FRUIT CAGE

I have organised the fruit cage in the autumn and at the same time pulled all the weeds out. Or so I thought.

I decided to get the cage ready today because I’d like to put the top net back on by the end of this month. I had a nasty shock – there were weeds everywhere. I’m sure the weeds grow just to keep me busy! But I’m happy now – it took just one morning on a grey day and it looks pristine. I wonder how long it will stay like this.

All the bushes look well, even the cuttings I took and the two I was given so I have high hopes for a decent harvest.

WINTER

I don’t much care for snow and all that – getting on a bit, but I was never very sporty, even as a young girl. I was glad I took the top net off from the fruit cage. I went to the allotment on Monday, it was a lovely crisp day, blue skies and a fair layer of snow. I have got a number of net cages there as well, I wanted to make sure I knock the snow off those.

I did that but as I was coming out of the last net cage I managed to trip and fall –  face first into a strawberry bed with a deep snow cover. Just as well I don’t have a photo – the glasses did most of the damage, they were quite out of shape but not broken. My nose was fine – I tweaked it to check for any fractures and all was well.

It didn’t really bleed but the bruises started to form and now I look like a panda. Just as well we are under lockdown, by the time we’ll be able to go out I’ll look reasonable again.

This is the view from my back door – it did look lovely, like a thick layer of icing sugar everywhere. It didn’t last long though.

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GREENHOUSE

Today’s weather forecast wasn’t very good but I was hoping against hope that I might manage a spell on the allotment. I went there soon after 9am and did quite a bit of work in the fruit cage. Yesterday I went to a garden centre and used a couple of the vouchers that I won in the Johnson sunflower competition – bought a white currant. I have got one bush but the flavour is so great I always wanted another one. And it was in a sale, all the better.

As I planted it yesterday I realised I had to weed the whole area – amazing how well the weeds grow! That was the job for today.

I managed to clear more than a half of the cage and then rain stopped play. The advantage of having a greenhouse (or two…) on the plot is I can stay there and continue working in the dry. Just the right time to clear the greenhouses, pull out the plants and refresh the soil. I did all that, put in there one huge 50l sack of composted farmyard manure….

…..and all is ready for next year. Now I just need a nice sunny day to finish the fruit cage and clear out the second greenhouse and I’ll be happy.

WEEDS

I’m sure I worked in my fruit cage a couple of weeks ago, pulling all the weeds out and it looked great. Not so today. It took the whole morning and three full buckets of weeds to bring it to some semblance of normality. No more jungle but I’m sure it won’t take long and I will have to start again.

As I had some empty spaces in the cage – last year’s clear out of old bushes, I planted a few tomato plants there. They are doing very well, seem to be sheltered by the larger bushes.

THERAPY

I said it in the past and I say it now – going to the allotment is better than any therapy for me. I can self isolate, even on my way there and back, it is only about five minutes from my house and when I’m there I am in my little paradise.

Yesterday and today were devoted to digging and getting the land ready for sowing. I did my winter digging everywhere on my plots during the autumn and winter but this was to incorporate the horse muck and refresh the land where I had to walk on it (getting the top net for the fruit cage all square etc)

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This piece of land was quite compacted but all is well now, ready for planting my potatoes.

Today’s effort was slightly bigger, it also helped that we had a shower of rain last night. This will be for carrots

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and the final piece is ready for leeks. My leeks did very well last year, it was the Mammoth variety and they were very tasty.

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MORE WORK

The weather was very kind to me today, you could be forgiven to think the spring is here. Yesterday was storm Eric, I had an enforced day in and did some housework, curtain washing etc so I was more than ready for some grubbing in the soil today.

My friend gave me a standard gooseberry, a red one but I wasn’t able to plant it till now – first the ground was frozen solid then it poured down.

I made up for lost time today though. Morning was planting time, the gooseberry is in the fruit cage and the afternoon session was dedicated to weeding the cage, the surround and clearing a neglected path right at the end of one plot, behind a net cage. As we are going to have the rest of our hedge cut next week we shall gain a lot of wood chip and I shall put it on that path. It had grass but it was also full of weeds like creeping buttercup so I have cleared it and will put the wood chip there. It’ll be so much easier.

MUSHROOMS

It is the time of year again when I think where to put what type of fertiliser or compost. I decided to get some more mushroom compost from my favourite place – Livesey Brothers. It was an enjoyable visit; it is not too far, an easy drive and not only did I get 6 large sacks of mushroom compost but also some tasty mushroom. I can already taste the risotto I’ll make in the next few days…..

The compost is earmarked for the net cages where I will grow brassicas next year and also for my fruit cage, I shall fees all my soft fruit bushes – but not blueberries, that’s the wrong stuff for them.

IN FULL SWING

It is harvest time!

As it is so hot these days I started going to the allotment quite early in the morning. The plan is that I will either water the most needy plants with the hose or, on alternate days, feed the ‘special cases’ either with the seaweed extract, comfrey tea or the liquid from my wormery.

It was the turn of the comfrey tea. My, does it stink!! And the smell seems to linger close to the ground, so when I was bending down, I got a good whiff of it. Never mind, the squashes love it!

I managed to pick another large box of strawberries, pulled out a lovely bunch of carrots and a few nice beetroot.

yesterday was a day to thin out the gooseberries…..

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…and I was pleased I had this lovely lot.

Got them home and in no time made a very tasty gooseberry and mint jelly. Goes a treat with cold meat, cheese or a quiche.

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As I was picking the gooseberry I also noticed that the currants are almost ready. That’s the beauty of having the fruit bushes in the net cage – I can take my time picking them, not like in the past where it was a competition between me and the birds. Guess who lost??

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Another benefit of net cages is the ease of growing brassicas. It was the same story in the past – try to stop the birds nibbling the leaves of the young plants so there was hardly anything left. I thought they wouldn’t like kohl rabi. I was wrong. So now the kohl rabi grows in the net cage and nothing gets at it and I can enjoy the fruits of my labour.

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BLACKCURRANTS

There are four blackcurrant bushes in my fruitcage and because of that I have a decent harvest. The first year on the allotment none of my fruit bushes were covered and the result was that the birds had a wonderful feast and I couldn’t make any jam!

This is the result from the first picking, the next lot made some very tasty jelly. That’s much easier to make as I didn’t have to take the berries off the stalks etc – I simply boiled it all and just used the juice.

GOOSEBERRIES

Every year I think how lucky I am having my fruit cage. The red currants are turning pink and that would’ve been a sure signal for the birds to come and feast!

I have two gooseberry bushes, red and green one. I also had fourberry bushes, they gave some fruit last year and even though they flowered well last week I discovered to my horror that they were smothered in some dreadfull black/grey fly infestation. Completely beyond saving and the rest of the soft fruit bushes in danger, so they had the chop!

Fortunately all the other bushes escaped. As I was checking I realised that the gooseberries were getting quite big. The best thing to do if you want some decent-sized fruit is to thin them. And of course the thinnings can be used.

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This time I am not going to use them to make jam – somehow not many people eat jam these days; I know we use much less. So it’ll be savoury instead. I found a great recipe, it is Mint and gooseberry jelly and it goes very well with cold meat or cheese or with anything else that might take your fancy.

This way nothing is wasted, mint is looking very good now. One thing I’d like to add is that I don’t follow the recipe exactly – instead of letting it drip and just using the liquid, I mash the fruit and use it all because the skins are nice and soft after being boiled. It is a shame to waste the fruit.