The two plastic bags above contain our smallest shallots which I brought home to pickle. In the group photo above you may just spot some small - very small - sprigs of broccoli. Martyn cleared one of the brassica beds and found this offering before consigning the rest to the compost or - in the case of the roots - the wheelie bin. Last week marked the last of out actual apple harvest. This time the apples in question were Queen Cox from one of our small apple trees.
We had two - cut open of course - with our coffee break during one visit to the plot. On another day we spotted a couple of Egremont Russet left on the tree. Nothing can beat a ripe apple picked fresh from the tree although equal enjoyment was provided this week by our now ripe and drippingly, juicy pears. I think this year has been our best ever apple and pear year. They seem to have enjoyed the conditions.
If you are a regular follower you may remember that I like to plant up at least one bed with summer flowering annuals. The flowers double up as cut flowers and payment to the industrious creatures that make such a good job of pollinating our plants.
I've been fairly pleased with how it has turned out each year but there had always been plenty of scope for improvement and this year has been no exception.
Last year I started a selection of annuals in small pots in the greenhouse.
The problem with this is that the pots take up quite a lot of space when there are lots of other things vying for position. As a result my sowing timetable is governed by when there is some free space that vegetable seedlings don't take precedence for.
This year I decided to try and cut down on space by sowing in smaller module trays.
I sowed three batches from 17 April to 31 May. The space problem lessened but the seedlings didn't grow as well and to avoid them becoming pot bound I had to plant them out when they were still very small.
Each year the seedlings seem to sit in the ground doing very little other than recover from the shock of being planted and each year I think that the whole bed is going to be a disaster but eventually thinks take off.
Some varieties fare better than others but eventually we usually end up with an attractive display.
Each year I have quite a lot of seeds left over so this year I decided to try another tactic.
In mid June I mixed all the left over seeds together and sowed the seed quite thickly in a shallow trench filled with compost.
The seeds germinated and as they did it became apparent that the seeds had been sown too thickly.
As a result some plants such as cosmos dominated and squeezed out the less vigorous varieties.
As expected the later sown varieties were really just coming into their own as the early bed was fading but the plants that dominated grew stronger and didn't suffer a set back. Poppies and cosmos in particular thrived.
Next year I will grade the seeds according to their ultimate height before mixing so that the shorter plants are given a fair chance. I will also sow the seeds more thinly.
I really need to experiment with how early I can sow directly in this way. If I need to sow some more tender plants in the greenhouse where they should have more space.
I am also experimenting with sowing annual seeds now to overwinter. My choice of varieties was dictated by what was available in the local garden centre. I bought mixed cornflowers and calendulas and a pack called hardy annuals tall cut flower mixed. We usually have self sown calendulas and so I imagine these should survive.
I also found a packet of larkspur that had lain forgotten in the freezer since the beginning of the year. I have little hope that the seed is still viable but have sown them anyway. The enviromesh is an attempts to make access to whole rows of seedlings less accessible to slugs and also protect the seeds drills from any scratching or digging visitors
All except the larkspur germinated fairly quickly. However by October 10 even the larkspur had germinated in spite of its time in the freezer.
The larkspur is the second row down - if you look really carefully you can just make out some seedlings. Now it's just a case of seeing if the seedlings survive winter! Fingers crossed.
A few years ago our pear trees started to develop orange spots on the leaves. Investigation revealed that this was Gymnosporangium sabinae, - a mouthful isn’t it? It's just as well that it has an easier name - Pear tree Rust.
This is a rust fungus that needs both pear and juniper trees to complete its lifecycle. This left me puzzled as to my knowledge there are no juniper trees in the vicinity. How far are the spores able to travel to find a suitable host? I read on one website that you shouldn’t grow a pear tree less than 1km (slightly over half a mile) from a juniper and that spores could actually travel 6km (nearly 4 miles). Hardly something over which the gardener has any control and so I guess this is something we just have to live with.
Fortunately, although the fungus may affect yield it will not kill the tree. The fungus can only exist on a living host and so to murder its host would be counter-productive.
The first sign of rust on a pear tree is the appearance of orange patches on the upper-side of the leaves.
The orange patch darkens in the centre as a fruiting part starts to develop on the underside of the leaf. These growths develop into something that looks like a blister from which pimples appear. Spores are dispersed from these pimples which are then blown on the wind and journey away from the pear tree in a quest to find a juniper tree on which to spend winter.
I don’t know how it appears on the juniper but from what I read it overwinters on juniper twigs and branches as galls which release spores in spring that are on the look out for suitable pear tree hosts. I wonder if they will remember the location of our plot?
The spores produced on the pear tree cannot reinfect the pear but I did try to remove as many affected leaves as I could before the pimples burst in an attempt to cut down the number of spores being produced but I guess in the grand scheme of things this was a totally fruitless exercise. (Excuse the pun).
I suppose the spores will wing their way back next year. If I knew when they were coming maybe I could cover the trees to thwart them.
Incidentally the RHS are carrying out a survey of the spread of this fungus and are inviting people to submit a record of any incidences they see.. The survey can be accessed here.