The weather for October is unseasonably mild and sunny. Misty mornings are leaving plants covered in a fine dusting of dew.
Calendula – pot marigold
All around the garden leaves are turning red and orange.
Nuts and apples are ripening, and even the autumn raspberries which weren’t looking very promising early in the season are coming into their own with the mild sunny weather.
Apples – variety – Katie
And the last flowers of the summer are hanging on. So there is much to be grateful for.
Our cool wet summer is continuing. Every morning we wake in the hope of seeing blue skies, but even if it is clear it soon clouds over and the showers start. The temperatures have not got above 20 degrees Celsius for weeks now and it is often only about 16. The vegetables are growing but only slowly. Only the cabbages are thriving – they don’t mind the wet and cool temperatures. Though we have had plenty slug damage and some caterpillar damage too. We’ve been suffering some wind damage too.
Cabbage and wind blown brocolli
Outside the courgettes and beans and even the mange tout are really struggling and look pathetically small. There are plenty tay berries but they are not getting sweet and some are going moldy.
The red currants did crop well and there was enough for the blackbirds and for us. I made some pots of jam – as I like to add red currant jam to my gravies (because I am too lazy to make red currant jelly!).
It’s the first year I have tried the brassica Romanesco – this is our first one and the other plants are looking healthy so fingers crossed.
There are fewer poppies than last year but they are still beautiful. The borage is proving popular with the bees.
After a good few days of beautiful spring sunshine, which we all knew were too good to be true, we are back to cold, wind, rain and hail. But worst of all has been the night frosts, which have left the crab apple blossom looking like this.
Frost damage apple blossom
A few blossoms that were not open have escaped, and thankfully some of the apple trees are only just coming into blossom so we may still get some fruit.
Crab apple blossom
One of the plums may have had time to set fruit and I am not sure how the frost will affect those. The greenhouse appears to have given the pear tree some protection as the blossom is still white.
Today, I checked the wild cherry trees, which are planted in the far wood, and they too are all brown. The photo below was taken before the worst of the frost when they were still in pretty good condition.
The wild sloes (blackthorn), which grow in many of our local hedgerows, are also in flower and will also probably be affected by the frost too.
The weather will probably be having an effect on the local wild birds too. Today, I saw both robins and blackbirds busily collecting food, so they are probably feeding young. I spotted this mossy ball on the fence on the track down to the far wood. It’s a wrens nest. And a bullfinch pair have been eating the dandelion seed heads – another great reason for leaving dandelions in your garden. The photo of the bullfinch is from last year.
As the saying of the title suggests weather in Western Europe can be a bit fickle!
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.
Autumn olive berries
Autumn olive – Flowering last May
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.
Sea buckthorn, Askola cultivar
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.
Apples – James Grieve
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.
Even on a dull day our sunflowers are shouting ‘hey look at me!’ And we have had quite a few dull days recently and a cool northerly wind which has left a few of the sunflowers leaning! The sunflower my son planted has not grown as tall as his younger sister’s so he wants to claim one of mine instead! The tallest are just over 2m high.
The wasps have found a couple of them and appear to be stealing sap from the lowers part of the stem. So far I have noticed them on two of the stems and the smaller of the two plants is looking somewhat unhealthy, so they may be having a detrimental effect.
Wasps on sunflower stems
While we were picking some chokeberries (Aronia) today I also noticed a wasp checking them out too. The berries have done well and we picked close to 2kg. They are okay to eat but have a sort of mealy inside and somewhat bitter tasting skin so we have to experiment cooking with them. For now they are in the freezer. They are said to be very high in antioxidants and vitamins so well worth having in your garden.
Our blueberries are ripening and we seem to have a pretty good crop this year. Though it is one of those fruits that you probably could never have enough off.
Part of our vegetable plot has peaty soil so it seemed the ideal place to grow them. However, some of the plants weren’t thriving and my husband decided it was because the ground was getting too water-logged particularly in the winter. Last spring, he dug a trench around some of the plants and raised them up onto a bank, so that their roots were above the water-table. The plants are doing better and hopefully will reward us with more fruit next year. Each winter, we also mulch the plants with pine-needles. We are lucky to have a conifer plantation just beside the house so we have no shortage of them!