Tag Archives: gardens

The late summer harvest – growing apples and pears

apple-tree

I love growing apples and pears and I’m so lucky to have two mature trees in my allotment garden. They were both planted around 4 years before I took over the plot and I’ve been there around 10 years myself now.

Each year the quantity and quality of the harvest is different and depending upon what I’m doing around harvest time, how I store them and what I do with them also differs. For example, in previous years I’ve been away on holiday around this time only to return to find the trees stripped bare. Some years all the fruit falls off so quickly I’m left with hardly anything and some years we pick it all and then it ‘goes off’. So, basically we either have too much fruit, or we don’t have enough and vow to make the most of it the following year.

pears-growingBaby pears last month, I love the way they grow up in the air!

Pears seem to be a lot easier to store, they last longer and they get eaten by Adam very quickly so it’s just apples that I need to work on.

We’ve undertaken various tasks to over the years to make the most of our harvest. We’ve subjected ourselves to mammoth picking sessions just before we go on holiday, but often only to return to mouldy fruit. Adam also made an ingenious ‘apple catcher’ a couple of years ago but of course the majority of the apples that fall off (windfalls as they call them round here) are usually damaged so there’s not much point in that either.

One year we bought a fruit press and made cider. Never again! It was a lot of effort, a lot of apples and not much cider. It took us hours and all the juice squirted through the muslin and wooden slats splatting everything in sight! There was definitely some comedy value in what we did but not much else.

Then other years things go very well and we have just enough fresh apples and pears and no hassle! Those years are the ones where the harvest isn’t too overwhelming. This year, thanks to the amazing blossom in spring we have more apples and pears than I’ve ever seen before and I’m definitely overwhelmed!

apple-tree-blossomFruit blossom in spring

This year I want to do something different and I need ideas! I’m very lucky that dotcomgiftshop asked if I would like to review a product and knowing that I have this big apple and pear harvest to contend with I chose their vintage style apple produce tray. I promised them a review in exchange for the tray so I’ll have to come back to that later when it’s really been put to the test! I’m really impressed with it so far though. It looks great and it’s a lot bigger than I thought it would be. It’s also got really nice smooth surfaces and I like that because I can keep it clean more easily than a rough finished tray and avoid dragging dirt into the kitchen.

dotcomgiftshop-vintage-tray

I’ll be able to get two stacks of apples in my tray separated with brown paper. Then I can store them, I’m just not sure where to store them this time, in the light or in the dark? I’ve tried both in the past but still end up with a few mouldy apples.

In terms of eating my harvest this year, I also have elderberries in my garden and I’ve seen a gorgeous recipe for stewed apple and elderberry pancakes in my new Nigel Slater book! Adam bought me his Kitchen Diaries II book for my birthday and it’s full of seasonal recipes using up everything he grows in his garden. So, apart from stewed apple and just eating apples as they are, what else can I do this year? I fancy getting a juicer (I’m never using the fruit press again!) but I have no idea which one to buy and how much use I’d get from it…decisions, decisions!

Do you harvest apples and pears? How do you store them? Do you freeze them, juice them and do you have any recipes? All ideas welcome!

 

A week in Provence – the ‘no gardens’

provence

I’ve just returned from a much needed holiday with Adam in the beautiful Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in France. As well as enjoying typical Provencal 3 hour lunches I’ve also been admiring a multitude of gardens.

When garden writer Louisa Jones first moved to Provence she was told there were ‘no gardens’ apart from certain famous historic properties but for her first book she visited around 300 gardens and has since written many more books about the beauty of Mediterranean gardening.

french-garden

A while back I wrote about my container garden at the front of my house. I felt that some people in my neighbourhood must think they have ‘no garden’ as they choose to do nothing with their space, whereas some people plant theirs up with lovely displays.

I spotted the same thing in France and I found the most inspiring gardens in the most unassuming places. My favourite being the pavement gardens – or the ‘no gardens’, as I now like to call them.

mouans-sartoux-street

mouans-sartoux-garden-3

mouans-sartoux-village

oleander

mouans-sartoux-front-garden

mouans-sartoux-container-gardening

cat-deterrant

I think the water bottles are used to deter cats. Also handy to give the plants a quick watering.

container-garden

All the photos in this post are taken in the little village of Mouans-Sartoux. From the main road you would not know that in the heart of the village lies these colourful narrow pedestrian streets where the doorsteps, windowsills, walls and pavements are planted with stunning visual effect.

I loved walking through the streets getting ideas for my own garden.

mouans-sartoux-gardening

mouans-sartoux-garden-2

mouans-sartoux-for-sale

table-garden

Arranging pots on a table provides height and shade.

simple-front-door-garden

The wonderfully trained foliage above provides the perfect place for a sit down in the shade.

purple-house

For the colour co-ordinated gardeners out there the purple theme above was less than twee.

provencal-garden

pretty-garden

mouans-sartoux-window

front-door-garden

Even a green foliage garden has huge ‘no-garden’ appeal.

provence-village

street-gardening

I never imagined that plants I perceived to be large garden plants would work so well on the kerbside. Large pots of oleander provide a stunningly colourful display.

oleander-france

mouans-sartoux-palm

Even the simpler options had an appeal that I found most chic.

minimal-garden

mouans-sartoux-pelargonium

mouans-sartoux-container-garden-plants

I love the little bamboo trellis in the pot below.

provence-contaner-garden

All the no-gardens I saw, from the crammed full to the elegantly simple had a style and beauty that I just want to recreate back home.

Have you been to Provence? What do you think of these ‘no-gardens’?

 

Spring is nearly here – what’s growing on?

adam_in_greenhouse

I’m so happy that spring is round the corner but in terms of it ‘feeling like spring’ I’m as confused as the weather! It’s snowing one minute and mild and sunny the next. Very random! On the milder days it’s been great getting outside into the garden. Adam’s been tidying the greenhouse and I’ve been doing the weeding and having a general potter around. The weeds have really started growing now and I enjoy trying to get rid of them as soon as possible.

weeds-3What is this plant? Is it a weed?

My soil is lovely and I wonder if the minimal digging we did in the autumn combined with a bit of mulching has helped it achieve a soft and crumbly texture. I really can’t remember what it was like this time last year – warmer and drier I think so I’m not going to be able to pin point exactly why my soil texture feels great but it’s very easy to spruce up and keep neat, which is good in my books!

broadbeans-under_netbox

A few weeks back I planted out my broad beans. I started them off indoors and then popped them into the greenhouse in big tubs until I felt the weather was a bit more stable. I’ve covered them with a net-box and sprinkled coffee grounds around them. One of my favourite local Cafes – The Cheerful Chili gives them away and they claim it works! So far, so good.

tulip_bulbs

Inside the greenhouse I have pots and pots of tulips. When they come into flower I’ll take them outside and most of them will go by my front door. I also have my ornamental kale which has bolted a bit. I’ve never grown this plant before so I’ve got no idea what I’m doing with it to be honest!

ornamental_kale

mini_lettuce

Inside the house things are also growing and I’m starting to sow all my seeds for March.

My lettuces are still tiny but looking really healthy and I expect to be potting it on very soon and starting my next batch.

mini_lettuce_2chilies_sowing_2

A couple of weeks ago I sowed my chilies in expandable coir pellets. I bought a kit with the propagator included for around £4.95, which is quite expensive compared to a big bag of seed sowing compost. I’ve never used these pellets before but they seem to be really popular. My chilies are still germinating (they take ages) so I have no real view yet on how good these modules are. They are extremely quick, easy and clean to use though, which is a bonus. I just hope the seeds grow well, I’m hoping they’ll pop through any day now.

mammoth_leeks

My mammoth leeks are potted on and still look like little stalks. I’ve never grown this large variety before so I’m just keeping them in the light, well watered and I’m hoping for the best!

iris_march

My irises have been lovely this year but some are already on their way out, which is quite sad. I have another variety to come up next and I can’t wait for my daffodils and tulips to flower. The lavender is looking very healthy and once spring is established I’ll be looking forward to that taking hold.

I spent the day at Harlow Carr on a photography course today. I discovered that I’ve pretty much been doing everything wrong! I’m looking forward to downloading the photos I took and I’ll post any good ones. I’m really looking forward to getting out in the garden tomorrow.

Have you started sowing anything yet? What have you been doing in your gardens and allotments?

Quick DIY for the garden – the net box

bulbs_under_cover
If you’re a bit of a handy man, handy girl or you’re living with one then I highly recommend having a go at making something Adam made for me a couple of years ago. The net box! It’s got so many uses all year round. I’ve got a couple of these in different sizes for different plants.

allotment_net_box

I often throw netting over my crops and stake it in place with canes but I find having ready made boxes really useful, for example, covering pots of bulbs that aren’t through yet to protect them from pesky squirrels. They’re also brilliant  for warming up sections of soil ready for planting and for protecting any newly planted crops. Later in the year I’ll use them to protect crops from birds and to provide toasty micro climates. I also find it puts cats off from using freshly raked beds and beds with small seedlings, as litter trays.

Garden centres do sell a range of netting, fleece and plastic cloches which are also useful around the garden and now is good time of year to get these things in place, warming up the soil for spring. I have a couple of those too but don’t find them quite as handy as these boxes. A colleague was telling me about his neighbour who’s made a massive version that covers a much bigger area (around the size of two of my biggest raised beds) and it’s head height so he can get inside! Now that’s some serious veggie protection!

squirel_in_the_garden

Adam made the boxes by screwing together 12 lengths of 2×1 batons and he stapled on the netting with a staple gun. Other allotment folk make some brilliant curved ones by using plumbing piping. One important tip, don’t double the netting up and create any gaps, bees can easily get trapped in between so it’s best to just use one layer. Adam used scaffolding netting which is available in 2m wide lengths, most garden centres sell something similar.

Do you have any net-boxes or cloches? What kind of things do you make for your garden?

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