Monday, 29 July 2013



The sun continues to shine, temperatures remain high and the rain has stayed away for several weeks. The garden has never looked better and last week I marvelled at the improvements to roses, but this week it is the turn of fruit crops to show immense benefit. After last year’s cold wet summer where fruit either rotted on the bush (strawberries,) or suffered diseases (apple scab) or lack of pollination, it is very pleasing to see crops so healthy and plentiful.
However last year’s rotten weather has affected this year’s crop as top fruit trees, (pears and peaches) did not get a chance to ripen up the shoots in autumn, so fruit bud formation just did not happen. It is such a pity as this would have been the year to ripen up a good crop of Scottish outdoor peaches. The bushes are very healthy with very little peach leaf curl, so I can just hope that 2014 will be their year.
Apple trees have such a heavy crop that I gave them a good thinning to improve fruit size.
Cherry Cherokee fruits are very large, sweet and well ripened up this year.

This has been a fantastic year with over sixty pounds picked so far, and I have not even started on my Flamenco perpetual variety. Mae has been a very heavy cropper with very little botrytis, but Symphony and Rhapsody though not such heavy croppers have very large sweet berries with excellent flavour. You can only eat so much fruit, so the freezer is taking all our surplus crops.

Another bumper year for red and blackcurrants, but as there was still ten pounds of blacks in the freezer left from last year, these had to be used up in jam and a couple of demijohns of wine.
Ben Conan has large sweet berries great for eating if very ripe, but also makes excellent jam, compote and summer puddings, and I always keep back some for wine making.
Red currants get used the same way, though the wine is my favourite product.
My new Big Ben blackcurrant bush is putting on excellent growth in its first year, but I will have to wait till 2014 before I sample these very large sweet berries.

I started to pick my first Glen Fyne in mid July, but my Glen Rosa (sold to me as Glen Ample) is running at least a week or two later. Flavour and texture of Glen Fyne is excellent.
I gave a spray to combat raspberry beetle maggots at the first pink fruit stage to both my raspberries as well as my Bramble Helen. They will need another spray a week later.

A good year for gooseberries as the warm weather is sweetening up the fruit and I managed to remove several hundred sawfly maggots as they appeared over three weeks and before they gobbled up too much foliage. A very messy and unpleasant task, but quiet necessary.
We use the gooseberries in summer puddings, compote, stewed and sweetened for use in desserts and in my breakfast muesli, and of course it also makes a brilliant wine.

Picking started a bit later than last year, but berries are a good size and the sun has really sweetened them up. The two rows are all under netting for protection from birds, yet the blackie still managed to find a way under the net. Saskatoons are used in the same way as blueberries, eaten fresh in season, then, compote, summer puddings, jam and brewed for wine.
Anna has continued to experiment with Saskatoon jam recipes and her latest one, adapted from a Canadian recipe is a definite winner. This fruit is very low in pectin so setting can be a problem. It also lacks juice to give a smooth consistency, so rhubarb has been added to help setting and soften the texture. This Saskatoon jam is delicious.
6 large cups crushed saskatoons
4 large cups chopped rhubarb
6 large cups warmed sugar
Juice of one lemon
One rounded teaspoon of citric acid
Add a half cup of water to pan with rhubarb, soften for ten minutes then add saskatoons and soften for another ten minutes. Add lemon juice, citric acid and warmed sugar, bring to a rolling boil for another ten minutes then test.

Plant of the week

Lilium candidum the Belladonna lily grows about five feet tall with pure white scented trumpet flowers in July and August. Give it a sheltered spot in full sun in well drained but rich soil. Do not plant deep. They are a wee bit susceptible to virus and botrytis, so propagate from seed which is usually free from diseases.


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