Fruit is ripening but the birds are trying to get them before we do. The plums are coming on nicely, but then I noticed some of the fruit was being attacked by birds (didn’t think to photo damaged plums).
So I asked the kids to make me some scary faces, which we laminated and hung from the tree. These, with some hawk silhouettes, seemed to do the trick.
At least I thought they did. But then I noticed the birds had moved on to the apple tree instead. Beauty of Bath is an old (1864) English early apple variety. Personally I find them a bit sharp but the kids love them! They are supposed to get sweeter as the season progresses. Ours have a lovely pink flush to the flesh. The apple tree now had it’s own collection of scary faces and a couple of old CDs too. We’ll just have to see where the birds move on to next!
This week’s rain has confined me mostly to the greenhouse and polytunnel, both of which needed attention anyhow! Yesterday I cleared out the last of the mangetout plants (the outside ones are now cropping). We’ve been enjoying the Charlotte potatoes, broad-beans and purple kohlrabi all from the tunnel.
In the greenhouse, some of the tomato plants have set their first fruit and there are a couple of tiny cucumbers too, though the plants are still small. The purple dwarf beans have cropped quite well and the courgette plant is looking great. I need to take it out as it’s taking up too much room and I have more plants outside (looking very small and miserable) and one in the polytunnel. As it’s cropping very well I’m going to leave it as long as I can. So for now I’m removing some of the leaves.
Today, it had stopped raining so I had a chance to do some weeding in the vegetable plot. I am leaving the strawberry bed (it’s full of weeds), as the damp weather has resulted in lots of slug damage and those the slugs aren’t eating the birds are. My plan for next year is to put the strawberries in pots in the blueberry fruit cage.
Today, my son did manage to find a few nice ones. He decided he was going to eat a lunch that he himself picked. This was the result. (He did take my offer of a freshly cooked pancake too!)
Yes, we have some nice black and red currants ripening. They are one of our most reliable fruits. The green bean like pods are actually the seed pods of some of my brassicas. I leave some plants to get seed for next year but the kids and I find them quite tasty too.
These beautiful Orange tip butterflies are quite plentiful at the moment – or at least when the sun’s shining! The caterpillars of this species feed only on the cuckcoo flower. It’s a spring flower than grows in our meadows and has many local names including Hail Marys. I know the second photo isn’t in focus but I liked the way I had accidentally captured the hoverfly too. I think it is from the species Platycheirus, but open to correction.
We’ve finally planted the potatoes. I am about a fortnight behind this year with planting despite the good weather we had for part of April. I have planted three varieties. Charlotte will be the first to crop – most of these are already growing well in the tunnel but the rest I have planted out. Catriona are one of my favourites. They are fluffy, but not too fluffy and have a lovely flavour. This year I’m try a purple variety for the first time. It’s called Purple Majesty and the tubers are purple in colour.
The apple trees are really coming into blossom now – so I hope the frost keeps away. We keep having to chase a pair of bullfinches off the trees. It appears they like variety in their diet and are not content on eating just dandelion seeds!
These beautiful haws are not the native Irish hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna but an American form Crataegus ellwangeriana. This species originated in Eastern USA, and is thought to be a hybrid. The haws are about the size of a marble and taste somewhat of apples. It is one of three Crataegus species we have planted as part of our forest garden and the only one yet to produce haws. Compared to our native hawthorn, Crataegus ellwangeriana has a more pleasant flavour.
Our native hawthorns usually crop well, which is one of the reason we thought to try some of the cultivated varieties. They are one of the most common trees in our native hedgerows. At this time of year, the haws are an important food source for many birds, especially blackbirds and thrushes.
This year, the haw crop seems very poor and I wonder how that will impact on the thrush and blackbird populations as winter progresses. We had lots of rowan berries in the young mixed wood that is planted close-by but the berries are already nearly all gone – I can only assume they have been eaten already.
Elderberries too and nearly all eaten. So what will be left?
As a gardener, one needs to be on the look out for pests and disease. The photo below shows the result of some grey crows attacking our pears. About ten pears were damaged, some like this, others with just a peck taken out of them.
It’s meant we have had to harvest and store the fruit rather than risk losing more of the crop. They are pretty delicious so I can’t actual blame the crows for wanting to try them.
Last year, when we had a a very small crop of plums (about 6), the magpies stole them before they were even ripe. Someone (I can’t remember who but they were a wise person) once said to me, you should always grow twice what you need, one half for yourself and the other half for all the little creatures that may wish to share your bounty, be they slugs, snails, rabbits, caterpillars or birds.
Here in Ireland we’re having a lovely start to autumn, with warm sunshine and those foggy, cool mornings full of cobwebs.
The birch tree outside my office window is laden with seeds and is proving very popular with the birds. In the space of 30 minutes, I saw a bullfinch, chaffinch, greenfinch, sisken, bluetit and goldcrest feeding on it.
Something, and I suspect it is a blackbird, has found the autumn olives (Elaeagnus umbellata). While it is a species that can be invasive in parts of America, it is little know here in Ireland. It is indigenous to eastern Asia. The berries are a wonderful colour and can get sweet. Ours still have a tartness to them, though the birds obviously don’t mind! The flowers, which appear in late spring, are a lovely dusty, lemon yellow. The red berries are spotted with tiny flakes of sliver.
As well as the larger fruits, the smaller ones are ripening too. We harvested a few of the beautifully orange berries of the sea buckthorn today. The berries are exceptional high in Vitamin C. They are also said to be have potent antioxidant properties. They have a sharp, citrus flavour. We just mashed the berries with a fork and added some hot water, to create a pleasant soothing drink.
For Sea buckthorn to fruit you need male and female plants for pollination. We planted ours this spring in the new area of the garden from bare-rooted stock from fruitandnut.ie. The plants seem to be establishing well, though only a couple have fruit this year.
First of September – autumn is here already. The kids are back at school and the fruit is ripening. The plums are prefect now – delicious and sweet.
The pears, and apples are not far behind.
It’s a wet and pretty dearly day here today, so after making another lot of pickled cucumber I made some raspberry jam from some frozen raspberries I found while cleaning out the freezer! These were last years crop and as this years autumn ones are just getting ripe it was time to use them up!
I came across a great post (http://highheelgourmet.com/2013/07/04/basic-jam-for-beginners/) as I was keen to try making some low sugar jam. So I have experimented with a ratio of 2:1 fruit to sugar. It looks like it has set and the kids were happy to clean the spoon and ladle afterwards! With a wet week forecast I am not sure how many raspberries we will get. We also picked some wild blackberries yesterday but they would also benefit from some dry days!
This beautiful dragonfly was also having a rest on one of the raspberry plants. I think it is a female common hawker.