Thursday, 12 November 2015



Late October was always tattie picking time, and memories are still very strong of cold mornings but it always seemed to be dry and sunny. We no longer pick spuds in the field, just on our allotment plot, but sunny days are still with us. The garden flowers and fruit are taking advantage of the mild spell, and like us probably hope it lasts long enough.
Outdoor fuchsias are still a mass of flowers, and I struggle to replace my begonias with the spring bedding plants as they won’t stop flowering. Several plants are totally confused not knowing what season they are in. Ceanothus and philadelphus have started to flower. Wallflower is a spring bedding plant, but mine are all in flower now. On the vegetable patch my spring cabbage is hearting up now, ahead of my winter cabbage.

Climbing roses are now in their second flush, but greenfly are a proper nuisance, and blackspot is never far away. Bush roses continue to flower and I expect them to keep going into winter unless we get an early cold snap. The jet stream seems to be behaving itself for now, giving us a fair bit of decent weather, but reports of potential problems with the path of El Nino could tip us back into a severe winter. Gardeners always keep an eye on the weather as it affects all our plans.
Dahlias are showing a wee bit of distress following a few cold nights, so they will soon get lifted and dried out for storing in a frost free place.
Autumn raspberries are now just about finished, and perpetual strawberry Flamenco still produces very large attractive fruit, but they are not soft or sweet without warmth from the sun.
I keep thinking I have picked my last fig, but then we get a couple of sunny days and a few more figs ripen up. My small bush five feet tall on my allotment plot has been unbelievable this year. I had hoped for a good year of about 100 figs since I got 80 last year. However the summer was so cool that I lost faith in this exotic plant that really
needs a sunny hot summer. My first figs were not ready till the very end of August. Then the jet stream changed direction, the sun returned and my figs jumped for joy. I have now picked over 160 figs, and as they ripen over a long period it is easy to use them all. It is hard to beat a fresh picked ripe fig for flavour.
Autumn salad leaves love the mild, moist autumn and provide a wealth of fresh leaves including mizuna, rocket, mustard, lettuce, spring onions and radish. Many of these can keep us in fresh salad greens well into winter provided it is not too severe. To be on the safe side some can be transplanted into the greenhouse after the old tomato plants have been removed from growbags or borders.
Pumpkins have been quite poor this year due to lack of sun and warmth. Only got three pumpkins from three plants and they were not all that big, though a bad infection of mildew did not help.
It has been a funny year for root crops. Carrots and summer turnips seem to be having a good year and parsnips a fantastic year with huge thick roots more than two feet long, but beetroot is taking a rest. Size is poor and they all seem to have rust infected leaves.
Apples and pears have never been better, but sweetness and flavour is lacking compared to other years. They have all given record yields, and Anna has taken on the task of finding out how to utilise this crop. The juicer has been working overtime, and compote, stews, pies and crumbles are all appearing. Many of these dishes can be frozen for future use, and there will still be plenty left over for my wine brewing.
Grapes, however are having a terrible year. Outdoors the early varieties Rondo was ready at the end of August and Regent in mid September, but as these are all new vines it is really too early to judge. Phoenix is well established outdoors and produced a lot of bunches, but most failed to ripen up.
In the greenhouse muscat flavoured Siegerrebe was ready in September, but Black Hamburg suffered from shanking where more than half the grapes failed to ripen and just shrivelled up.

Wee jobs to do this week
Assess potatoes in store and on the plate to decide what to grow in 2016. Blight has again been bad on most varieties other than Sarpo Mira, but my best spud for flavour is Lady Christl.


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