Category Archives: grapevine

Fruitful flaming June #Gdnbloggers

Has flaming June been hot enough for you?

The last week has seen a heatwave move across Blighty. With that, the levels of UV and Pollen have skyrocketed. For me personally, this has meant staying away from the plot as the grass pollen tends to assault my senses and render me sneezy with bogey overload. I can be stood there sneezing and on loop as soon as I get there. At one point, I was dragged away and by my mother whilst trying to find roses.

Today, the weather is distinctly cooler and I can actually stand up straight without having been kiboshed by pollen.

This morning, I have taken a walk down to the plot and tied tomatoes against canes. I have Roma and Marmande varieties sunk into raised beds, and do rather fancy finding some more. If I do manage to successfully cultivate anything on the plot this year, I would like it to be tomatoes; additional plants are on my shopping list for the weekend. A simple as job is and of staking tomatoes, I am glad I did. Over the last few months, going to the plot has been a challenge. For a whole host of different reasons, I  have rather lost my zing, and I could feel it all too much. I pottered on the plot this morning, I wandered around-like the proverbial cloud-and then decided that I wanted to see what fruit was growing. I had forgotten what it was like to wander around, pull out weeds, trample over blackberry bushes and just take in the scent of roses. I stood talking with a ‘lotment neighbour, and a gentle breeze carried the scent of zingy lemons towards as we spoke.

Last weekend, I was able to harvest a handful of raspberries to put into jelly-yes, fruit and jelly-along with some black and redcurrants. There were also some red, yellow and green hinonmaki gooseberries that had appeared.

There are gooseberries and raspberries on my plot and also Mama F’s, so I have picked a few of these to take home. I think I have got most of the gooseberries, having had a fight with the bushes; I had forgotten how vicious the damned things can be. Last year, I had made gooseberry and chilli jam. Prior to that, I had steeped some in Gin-now that was interesting-I have yet to work out what I will do this year. It is currently a toss up, between jam and Indian Amla Pickle.  It has been far too long since I played with my preserving pan; I need to find the moments, my mojo and a bit of fruit to do it with.

Mum has more raspberries than I; the pinks ones on my plot have never actually taken root and flourished, with the yellows being something of a saving grace when they do crop. A small harvest was made of raspberries and currants; mostly red as I am waiting on the black and white ones to ripen.

Seeing red and purple cherries did make me smile. This is by far the largest harvest that we have to date; I’ve picked those eight, with a few still left to ripen on the morello. The varieties that I have are stella and morello, and these were from Victoriana Nursery in Kent. So far, I have been lucky and not lost them the birds on the allotment.

Given how the weather has only just found it’s footing, the three plot grapevines are foliated and the some. Amongst all of the leaves are small clutches of baby grapes. I don’t remember having any grapes last year, so seeing the bunches is heartening. Not sure if they will make it to homebrew, but there is always grape jelly as an alternative.

 

As well as the fruit, there are the plot blooms. Roses are coming up lovely , and filling the floral trug with blooms is always nice. I am waiting for the glads to kick off; right now, they have risen blade-like from the dirt and are very green and leafy.  I cannot even begin to calculate how much the rose blooms might actually cost.  They are by no means perfect; they are au naturale, if you like; but they do smell and look lovely!

Strawberry wine and beyond #gdnbloggers

From the last post, you will have seen that there was an experiment on the go with strawberries. It is time now to move the experiment on.

The youtube version can be seen here.

 

Having left the fruit to ferment for three days, the must  is suitably calm and ready to be transferred into the demi-john. It was a slow but steady process to strain the must through the scalded muslin, as I was doing it pint by by pint and there were five litres in the bucket. As you can see, this has nicely filled the glass demi-john. For now, I am using the demi john and will most likely be transferring and racking into five litre water bottles fitted with a grommet. I know that  second had glass demi -johns are available, and this is something that I might look into should the experiments work. The plan is to now leave the demi john alone, for about three months. I will need to keep any eye on the bubbles.

There is still a lot of fruit to use, and the next experiment is going to involve rhubarb and red currants. These are sat on the side defrosting.

Beyond this experiment, there is the small matter of the plot grapes.

There are three vines on the plot, red and white. These are boskoop glory and madeline sylvaner, which are dessert varieties. These can be used to make wine, the second hand wine making book suggests that acid is added to them, if these are the only ones available. I am not aware of any of the plot neighbours having vines, and there was a crop last year. So the plan-I think this has always been the plan really-is to wait til October when the now baby grapes have ripened to harvest and to try and make some wine out of them. Other than making vinegar, my other concerns in the volume grapes required. The recipes all require a significant amount of grapes, at least 13-14 lbs of fruit. Right now, the wine being produced is using 4 lbs of fruit, so that is a significant difference and depends on the vines producing enough. That, or the quantity will have to be scaled down.

At least now, there is a big enough fermenting bucket.

Weathering the strangeness

June has arrived, and it has been rather strange in it’s infancy. The weather hasn’t exactly been the best, confused and entirely erratic. We have had rather nice windows, punctuated by cold and chilly days reminiscent of early autumn.

With that, I have been looking at the tomatoes and squashes that were transplanted prior to the end of May bank holiday. (I was adventuring, and more on that later) Ordinarily, squashes grow like triffids; they are rapid, hungry and likely to take over the patch of ground into which they have been sunk. Looking at them though, they do rather look a little developmentally delayed. Perhaps it is early, perhaps I am overestimating them; but they should have started to get a wiggle on. I suspect that the inclement and inconsistent weather has some what confused them.

There are factions of the plot that are doing well, that are resisting the variance in the weather. Waking up from a slumber, the grapevines have started to send out leaves and bulk up on their frame. Small clusters of flowers and fruit have been spotted, and indicates that the vines are so far quite happy. Even the currant bushes are starting to flower and flourish, and look as though they have been strung with green pearls.

June, July and August generally involve garlic being harvested. In spite of the horrid weather, the Marshalls Heritage seed garlic appears to be romping away. It is a little wind burned, which given the windy nature of the site is not all that unusual. The foliage is still lush, green and is now nearly a metre high; it looks rather robust. It may be some time yet before the foliage starts to die back and become raffia like.

 

2015; Bollywood Gardener and beyond

As a year of two halves, 2015 has been somewhat interesting but different. The first half of the year involved having the best of intentions. Seeds were sown, I had half a plan as to what I wanted to achieve. No different to what I might have done in previous years, I was going to use all my knowledge and experience to make  things better, bigger and more efficient. Then came July, 2015 became incredibly busy and in the tail end; I am only just recovering from a very hectic six months.

Let’s take the first six months, where by the growing season is starting. Plans are afoot, the world is full of promise. We are hoping to have a good year.

Tomatoes, chillies and aubergine were the focus of the first three months. Makings sure that the seeds were sown, that these germinated and the plants pampered. Pampered, as so many valuable lessons had been learned as to how they might be successful. It was touch and go for a while in the early stages. Half baked chillies and tomatoes can be a very scaring and intimidating experience, when you let them be in a hot room or poly tunnel. There were even aphids and bugs that needed to be dealt with.

In July, I hosted a workshop during the annual conference of the Association of teachers of Psychology. I spoke about horticulture and mental health, the benefits that teachers might gain for both themselves and their students. I had asked my Psychology colleagues to sow sunflowers in the Spring and also encouraged conference delegates to do the same in giving them seeds that were kindly donated by the information point. It was also at this point, that I finished the Level 3 Certificate in Counselling studies.

Then came the summer, with lots and lots of growing!

No one year will be the same as the preceding or following. Yet this year felt different. There was just something palpably different that made growing more of a challenge ad something beyond me being busy with work and studies. Last year, I remember being ankle deep in tomatoes, green ones; but there were lots of them. This year,I had a foliage, and not a lot of fruits. Positioned in the poly tunnel, the crop was meant to do well. Even the chillies appeared to have struggled this year. Whilst the poly tunnel seemed to have been filled with triffids, there was a muted level of success. Aubergines did themselves no favours once again. I must say every year that I will not sow them. I finally have proof that I might be better off without them. Lovely plants, the occasional flower; but diddly squat fruit even if the poly tunnel was a bit damp and sweaty.

And note the gadget! The apple one. Having acquired all of those apples from a plot neighbour (they were not scrumped, I had consent!) that was an investment and a half. Saved me hours. The home brew kit is still waiting in the wings. untested this year, maybe it will be used in the growing seasons to come. There were a number of pickles and preserves. The preserving pan was rather busy this year, even though the produce was a bit hit and miss.

With the plot ticking along, and the blog growing. Something else also happened. I had been lucky enough to write guest blog posts for WRG, via the fabulous Michael Perry. This was and still is one of the most valuable writing experiences that I have ever had. This actually triggered something more complex and more challenging than I first realised. Over the summer, the winner of the Big Allotment Challenge Rob Smith had written a short book.  One of my fellow counselling students, L.A.Cotton, had also burst onto the young adult contemporary genre (She’s epic, tell her I sent you) with phenomenal success.

These three things combined spurred me to be courageous and write something myself. June and July were turning points, and I remembered sending a message to both my sisters; saying that I wanted to write an ebook, and I would try and get it out by Christmas. That was it, I was going to do it.

Having written as mentioned previously, the guest blogs for WRG , one of them was about the Indian Inspiration on the plot. I think Michael Perry used the words ‘Bollywood Gardener’ or something similar, and I adopted the hashtag! This inadvertently became the start of the book. I wrote in a way I can only describe as feverish. I have the same frame of mind when writing the blogs, to be honest; and it’s part of the blog life. The book however was different in that this was thousands of words and trying to bring the assorted elements of the blog together. There was a lot of things that I wanted to include in my budget of 25, 000 words. I had a notebook-my blog book actually, the one that I take to the plot-and a pen. Scribbling ensued, and it’s hard to read my writing anyway. So when it’s all in very hurried, that doesn’t help with typing.

What I ended up with was ‘Playing with Plant Pots: Tales from the allotment’. Plus it was well before Christmas!

 

With a bright yellow front cover, you cannot miss it!

I am going to be naturally very biased, and say that I like my book. However, that is genuine. I like to share it, because I do honestly believe in my book. You might, for example, have writers out there, who will promote their books; but not necessarily believe in their own work. You know if you don’t blow your own trumpet, it’s difficult to get others to do the same.

Standing in the kitchen, leafing through my own book was rather surreal. My name was on a book, that I had crafted. Then there was the few hours that it was at number one. A fellow independent writer informed me of that happening, and that made my day, I tell you! I am determined to get back to the slot.

Then there was the swag. The merchandise. Again, this sounds likes trumpeting! Petal, the horticultural Obbit, has always been the online avatar of the blog. A registered trademark, she’s face (other than mine!) of the blog and social media presence.

 

As you will have read, this year may have been different to others; but it has not been quiet. So much has gone one, it’s no wonder that the tail end of the year is slower and more reflective. If it had all been plain sailing, there would have been very little learned, very little documented in the blog, and very little left to reflect upon.

For now, my only plan is try and sow chillies at some point, and plant my fruit trees when they arrive. I haven’t really thought about anyhing beyond that.

I thank you, for having accompanied me on the 2015 journey; and look forward to the one starting in the new year.

Happy new year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December on the Plot

Have finally taken a wander down to the plot, having spent a little time away from the plot with real life.  There wasn’t a particular task in mind, but I did take my secateurs with me as I remembered that the roses probably needed pruning.  I also wanted to have a look at any possible damage that the recent storms may have done to the plot. I was worrying about the grapevines as they were already in something of a bad shape. Turns out there wasn’t too much damage, the plot is soggy more than anything.

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The Garlic Farm Garlic is coming on in leaps and bounds. Unlike previous years where I have had numerous varieties of garlic; this year has a much smaller range. The garlic farm garlic is in raised beds and is starting to come through. I have in the past, worried about the garlic not doing very much. I have learned that it is important to just be patient and let the garlic do what it has to. The seed garlic has been pretty much left to it’s own devices, and beyond planting, I have worried very little about it.

I had taken my gloves and sacaeuters for the roses and autumnal raspberries. I didn’t get as far as the raspberries, I will have to look at those after Christmas. What I did do, was wander around the roses and prune what I could. However, some of the roses are still blooming. As you can see, William Shakespeare 200o has a handful of blooms that will hopefully unfurl in the coming days. I am somewhat surprised really to see the roses blooming still.

There are three roses bushes on the plot, that are something out of Grimm’s fairy tales. Sprawling, prickly bushes, that I planted when they were nothing by twigs some years ago. They weren’t expensive, each one was exactly £1 from a poundshop, funnily enough. These are rose bushes that have grown like triffids compared to the rather delicate tea roses. They are also rather vicious, if you look at the stem of one of the roses.

I didn’t always have three. To start of with, I had two. I must have pruned one, and left a stem. It founded itself wedged into the clay, and rooted. So today, I had a thought. A scientific question, really. If I pruned off the two bushes, and kept some of the cuttings, might I end up with bonus bushes. This may or may not work. I had pruned the stems at an angle, and a lot of the material is actually budding. So I have wedged a few cuttings into the clay. Clay that was otherwise bare and where a rose bush might not be a bad idea. I have no idea what these roses are, other than being being, and from Holland. I do remember the labels being in dutch. (I might have to learn a little, just to understand the plant talk)

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The grapevines have been looking rather sorry for a long time. I have been battling to support them all the way through the summer, and anticipated that they might have keeled over entirely with the stormy weather that we recently experienced. However, they don’t look too bad. The windy weather has stripped them of their foliage, but this was probably causing them to bank over anyway. The next task for these will most likely to be create a more robust frame for them to clamber over next year. Though I am not too sure whether I am supposed to prune them again. I did prune them last year, and kept two main branches for each vine. That did appear to help the growth of leaves and the amount of fruit that cropped.

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Heritage seed garlic from Marshalls is starting to push through the clay. You’ll have to look very closely, but the shoots are just about visible. In comparison to the seed garlic in the raised bed, this is in open ground. I was worried that it might have been eaten up by the soil as we have had quite bit of rain. However it does appear to have been a little more resilient than I had thought. Rather looking forward to seeing how this goes.

The drama of the grapevines

The grapevines had keeled over. With the heavy clay being so dry with the lack of rain, the makeshift frame supporting them had fallen. Much panic ensued-I had only gone to harvest raspberries-to right the frame and wedge it back into the dirt.

However, it was necessary to call Dad in, and see if he could engineer something more robust. In fact one side, is still a bit lop sided and another review is required. The frame as it is, was built when the vines were planted, very new and wiry. However, they have seen grown, trailed and true to their name; vined.

There is an abundance of leaves, and a few bunches of grapes that the boskoop glory and madeline sylvaner have produced as you can see from the picture above. Not enough this year, for a homebrew experiment. The crop is rather sweet, and the varieties are in fact dessert grapes.

Summer to September: Changes

Whilst many of my teaching colleagues will be returning to school, I have a few weeks before I do. This means that my attention is taken up with the plot, and recuperating before the new academic school year starts.

Some of the plot has been wonderfully abundant. Other parts less so. Whilst the tomatoes are five foot leafy triffids, there hasn’t been a great deal of fruit. What fruit I do have, is being placed upon a light and warm window sill to ripen. The raspberries were very hit and miss, and I think the same is to be said of Blackberries. I have harvested a few blackberries, but there doesn’t seem to be as much as previously seen.  This time last year, I had harvested a great deal of plums. Despite what the a picture above might suggest, that is a fraction of what last years bounty was. The above plums have been stoned and frozen for use in the autumn.

The squashes are quite abundant, and today I have been chopping courgettes and squashes that are most likely going to be turned into chutney.  You can see a baby butternut, a bit developmentally delayed; I think this primarily because of the erratic conditions this year.

Chillies have been very good in that lessons have been learned. I am very proud to have had a handful of orange habaneros. I have been desired such a crop for years! Whilst the plants are small, I cannot say that they haven’t been plentiful. These are after all, a very potent chilli. I had to wear gloves whilst chopping, as a preventative health and safey measure. The hungarian hot wax-the label is wrong- are fantastically productive, and the orange pumpkin chillies are a really nice surprise. They have ripened incredibly quickly. As eve the cayenne chillies are doing well as well.

As well as the plums, I have apples to play with. These were donated by a plot neighbour. Again, like the plums, these have been chopped and frozen to be used over the autumn.

The journey of June: fruitful

Hello, everyone, happy Sunday; I do hope that you have had a nice weekend.

Firstly, an apology. For not having updated properly, the plot is kicking off now and that means watering and harvesting. I have made two batches of ice cream in the last two weeks, with the strawberries from the plot. I have even harvested some tonight. The ice cream was fabulous, the ice cream maker, a good investment and highly recommended. I have been harvesting strawberries daily, and I don’t particularly have a preference for them.

As you can see from the gallery, the plot is coming into it’s own. There is nothing to report yet, as far as squashes and things go. They are just forming large leaves as of yet. In the poly though, the tomatoes are getting leafier, taller, and sending out yellow flowers. I have had to stake them into sentry like positions to prevent them all falling over.

cream sausage tomatos
cream sausage tomatos

The stars for the moment, are the chillies.

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These are currently sat on a warm window sill. There are also a few more cayennes on the plant. Whilst walking through the poly tunnel with the watering can, I saw the rather chunky, lime green form of the hungarian hot wax. There are about five fruit, I shall leave them there for now.

Soft fruit is coming quick, with the strawberries especially. I have been watching the raspberries carefully. Especially as half canes don’t look to be doing an awful lot. These were canes planted last autumn, all thirty of them in the full season collection. There were an additional 10 yellow ones, The raspberries you see above, all three of them are the harvest of tonight. That yellow one, didn’t make it home, I ate it on the spot.

It was delicious. Get some. These are a variety called Fall Gold.I suspect they are a bit confused, as they are meant to be autumn ones.

I will continue to monitor the growth of the raspberries, to see if any more of them come to life. Also last year, I sank gooseberries and currants. The gooseberries have already yielded one small harvest, the next one, is most likely to be a pickle of some kind. The currants, are still babies, so there is not an awful lot expected.

But they do taste good. I swear, that the berries that I have collected were ready to burst. Beautifully red, they have given the strawberries a good run for their colour money. Not as tart as I would have expected, but a little full of seeds.

I had one black currant berry. May be next year, we can cordial or cassis. Yet to see if I have any white currants, if I can work out whether or not they are ripe. The two blueberry bushes are also laden with fruit, and again, ripeness check needed.

Last but not least, William Shakespeare 2000

william shakespeare 2000
william shakespeare 2000

Big, beautiful blooms, this rose bush sits in the middle of the plot. A sprawling mess, we like this sprawling mess, with green foliage and red blooms that burst in a matter of days in the shape of a fuzzy pom pom. This is the rose that I have been waiting for, as the other roses heralded the start of summer.

#NaBloPoMo: Growing Grapevines on the Garden

Grapevines on the plot
Grapevines on the plot: Boskoop Glory and Madeline Sylvener

 

There are two varieties of grapevine currently being cultivated on the plot. These are Boskoop Glory, a red grape and Madeline Sylvener, which is a white grape. Both are meant to be quite suitable for the British Climate. There definitely parts of the British Isles that can grow grapes, so why not the middle of land locked England. These are desert grapes, I think, so we shall see if they do produce a vast quantity of fruit, and whether anything can be made out of them. Other than eating them, it might be nice to brew something.

There is a fourth, much older grapevine in Dad’s garden. The vines produce mammoth crop in the south facing garden, and we do nothing with him. Those grapes are red, and ripen in October. They don’t particularly taste very nice though, and that is the pit fall. Hoping that next year, they can be converted into something useful. No idea what that variety is though, and I did one year squash the lot to make a litre of Cordial. Yep, a whole litre. I was there squashing for a long time.

Across the cane trellis, there are thre vines growing up and out. These vines are still quite young, have been in the ground less than five years so are very much in there infancy. It can take up to twenty years for them reach their ful potential.

With their tendrils and creepers growing without restraint, the vines are starting to look a bit wndburned. Some of the leaves are  alittle scorched. Overnight we have a our first frost, so I do wonder if the vines will look a little different today. They might also need a bit of a feed. Might dress the base with both chicken poop pellets and some fish, bone, blood stuff. I did that in the summer, and it didn’t appear to do any harm.

I do need to investigate how to prune the vines and when. That cane trellis is at the moment, barely five foot hight. This may need to be increased in time, with another trellis and some more canes to support the lower levels. Previously, I have spotted a very small bunch of graps. It was still there, when I looked on Tuesday. Not sure if it is likely to get any larger, and with the over night frost, may well have died a death.

Baby grapes?

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The grapevines have really developed this summer, and are creeping in every direction. Think I need to build the cane supports upwards as the vines are getting taller.

In something of a surprise, I’ve spotted what looks like a bunch of baby grapes. Odd, as grapes are usually ripening about now. Rather than forming baby bunches. Will be a nice surprise if they are baby grapes.