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Harvest time

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The hot weather at the start of the summer has definitely had a big effect on many of our crops.  Without going into the usual veggies, spuds

onions

beans, beans, beans ….   we have had maybe our best ever returns from a number of different sources.

Let’s start with the less well known.  The Sichuan Peppercorn tree has yielded six spice jars worth of dried peppercorns, three times more than the last good crop.  This might not sound a lot, and in purely monetary terms is only about £15 worth – but ours are organic and come from a happy tree! Very fiddly to pick and even more fiddly to separate the husks from the seeds (it’s the husks we need) the resultant spicy stir-fries make it all worth while.

Sichuan on the left

In the greenhouse, I’ve just picked 30lb of white grapes which have yielded 2 gallons of pure juice

and it looks as though the black ones

will yield at least double that, so there’s going to be a few bottles of wine in the racks in the not too distant future.

Outside, I’ve collected about 240 pounds of our Tom Putt apples , most of which is now either casked up as cider

 or in the freezer as pure apple juice.

Staying on the ‘booze’ front, the Fuggles and Goldings hops overwhelmed me this year.  It takes a lot of hop flowers to make any weight at all.

Hops on the right

One needs about 4oz of dried hops for a five gallon brew of beer.  To get 4oz dried needs around 30oz of fresh hops. Doesn’t sound a lot?  30oz fills a full sized carrier bag to almost overflowing – that’s a lot of hop flowers!  Two brews are already drinking nicely and there’s enough dried and frozen for the rest of the year!

And now it’s time to ‘harvest’ some firewood!

It’s all go at Nant y Bedd!

June is busting out all over

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Well, it’s certainly all happening down at the pond.  The wildlife are almost taking over. After the millions of tadpoles came the newts, popping up to the surface for a breath of air then diving back down.  There seem to be more great diving beetles this year including some smaller ones which I take to be babies, or more probably something altogether different.

Then a couple of weeks ago we started to see the damselflies, red ones and blue ones. Firstly singly then more recently coupled together as they lay their eggs around the marginal plants.

But the great delight has been over the past few days as I was able to witness the amazing metamorphosis of the scary looking nymphs into that most beautiful of flying machines, the dragonfly.

These early ones are Southern Hawkers.  Later on we’ll get Gold Ringed and the magnificent Emperor, which ‘patrols’ around the pond, checking out who’s daring to swim in their territory!

So back to the Hawkers.  The first thing to see are the nymphs waiting in the water for the right time to clamber out and up an iris leaf.  We make sure there are always sufficient tall stems for them – leaving last year’s flower spikes on the purple loosestrife for instance.

Once up the leaf they somehow cling on and start to dry out in the sun.

Now the magic really starts, firstly a thin white line appears on the back of the nymph and the head and eyes force their way through the narrow opening.

First glimpse of the green head

Once the head is out, the body starts to emerge ….

A bit more comes into view

…slowly, very slowly, the body sort of wriggles its way further into view.

On the way

Almost done

Then in the blink of an eye it flips up and grabs hold of the now empty nymph case – just missed that bit with the camera!

Wings emerge

At last it looks a bit like a dragonfly.

It takes a while for the wings to fully dry out and fill their final shape

wings still folded

Apparently this is the last time those wings will be in that position.

Then a final ‘battery charging’ with wings fully extended…

Ready for take off

..and it’s gone.  leaving behind just the empty case.

All done!

A fantastic experience and one which could easily be missed.  Fortunately they emerged across three of four days so I was forewarned when the later ones were due and was poised with the camera.

I’ll be keeping an eye open for any further larva cases in the hope of seeing an Emperor emerge.

What a wonderful wildlife pond! It pays to work with nature.

Compost Making Course

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Practical Organic Compost Making and its use

Wednesday 30th May 2018

10am – 3.30pm

with

Sue Mabberley at Nant-y-bedd, Fforest Coal Pit, Abergavenny, NP7 7LY

Composting is a key element of organic growing. Transforming waste products from kitchen and garden into microbially active compost to enrich the soil is an immensely satisfying process.

The raw material….

We will begin the day with an indoor session on the theory behind the process of successful compost making and different approaches including traditional bins and how to make a compost windrow.

Following a delicious 2-course home-made organic lunch we will move into the garden to make a compost windrow and tour the garden to see composting in action – bins at different stages of the process, including leafmould bins and compost and leafmould in use in the garden, including potting compost mixes.

… the finished product

The workshop will cover:

  • why we should all make compost
  • the basics of a controlled aerobic composting process including what materials are suitable for composting, the importance of mixing materials and temperature control
  • how to sort out a compost heap/bin which isn’t performing
  • how to speed up the process
  • how to use your compost in the garden, potting mixes and mulches and no-dig veg growing
  • how to make leafmould and its uses in the garden

Level of expertise required?

The workshop will be equally suitable for novice or seasoned composters.

 Bring with you

Sensible shoes and outdoor wear.

Go away with

Lots of ideas, free sachet of organic compost activator to get you started and loads of enthusiasm – we guarantee!

Booking a place

Places are limited to 10 to ensure maximum opportunity for discussion.

To book please phone Sue on 01873 890219 or e-mail sue.mabberley@btconnect.com

Cost £45     Special introductory offer

 The course will be led by Sue Mabberley. Sue has a First Class Honours degree in Environmental Systems, has professionally devised and delivered practical environmental training courses and most importantly has gardened organically at Nant-y-bedd Garden for nearly 40 years making fantastic compost.

 

 

First prize

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Yesterday was the annual Llanthony Valley & District Show and Sports.  The weather wasn’t the greatest; wellies and 4x4s were the order of the day.  In addition to the usual vegetable show classes, the Garden Club runs a number of classes for – for want of a better term – vegetables in the ground.  This year there was really only one class which we felt was for us – Most Productive Vegetable Garden.

So we entered, and won! As Sue is now saying, it shows that a veg garden can be both pretty and productive.

Here’s a few of the veg the judges thought worthy of the title.

Cabbage

peas

Sturon onions

and the piece de resistance

the runner bean arch

This year we’ve been following the No-Dig philosophy of Charles Dowding.  Seems to be working!!