Autumn tidying

Today was a garden day, it seemed like the first in months. The garden has been doing its best producing wonderful fruit and vegetables, especially plums, apples and tomatoes but, what with the allotment, and the musicians, various other family and work things, a wee trip to Norway and the small matter of the cracked bone in my arm, it is beginning to look seriously neglected.  So today I dug over one of the tomato beds, filled it with garden compost and sowed some broad beans. That sounds like it should have taken, maybe half an hour? But it took much longer because I had to do my annual compost bin turning in order to extract the compost. I have three bins – all plastic cone types and the system is very simple: pile stuff in bin 1, then when it is full, empty it into bin 2, then when that is full, empty that into bin 3. It works, more or less though there’s often a lot of soggy stuff in the process and inevitably a whole lot of uncomposted egg shells, sticks, ‘compostable packaging’, the nasty bits of plastic that come with tea bags and unidentifiable yucky things.  Today,  I found something much more exciting:

WP_20181006_11_42_30_Pro[1]This rather sad thing is a very nifty gadget for holding the tea leaves in a tea pot. It is much loved, particularly by my senior assistant gardener, who doesn’t like to find bits of leaf in his tea. It is very useful because you can use it in any teapot, meaning we don’t need to use the teabags with the nasty plastic in them. It’s been missing for a couple of months, ever since the musicians invaded. We assumed it was hidden under a piece of furniture or in a cello case or something and expected it to appear when they all moved out a couple of weeks ago. But here it is – in the compost bin, no doubt thrown in along with its cargo of tea leaves by someone not paying attention at the time. Sadly, even if we were prepared to clean it up, it is unusable now because I stuck my garden fork through it. At least we now know what happened to it and don’t need to worry about finding it, full of quietly rotting tea leaves under the piano.

In other news, I harvested another ton of green tomatoes and probably the last of the cucumbers: WP_20181006_17_24_43_Pro[1]

I’ve left a cloche over the plant just in case it wants to produce any more. My experiment with the cucumber frame has been an astounding success, with cucumbers lasting all summer. I’ll definitely do that again.  All this gardening seems to be evidence that my arm is more or less back to normal, though I still have the odd twinge when wielding the garden fork to clear out the compost bins.

It’s been a lovely day, the sun was shining, there were lovely orange clouds late in the afternoon


And I saw a wren in the neighbours’ apple tree.


I’ve been away helping my mother in her garden again. She’s in the process of moving house and the garden needed a little tidying up. One of the things that was needed was to sweep up some of the autumn leaves that have started to accumulate at her front door.


There are only a few so far and it was easy to do, with the aid of my father’s trusty leaf grabbers.


Dad was always one for gadgets and these grabbers were probably his favourite garden tools. He used them every autumn in his battle with the leaves. In their previous house the battle was unrelenting and had a particular edge. Their house had no garden, just a small, flower-filled patio. Despite this, all the trees from the neighbourhood would drop their leaves and the wind would bring them to his front door. Dad would sweep them up and the next day there would be more, piling up and making a mess. When he discovered the grabbers, he was almost able to keep them at bay, but the battle raged every autumn.

Then my parents moved to a new house, literally round the corner from the old one. A smaller, more sensible cottage, all on one level, suitable for an older couple thinking about the future, but this time with a garden and a very productive apple tree. I’ve blogged about the apples before – here. The grabbers would be useful for the apple leaves, which Dad didn’t mind so much. At least they belonged to his tree and there were apples as well.  What he hadn’t realised, was that the leaves from all the streets round about would follow him round the corner to his new front door.  He swore the winds had changed so that, instead of piling up outside his old house, they now came to the new one.  So the grabbers came out again.

My mother has never been so bothered about the leaves.  She is more of a flower person, concentrating on keeping her pots looking nice. Here’s some from last year


So, since my father died, the leaves just pile up in the autumn until the wind blows them down the street. When I was doing my little bit of tidying at the weekend, I used my father’s grabbers and cleared the leaves from the front door. A couple of hours later, they were back.


The wind, or my father’s spirit, is still bringing them round the corner to land at the door.  When my mother moves, I wonder if the leaves will come too.

Autumn pleasures

It’s been a long week and it’s only Thursday.  Work is a little trying, extended family issues are rather energy-consuming and there are still musicians all over the house, overflowing into every room.  Don’t get me wrong, the musicians are delightful, just a little all encompassing. Anyway, coming home from work and feeling rather grumpy, I was trying to get into the garden to do some therapeutic composting of some paperwork, when I found a musician kneeling on a large sheet of paper covered in musical hieroglyphs and blocking my exit to the garden. Despite my joy at their presence in the house, this made me a little cross. ‘Enough! Out of my way! and please do something about the pile of dishes in the kitchen’ . ‘Oh sorry. I’ll move. By the way I cut the grass. Did you notice?’ . I hadn’t noticed but I was very grateful. In an instant all was forgiven and this unasked for grasscutting inspired me to do a little gardening myself. I did some pruning, smelled the roses:

WP_20180830_20_00_19_ProWatched some sleepy bees on the lavender:

WP_20180830_19_59_57_Proadmired the brilliant red of the rowan berries and rose hips:

and harvested some potatoes, beans and plums.

WP_20180830_20_25_39_ProWP_20180830_20_29_51_ProEquilibrium has been restored. I may even make another cake for the musicians.



I cleared the courgette and marrow bed this afternoon.  They have been fantastic this year but all good things come to an end. I put down some compost in the raised bed and raked it over:


This of course created a perfect cat playground so I made an emergency visit to my local DIY store to buy broad bean seeds and pick up some cardboard boxes:


and noticed that some of them had faces:


Back to to the raised bed, I laid out all the cardboard, cut a few more holes, and sowed broad beans in half of them:


and red onions in the other half:


It may be a bit too late in the year for this, and I’m not sure the cardboard with the holes will work, but I’ve had a bit of fun:


and so has Bellawp_20171029_15_39_05_pro.jpgBefore the darkness descended, I also cut back the runner beans, leaving the sweet peas in case they manage a few more flowers.

WP_20171029_16_20_24_ProThen I sowed a few more sweet pea seeds in pots in the seedhouse to get next year’s supply going.  So the seasons turn. To a gardener, autumn is about new beginnings as well as endings.

Harvesting in the dark

I’ve come home in the dark these last few evenings and the clocks haven’t even gone back yet.  So I had to forage in the dark for some salad, a torch in one hand, a plastic container in the other, and a black cat trying to trip me up in the dark.  Bella thought it was great fun.  I found all this lettuce, spinach, oriental saladini, nasturtium flowers and radish seed pods:


Add a few tomatoes that have been slowly ripening inside and it almost compensates for the dark nights:



Frog in the strawberry patch

After my pessimistic blog about growing tomatoes in Scotland, we’ve had two days of glorious autumn sunshine.  Today I’ve been in the garden, clearing up and playing with Bella.  She took particular pleasure in a piece of string which had been holding up my peas:

Then I tackled the strawberry bed.  It has done well this year but it was getting rather weedy and there were lots of runners with lovely baby strawberry plants attached.  I pulled back all the Bella-deterring brushwood and got to work.  A tiny frog leapt past, and then a big one appeared


I took a photo and bustled Bella inside to give the frogs a chance to get back into the long grass.  She is a great garden companion but just a little too interested in the wildlife for my liking.  Then I went back to the strawberry tidying:

WP_20171008_13_42_10_Pro[1]And here’s how they looked in March (complete with Bella):

WP_20170312_17_34_14_ProThere’s  whole family of frogs living in the fairy mound next to the strawberry patch, keeping the slugs and vine weevils and other nasties under control. Here’s looking forward to next year’s strawberry crop.

Meanwhile I’ve had a lovely day, enjoying the late autumn sun, I’ve tidied up the strawberries and the bed with the broccoli and swiss chard, I sowed a few late salads to keep this bed of lettuce company, covering it with a cloche :


We had a couple of the Red Falstaff apples


And then a flock of wild geese flew overhead, making it just perfect.

Conker season – not just for the young

The wind is howling, the leaves are falling, October has arrived.  Last night I stood in the garden and marveled at the stunning sunset :

Inspired by this natural beauty, I wandered a little on my way to work this morning, taking in some trees and the local park to see how October was treating us.  I passed lots of sticks and twigs and conkers on the pavement.

I picked one up and held it in my hand as I walked along and I remembered our adventures with two hundred conkers when my sons were smaller than they are now.  You’ll find the story here

I passed three, older, white haired, people, two women, one man, one in a wheel chair, the others walking with sticks. They stopped to pick up conkers and delighted in their shinyness.  Conkers are not just for the young.


Howgate wonders

I know I say this every year but I just can’t get over the wondrousness of Howgate Wonder apples.

wp_20160930_001We bought this tree as a little stick seven years ago and it has produced a joyful bounty every year since.

Howgate Wonder 2013

Here it was four years ago when it was three years old and produced ten apples. This year it is a little bigger and has about twenty grapefruit sized fruits.  They taste wonderful raw but they are too big to just eat like, well, apples. We had the first of these stewed with a little sugar and cream yesterday evening, and even better, on breakfast cereal this morning.  It’s astonishing that such a little tree can produce such amazing fruit with absolutely no effort from me at all, other than digging a hole seven years ago. I still can’t get over it really.


It’s been a dreich* November weekend. I’ve tried to cheer it up by working in the garden and enjoying its pleasures. First, I tackled the leaf bins. The sycamore tree in the front garden has been offloading its leaves. We’ve swept them as fast as we can but more keep appearing and the leaf bins were full. I turned them out and decanted their brown mouldering gold into a big bag:


I piled the rest of the leaf mould onto the raised beds in the front garden to protect and encourage the spring bulbs and overwintering broad beans, lurking under the surface. This has made a bit more space in the bins for the leaves pouring from the tree as I write.

While I did this, I had a look at what was flowering in this November gloom. Here’s what I found:

Self-seeded viola, rose ‘boule de neige’, osteospermum, phacelia flowers, self-seeded golden poppy, rose ‘Benjamin Britten.

I was also pleased to see that the sweet peas had survived last week’s frost.  I cut back the runner beans which had shared their pole wigwam but left the sweet peas to delight me for a little longer:

wp_20161112_005 wp_20161112_004 wp_20161112_003

*a Scottish term which defines November  – but perhaps not so dreich after all

Autumn leaves

Another weekend away, celebrating birthdays. Because we’d missed the pumpkins and moved into bonfire night, I made a bonfire cake:


The cake was one of my standard apple cakes, using garden apples. I acquired the leaf cutter tool recently and have promised leaves on every cake from now on.  We saw some lovely leaves in the trees too:


And the moon:


And my very grown up assistant gardeners stole my phone and took this pleasing photo in a cafe:


I just noticed it just now. It could be a lot worse, I suppose.

The weekend has given us everything autumn could offer: pouring rain, bracing cold, bonfires and fireworks, some good family company and the promise of ice tomorrow night. I need to get back into my own garden and rescue anything that might suffer from the cold.