Seems a long time since spring and the bees busily pollinating the peaches - and what a crop we had again thanks to them!
 
 Seems a long time since spring and the bees busily pollinating the peaches - and what a crop we had again thanks to them!
 
 
Be helpful to bees - We need them! Grow flowers all year round and don't use pesticides. 

One of the reasons I try to attract bees, butterflies and hoverflies into my garden, tunnels and orchards by growing lots of flowers for them all year round, is that pollinators and bees in particular, are vitally important to us. They pollinate almost all of our fruits. Without them there'd be no apples, pears, plums, blackcurrants, luscious peaches, apricots, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, even almonds - and indeed so much more of the most delicious and healthy foods we can eat! Our diets would not only be a lot more boring without them - but they would also be quite a bit less healthy. We depend on them so much and yet they are increasingly threatened by pesticides, a lack of habitat and wild food sources They can't just buzz off and exist without food until we want them to come along when it suits us and conveniently pollinate all our crops!  They are increasingly under threat, and I cannot understand how so many farmers fail to think about what would happen if there were no bees to pollinate rapeseed, flax, sunflowers and so many other seed crops s well as fruit. A few farmers are growing wildflower margins in some fields now - but while it looks very impressive - it's no good if you're attracting the poor bees with nectar-rich flowers to then poison them with pesticides in crops right beside them! Indeed there is also evidence now that even wildflower margins are often actually contaminated by pesticides and weedkillers like Glyphosate which are carried over from one year to the next in soil, despite the fact that the makers predictably say that they are not!
 
In praise of autumn raspberries
 
Huge berries of autumn Raspberry Joan J
Huge berries of autumn Raspberry Joan J
Looking back in my diaries - this time two years ago the ground was littered with raspberries in the fruit garden after a severe storm which did a lot of damage everywhere in the gardenThe autumn raspberries were just carrying a really huge crop, and it was so sad to see so much fruit lying around wasted the next day. We live on a very windy hill - often with wind coming from different directions on successive days and our autumn is often very wet too. So last year I decided to experiment with growing my favourite variety 'Joan J' in large 10 inch pots of peat-free compost, in my fruit tunnel. I'm happy to say it's been a huge success, with plenty picked every day from just 10 potted plants on grow bag trays. They're a long way from finished yet - there's still a lot more flower buds on the canes. 
 
If you prune your autumn raspberries my way - leaving some of this autumn's newly fruited canes to continue grow the next year, rather than cutting them out completely as recommended - those canes will actually fruit again in early summer the following year! After they've finished producing their second crop slightly lower down on the same canes - only then do you cut those twice fruited canes right down to the ground. I prune all of my autumn raspberries this way now - only cutting down half the canes in spring and feeding the plants well. It works perfectly with all of them. I really don't understand why so many of the fruit 'experts' are still recommending cutting them all right to the base in winter or early spring. It's a waste of potential fruit and means that the plants probably only produce about 2/3 of the crop which they potentially could! Amazing what you find out by chance sometimes - or by not having time to prune at the recommended 'right time'! Autumn raspberries are always reliable croppers and even if they're relatively neglected, they'll go on cropping far longer than any of the summer varieties. If I only had a small garden - I would definitely grow autumn varieties rather than summer ones. They give you twice the value from the space!
 
All of the autumn varieties are incredibly vigorous though and some can become a nuisance in a small garden where space is at a premium.If you're prepared to feed and water regularly though - it's possible get very good crops from pots or tubs, and even to lengthen the season by growing some in the sunnier spots in the garden and others in a more shady place. This has the effect of holding the shaded ones back a little. This is how many of the gardeners in the great old country houses used to lengthen the season of many fruits - they were masters at producing fruit and vegetables over as long a season as possible, their methods were often fascinating and many are still worth copying today. I've tried many different varieties of autumn raspberries over the years - and I think the best two are currently Joan J and Brice. Both are equally good. If you want a good yellow one - Fall Gold is very tasty with large berries and that will also fruit twice a year pruned my way.
 
This time of year is a non-stop 'Fruit Fest'!
 
Some mid-October fruit
Some mid-October fruit

Pictured here are just some of the 'soft' fruits which you could be eating from your garden in October,  as well as orchard fruits like apples, pears etc.  I like to have as big a range as possible all year round as I don't buy any.  At the top of the picture is the authentic 'Black Hamburgh' grape - grown from a cutting from the original vine in Hampton Court Palace (no - not what you're thinking - wouldn't dream of it!!). Some years ago they were restoring the glasshouse that it grows in at Hampton Court and they propagated some for sale at Hampton Court flower show, to help pay for the restoration. Clockwise next to that is grape Muscat of Alexandria - the berries would be bigger if thinned - but my life really is too short to thin grapes!) then a large fruited alpine strawberry 'Reugen' (from Chiltern seeds), physalis (cape gooseberry), blueberries 'Darrow' and 'Brigitta Blue', raspberries 'Brice' and 'Joan J', strawberries 'Albion' and 'Everest' and an unknown fig in the middle, that has a heavenly honeyed flavour! Figs are one of my passions - I've lost count how many at this stage, I must do a head count - but I think I have about 14 varieties now as I treated myself to two new ones recently. They grow really well and fruit best in large pots, so even the smallest garden could grow one. Brown Turkey is the most easily available and also one of the most reliable outside in a sunny spot. Under glass or polythene you can grow the more tender varieties which will crop twice in most years, in May and again in September and October.

 
Most people associate this time of year mainly with orchard fruits - but as you can see - despite the fact that it's late-October - there's still a huge range of other fruit that you can be eating now from the garden or polytunnel - quite apart from apples, pears and plums. Experts have been stressing for some time how important it is to get at least 'five-a-day'. In addition to vegetables and other fruits - berries of every sort, either fresh or frozen are a vitally important part of a healthy diet. Now they say that eight portions a day or even more is good, and that the more fresh fruit and veg you can eat the better. So it makes even more sense to grow your own organically - particularly when you hear about soft fruit being sprayed with antibiotics like streptomycin - as I mentioned last month. If you add in the other pesticides, fungicides and weedkillers...... unless you buy organically grown fruit and veg, or grow your own you just don't know the half of what you're eating! And anyway I certainly wouldn't want to be paying even non-organic shop prices. It's really unbelievable that in autumn blackberries could be 3.99 for 200gm!! It makes my huge carrier bags full blackberries in the freezer look just like money in the bank - it's certainly money not spent anyway. That's what I really call 'Eating well for less' to quote that inappropriately named TV programme!  My only problem is trying to find space for so much fruit at this time of year - but at least free-flow frozen berries fill up all the gaps and air pockets in freezers, making them more energy efficient! Freezing isn't the only option though....
 
 
Another good way to preserve some types of fruit is by dehydrating
 
Grape 'Lakemont Seedless' - before dehydrating 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grape 'Lakemont Seedless' - before dehydrating 

This is something you can do with most fruits (and lots of other things too). Blackberries are no good for doing this as they are horribly 'pippy' when dehydrated, but it works a treat with the seedless grapes you can see in the pictures here. Irish organically-grown sultanas - who would believe it!  Celebrity chefs please take note - if you're interested in buying these, they would cost at least 10 cent per sultana - but given the prices most still charge in their fancy restaurants even after the Celtic Tiger - I guess they could still afford them!!  6 lbs 8oz/ 2.95kg of seedless grapes reduced down to an intensely flavoured 1lb 10oz/740gm! My son says they're such a luxury item that they should be covered with edible gold leaf in order to do them justice! They really are the most delectable thing in creation when semi-dried, but still slightly chewy. Grape sweeties! I'm going to have to put a lock on the freezer! Just like the Rosada baby plum tomatoes - they're so high in natural sugars when semi-dried that they don't freeze solid, which means that they are far too deliciously edible straight from the freeze - just as they are! Loose freezing dehydrated berries is a great way of reducing the amount of space that fruit takes up in the freezer though - and space is always at a premium at this time of year. We don't tend to eat very much jam in this house, and there's only so much fruit you can actually eat fresh, so dehydrating is a good alternative because this way, fruit takes up a lot less space. Everything usually dehydrates down to less that a quarter of it's original volume.

 
 
 
Grapes into sultanas- after dehydrating overnight!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grapes into sultanas- after dehydrating overnight!
My precious sultanas don't get buried anonymously in cakes though, except in the case of very special ones - they're way too tasty for that! They're used on top of breakfast muesli, on salads, as garnishes, dipped in melted dark chocolate (only healthy 75% plus naturally!) or re-hydrated in a desert wine beside home made pate at Christmas (sorry), perhaps with some ripe 'Stinking Bishop'- the legendary soft cheese of 'Wallace & Gromit' fame from artisan cheese maker Charles Martell - who sadly doesn't do mail order but who conveniently just happens to farm very close to my cousin! Fruity preserves - especially fruit cheeses, which are more like thick 'cuttable' jellies - rather like quince paste, are lovely with all manner of rich pates, cheeses, cold meats and game and are sold for that purpose in up market cheese shops. I made some great damson cheese a few years ago which was delicious with my duck pate. Just the right amount of tart, mouthwatering 'fruitiness' to contrast with the rich fattiness of duck liver. It went down extremely well at my midwinter solstice party that year. I think the home-made sultanas would go well with it too. Someone called in to LMFM after our former 'Tips from the Tunnel' show a couple of years ago and said it was more like the 'Gerry Kelly eating' show! They were so right - we tend to munch our way round the tunnels trying everything! That's the truly great thing about growing your own.  I could never buy most of the things that I grow in my garden from shops even if I wanted to. I love trying to grow all sorts of unusual fruits as well as the more normal ones. And I love eating them too! After opening up the polytunnels most mornings I've had at least 3 of my '5 a day' before I even get near the breakfast table! 
 
Dehydrators really make the most fabulous healthy crisps too - no oil needed for most things. I only very lightly spray things like parsnips with a little oil just to prevent them from discolouring. The main problem with dehydrated fruit and veg is stopping yourself from eating them all at once - they're just so delicious! I now have a large Sedona dehydrator - and the reason I went for that particular one is that it gives you the option of closing off half of the drying cabinet if you just want to do a small amount of produce. That means it saves energy. There are lots of cheaper options though - with some starting at around as little as £30.00. Good for dipping a toe in the water to see how you like them, or if you only have a very small amount of produce. It's really not worth dehydrating some things though. For instance dehydrating black grapes into raisins as a snack is a bit ridiculous and not very cost effective if you only have one or two bunches - when even organic ones are readily available everywhere. I have hundreds of bunches of grapes in a good year though - and I don't juice them as I'd be losing a lot of the precious nutrients in the skins, I don't make wine either. I prefer preserving any that we can't eat immediately by dehydrating or just freezing them to throw straight into smoothies. I would thoroughly recommend a dehydrator as a great Christmas present for anyone who grows a lot of fruit. (Sorry to mention that word again!)
 
 
Time to think about planting bare root fruit trees and bushes
 
Autumn is the best time to get bare-root fruit trees or bushes of all types planted - while the still is still relatively warm they'll get a head start, and if the winter is a wet one it may be your only chance to plant until well into next spring too! If you've ordered any, now is a good time to prepare the planting sites properly before the soil gets too wet. Dig over the soil well to improve it - you can't do no-dig here unless you have exceptionally good soil to start with. No fruitappreciates poor drainage, so you must prepare your planting site really well. For a young bare root tree - a single whip maiden (in other words a single stem with no side branches or just one or two small ones - I would prepare an area of about a metre or so square, gradually tapering my preparations into the surrounding soil so that it all seamlessly blends in. This may seem quite a lot of trouble to go to - but when you think that the tree will last for at least your lifetime and hopefully give you good crops every year - then it's well worth it. I started off with very badly degraded soil which was more akin to sub-soil - so believe me I'm speaking from experience when I say that preparing the ground properly really pays off!
 
If I'm planting into new ground with a covering of grass - I strip off the top layer of grass - about 2-3 ins including the roots - over an area of about a metre for a small fruit tree. Then I set that to one side, dig out the top layer of soil, about 30-40cm, depending on the depth of the top soil, breaking it up as I go. You can see where top soil ends - the sub-soil is usually slightly lighter in colour as it's less full of humus - although in many badly degraded soils on industrially farmed land, the topsoil and subsoil look exactly the same! I then fork the bottom - pushing the fork in as far as possible several times around the base of the hole, wriggling it around a bit just to loosen - not to turn over - the compacted subsoil, so that roots will be able to penetrate down more deeply. I then put the turves of grass I've stripped off, grass side down in the hole, replace some of the topsoil mixed with only a very small amount of good homemade compost to provide microorganisms like beneficial bacteria and fungi, placing the tree or bush on top of this mix.
 
I also sprinkle some powdered beneficial micorrhizae  directly onto the roots first. Research has shown that doing this really 'supercharges' the roots, encouraging them to make far more roots quickly and also reach further. This means that the tree roots can then forage further for nutrients to feed the tree. The beneficial microorganisms help to kick start the soil life that also help tree roots to establish. (There is a product called called 'RootGrow' available now in most garden centres. You can buy it in small packets which will treat about 6 trees - or in larger amounts which works out better value.) These supplements of micorrhizae are not cheap, but I think they're definitely worth it.  Any trees that I've used them on have always established amazingly fast and well. After I've sprinkled the powder on, I work more of the topsoil/compost mix gently around the roots. It's important not to overdo the compost in holes when planting trees as this has been show to discourage roots from foraging any further - this is particularly the case with container-grown trees, which I'm not keen on. Container-grown trees from garden centres and nurseries have often been ignorantly planted with the root stock far too close to the top of the compost - or even buried altogether - which can cause endless problems and also negate the dwarfing effect of the root stock. For this reason you must make sure that the root stock is at least 4 inches/10cm above the eventual finished surface of the soil!  Measure the depth before you start, by putting a bamboo cane or piece of wood across the hole after digging the hole then constantly checking the depth as you plant and fill back in..
 
When planting I also scatter a couple of very small handfuls of bonemeal over the whole area (which supplies phosphates) and also seaweed meal (which supplies potash, soil-conditioning alginates and trace elements). These also encourage good root development, fruit bud formation and also stimulate biological activity in the soil. The microbial life in soil can be damaged by chemicals such as pesticides, artificial fertilisers and weedkillers and can take a while to recover - so it needs all the help it can get. Despite the manufacturer's claims - chemicals do kill soil life as I mentioned earlier this year, and also run off into the ground water killing a wide range of aquatic life too, including frogs (see studies on Roundup in the USA). A well-fed and vitally alive organic soil, full of all it's associated soil microorganisms and bacteria shouldn't need such additions - but if you're starting off on a new allotment site on possibly former agricultural land, then it definitely would!!  Anyway - the more help your plant's roots to get established quickly the better - particularly in our now uncertain climate  You'll only have the chance to do this once - so better to be safe than sorry and prepare your planting site really well. I can guarantee that it will pay off. It's a good idea to do a pH.test before you start too - if you don't already know the pH of your soil, as lack of calcium (lime) or poor calcium transport due to poor drainage and water logging can cause bitter pit in apples. If your soil is 5.8 or less - then it will need some lime. I like to use Dolomite lime or calcified seaweed which a re gentler than ordinary garden lime. Or conversely, you may be planting something like blueberries which need an acid soil - in which case do the pH test before you buy them unless you're prepared to grow them in containers, which I think is too much faffing around unless you're prepared to always water with rainwater. Most tap water has far too high a pH!
 
On my very heavy clay I also fork in a fair amount of pea gravel or grit over an area of about 5-6 times the width of the hole dug for the tree. This gives good drainage forever - whereas compost will gradually disappear over the course of a few years, and when it does the ground can sink, and create a 'sump'. You may not have to use pea gravel if you're soil is reasonably well drained. Always plant higher rather than lower to prevent a sump forming as the ground settles - and never use a lot of compost or manure which can promote soft sappy disease-prone growth.
 
Planting this way will leave a very slight mound which will settle just a bit gradually when firmed after planting. and it's no harm anyway as it helps water to drain away. Never plant anything into a hole lower than the surrounding area. Common sense, particularly in our increasingly wet climate -  apple trees don't grow in ponds!. I then cover the prepared area with something to keep rain out and the weeds down, while I'm waiting for the plants or trees to arrive. This may seem like an awful lot of bother - but believe me good preparation will ensure rich rewards for many years to come! Preparing the planting sites in advance in this way means that you're not delayed by unpredictable weather and can put plants in as soon as they arrive.

 
What rootstocks are best for apples? Do your homework first!
 
I've talked about root stocks for Apple trees before - so all I'll repeat is that MM106 and M26 are without question the best semi-dwarfing rootstocks for healthy apple trees in our climate here and n most of the UK too. They eventually grow to about 12-15ft, but can easily be pruned (particularly M26) to keep them small enough for training even as cordons etc. The only exception to this are what is known as the 'triploid' varieties like Blenheim Orange, Bramley's Seedling, Jupiter and Holstein Cox, which are more vigorous and not really suitable for training as espaliers or cordons, unless you want to spend all your time pruning! Triploid is a bit of a technical term but all you need to know is that a triploid has no good pollen of it's own and will not cross -pollinate other trees. It also needs two other compatible pollinators which are flowering at the same time in order to produce fruit itself. Good nursery catalogues give lists of which varieties are compatible with each tree. Unlike the smaller more dwarfing root stocks, MM106 and M26 don't need staking after the first year or so, once established. In my experience M9 and Coronet are a disaster in our wet climate here - unless they're in very well drained spot - and even then trees the tree need to be permanently staked and never seem to be really healthy on them. As Jorrocks used to say about a horse's soundness a couple of centuries ago - "No foot - no 'oss!" - the same goes for fruit trees. No roots - no tree - for want of inventing a better quote! 
 
As the root stock affects the vigour of the tree - they naturally affect it's health also. Both MM106 and M26 root stocks will give you the healthiest trees. In addition - the specific variety which is grafted on to that rootstock also naturally has an effect on that. If you're planting a variety that's particularly susceptible to a disease like scab or canker in our damp climate - then it's possibly still going to be susceptible, no matter what root stock it's on - but preparing the planting site properly and making sure it's well drained, will go a long way to helping to prevent disease! To use another 'horsey' analogy too - always ask the garden centre what root stock their trees are on - NEVER tell them what you want - or they may say that's what they are! If the tree doesn't have the particular root stock clearly printed on the label - if they're honest, the garden centre will say they don't know and in that case you can ask them to find out - but still don't tell them what you want. An apple tree is not cheap and is a very long term investment - don't just get palmed off with any old thing or you'll be sorry - but you may not discover that for several years! Again I speak from bitter experience!
 
Choosing varieties
 
I think in general it's much better to go to specialist nurseries who have good catalogues. If you're buying from a catalogue - then look for varieties that do well on your type of soil, in your particular climate and on the right rootstock. That's particularly important here in Ireland with our often wet climate - and with weather predicted to become wetter with global warming/climate change then it's something we all need to think about. You also need to ensure that they will pollinate each other - unless you have plenty of apple trees nearby in other gardens. A lot of garden centres sell totally unsuitable varieties like Golden Delicious or Cox's because that's what people see in supermarkets, and so are the only names they know. Varieties like those are only truly happy and productive in a dry, warm climate somewhere like Kent or the south east of the UK. You may get a few apples from a Cox tree here in a warm well-drained soil - but if you've only got a small garden why give space to a tree that's at best only going to produce a few scabby apples? A much better alternative is 'Queen Cox' (also named Holstein Cox) which has exactly the same fantastic flavour, apples 3 or 4 times as big and is a very heavy cropper if you have other suitable pollinators (Discovery, James Grieve and Grenadier are good) or if there are apple trees close by in other gardens. It must have two other pollinators though as it's another 'triploid' variety, and so is not suitable for strict training. It can make a lovely bush-shaped tree though, about 15ft high and wide if kept under reasonable control, and it is hugely productive with fruit that keeps for months, until well after Christmas. I've given it to several friends over the years as a present if they have large gardens, and they all love it.

Bare root trees are definitely the best buy in the long run - it doesn't take nearly as long as you think to get fruit, even if you're planting what's known as a first year maiden whip (a single stick on roots in other words) - these will start to fruit in their third year. This is not only the cheapest but by far the best way to buy apple trees. That way you can be sure that not only are they on the exact root stock that you want (from reputable nurseries) but also - as I've said before - they will establish more quickly and far better than anything with it's roots going round in circles in a container - and they're much cheaper too. Often half the price. It's a no brainer!  Containerised trees often take several years to settle down and while you might get a few fruit immediately from planting a containerised tree - but they will never establish as well and be as good as a bare-root planted tree and may need staking all their life - particularly if they were growing in an unsuitable peat-based compost. If you compare a 3 year old container tree and a tree that has been planted as a bare root 1 or 2 year old, in about 5 years time, I can guarantee that the bare root one will win hands down in terms of development and cropping. 
 
If you haven't already got a few catalogues - get them fast! Many of the good nurseries have pre-season offers right now. Popular varieties sell out very quickly, so order as soon as possible. Good catalogues are a great free source of expert information and increasingly nurseries are selling wonderful old heritage varieties. In addition the good ones also tell you what regional climate they are suitable for. Deacon's Nursery on the Isle of Wight is a terrific catalogue. - although for some reason they seem more expensive than many to send to Southern Ireland by mail order - but if you have a friend in the North - you can offer them some future fruit in return for taking delivery of your precious trees. I've done that several times. There's not much I wouldn't do to get my hands on new or tasty fruit varieties as you've probably guessed by now! Some nurseries will only send to UK addresses - so that gets round that problem too. R.V.Roger, of Yorkshire have the best range of blueberries I've seen - including 'Darrow' which I have and think is the best tasting ever - with huge tasty berries. Ken Muir's are great for strawberries, grapes and most other fruits - definitely the best quality plants by mail order I've ever bought (they have Albion strawberry - a brilliant perpetual variety) Dobies are good too - but a smaller range though. Blackmoor's also have a good range and will send here reliably - they also have a 10% discount for their followers on Twitter - useful if you're buying a lot! These are all nurseries that I personally have experience of - but there are many more.
 
The range is sadly more limited from most Irish nurseries, and many are still propagating apples on M9 root stocks which I would never buy again! They are a disaster in our wet climate! At the risk of repeating myself - trees grafted onto M26 will fruit just as quickly, are far healthier and don't need permanent staking, MM106 is also good. There's masses out there online, with more and more nurseries selling heritage trees. When you're buying those - you're buying historic varieties and preserving history too! Some of my apple varieties here go back at least as far as 1100 AD! It fascinates me that like old roses, people have kept particular apple varieties going for hundreds of years! I always feel it's almost like holding the hand of someone going back over the centuries - you'e just touching the other end of the branch which they touched! What an amazing connection! How interesting to hear Monty Don quoting that recently on Gardeners World in relation to roses - it's an expression I've often used here on my blog and one my father often used!! Irish nurseries that I've heard good reports of are English's and Future Forests in Bantry, Co. Cork (they a great range and do mail order to UK as well as Ireland) http://www.futureforests.net/ 
There are plenty of Apple Days on at the moment around the UK and Ireland - so get out there and see the huge variety there is to choose from. You'll be amazed at diversity - and equally amazed at their long history!
 
Apples don't just delight the eye or the palate - they hold history in their branches and often evoke fond memories - of other times, places and people. Other fruits can do the same. My 39 year old stock of 'Gento' strawberries, from the long lost garden where I grew up, is still going strong. I would hate to lose the plants, and that connection after all these years. They are still just as productive and as delicious as ever. However, being a bit sentimental - I don't just love them for the wonderful flavour. I can still vividly remember my toddlers rambling through the strawberry bed in our first home - accompanied by Lara our much loved, very greedy but very gentle labrador who was their constant companion!  It didn't take her long to learn precisely how to elicit the delighted chuckles as they fed her those strawberries and other garden delights! How they laughed as her tickly velvet muzzle gently and delicately picked the treasure from their vulnerable little fingers!  Peas were a great favourite of hers too. A gentle 'old soul' - Lara 'nannied' toddlers, puppies, kittens, chickens, ducks and lambs - all with equal love and caring tenderness. Almost human some might say - but actually better than most. That memory always makes me smile - and then brings a tear to my eye. As I sit here, I can see over the half door of the kitchen, right down through the cherry walk to the trees to the very bottom of the garden where our dear Lara is buried, under the 'Rambling Rector' rose, planted on the banks of the stream that she used to love to wade in on hot days. Rather appropriate now I come to think of it - always rambling - sometimes a bit undisciplined, and often slyly stealing food from the kitchen counter if no one was looking! But very much loved by all who knew her - for fifteen years......
 
Dreaming again! Where was I?..  Ah yes- fruit!! As soon as the fruits in your fruit cage have finished producing for this year - take the top netting off to let the birds in so they clear up any pests that may be lurking. If it's fox-proof, you could even put your hens in there if you have any - they work wonders! They are the very best way of getting rid of gooseberry sawfly if you've had it - as you often may on first year bought-in plants. Gooseberries and blackberries also greatly appreciate the extra nitrogen in the hen's droppings - but don't leave them in there more than four weeks or so - or they'll 'sour' the ground. It's wise to take off the top netting just in case we get snow too - (I hope not again!) - or the weight of it can actually collapse the whole fruit cage!

Accidental 'still life' - autumn colour in the polytunnel - figs and a grapevine intertwined
Accidental 'still life' - autumn colour in the polytunnel - figs and a grapevine intertwined
Make sure you take long enough to really enjoy all the wonderful riches of the fruit garden at this time of year.  It's a feast for the eyes as well - there are potential  'still life' paintings everywhere one looks. I'm longing to get my paintbrushes out, but never seem to have the time these days. Everywhere I look there is beauty just waiting to be captured in paint forever. Somehow photos don't really have that almost tactile - 'certain something'. Maybe a painting enhances the 'essence' of the personality of something in the same way that good sculpture does. 

 

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I enjoy sharing my original ideas and experience of growing and cooking my own organic food with you. It's most satisfying and also complimentary that others find "inspiration" in my work. If you do happen to use it or repeat it in any way - I would appreciate very much if you mention that it came from me. Thank you.

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