Well, pretty much bang on schedule the air temperature has plummeted and we’ve woke to a hard frost the last few mornings. Today is a ‘2 fire day’, a pretty unusual event in our household. I’ve fired up the woodburner in the library as well as the sitting room in preference to turning on the underfloor heating.
Though the sun is shining it is definitely a day to keep moving. We finished cutting back the raspberries and then moved on to pruning the blackcurrants.
In the new ornamental garden, the paving work is coming to an end we can switch to augmenting the organic ‘bones’, the all important structure that provides definition once the herbaceous has retreated for the year.
We already have 2 statuesque walnut trees in close proximity, plus our native hedgerow to one side. The next layer is the hornbeam and box hedges. I have enough bareroot hornbeam coming through our council’s generous tree scheme, but I’ll need to place an order with a nursery for the box. Calculation is simple – spacing at 5 per metre, so length of hedge in metres times 5.
As the trenches for the hedges need a bit a preparation I’ll order the plants in the new year. I’m well aware of the curse of box blight so I’m determined to do everything I can to ensure the plants have a good start – so the trenches will have a base layer of gravel for drainage plus plenty of organic matter mixed in with the soil.
It’s such a temptation to start with looking at all the ‘pretty stuff’ but that time will come, (she says …. flicking thru’ Sarah Raven’s bulb sale….).
…could be viewed as a list of chores but when the weather is as glorious as it is at the moment then being outside and working on the holding is anything but.
First up – a nice compact job of cutting down the autumn raspberry canes. We only grow primocane varieties now, (Polka, Autumn Bliss and Joan J), as I think these are the best-flavoured berries, plus All Gold for the yellow fruit. In the past, I have left this pruning job until the tail end of winter, so I’ll see how things fare with this change of tack. I did have a go at double cropping but found that too onerous to keep on top of, though looking at the stands I could have beena bit more rigorous with cutting out the weaker canes.
As I cut, the lovely OH shredded and carted the whole lot off to the compost bays.
This year’s canes of the hybrids, tayberry and loganberry, will bear fruit next summer so have been left. Job done and cup of tea time! Next up – pruning the soft fruit and clearing suckers from the pears and medlars.
Whilst we try to keep on top of pruning and clearing in our productive areas elsewhere we are very untidy, as the wildlife wouldn’t thank us.
My favourite tree at the moment is an unknown apple variety in the ‘old orchard’, still laden with yellow gold fruit. Next year I may try to find out what variety this is.
Going into winter we still have good things for eating, plenty in the stores plus red and savoy cabbage, kales, chard, celeriac and parsnip in the kitchen garden.
Reading this week: The Making of the British Landscape by Nicholas Crane.
This morning I was admiring the amber-gold foliage of the oak trees in and around our holding.
Then the winds hit and the leaves streamed horizontally into the adjacent fields. The autumn colour won’t be around for long. Today it’s a prevailing south westerly; strong, around 24mph at times. As it has brought the rain I have retreated inside to continue with preserving.
Luckily we had picked all the medlars yesterday, otherwise the fruit would have been scattered to the ground. Our picking was quite late, many had already bletted whilst still on the tree. Even so, I should have enough hard fruits.
An 80:20 ratio of bletted to hard fruit should help set the jelly, (the unripe fruit contain more pectin).
We have started planting for next year. The garlic went in yesterday; Arno; Provence Wight; Germidour and Carcassone as well as Elephant. We had ordered Garcua and Garpek, which produced fabulous heads for us but the quality wasn’t sufficiently good, so the supplier withdrew these varieties. I may break a rule and plant some cloves from our own heads. I’m also experimenting with starting the autumn onion and shallot sets in modules as the spring planting did so well when started off inside.
We have made excellent inroads into preserving the gluts of late summer and we’re finding new recipes for our produce. Squash risotto is an excellent choice for a cold day!
Reading this week: An Orchard Odyssey by Naomi Slade
We have a central path in the to-be garden now.
We plan to have an archway along the path to give some height to the central section. Cast iron is far, far too expensive but luckily we have a solution to hand – hazel poles and willow whips…
Our willow copse most definitely needs pollarding this year. In truth we probably don’t have enough hazel poles amongst the cobs and filberts as yet but there are plenty of local suppliers. Hopefully, we can construct something along these lines…
photo courtesy: Wassledine
We had few days in Oxford – the University Parks has some lovely, lovely trees. I pocketed some berries from the specimens along the ‘Thorn Walk‘, – a wonderful collection of hawthorns and crab apples and some berries from a white form of rowan. Whilst there is no guarantee that the trees will come true I’m keen to have a go at germinating from the seeds contained within the fruits.
There is a small area at the back of the orchard where we could make our own tiny arboretum. Though I’m not sure how I can possibly edit my must have list of trees!
Leaves are falling. The sap flow rate is reducing.
The walnut trees are amongst the first to have shed their leaves. Whilst the foliage contains a toxin, juglone, this breaks down once the leaves are composted which will help to replace our valuable organic reserves for next spring.
The lovely OH has moved wood from the outbuildings and stacked in the log store outside the door.
Ladybirds have come indoors and now congregate in the corners of the window recesses.
The days may be grey but there are still bright sparks to be found….
…and I have time for one of my favourite activities – compiling the seed order for next year.
Reading this week: River Cottage A to Z (not so much a read as a dip in and out, the book is huge!)