Autumn Bliss

The-last-of-the-harvestNow the Victoria plums have finished with the last wasp-damaged remains rotting into the soil and the blackbirds have feasted on the grapes, there’s just the autumn raspberries left to harvest. This year I haven’t netted the raspberries, the bees have had easier access and the pollination rate has been better than usual. The weather has been gentle and I’ve had the best crop of Autumn Bliss in years. And, the strangest thing is despite the unprotected canes the birds have left them alone!

Victoria plums, Muscat bleu grapes and Autumn Bliss raspberries.
Victoria plums, Muscat bleu grapes and Autumn Bliss raspberries.

Strumpshaw Fen and Nature’s Autumn Bounty

strumpshaw fen
Across the reed beds at Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk
Sometimes we witness a brief moment when there is an abundance of brilliant, ripened berries decorating the hedgerows before they are stripped by the birds preparing for winter.

The Guelder Rose berries
Viburnum opulus

Elderberries
Sambucus nigra

Dog Rose hips
Rosa canina

Strumpshaw Fen is an RSPB Reserve just east of Norwich on the River Yare. This morning it was quite windy, but we still saw herons, ducks, swans, a couple of lazy pheasants and some dragonflies. I have seen a marsh harrier before on the Broads, but nothing so exciting this time.

View from Strumpshaw Fen

Meanwhile, back at home, down the garden there are some autumn berries almost ripe enough for me to eat – my raspberries, Autumn Bliss, and safely behind some netting.

Raspberry Autumn Bliss

First Beans Friday

Runner beans
Runner Beans variety Moonlight.
Back in June I posted about growing your own fruit and veg, well the strawberries have just finished, but this morning I’ve picked my first runner beans.

Last summer the weather was so terrible here in East Anglia I had a very sorry crop of runner beans. So instead of saving a few bean seeds (White Lady) from last year I splashed out this spring and bought fresh seeds of a different variety. I chose a variety called Moonlight as apparently they’ve been bred to flower and set even in poor weather. And, success, I think this is the earliest I’ve had runner beans and they look like they are going to crop well. Also, I gave my father some seedlings to grow on in June and they are doing well and are about to crop too – so, at this stage Moonlight is looking good.


Now, just have to see what they taste like!

Ah yes, and this delicate beauty has come into flower. Isn’t nature just splendid sometimes?

Pink Alcea, Hollyhock
Very pale pink single hollyhock.

Strawberries & Cream – It must be Wimbledon

Strawberry plants
It’s late, but at last here come the strawberries and here comes summer.

Finally, finally, finally – the strawberries are beginning to ripen. I’ve been out picking, eating the odd berry as I go (as you do) and donating the slug attacked fruits to the mother blackbird trying to feed two fat babies.

I only have a small raised bed and if it’s not netted the birds eat the lot. I grow Elsanta and Sonata but, the best flavoured strawberries that suit my growing conditions here in East Anglia (neutral soil, fierce drainage, low rainfall) happen to be a Scottish variety called Red Gauntlet. It has an intense almost perfume-like flavour and is very sweet.

***

Oh look, what do we have here? Somebody is off to the tennis with her friends.

Hatted & dressed for Wimbledon
“Come on, hurry up – I need to catch the train”

Old muggins me isn’t going to Wimbledon, but no worries, I’ve got a consolation prize!

Bowls of strawberries and cream
An English summer treat – strawberries, cream and home-made shortbread.

Think, Eat, Save

Wednesday, 5th June is World Environment Day and the theme this year is ‘Think, Eat, Save’ as we are encouraged to consider how to reduce food waste by the United Nations Environment Programme http://www.unep.org/wed/. On my micro plot in East Anglia my slender contribution is growing some fruit and veg, and recycling kitchen and garden waste by composting.

Composting Bin
Brown & Green Waste In
Bottom of compost bin
Six months later compost out (needs sieving now)

Through trial and error I’ve discovered the obvious that for me it is only really worth growing what you and your friends and family like to eat. I have found that growing fruit has been less demanding than vegetables, more successful and we all love eating it. Also fruit trees in particular have beautiful blossom I can photograph and use for designs.

Of course I still grow easy veg like beans, courgettes and tomatoes from seed as homegrown often tastes better especially when freshly picked and no food miles.

My vegetables from seed this year have been very tricky as the germination rate has been poor due to the coldest spring in the UK in over 50 years. Even though I start most of my seeds indoors on the kitchen window sill, it has been so cold I’ve had to resow both the french beans and lettuce. And, still no signs of any courgette seedlings. But, at least, the fan-trained pear blossomed really beautifully.

Fan Pear 'Doyenne du Comice'
In its full glory, trained as a fan, the pear ‘Doyenne du Comice’