BIT BY BIT 2.

During this time of year there will be many more installments in this category. Today was the turn of my newest raspberry patch. It was on this existing plot (no.3 in my collection) when I took it over but in a poor state. I must have dug it over and over at least six times and I’m still battling with the weeds. But not just the weeds.

Raspberries are well-known for spreading their roots and mine are no exception. I have to remind myself to be ruthless and thin them out.

Alas, the weather is still so mild I might have to weed this patch again before long.

There are benefits too. I kept the tomato plants going in the greenhouse, they had some green tomatoes on and the result is

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this tasty tomato – Costoluto Fiorentino. There might be a few more. The greenhouse is not totally draft-proof but obviously keeps the plants warm enough.

AUTUMN TASKS

I live this time of year. Even though the days are getting shorter and nothing much grows now – except the dreaded weeds!!! – I find all the work very satisfactory. My favourite description of my state of being is self actualisation. This is one of the theories that stuck in my brain from the nursing training days – Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

I started with a patch of raspberries and rhubarb at the end of one of my plots. To say that it looked neglected is an understatement. It is one of the places I meant to tackle but something else always got in the way. Today was the day.

It looks lovely in the first photo but the other two show how well the weeds grew. Never mind a plant encyclopaedia, I should get one on weeds! Anyway, this job is done and tomorrow, weather permitting, will be another busy day.

I also harvested another yacon plant. The foliage is beginning to show signs of frost but it doesn’t matter, the tubers are fine in the ground.

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I like to eat them raw, just scrubbed clean and peeled. They taste sweet but in reality they are quite special. They contain inulin.

READY FOR THE WINTER

My Grandma was, and still is, my inspiration in the realm of cooking and preserving.

She was the old school – no fridge in her days, it was a walk-in larder with a stone floor, no freezer either so any preserving for later was done by bottling. I’m tot quite sure if she ever used the salting method but I’ll have a look at it anyway.

Granddad had a plot of land where he grew a huge variety of fruit and Grandma bottled it and made jams. I think they would both be pleased how I try to follow in their footsteps.

 

It is rather easy – all you need is some Kilner jars, a large pan to use as a water bath and fruit of course.

One idea for the use of all these was – summer pudding. Not sure if it is still being made but it is rather yummy.

I can see having summer pudding at Christmas – what a lovely idea.

SPRING IS HERE…

…I hope. Today was a beautiful day and it would’ve been a pity to stay inside.

After lunch I made myself a flask of herbal tea and went down the allotment. I knew there wasn’t too much to do, just clearing the weeds from the raspberry patch. In the end it was quite easy – the rows are fairly well organised, paths between them are covered with strips of pond liner so the weeds at least don’t invade them. I was pleased that I managed to clear the whole patch.

The days must be getting longer – I finished around 4pm and it was still light – good enough to carry on working – but no energy left, alas.

Right next to the raspberry patch is my rhubarb – that was done a few days ago. It looks good and I can see new young shoots appearing.

I’ve got a few fruit trees there too – a plum, pear and an apple. The plum is quite young but doing very well indeed – we had 5 huge plums last year.

Here’s hoping for a big harvest this year.

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SLOWLY, SLOWLY..

…and all of a sudden I have got another bit of land. I must say, I’ve given up a part of a plot, close to my raspberry patch – I’ll cover it with some tarpaulin and old carpet to suppress the weeds. This ‘new’ bit is actually the other half of my own plot where I have my fruit cage, net tunnel and a big net cage. It just made sense to add that…..well, it made sense to me, anyway. The guy who gardened on it left and I started as I mean to continue.

There is only a small patch left to dig and I’m done.

All my other plots are ready, I just have to pull out some weeds that dared to appear! The last thing will be to tidy the raspberry plot – before the canes get growing I can trim the edges and weed the rows.

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The weather should be good again tomorrow and I think I might be able to finish it all. One more task – must put a bag of my saved horse manure into each composter bin, to help the breakdown of the material in there.

As I have quite a bit of land I shall grow some annual flowers – it’ll add extra colour and also attract bees to the plants.

 

LAST ACTIVITY

I decided to enlarge my raspberry patch on the latest plot. The ground there was very neglected, this is my third winter there and I can honestly say that I’m happy with it. The first year I only cultivated a part of it and covered the rest with membrane – it would have been too much work to try and clear it all. I put pumpkins and squashes there and they did well.

Before I managed to harvest the lot, all the roots of the bindweed sprouted, the nettles too and it was back to the drawing board.

Never mind, it got cleared again. Now I’m sharing it with another lady there so I only work one half of it. It had potatoes this year and they did well.

It got dug over yet again in the autumn and I think I’m home and dry.

There is a small raspberry patch at the start and they did so well that I decided to get some more.

Today I planted 6 canes of Raspberry Valentina and 6 canes of Autumn Treasure. Ordered all of them from Thompson&Morgan, they are reliable and so far didn’t let me down.

I think I have finished the work there for this year; anyway it is far too wet to do anything, I’d do more harm than good.

Here’s to happy gardening in 2017!!

 

RECORD

After a few days I managed to go to the allotment with the idea that I’ll cut down my raspberries – at least some of them. Before I could do that I had to pick them! I think this is just about the very latest I had some fruit.

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They were very tasty, we had them with some home made yoghurt – the last taste of the summer.

After harvesting them I did finally cut them down and when I go there next time – perhaps tomorrow after my visit to the denist – I’ll spread a load of horse manure on them and let them have a rest over the winter.

A VERY LATE HARVEST

As ever I grew something new – for me at least – this year. It was cape gooseberry. I knew this fruit but never got the seeds to grow them. Today I picked the first few ripe ones and I must say that I’ll certainly grow them again. I’ve already allocated the space for them for next year.

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The next little surprise was sweetcorn. I grew about 10 plants and harvested them already. But as mine were growing tall I found some small plants suddenly coming up in a little group – thanks to our resident squirrel I had extra sweetcorn plants. He hid his stolen cobs but forgot where he put them! Thanks to the mild weather I managed to get very tasty cobs – these are the last ones. I steam them and because they’re so young I can eat the whole lot. Very tasty indeed.

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And this is, I think, the last of my raspberry harvests – if the weather stays like this I might get a few more late raspberries – very sweet, yummy indeed.

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GLUT

I never thought I would say this but yesterday I was trying to find more recipes to use our figs. My fig tree has been in the corner of our back garden for at least 20 years. I bought it as very small and planted it very carefully, following the instructions. I’m sure the tree is paying back now. It has been giving us fruit for the past number of years but this year – something else altogether.

We went to Edinburgh last week for a few days to celebrate our 47th wedding anniversary. Came back Saturday late afternoon so on Sunday I got down to some serious gardening work.

Pick the figs – easy now as I have one of those clever gadgets, a basket on a long pole. I bought it a few years ago and it is worth its weight in gold. I have a number of the attachments but this one I love. The result was amazing – 3 kilos of lovely ripe figs.

What to make? I made some chutney in the past but this time I found a different recipe, this chutney is thick and dark, full of the taste of figs. I think they just need a bit of spice, no other strong ingredients and I am happy.

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Next lot of fruit came from the allotment. The autumn raspberries are doing very well too and I’m sure they’re paying back for the hard work – a number of bags of horse manure, grass cuttings and pruning. I picked 2 kilos of them and there was no question as what to do with them – jam.

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I tried to grow tomatoes in the past but never had much luck. This year I decided to go for outdoor varieties and put them all on the allotment. The majority are in my biggest net cage and whatever plants were left I put them in one of my raised beds. That way they get a bit of protection from the wind. And again – fantasic harvest. The varieties are mainly plum tomatoes and some quite unusual ones, like ‘Red pear’ or ‘Ox heart’.

It is nice to have my kind of problem – what do I do with all the vegetables? With the tomatoes I bottled some, chopped with garlic and rosemary but this time I had so many I had to use another method. Why not passata? I found a very good recipe and it doesn’t waste anything – no need to discard the skins, all is liquidised.

Last but not least – I had some figs left after making the chutney and as a chance would have it, I found a delicious recipe in Saturday’s Guardian. The combination of figs and red wine was just too good to ignore.

All in all – a very good result and it’ll feed us over the winter.

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There was an emergency also – I managed to run out of Kilner jars! As I had to go shopping anyway I stocked up – 13 jars (everything the supermarket had on the shelf!)

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That’ll keep me going for a while, I hope.

 

HARVEST IN FULL SWING

Everything is calm now on the home front so it is back to the farm . I went there today with the plan that I’ll bring home some potatoes as the weather is nice and dry.

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The fuss certainly paid off  when planting them – sharp sand in the bottom of the little trench, some slug pellets and later during the growing season some potato fertiliser.

But not only did I bring home some tasty spuds, I got a box of raspberries, blackberries and tomatoes.

Last but not least – my fig tree in the back garden started giving me fantastic ripe figs. It has been producing loads for quite a number of years but I think this year will be the best.

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