour and texture that cannot be matched by these thick skinned counterfeits. Fortunately, depending on the blight situation and the protection that can be offered, it is entirely feasible to provide real new potatoes for 7 or 8 months of the year. Continue reading