Sunday, 13 October 2013



This year has created a massive problem for the gardener with a few apple trees. The crops have been so heavy that we just don’t know what to do with all the fruit.
Flowering was very late due to poor weather with an extended winter. We were running three to four weeks later than normal. Then the weather turned, the sun came out, the rain stopped and the apple trees were full of blossom. As it was much later than normal there were plenty of flying insects around so good pollination was guaranteed. A very heavy crop was obvious so thinning of the small fruits was essential after the natural June drop had completed the first thinning.
During the warm sunny summer we got just enough rain to keep crops growing, though I did bring the hose out on several occasions when rain just refused to come our way. In Scotland that really is a rare occasion. The dry atmosphere kept scab away, and mildew is not a problem with me as I only grow strong healthy varieties.
My first earlies, the Oslin, lasted for two weeks at the end of August, and then Discovery ripened and gave us fresh apples till mid October. This was followed by Fiesta and Red Falstaff, both of which will store for many weeks. However my late Red Devil will store for many months keeping us supplied with fresh apples till the end of winter.

I don’t harvest my Bramley cookers till the end of October or early November. They are fantastic in store and will be fine till next spring provided you keep checking them and removing any that go brown. Otherwise they start to give off ethylene gas which causes other fruit to ripen rapidly.
I store my apples in boxes in my frost free garage and should have enough to keep us in apples till well into 2014.
Eating an apple a day will be no problem, and apple sauce, crumbles and apple tart will appear regularly. They are also excellent added to curries, pastas and I just love to slice some for adding to the pan when frying up my bacon, eggs, tomatoes and mushrooms.
The windfalls and damaged fruit is chopped and simmered before straining off the juice which is retained as natural pectin to help jams set.
I always manage to keep back 30 lbs for wine, giving me three demijohns to brew. I add some bananas for body and raisins to create some vinosity then try to leave it alone for a year once fermentation has stopped, but it is hard. It really makes a brilliant dessert wine.

Health benefits of apples

Apples are one of the healthiest fruits to eat and as they are readily available and cheap they should always be in the daily fruit bowl. This fruit is packed with soluble dietary fibre, i.e. pectin, vitamins B, C, E, A and minerals potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus. A lot of the goodness is in the skin, so don’t peel it off, though wash all bought apples very thoroughly as the skin has been bombarded with chemicals while growing in the orchard, then coated with wax to preserve it while in the store.
If you grow your own fruit it will be chemical free and extremely healthy.

Plant of the week

The African Blue Lily Agapanthus africanus is a bulbous plant from South Africa which makes a very impressive specimen with large heads of blue lily flowers when grown in a tub. Grow it in a sunny sheltered border in good but well drained soil, and if the winter is not too severe it may survive, otherwise keep it in a tub and bring it into a frost free greenhouse for the winter.

Painting of the month

Random Thoughts is a painting of a pure abstract subject. The need arose as several of my art class students wish to go down that road, so I needed some experience first so I can teach others.
I wanted my abstracts to have attractive artistic principles that help to make the image stand out. I am not interested in throwing paint on a canvas in a twenty minute frenzy of activity and pretending it is art. The difficulty for beginners is always just where do you start with an abstract image. However once you have some marks or colour on the canvas, your own experience kicks in and you go looking for good composition to draw in some lines or shapes, then follow with ideas on tone, colour, shadows and highlights. It also helps if you can create a focal point with strong colour within a pure abstract image. It may be a journey into the unknown for most of us, but once you make a start it can be a very interesting and enriching experience.
I will work up a body of images for an exhibition later on this year.


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