As an amateur gardener I like use this Blog post to share some of my experiences - good and bad - as I continue to experiment with different crops and different growing techniques. On occasions I may also share some of my close encounters with the wildlife that I come across while tending my plot.

October 4, 2021

A good year for grapes.

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It has been a good year for fruit in my garden this year with a bumper crop of apples and soft fruit. However the best result has been achieved with my grapes. Each year I have been getting more grapes and if I am quick enough I actually get to use some before the birds eat them all.

The grape vine I have is one I was given and I know little about its origin, apart from it was a cutting from a vine that was originally from Italy. The grapes tend to be quite small and have pips. They only become sweet enough to eat when they fully ripe and once ripe can go off quite quickly.

So I have been experimenting with options for wine making and in 2019 I did manage 6 bottles of an applegrape wine. It was not great quality but like most of my attempts at wine making seems to have matured in the bottle and is now just about drinkable :-).

As I seem to have a bumper crop this year I am going to have another go this time just using the grapes. Fingers crossed I have enough for another 6 bottles.

If anyone can suggest what variety of grape I have growing from the pictures in this post I would welcome your suggestions.

July 9, 2021

Summer is here….

Yes, summer is here, well almost. It has been a very different year to last year when we had sunshine from about April through to September. This year has been a very different story with more rain than sun and temperatures so low that my heating has been on for much longer than I would have liked.

Of course with each downside there is an upside and the mixed weather of rain and sun has created good growing conditions for many plants in the garden. Although I did lose a few sensitive plants with the late cold period including yet another Bougainvillea, which was very disappointing as I had wrapped it up well and tried to keep it warm in my polytunnel. Another disappointment is my strawberries, I lost a few plants over the winter and replaced then with some new ones but even in the polytunnel the crop production has been very disappointing.

On the plus side just about everything else is doing well. I decided to create a couple of raised beds this year and have used them for growing salad veg, carrots and parsnips. All are doing well and we have had a good supply of lettuce plus a few radishes. Spring onions should be ready soon. The big success though is the parsnips. I have had little success with parsnips over the last few years but this year they are growing well.

The vegetable patch looking much healthier this year with the good mix of rain and sun.

Other vegetables are doing well in the main plot. Looking forward to a decent crop of climbing french beans, early potatoes look good and the sweet corn looks as though I could get some decent size cobs this year. Fruit looking better as well. A few apples on the apple trees, raspberries doing ok, blueberries in the polytunnel and both grapevines are growing well. I should have another good crop of green grapes but red vine is still a bit young.

I have been experimenting with growing on cuttings from a variety of plants, mainly shrubs. Some have been doing well, but some others I am really struggling to get to shoot. I had hoped to be able to get cuttings from my Acer Trees but I have had little success so far so always on look out for new techniques.

Looking forward to eating the fresh vegetables as they come available as nothing beats the taste of vegetables straight from the garden.

July 5, 2021

A tale of walnuts and squirrels

A tale of hide and seek or maybe it should be hide and forget where I put it.

The tale starts with the very big, mature walnut tree in my neighbours garden.

The source of the walnuts

This walnut tree produces large amounts of walnuts each autumn. The walnuts from the tree provide the local grey squirrel community with the opportunity to store up food reserves for the winter.

The squirrels usually access the tree via my garage roof. They also spend quite a bit of time on the garage roof removing the outer covering from the walnuts they have taken from the tree. As squirrels do not tend to be very good at clearing up after themselves this means my garage roof and the surrounding area soon becomes covered in discarded green walnut husks. This would not be so bad if the husks were useful but they can be toxic if eaten by other animals and tend to make a mess when squashed by passing humans or vehicles.

Having removed the husks the squirrels then start to search for an appropriate location to bury the nut. Generally this will be somewhere where it is easy to make a hole for the nut. But it is not always the case as I often find new bumps in my lawn where a squirrel has attempted to bury the walnut. Most seem to end up in flower beds or flower pots that have used to decorate my garden during the summer. Some have also appeared in my compost heaps. The nuts that end up in the flower beds or flower pots are often not found until they start to grow in the spring.

Young walnut tree sprouting in the flower bed

Some manage to stay hidden for quite a while. Just recently I found one I had missed amongst some shrubs. Judging by the size, approx 2 metres, it had been growing un-noticed for a few years.

Previously I had been simply removing the young walnut trees and putting them in my Green waste bin. However I decided to start keeping a few and I now have quite a collection.

The young walnut trees recovered and put in pots.

Judging by the numbers of walnuts I continue to find that have germinated I can only assume squirrels have poor memories or perhaps the walnut harvest is so good they only need to find very few of their hidden walnuts to survive the winter. The loss of these nuts certainly does not seem to be impacting the local squirrel population. Although at times some of their actions suggest they may remember they buried a nut somewhere in my garden but the exact location remains a mystery.

I wonder if walnuts could be the source of the next bio-fuel or super food? 🙂

April 10, 2021

Update for April in the garden.

It has been a while since my last Blog post. The winter period was very quiet as we had much more cold and wet weather than the previous year thus making it difficult to do much outside except tidy up and protect any sensitive plants. Spring has been slow in arriving and we are still getting some cold winds and the occasional flurry of snow!

Outside the flowers have emerged. We had some early snow drops and the crocus bulbs flowered but neither last very long. The plum cherry bushes have been full of white blossom suggesting we can expect a good crop of plums this year. We are now just waiting for our large flowering cherry tree to explode with blossom.

I have started off some seeds in the greenhouse including, leeks, cauliflower, lettuces, sweetcorn and climbing french beans. Unfortunately I may have to pot up some more sweetcorn as I suspect a recent frost has damaged some of the seedlings that had emerged. I have also put some early potatoes onto a tray to get the shoots started and will need prepare an area for planting soon.

Outside I have put some spring onion, lettuce, radishes, beetroot, carrot and parsnip seeds in my new raised beds. I thought having the beds would make it easier to keep the weeds under control.

In my polytunnel I lost a few strawberry plants so I will need to add some more. I have refreshed the compost so hoping for another good crop this year. I have also decided to re-plant my red grape vine outside to see if it will grow as well as my green grape vine. Fingers crossed we do not have too many late frosts.

I am starting to experiment with taking cuttings from various shrubs to see if I can cultivate them and perhaps sell them to help buy some more compost. I am also going to see if I can start off a few Bonsai trees. I have a few small cherry plum trees that I think could be used to make some interesting trees and I may try with some of the smaller fuchsia varieties.

So now hoping for some warmer weather so I can start preparing more of the garden for some outside planting.

June 16, 2020

Mid-season update

Well here we are in the middle of summer growing season. While the May sunshine was welcome the extended dry period had a major impact on the garden. Like most people my grass suffered the most and even with the recent rain it is struggling to recover, with more brown than green patches at the moment.

The sunshine also meant I had to keep a close eye on the plants in my greenhouse and polytunnel. It does not take long for the heat to build up with the sun shining from early morning. Thankfully I have not lost any plants to the heat and my experiment with growing strawberries in a raised trough in my polytunnel has been rewarded with an early crop of decent sized strawberries. So I may add another trough for next year.

Having very dry soil and the regular sunshine has meant I have had to be careful when planting out into the vegetable plot. It has been essential to make sure plants are well watered and in some cases, given extra shade until they are well established.

My early crop of potatoes got off to a slow start but have recovered well and I hope to start checking for the first potatoes in the next week or so. The sweetcorn is enjoying the sun and again I am hoping for a good crop this year. We have now been able to reduce the amount of green salad we purchase as my lettuce crop is flourishing.

My full range of outside vegetables now includes:

Climbing french beans, dwarf french beans, two varieties of courgette, cauliflower, beetroot, chard, spring onions, leeks, sweet potatoes, peas and carrots.

Plus in the greenhouse there are:

Two varieties of tomatoes, sweet peppers, chilli peppers and cucumbers.

In terms of fruit I have a few blueberries, several raspberries, rhubarb and my grape vine looks as though it will provide a decent crop of grapes again this year. My apple trees have not produced any fruit this year and the kiwi fruit tree looks a bit bare this year in terms of potential fruit.

So over the coming weeks and months we should have plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit available. All of which taste so much better when picked from your own garden which is why I like this time of year so much.