Notes from the Garden Shed

Harvest – take a moment to roll that word round in your mind! Good images?  

We’d very much like to hear your harvest experiences, which we’ll put together for our December issue – anonymous if you prefer.  Send your harvest stories to comms@globalgeneration.org.uk.

Mine is harvesting apples with my mother; me picking big juicy cooking apples high up in the tree then throwing them down to her – poor mum’s hands!  

It’s been a good year for both apples and pears especially after a rather ‘difficult’ start to the year, the orchard skip in the garden producing a good number of both fruits.  

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Not all apples are ready to eat straight off the tree; many need a period of storage to ripen. Those apples I picked with my mother lasted (and improved) until the following Easter.  

However storing apples needs careful planning and not all apples can be stored. One of my ‘pocket money’ jobs was their care, wrapping them individually in newspaper then into trays. Woe betide if I let one rotten apple spoil a tray!

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This is one of the great advantages of apples over other orchard fruits is that many of them can be stored for months after harvest.  Late ripening varieties (like most of the cooking apples) are the best for storing and are usually picked near to the first frost or slightly earlier if birds are beginning to ‘share’ the harvest.

You might be looking at your harvest and thinking ‘seed saving’ especially if you’ve had a good crop although it’s hard to use your biggest and best for seed stock but just think about having your own line of vegetables – free of charge!  

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Which brings us to the issue of F1 hybrid stock.  If you missed the F1 on the seed packet your harvest probably would have been good but if you use seeds from this harvest next year’s plants/harvest just won’t be anywhere near as good. This is because somebody (one of the big companies) had forced the pollen of one variety into another variety’s flower to produce a hybrid. In the first year you gets what’s called hybrid vigour but the following year not – so you have to buy more F1 seeds to get the same harvest! Get it? You’re dancing to the tune of big business!

Of course a well-planned veg plot is producing ‘harvest’ the whole year round – especially leaf like Swiss chard and Claytonia and some of the oriental veg like Pak Choi and Mizuna and Mubuna that we grow in the 12m poly-tunnel for the cafe.

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Last month I used the term ‘Hips & Haws” which some of you said you hadn’t heard before. Hips are the brilliant red berries of the wild brier or dogrose, good food for winter Thrushes and for us to make ‘rose hip jelly’.  Haws are the red berries of the hawthorn.  The name comes from Anglo Saxon haga, a yard or enclosure – obviously a shrub that they used to make hedges or enclosures as we still do today – hawthorns takes ‘layering’ (or pruning) very well to make superb thick hedges.

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Rather patchy autumn colours this year but a local ‘smoke bush’ has glorious glowing amber leaves at the moment!

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Bumblebee Conservation Trust: Fact of the Month.

In the UK there are over 270 different types of bee; 25 of these are bumblebees, one of them is the honeybee.  The others (just under 250 species) are solitary bees. These bees can be amazingly effective pollinators and as the name suggests tend not to live in colonies like bumblebees and honey bees.

There are over 20,000 bee species on earth and most of them are under threat by human sprayed pesticides.