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Cotswolds
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for September 2009 diary entry  

Video
Fruit and vegetables

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For September 2010 weather summary

Archive for previous years' diaries dating from 2007 can be accessed by clicking here

September 2010 Diary
5 September
September is in many ways a turning point in the year. As Martyn wrote in his weather diary blog in meteorological circles it marks the start of autumn. The blueberry bushes seem to agree as the leaves are turning a vivid red. In education circles it marks the beginning of a       
new year and as far as we gardeners are concerned it is the time when our thoughts turn to next season; a time when we take stock and begin to consider our plans for next year.
This week on the plot we haven’t exactly planted out our over wintering brassicas but we have begun to prepare the beds ready to receive them. The young brassica plants have been popped in the cold frame until we are ready to plant them out. This would potentially make them easy prey for the slugs that seem to target our cold frame. To try and outwit the slugs a moat system has been created. The trays of young plants have been balanced on upturned plant pots which in turn sit in a tray of water. Any hungry slugs would need to swim to reach but the plants are not sitting in water
Although we are still picking plenty of fruit, most of the berry fruit is coming to an end. We are now only managing to pick a handful of summer fruiting raspberries and strawberries however the yellow, autumn fruiting raspberries and blackberries are still going strong. The summer fruiting raspberries are producing some really strong canes. Glencoe, the purple fruiting raspberry produces really long canes so we have put up a framework of posts and wires to bend over and train the canes. Bending the canes is supposed to encourage the plant to produce more fruit.
We have picked lots of plums this week and fortunately had little evidence of any grubs, although many have been eaten fresh, many   
more have been stewed and frozen. We don’t eat much jam and there is a limit to how many plums can be eaten before they become over-ripe. We’ve also stewed some windfall pears and apples. Discovery apples are now ripening and delicious to eat straight from the tree although many have marked skin. I think some are caused by apple scab and others by capsid bugs. The problem is only skin deep so although spraying can be used to control both problems we would rather just remove the affected skin before eating.
A major harvest this week has been our first planting out sweetcorn. We planted a second lot which may give us some later cobs. From this first harvest Sweet Nugget has produced better cobs than Tasty Gold. Kernels have been stripped from the cobs and frozen and should hopefully make up for a distinct lack of peas.
Tomatoes too after a slow start are ripening and we have also picked our first red sweet pepper – Jimmy Nardello.
All our onions have now been lifted and are sitting in the greenhouse drying off. The second lot of shallots have been cleaned up, trimmed and put into new bags to store. This variety of shallot Topper has produced far more tiny bulbs than did Pikant. I’m wondering whether these should be replanted next year.
Unfortunately the weeds haven’t yet decided to call it a day. With so much harvesting to do we only have time to weed out those that are causing a problem.
The flower of the week has to be the hardy cyclamen that seem to pop up all over the garden and in various places on the plot. It all started with a couple of small corms – one pink and one white. These have been prolific self seeders and now we have corms the size of dinner plates. At the moment there are no leaves just masses of tiny upswept flowers.  This week it seems to have been really noticeable that the dark nights are creeping ever closer so it’s good to know that at least for some plants the growing season isn’t over but just beginning.  
Harvested from the plot:

Apples – Discovery & Peasgoods Nonsuch

Blackberries

Blueberries

Courgettes – Zucchini & Jemmer

Cucumber - Burpless Tasty Green

Dahlias

French Beans – Delinel, Royalty & Sungold

Grape - Himrod

Pears - Conference

Pepper - Jimmy Nardellos

Plums – Victoria & Marjories Seedling

Raspberries – Glen Magna & All Gold

Runner Beans – Desiree, Lady Di, Enorma & Wisley Magic

Strawberry - Strawberries

Sweet Corn - Sweet Nugget &  Tasty Gold

Tomatoes - Costoluto Fiorentino, Brandywine, Amish Gold, Yellow Perfection, Brandywine & Tumbling Tom Red

12 September
Everything that we have managed to do outside this week has been a bonus as if the weather had gone according to forecast we would have spent most of the week indoors.

The plot has taken on a windswept look and we were concerned that any more strong winds would strip our trees of apples and so we decided that ready or not we would take all the apples off the trees both on the plot and in the garden. Although most of our apples are eating varieties any that were bruised or blemished have been stewed and frozen. The Discovery apples produce an attractive pink puree.

We have three quinces on our new quince tree that have grown to a reasonable size. Now we just need to decide when we are supposed to pick them. They are supposed to turn yellow and give off a strong perfume of vanilla and tropical fruit. I’ve read that it should be left on the tree as long as possible but picked before the first frosts so it seems it is all a bit of guesswork.

After a slow start the tomatoes are ripening quickly. The garden greenhouse has given a good crop but the plants growing in the plot greenhouse were a huge disappointment. Once the tomatoes are committed to their rush for redness there is far too many to eat fresh so these too have been added to a quickly filling freezer.

Although the runner beans have been battered by the wind they are still producing plenty of beans and the bees continue to visit the cardoon flowers in spite of them laying on the ground instead of about 8 feet above ground.

A real bonus this week was a small pea harvest. The peas sown to compensate for the ones that refused to germinate at last produced some peas ready to pick – maybe the recent rain had spurred them into action. There was only enough for one meal but they were delicious and had no sign of any pea maggots, presumably due to the late sowing.

Leaves of our squash plants are beginning to die back and reveal some promising looking squashes.

We have planted out the brassica plants bought from Dobies and hope like the ones we bought last year will provide us with a harvest early next spring. Other more established brassicas are performing inconsistently, cabbages are growing well but the cauliflowers and sprouts look sorry for themselves. We’ve tried cosseting and feeding them and they have shown a slight improvement, the sprouts do have some tiny budding sprouts but at the moment we look as though we are heading for another disappointing year as far as sprouts are concerned. I’m just baffled as to what we are doing wrong – it’s back to the drawing board!

The alpine strawberry plants raised from seed have been planted out, many of them are already flowering and some even had one or two strawberries. The bed where the plants will finally be planted isn’t yet free of this years’ crops and so the plants have been popped into a temporary bed along with some tiny foxgloves. We’re hoping the foxgloves make a lot more growth before winter as the plants haven’t yet grown as much as they should have – we suspect that the compost is the problem. This year we seem to have had quite a few bags of poor compost. In spite of having the same make the results have been incredibly variable. We had some lettuces that were struggling in modules filled with compost but once they were planted outside they began to grow away well. The same has been true for various young plants and as mentioned before tomato plants planted in pots of compost rather than in grow bags have been a disaster. Surely there should be some sort of quality control with relation to compost!

Planted out:

Dobies brassica collection

Foxgloves – excelsior Hybrids

Alpine Strawberries - Mignonette

Harvested from the plot/greenhouse:

Apples – Peasgood Nonsuch, Discovery, Golden Delicious, Queen Cox, Bramley, Egremont Russet, Fiesta & Worcester Permain

Blackberries

Blueberries Carrots - Early Nantes 2

Cucumber - Burpless Tasty Green

Grape - Himrod

Lettuce - Great Lakes

Pears – Concorde, Red Williams & Conference

Plums - Marjories Seedling & Victoria

Raspberries - Raspberries new

Raspberries – Glen Magna

Runner Beans – Desiree, Lady Di, Enorma & Wisley Magic

Alpine Strawberry - Mignonette

Tomatoes - Amish Gold, Brandywine, Moneymaker, Brandywine, Costoluto Fiorentino, Tumbling Tom Red, Yellow Perfection & Amish Gold
19 September
No gardening to report on this week as we spent the week on holiday in the village of Apperley near Tewkesbury.

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We stayed in a 17th century, Grade II listed cottage with a ¼ acre garden which was mainly grass so we could fantasise about how we would set it out if we had that sort of garden space. The temptation to weed and cut the grass was strong but we managed to resist.
During the week we visited many beautiful Cotswold villages but a gardening highlight was a visit to Hidcote Manor gardens. We had heard so much about this garden that we couldn’t stay in the area without paying a visit and we were not disappointed in spite of it being a bit late in the season. To view our photos and video click here Although we didn't manage to visit the plot we did find that things in the garden hadn't missed us - except maybe the fish!
26 September
Our first visit to the plot after our week away revealed a very windswept scene. Most of the flowers had been battered and were standing up to this with varying degrees of success. The worst casualties were the cardoons which were now completely flat and one of the runner bean teepees. The weeds had enjoyed free rein during our absence and had taken full advantage of the situation providing their own version of green manure.
We spent most of our visit harvesting. The last lot of french beans were just right for picking and we even managed to pick a helping of late developing peas. The runner beans really looked as though they were past their best so with a freezer full and lots more vegetables to choose from we left them. Maybe we should trying drying some like many others are doing but I really wouldn’t know where to start and would probably end up poisoning us.
It was a good thing that we had stripped the apples from the trees before going on holiday or we would probably have come back to a carpet of bruised fruit courtesy of the wind. We had other fruit ready to pick – lots of alpine strawberries and yellow autumn raspberries. I picked a punnet of blackberries but many of the fruits had become too soft to grasp leaving me with blackberry stained fingers and little else. No doubt the wildlife will enjoy the over-ripe fruit. Hiding amongst the weeds of the strawberry beds which are in desperate need of tidying I even found a few ripe strawberries
We have two tubs either side of the greenhouse door each planted with a cranberry. These were originally planted between the blueberry bushes but the sprawling habit meant that it was difficult to weed around them and they became a tangled mess so I moved them into tubs. This is their second year in tubs and strangely one plant was loaded with fruit and the other didn’t even manage to flower (I think it produced one lonely flower). I found it really tricky deciding when to pick the berries so this year I left them on the plant for as long as possible and this week managed to collect a punnet of dark burgundy cranberries which were stewed and eaten with yoghurt.
Another excellent crop of perfect slug free potatoes were dug, this time Nicola. Only Sarpo Mira left in the ground now. We also pulled some damage free Flakkee carrots which although huge were delicious. By contrast we also finished off the carrots that had been grown in a tub. They were still quite small Early Nantes – more like baby carrots. The same variety has grown large roots when in open ground but even though they were sown earlier in the tubs the roots have remained quite small but still delicious.
The first lot of onions have been brought from where they were drying out in the plot greenhouse and have had all the dry skins removed to tidy them. At the moment they are laid out on the greenhouse staging until I decide whether to have a go at stringing them. If there was ever a reminder of the garden cycle it had to be when our winter onion sets arrived this week
There are still lots of grapes, peppers and tomatoes to harvest from the garden greenhouse but another first for us was the picking of our first melon. This was one of the three Noires des Carmes that we have managed to grow. It was only small and we had trouble deciding when it was ripe but as it turned from dark green to a yellowish colour we picked it. It was exceptionally juicy and full of flavour so next year a little more tlc is required to try and get larger fruits. We now need to try and decide when to pick the quince and medlars.
In the garden many of the flowering plants are winding down; an exception was the hardy cyclamen that are providing carpets and clumps of colour both in the garden and on the plot. We started with just two corms but they spread prolifically. On the plot most of the dahlias are flowering well with a couple of exceptions that are still in bud. The flush of colour will be short-lived as the first frost will put an end to any display. Michaelmas daisies although windswept are very popular with bees and worth growing just to make sure the insects have something to sustain them late in the season.
One surprise was that the arum lily that I thought had died over winter had secretly been growing into a fairly large plant. It goes to show how determined some plants are to survive.
Harvested from the plot/greenhouse:

Blackberries

Carrots - Early Nantes 2 & Flakkee

Cranberries

Cucumber - Burpless Tasty Green

French Beans – Delinel, Royalty & Sungold

Grape - Himrod

Lettuce - Great Lakes

Melon - Noir des Carmes

Onions - Autumn harvested Fen Globe

Pears - Conference from the Garden

Peppers - Tequila Sunrise

Potatoes - Nicola

Raspberries - Autumn Gold

Alpine Strawberry - Mignonette

Strawberry - Flamenco

Tomatoes - Amish Gold, Brandywine, Moneymaker & Yellow Perfection
3 October
Due to the weather we have only managed a couple of flying visits to the plot this week which has mainly been to harvest some fruit and vegetables. We did try to do a bit of desperately needed weeding but the ground was just too wet and muddy. Gloves quickly turned to a soggy mess and trying to weed without gloves wasn’t any more successful so the weeding will have to wait. Some of the dahlia flowers especially the ones with huge heads had also become a soggy mess.
During a break in the wet weather, we did manage to plant the winter onion sets - Autumn Champion & Senshyu Yellow - that arrived this week and also strim the grass paths. Even though the grass was very wet it had to be done; fortunately we have a petrol strimmer.
We are also managing to dodge the rainy spells to keep cropping. Most of the fruit production is winding down leaving only alpine strawberries, autumn fruiting raspberries and a few blackberries. The alpine strawberries are enjoying the damp conditions and producing some fairly large (for them) fruits.
The decision of when to harvest the three quinces that were produced by our newly planted tree was made for us when the fruits were found on the ground. One was split so is unlikely to be of any use – typically it was the largest one. There is no strong vanilla smell so I guess the fruits aren’t really ripe yet and were prematurely blown from the tree in the strong winds. Not sure what we will do with them.
On the vegetable front, the idea to make a later planting of a second lot of sweetcorn has worked well and is producing cobs to eat fresh from the plants. The successional sowing of French beans and courgettes has also been a success. We have had a long picking season of fresh French beans and the later planting of courgettes meant we had small courgettes after fruits from the earlier plants had become large marrows after our week on holiday. We even managed a couple of helpings from late sown peas.
We have removed all our squash fruits from the plants; one tip that I find useful is to cut the vine either side of the fruit stem to produce a sort of handle. This is supposed to help stop rot forming and affecting the fruits; it seemed to work last year. We also gathered all the peppers from the plants growing in the garden greenhouse. We have grown long pointed varieties this year and these have been far more successful than the bell peppers that we have grown in previous years.
Unfortunately our sprout plants are not any better so it looks like another sprout free year. We are beginning to wonder      
whether club root is preventing the plants from absorbing enough nutrients. Sprouts are greedy feeders and although we have tried to keep them well fed things haven’t improved. Next year we will try planting a club root resistant variety. It doesn’t help that the plants along with most other greenery on the plant – including weeds - are being attacked by squadrons of whitefly. Horrid little creatures that seem impossible to control without covering everything on the plot with environmesh!
Gardening is always a mixture of successes and failures. This year I’m not sure what has happened to our carrots. This week we dug up some Autumn King and many were absolutely huge – the largest carrot weighed 650g. They were perfect, no splitting, no carrot fly or slug damage, no woody core – just perfectly tasting carrot. The young seedlings weren’t thinned but the roots seem to have found plenty of room to grow.
On my ‘needing to do when it stops raining’ list is to plant the pansies and muscari which I bought to fill tubs presently occupied by faded nemesia. They and the tulip bulbs that I bought to provide some cut flowers on the plot will have to wait a little longer.
Harvested from the plot/greenhouse:

Blackberries

Carrots – Yellowstone & Autumn King

Courgettes – Jemmer & Zucchini

Cucumber - Burpless Tasty Green

Grape - Himrod

Onions – Hyred & Manas

Peppers - Jimmy Nardellos & Tequila Sunrise

Raspberries - Autumn Gold

Squash - Crown Prince & Potimarron

Strawberry - Mignonette

Strawberry - Flamenco

Sweet Corn - Sweet Nugget

Tomatoes - Amish Gold, Costoluto Fiorentino, Moneymaker & Tumbling Tom Red