Jam is so easy to make and we grow so much fruit that it is no surprise that we haven’t bought any for quite a number of years. Though, over time, we have learnt which crops we want to devote effort to making a preserve from.
Strawberry – yes; Raspberry – yes, Gooseberry – no. However top of the list maybe, just maybe, is Apricot. This year, back in spring, we had all the indication of a good crop….
unfortunately, we have taken a hit from ‘brown rot’, a fungal disease caused by the pathogens, Monilinia laxa and Monilinia fructigena.
Our apricot tree is undercover so I suspect the spores were carried to the flowers by wind. The first notable sign of the infection has been on the mature fruits. Even so, as we are making jam we just cut out any dodgy bits.
We planted the apricot is at the back of the Dutch barn to give it maximum heat. As the barn borders the old orchard, there will always be a bit of a risk from brown rot because we have a number of ancient top fruit standards, including plums. I don’t clear fallen fruit as avidly from the old orchard as I do from the new plantings – perhaps I need to revisit this as we don’t seem to be visited anymore by the badgers. They used to hoover up a lot of windfalls.
The peaches, however are completely untouched!
May has ended. It was a month of lots of lovely summery weather and enough rain so as not to feel the pressure of watering the vegetable patches. From now on we will have plenty of produce gluts from the garden.
We have been picking salads and herbs from the polytunnel since the end of April. I’ll add peppery nastursium leaves and turnip thinnings to tonight’s salad bowl.
Along with succession sowing and planting out, I have been pinching out the side shoots on the cordon tomatoes and removing the lower leaves up to the first truss.
In the heat of the polytunnel, scent volatiles fill the air. I only discovered this year what a lovely perfume broad bean flowers have. Having moved the plantings to the far end of the tunnel I was concerned that the bees wouldn’t find the plants. I shouldn’t have worried. The pollinators have been hard at work alongside me. I’m always amazed to see the formation of the pods on the broadbeans. These tiny beans along with the season first garden peas will be added to a spring risotto – tonight’s supper.
Working in the tunnel is a delight. I often run my hands through the herbs for a free aromatherapy session – variations on dill, rosemary, thyme and sage. The sweet basil is starting to come through and I have been pinching out the tops of the pot sown Basil ‘Aristotle’ to garnish the risotto.
I have been thinning the peaches and apricots and the gooseberries are fattening. We already need to think about preserving the abundance – kept in oil, artichoke hearts make a lovely antipasti…
and I shall gather some heads of the elderflower to make a cordial.
Summer is here.
Posted in apricot, artichoke, broadbean, forage, gooseberry, herb, lettuce, pea, peach, salad, tomato, turnip, wildflower
saves nine. So the saying goes. I used to hear this, mostly when the hem of my school skirt was adrift, (though I usually thought ‘that’s what sellotape is for’). Why the saying? We had heavy frosts in the middle of April. Though I fleeced newly planted peas we didn’t have enough fabric to cover all the crops and I’ve noticed that some of the strawberry plants are showing symptons of ‘black eye’.
This has been caused by the frost. I’ve been picking off the flowers as these won’t develop fruit. We’ll need to see if there has been any other effects once the strawberries start to develop. The kiwi also took a hit, certainly on the leaves.
The flowers might not be affected as they were in bud and until the cultivar ‘Jenny’ starts flowering we won’t get fruit from the kiwis anyway.
The apples were starting in flower when the frosts came; I’ll have to keep my fingers crossed for them. Elsewhere it all looks pretty good.
I will have to start on the thinning soon.
Well, I’m probably a bit late on planting out the first earlies but bang on schedule for the second early potatoes. I’ll plant out the main crop towards the end of April.
In the past we’ve earthed up, but to be honest it’s a bit of a faff, so this year I’m going to try mulching. I’ve popped the seed potato into the soil at around 6 inches depth. Next step will be a good watering, followed by a 6 inch layer of old hay, then another good watering. We’ll use some redundant fruit cage netting to pin down the hay initially. Once the shoots start coming through then I’ll top up with grass clippings from the orchard. In any event, this will be a good way to get a lot of organic matter into the lower end of the main vegetable plot. I’ll be interested to see what the yield is like and whether there is any greening.
In my daffodil holding area I have some double narcissus which look a lot like ‘Cheerfulness’ and ‘Yellow Cheerfulness’. They both have a lovely scent so these will be moved to the ornamental garden in due time.
Looking across to the wild flower verge, the first of the perennials of the wildflower mix we sowed in the verge last year are starting to flower…here, Red Campion. Others are comimg through, but I have found that I’m useless at identifying plants just from the leaf form.
Top fruit wise, and it looks like we had excellent pollination on the apricot! I’ll thin later this year.
The bees are flying and are a nice calm colony which is all to the good as I have to jettison the occasional stray out of the polytunnel.
Reading this week: The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock
I’m trying to get to grips with apps. I’d like to be able to take a photo and post to Instagram. I love the spontaneity of that. I sometimes type in a hashtag to see the reams of photos on a subject – like apricot blossom. I feel a connection with all those snappers in all those far flung places.
I haven’t figured out how to post to instagram without a fancy phone but here is my hashtag apricot blossom; peach blossom and almond blossom…
I better get out the little paint brush and do some cross pollinating.
Gardeners World is back on the beeb; what a lovely interview with Beth Chatto, (#heroine).
One of the best things about the smallholding in summer and early autumn is the bumper crops of fruit. The harvest started with strawberries, and gooseberries; cherries; currants; blueberries and smatterings of mulberries.
We are starting to pick plums and greengages.
Waiting in the wings are fruits that need a little longer to ripen – melons; peaches and apricots.
Autumnal fruit will end the growing year with a flourish – cultivated blackberries; late raspberries; apples; pears; medlars and quinces.
Fruit is easy to grow and every garden or plot should have some! Possibly the hardest part is making sure the choice harvest is protected from marauders.
Fresh fruit needs little embellishment. Today – grilled apricots with honey and greek yoghurt.
Reading this week: Woodlands by Oliver Rackham
It’s always heartening to hear about a resurgence in fruit production in the UK. The amount of apricots, (Prunus armeniaca), produced in this country has increased from 30 tonnes in 2014 to a very, very respectable 200 tonnes this year. The mild winter has helped, but so too has the research that has gone into developing apricot varieties for our cooler climate. Bardsley Farm run by Nigel Bardsley down in Kent is leading the way with an expected crop of around 120 tonnes, and I have to say the pictures of his crop looks lovely, lots of large pink, orange blushed fruits.
Given the expected availability go and check out some English apricots this summer.
The apricot probably originated in China and was spread across the middle east and the Mediterranean via the ‘Silk Road’ trade route, pitching up in England around the 16th century. Allegedly it was Henry VIII who arranged to have apricots brought to England and planted in the garden at Nonsuch Palace in Surrey.
We have the cultivar ‘Golden Glow’ planted at the back of the dutch barn. This is a relatively recent variety and all specimens originate from a seedling found in the Malvern Hills in 1985. Trials have established that it is hardy, self fertile and heavy cropping.
Our tree is young but is showing a few fruit which I shall leave on so that we can try our own home grown apricots this year. We’ll be eating them fresh, straight from the tree, but I hope to have sufficient crops in later years to try both sweet and savoury recipes. Nigel Slater reckons that lamb with apricot is as good a pairing as pork with apple….
I’m looking forward to this Slater recipe.