Monday, 8 October 2018



There are definite signs around that autumn has arrived. First it was the return of Strictly, then followed by The Apprentice, and then after
Pumpkins ripening up
the cool wet end to our tropical summer the sun returned as it always does for the tatty picking season. I hope this is a one off period of weird weather, though it would be nice to have a bit more of those long hot summer days. Garden plants are quite bewildered. Just when everything was coming
A few windfalls after the storm
along perfectly, and we made up the three weeks lost when spring never arrived, they had really enjoyed the great summer, especially as John, the head gardener was always around with the hose to prevent anyone drying out. Harvesting held great promise with first crops giving high yields, then in came the storms with severe gales. Autumn raspberries got shredded, berries were blown off the plants and apples and pears got such a fright that they just about dropped all their fruit. Even the late maturing Red Devil landed on the ground.
Good crop of beetroot
Pears on Beth all came off, but Concord held on. Christie and Beurre Hardy got picked the day before the storms arrived, but only to find more than half suffered extreme deformity as well as codlin moth damage. The deformity could be down to the dry summer or it could be the dreaded stony pit virus, which would mean the trees would have to be dug out. I will have to wait till next year to see how they perform. Heritage apple varieties Pearl and Park Farm Pippin all got blown off the trees so not sure how much crop I have for each of them.
Apple Pearl
Dahlias and Cosmos both had to be dug out as neither seemed to have any intention of flowering. Cosmos grew huge at well over four feet tall and spreading but not a flower bud in sight. Chrysanthemums fared a bit better, though again some early varieties have still to flower.
Pears ready to pick
Potatoes were all lifted earlier than usual. First early Casablanca gave a good crop but only as they were well irrigated. Main crop Setanta lost all its leaves through drought by end of August so lifting got underway early September. Crop was light with very few large potatoes.
Carrot crops were a complete disaster. Even those hiding between
rows of onions and leeks were found by the carrot fly. Not even one for the table and my experiment with a row of salsify never produced a single usable root as every one had forked. However a row of parsnips is looking great with loads of strong foliage, but I will wait till the first frosts before I start to dig them up.
Swedes and leeks have both loved the summer and should keep me well supplied with fresh vegetables in winter, supplemented with kale, sprouts and cabbages which have all grown superbly. Beetroot are another success story as the first thinnings of baby
Codlin moth damage on pears
beet were plentiful and large roots of both the round Detroit and longer roots of Cylindra have given very high yields.
Pumpkins have never been better, but ripened well ahead of their normal season, then lost all their leaves to a devastating attack of mildew.
Figs just keep coming. Picked over 140 so far, starting at the end of July and with more to come.
Grape Phoenix
Grape Black Hamburg under glass is looking great with numerous bunches of large grapes which should be ready by early October. Outdoors, Regent, Rondo and Brant are all having a fantastic year with great potential and hopefully sweet enough grapes for wine brewing without the need for adding sugar. However Phoenix was so heavily laden down with crop that when the storms arrived the support could not withstand the winds, so it broke and the vine main stem split in half. It has now been tied back into place and I will just have to wait to see how the crop is affected.

Wee jobs to do this week
Impatiens (Busy Lizzie) and geraniums can now be propagated from cuttings taken from outdoor
Rooted geranium cuttings
plants in tubs, baskets and borders. Impatiens cuttings need to be taken soon as the plants die down quickly as soon as the weather turns colder. I take shoots about four inches long and put four together in a small glass jar filled with water. Place it on a light north facing windowsill. The cuttings will root within a month. Geranium cuttings are best with the top four inches of shoots snapped off just above a leaf joint and placed in compost on a light windowsill. Keep them growing till late winter then pot up.


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