Yes it is definitely feeling autumnal now. So first this week some apples.
Crab apples. This tree was packed with blossom earlier in the year and we have some fruits but not as much as other years. They are also a bit scaby.
2. Another apple – this time an eater – a Bardsey. Again very few fruit but one of the few which has fruited this year (we had a very late frost).
3. Chilli peppers in the greenhouse. I just had one plant, but it has a good crop so I will probably dry them.
4. Caterpillar damage on the brassicas – mostly in the polytunnel. The netted beds outside are generally okay.
5. Now this one is puzzling. This is purple sprouting broccoli which isn’t relay supposed to produce broccoli till spring – so is it just very confused or did I plant it too early? I shouldn’t complain though as I will enjoy eating it.
6. And finally two of our seven chicks . They are growing quick.
Hard to believe we are heading into the last week of August. So here is the six from this week’s garden.
Despite the damp morning this large white was hanging about.
2. It could probably smell these – brassicas. The wet summer has suited pretty much all our brassicas and they are doing well – but netting is essential to keep at least the majority of butterflies out.
3. Cucumbers have been coming but not in any quantity – I think it may not be hot enough for them, even in the greenhouse.
4. Another item that is scarce this year is fruit. I counted four pears on this tree today and that is all the pears from three trees and apples are equally scarce. I blame the late May frost.
5. This on the other hand was a success. I collected some bloody cranesbill, Geranium sanguineum, seed from wild plants growing in the Burren last year and have managed to grow two plants. I don’t think they are frost hardy so I am going to keep them in the polytunnel in pots.*UPDATE – Thanks to Eliza for spotting that this is probably not Geranium sanguineum but possibly Geranium sylvaticum, in which case it is not from the Burren but from seed from a friend’s garden!
6. And finally this week – one of my favourite later summer wildflowers – devils bit scabious in the meadow.
We are still experiencing a mild winter, with plenty rain and hardly any frost. While walking around a rather sodden garden the other evening there appeared to be an unseasonable amount of colour, though admittedly it only occurs in little splashes.
There are good things to eat too. The white sprouting broccoli, is just coming. It is the first year I have tried this as I usually only grow purple sprouting. I suspect that if it was colder it wouldn’t be sprouting yet but it’s a nice addition to Brussel sprouts and red cabbage, and the odd bit of calabrase from the tunnel.
As autumn takes a firmer grip, I am in a reflective mood. After 2014’s bumper year in the garden, 2015 has probably been one of our worst. A summer of low temperatures, limited sunshine and excessive rain has meant even some of our usual staples have cropped very poorly. Runner beans have been few and far between, while last year the freezer was full of them. Autumn raspberries too have cropped very poorly, so that again we have frozen none in. While we harvest over 50 squashes last year we have none (and I mean none) this year. It is very disappointing.
And then when things do grow, like two lovely big cauliflower heads, the slugs have a field day – I removed about 20 slugs from one head! And I’m not talking small slugs either – I am talking of those about an inch long! The damp weather has been perfect for multiplying slugs! No photos of the cauliflowers but here is what they are doing to the cabbages.
In general, the brassicas have done quite well where they have manage to grow big enough to avoid being decimated by the slugs. The purple potatoes I grew – or at least tried to grow have been another failure. The plants did not thrive at all. And then when I harvested some last week I was very disappointed with the flavour – well actually there was no flavour at all! Another disadvantage is that when you dig them up they are hard to see – looking more like stones than potatoes. So I certainly won’t be growing them again.
Charlotte and purple potatoes
Cooked purple potatoe
On the positive side we have just finished the last of the Victoria plums (though admittedly the birds, either crows or magpies, had more than their fair share)! Some of the apple trees have reasonable crops too but again we are wary of birds making off with them!
Apple – variety possibly Katie
The new flower garden, while now passed it’s best, also brought some cheer and fed the bees, and they certainly needed feeding this so-called summer.
Those of you that are regular readers will know I have a soft spot for bees and pollinators in general. Today, with a bit of sunshine, and the bees seemed to be out in force. Over the last week I have seen the first of the workers bumblebees though the queens have been around since mid March. At this time of year there is not a lot flowering in my garden (something I am trying to address), so I always leave some brassicas to flower. The bees don’t appear to have any preference. There is purple sprouting broccoli, brussel sprouts and three types of kale all flowering at the moment.
Bumblebee and brassica
Today I counted four different bumblebee species feeding on the flowers, and both queens and workers. Usually the workers are considerably smaller.
White tailed bumblebee, Bombus Lucorum
Common Carder Bee, Bombus pascurum
There were also four different hoverflies and a single species of solitary bee. Some of the pollinators were also feeding on the comfrey flowers.
Hoverfly, Rhingia campestris
Then, while in the greenhouse, I noticed an unusual bee. It had a white tail but only one yellow band. I went looking for my identification guide and I am pretty sure it is a Forest Cuckoo bumblebee.
Forest Cuckoo bee, Bombus sylvestris
Not the best photo I am afraid. The cuckoo bumblebee, as its name suggests, lays its eggs in another bees nest and does nothing else to rear their own young. The forest cuckoo’s host is the Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) which also occur in our garden.