Summer success stories and (yet more) jam
Driven indoors by a sudden and dramatic thunderstorm, I am now making jam – a satisfying September-during-a-thunderstorm kind of activity. I should mention that jam-making is taking place on a wood-fuelled cooker so no worries about power cuts affecting the process.
Plum jam this time. This follows successful batches of blackcurrant and blackcurrant-and-worcesterberry when those crops were harvested several weeks ago. I never make strawberry jam: it seems a crime not to eat them fresh (or give to friends and relatives) even though at full production we can pick up to 8- 10 lbs a day. I seldom make raspberry jam for the same reason – although I will say that my raspberry jam is rather good.
Jam-making today, however, is less about being an efficient grower and preserver of our own produce and more about recently finding last year’s plums still lurking in one of the freezers and it is there they still lurk. The jam is being made with this year’s gatherings.
So, fruit crops so far this summer have generally been a success, including the best crop of raspberries we have had for some years.
The summer here at an altitude of 1200′ in the Black Mountains has been cool and dry. I spent weeks in July and August carrying water from various collecting tanks and barrels to precious things in pots and newly-planted out summer crops.
In spite of keeping things alive by watering, the low temperatures meant that some half-hardies such as Cosmos and Nicotiana never really got going. However, not to dwell on the failures but to celebrate the successes…
Brassicas have done well – particularly broccoli and Red Winter kale (from seed I saved 2 years ago) which we have been harvesting for weeks. Some excellent looking cabbages are also growing well.
Garlic and onions were not quite as good as last year – but last year’s were exceptionally good – all now harvested, dried off on windowsills and awaiting plaiting to be hung up in the kitchen. As we are still using last year’s garlic I think all recipes in the foreseeable future need to be heavily laced with garlic…
I always grow several varieties of garlic on the basis that if one doesn’t perform others might. This year Provence Wight by far outshone the others so I may just stick with that next year. Will be buying as soon as they are in stock locally to be planted out next month.
I wasn’t expecting much from the potatoes this year because of the dry summer. The earlies, International Kidney, were not brilliant. However, the Remarkas, which I grow as a baking potato, when lifted today have done well. The Charlottes are still in the ground as rain stopped play today.
Broad beans, peas and mangetout were good and runner beans are cropping well. Spinach and chard are good and have just started using the main crop carrots. And a new lettuce mix I tried this year has cropped for weeks and still going strong.
The pumpkins and squashes have finally got going and several fruits have set so if the frosts hold off for another month or so we should get a crop of both.
The surprise success this year in the potager has been Munchen Bier radish. I have grown this as a winter-use radish on and off over a number of years but hadn’t realised that the seed pods are edible – excellent when young and green in salads. The chaffinches also thought they were tasty but fortunately I had harvested enough seed to sow next year before they devoured the lot.
In the floral line particular successes in later summer have been:
An un-named (note to self – must do better at labelling) clematis romping over a mound of cotoneaster in the cottage garden has been flowering for months.
The sweet peas were lovely, now finished. We’ve removed them but kept the hazel domes for some structure in the winter garden.
Lovely poppies popping up amongst the veggies in the potager seem to colour co-ordinate themselves beautifully with their bed-mates.
We trialled asters in the cutting garden this year. They have provided some lovely much-needed late colour. Will definitely include them next year. And the Monardas have been great in the cottage garden.
And I spotted the first flowers on the harebells I’ve been trying to establish on a dry grassy bank in the cottage garden.
Success with scything rather than strimming:
More successes with up-cycling things – my favourite this summer was 3 roof lights (thank you builder friend Gavin) turned into mini cold frames.
Success with our natural swimming pond – this summer it has been crystal clear with no sign of algae just pond skaters and water-boatmen, the Emperor dragonfly and the occasional Mabberley.
Our new map of the garden painted by Caroline has proved a great success with our visitors – seen here at the entrance to the potager and used for a garden guide which visitors use to navigate their way around the 6.5 acres.
Visitors have also appreciated the tea room. One visitor wrote in our ‘comments’ book:
‘what a wonder! Could live in the tea house!!! So many beautiful spaces in and out.’
Perhaps we should start selling cream teas with home made jam in the ‘tea house’? But that would mean more time spent in the kitchen and not in the garden…