Welcome back to my blog for suburban gardeners of south east London (and beyond). The “big picture” this month is of my dessert apples on steroids that this year grew to the size of grapefruits despite having always been normal-sized apples up until now. The harvest marks the end of the growing season and I am going to miss that lovely feeling of plenty when I arrive at the allotment to do my usual work stint and before leaving gather up fruits to make desserts, leafy veg like Cavolo Nero and Chard to cook and freeze or do a special recipe, courgette by the dozen to turn into pasta sauce with tomatoes and onions, sweet corn for starters – yes, we certainly eat like royalty from the allotment and this is a big part of the joy of having one.
But what good is all this wonderful produce without recipes? Watching a Russian film recently I observed the actors talking about what they were eating and it sounded novel and rather interesting. Thanks be for the internet as recipes can be found for dishes from all over the world. Russian Cabbage Pie was a revelation and is now top of my list – I tried it and it is delicious.
With pounds of plums in the freezer still to deal with I felt I didn’t really fancy plum jam. I found some great recipes for plum pastes (i.e. to eat with meat and cheese as well as on bread) and this year will be making Plum Jelly.
In a couple of weeks time – especially if the rain keeps pouring down – I shall be harvesting my leeks and I thought Leek, Smoked Cheese and herb suet Pudding looked inviting. I made this recipe using German smoked cheese with my home-grown leeks and it was another delicious meal to put on the favourites list.
Ukranian Stuffed Cabbage rolls also took my eye but flavourwise I found it of middling interest given the number of different preparations that go into the preparation. However, as is so often the case, the day after making the dish the flavour had developed and it was very good indeed.
I came across another quite different recipe in the Ukranian field by accident. Who knew that there they make jam from the berries of the Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus). These are the very shrubs in my garden I have been desperately trying to maintain during the dry spell by regularly deluging with water. Apparently the berries are edible but only once they have been cooked. Ukranian Guelder Berry jam looks rather like cranberry sauce.
At the Allotment
I postponed the usual lavender chop from the end August/beginning September as I noticed that the solitary bees were making sustained use of the dwindling number of remaining flowers as the season wore on. The Wildlife Trusts are urging us to use that familiar gardening trick of extending the display season by using a range of later flowering plants and they want us to do it with nectar in mind, in other words in the interests of the pollinators.
There are numerous articles on the internet about making your garden bee-friendly because our pollinators are a topic of concern at present (no pollinators = no food for humans) and three plants that both supply nectar and are late flowering are Actea simplex, single flowered Dahlias (the shape is important here – good landing pads for insects) and Verbena bonariensis but there are many others. The choice is yours.
I now have a bee box and have seen many on sale this year. However, there are a few things to be aware of to be able to use them effectively please see the articles below –
NB My apologies, there are issues with WordPress links and I can only supply the addresses of these informative articles which I really don’t want you to miss – please copy them into your browser. Rosanna
Plotholder neighbours and I were discussing the problem of biennial fruiting recently and wondering if it might be possible to reverse it. Would you want to eat an apple only every other year? On our site it is a common problem; we buy our fruit trees, plant them, and before we know it these annual fruiting trees turn biennial and fruit only every other year. The problem is said to be due to lack of moisture and poor soil fertility. Reversible? Watch this space for how we get on. I might wish we didn’t have them but I do confess to enjoying tackling these horticultural problems with people who are similarly interested – yet another reason for enjoying being an allotment plotholder.
Biodegradable tea bags
Years ago a friend pointed out to me the fact that tea bags were not biodegradable. I wasn’t convinced. They appeared to be made of paper and I thought they must eventually degrade. Now at the bottom of my garden compost bins I see a few of these tatty and completely unchanged tea bags that I know to be years old and she was absolutely right. A year ago I had stopped adding them to the compost.
I can now report that one particular popular make of tea is advertising on the box that the the tea bags inside are biodegradable. Well done them for bothering – the addition of used tea bags to the compost is probably a pretty significant contribution in England.
Watering street trees
I have adopted one street tree outside my house to water. It had a drooping look about it recently that I don’t usually see in trees and it started to look better once I started to water it. Many of us could do this – adopting one street tree each is not too trying. See my September post about dying portions of street trees. As you will see from what comes next there is cause for concern where I live in south east London.
Trees and Neighbours
If I thought that this was the end of the story what happened next was something of a shock. The neighbours on the other side of my garden had asked me some weeks ago if they could come into my garden and see from my side the tree that they were about to have taken down. We think it died between a year and 18 months ago.
Nothing happened and they reported back recently that they called out tree surgeons who said they couldn’t do the job because the tree was too dangerous – cracked from the bottom to the top. This tree is well over 60 feet tall!
They were told that they would have to get it done by means of a cherry picker but as everyone with a suburban garden knows you can seldom get large machinery like that into a suburban back garden due to insufficient space between houses. It’s stalemate for now.
After being under siege from the determined Cabbage White butterflies that were everywhere this year I have made a note to do more companion planting next season e.g. planting the “smellies” – mint, onions, leeks and marigolds amongst the main crops. The same idea might help with the dreaded carrot fly. This is plus netting and covering, not instead of.
No doubt winter will be upon us by the time of my next post. Remember the real gardening work gets done mostly in the dormant season. Take care – do get in touch with any gardening problems – Cheerio for now from Rosanna.