Feeling Fruity

Both our previous gardens were fruitless being quite small. The new old house came with a range of fruiting plants and trees. We are learning as we go, reading, seeking advice from those more experienced but there is also a lot said for trial and error don’t you think?

The back wall of the potting shed catches the midday sun until the end of the day, and there grows a lovely thornless blackberry.

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Just ready to ripen.

I did net them as best I could at this stage as the blackbirds were certainly eyeing them up but the wasps were an irritant that couldn’t be stopped. I suppose a fruit cage is the only way to reduce that. Anyhow, with courage we delved in despite them and managed to collect over a kilo of fruit. In to the freezer they went  ready for making jam a bit later.

One of the most impressive inheritances is the grape vine outside the backdoor. My grandfather did have one himself that I believe rarely fruited. This one, on the other hand, has been spectacular.

Being new to fruit we weren’t entirely sure how to care for it so plenty of study was required. We learnt very little except how to prune the thing when it had reached it’s denouement and that plenty of watering was favourable. You can see that we have a pergola (I use the term loosely) frame supporting it. It is quite large being about 10 feet by 20 feet covering the whole patio area between the kitchen and the garage. You look down beneath it to the orchard so the dappled early morning sunshine is rather lovely first thing with the days first cup of tea.

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May

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Little baby grapes appear…

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and starting to grow juicy and green and fat.

They pretty much stayed that way all August while everyone else was talking about grape theft by birds and total destruction by wasps. We didn’t seem to have this problem at all but they just weren’t ripening except those around the edge of the frame.

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After some hmmming and harrring I decided to strip off some of the foliage and let more sunlight in. Holding your arms above your head whilst balanced precariously on a ladder for an hour at a time is not a pleasure. I was developing He-Man biceps which is not a good look for me however within a week the jolly little berries were rosying up a treat. Hooray!

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And, what luck! We had accidentally timed it perfectly. Most of the wasps had gone and the birds, who had not seen the grapes all summer, just didn’t seem to notice them there. This gave us time to harvest most of the bunches over  a few days and leave a few for wildlife to have.

What to do with all these grapes? The taste test resulted in squished up noses. The grapes did taste nice without their jackets so the decision was made to squeeze them. Mr Trug has had great success with sloe gin in the past so he was quite keen to attempt a little wine making. The juice was absolutely amazing. In fact it was unbelievably good. Lots of mmmmms and oooohs from anyone who tried some. If I had been more organised this year and planned for bottles and freezer space then I’d have kept some. Not to be this year but instead it was put through the fermentation process. This was not without it’s hazards where yeast was left in the sitting room by the fire to ferment with the lid on. Doh Mr Trug! It scared the life out of me when it exploded catapulting lid and foamy creamy clods up on to the ceiling narrowly missing the flat screen telly. I can still see the stain up there now.

The result was three demijohns of red, well, what shall we call it? Stuff.

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Please excuse delightful peeling wallpaper post bathroom flood

Will it be a cheeky little red 2015 or a lot of cooking vinegar? We will have to wait and see.

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The orchard was bulging this year with apples. Pears were leaner but not a bad crop overall. The previous owners had kindly labelled a map of the trees they did know and I spent quite a while in early summer labeling up the apple trees with tags.

Green tags.

I know, you’re shaking your head pitifully. True, with the trees in leaf it is virtually impossible to see the labels. They will be moved or replaced over the winter. Lesson learnt.

Sadly a lot of the apples made it on to the compost but we did store some in drawers in the garage each in their little paper pockets. All the good pears went in (Conference and Comice) too but we have struggled to keep them and most were thrown. A rethink next year on more cooking prep/freezer space.

Our favourite had to be the Worcester Pearmain. Delicious. So lovely to now take my own apples to work to eat. A little of home came with me for as long we had them to eat.

Of course, Mr T has had a go at cider making despite hating cider with a vengeance. I suspect this had something to do with episodes in his youth-hood. The apples were crushed with the tiniest apple press I have ever seen. Kindly lent to us by a friend (cheers Dave) but it could have been made for dollies. We moved on to the next size up (cheers Warren) but even that took a millennium to complete. The plastic barrel is now full and festering, I mean fermenting.

I am very pleased the apple collecting came to an end. Apples, apples apples, every weekend! But we did leave a good few lying around for the wildlife. Unnerving teeth marks could be seen chomped in to the flesh but I’m guessing that will be from the badgers and foxes plus maybe Fraiser the golden retriever who pops round on his morning patrol. Them rather than the Hounds of the Baskervilles I imagine lurk in the blackness out there once night falls.

Finally, we have the hazelnuts or cobnuts or filberts. Whatever takes your fancy. My mum and dad call them cobnuts and talk with real passion about them as part of their childhoods. We have quite a few hazels which were growing cobnuts and I promised dad some once they were ready to pick.

The squirrel spies had been listening. I patiently waited, following advice, for September to come round and for the little nuts in their wraps to start to brown. Then they were GONE! Just like that. Damn those pesky squirrels. They either ate them, chucked them about and ruined them or hid them. Occasionally a little stash turns up in the compost, under a pot etc.

So, I presented my dad with…

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Pitiful isn’t it. Oh well.

Squirrels 1 – Miss Trug 0

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Compost Under Construction

The new old house came with its own compost bays. Two massive bays actually brim full of black gold! The previous owners must have worked hard to fill it as there was plenty of good compost ready to go and you can tell, when digging the flower borders, that over the years a great deal has been added to break up the heavy soil.

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As you can see Mr Trug emptied the left hand bay barrow by barrow for me to mulch around the garden with the gorgeous, dark, sweet smelling stuff. The borders under the house front windows looked velvety and well-tended instantly. Great for suppressing the weeds and it perked up the plants there no end. What I didn’t want to use for the time being was bagged up for now and set aside for autumn mulching. However, another bay was still full.

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You can see that these bays were pretty much cobbled together from bits of this and that. It didn’t look very attractive and although hidden behind some carefully placed Mahonia and Holly bushes when viewed from the top of the orchard it wasn’t pleasant to come across when following the path round in to the copse. This was our chance to change the location of the compost. After some discussions it made sense to move it up to to the top right hand corner of the copse. It’s very shady and wooded there so hard to dig and I am sure and I am guessing equally hard to cultivate in terms of attractive planting.

After some swotting up in books and online we decided on four smaller bays where the collected debris could be placed and shredded in one and then move from bay to bay as it degrades with the final bay being the oldest.

Over to Mr Trug to construct. Digging out the ivy was hard work and we are sure not all of it has gone. Something we are going to have to keep dealing with we know.

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Decking boards were the cheapest and hardiest to use. Routed posts allow the boards to be slid in and out easily to make bigger bays, or leave air gaps between each board.

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Nearly there.

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Nearly there.

Bays complete, he then dug out the old full bay and filled one new one straight away turning the compost ready for it to brew a little longer. We weren’t too concerned about disturbing any little Tiggy Winkles as the old bays were made of sheet metal and pretty impenetrable but a pile of leaves and lawn cuttings have been left alone until the spring just in case any have snuggled down in there for the winter.

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At the moment the boards are open. An experiment by Mr T to see how this cultivates the compost (or not).

New material already gathered that isn’t too thick is mown before heading in to the bay. We’ve been borrowing my parents shredder but had to give it back. One is on the Christmas list for Santa.

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Good for the compost, maybe not so good for the mower.

We inherited a massive fallen Ash which is currently perched awkwardly in the ‘v’ of another neighbouring Ash in Witchy Woods behind the new compost bays (you can just see it leaning in the corner of one of the photos below). We’ve been clearing the huge swags of ivy that look suspiciously part of the reason the tree came down, ready to eventually take the tree out for firewood, and in our clearing found some buried pieces of old fencing.

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Maybe once it bordered the whole property but there were only a few left, two being curved, abandoned and half buried. They’ve even got some pretty twists attached for decoration. I’m guessing Victorian as only they would have gone to such effort to embellish stock fencing!

I’d asked Mr T to make me a leaf bay after hearing so much about the magic of leaf compost and we felt these old pieces of fencing might be ideal. We are completely surrounded by trees, plus the copse of our own so we might as well make something out of them.

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The fleece is off. Hot work building leaf bays.

Lined with chicken wire it should allow the air and rain in to help the leaves degrade quickly.

Lovely job honey!

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Don’t feel too sorry for Mr Trug doing all the building while I stand around supervising proceedings. Since this photo the leaf bay is full to the brim. As chief leaf collector I’ve been busy and with achy raking muscles to boot. I’m looking forward to autumn next year when it will yield its magical elixir. Lovely.

 

 

Hello… it’s me.

No, not Adele, (my sad attempt at being topical) it’s me, Miss Trug. You might have forgotten I was here. Apparently blogging takes greater commitment than I bargained for. It is hard to fit in what is meant to be a ‘passion’, to the hurly-burly of day to day life. Mainly my day job just gets in the way. Infact, Mr T would say it is a day and night job due to me needing to bring it all home each night. It’s a chore.

Well, that plus me trying to negotiate the challenges of  using wordpress after it deleted a post, then also the rewritten post. Grrrr! I abandoned the whole thing at that point.

But now I am back, thanks to a delightful dose of Shingles that has parked me on the sofa this week. Despite all the unpleasantness of that I have had some quiet time to saturate myself in all things gardeny via t’internet and my books and the motivation came to put my thoughts down.

Lots has occurred in the world of Trug Towers. Mainly not pretty stuff to be honest. A lot of hacking, digging and destroying which doesn’t sound very positive at all but is, however, a necessity to begin the improvements.

Generally, the story would go like this:

Hmmm, lots of Ivy here. Let’s pull some out.

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Hmmm, more even thicker Ivy. Lets dig this out.

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Oh, hello, what’s this? An abandoned large tree stump hacked off and left to be consumed by Ivy, fungus and the entire slug population of East Sussex. (Mr Trug duly summoned to add stump removal to the list of stump removals).

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You get the idea.

We’ve opened up a fair bit of garden by doing this and discovered some pretty grim tree/shrub management along the way. As you can see in the photo above, there are old coppiced Hazels but they have been coppiced very badly. None have been cut to the base to create the stool needed for the plant to regenerate healthily but hacked off at about waist height leaving some sections to die off and others to sprout far too high up. Such a shame as some of them are quite a size and must date back many decades. I am hoping that this season we can do a better job and coppice them correctly. It will be worth a try at least and if they refuse to regrow then we will give in and remove them. (Add a few more to Mr T’s stump removal list, he’ll be thrilled).

This particular section of garden slopes away in to Witchy Hawthorn Woods and while I was digging out all the endless Ivy discovered the previous owners tried to tackle the soil dropping away using a variety of methods. Bricks, lots of bricks, broken terracotta pots, livestock wore fencing (part buried) more terracotta pots, plastic sacks and clinker (I believe the owner dabbled in pottery making and had a kiln). It all had to come out as far as I was concerned but not all was thrown. The old bricks are perfect for path repairs and I collected a large box of the terracotta to use for pots and general this and that around the garden. It was then over to Mr T to go wild with the chain saw to cut back the Hawthorn’s that were encroaching Triffid-like on to our garden. This has brought in huge amounts of light which will do the greenhouse directly next to it no end of good.

This done we then needed to tackle the old beech hedge that ran from this section along the path and field to the corner of the flower garden. Our intention was to remove, yes, you guessed it, all the ivy that was strangling it and encourage the hedge back in to a healthy state.

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Here it is mid summer. It looked really promising. Unfortunately once the ivy was tripped out it looked like this.

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Oh the horror! Not a great outcome really is it. Everything is just so overcome by the endless ivy that once it has gone the plant is nothing more than just hanging on for dear life. Upset though I was, it had to go and the whole remaining hedge was taken out. That gone the garden was free to slip away down to tree growing level so a new plan had to be agreed for fixing the boundary. In one sense this isn’t a bad outcome as a new hedge will be far healthier. You can just about see the barbed wire fence of the field owners which stops where the Hawthorn thicket became impenetrable. This means we can level off this section of the garden, put in some post and rail fencing and then line with a new Beech hedge. It will take some time but be worth it. I love those autumn colours.

(Photo of current hedge-less state in it’s way)

The soil we’ve dug out here is amazing though. I am guessing it is years of the Hawthorn shedding leaves which has decomposed to make a lovely mulchy soil. It’s almost too good to leave there and I might have to wheel barrow a few loads out and spread it about the garden to help break up the heavy soil.

Next job then is to source some post and rail fencing.