Well, things are well and truly green and flowering, particularly with this last week of rain. But, to backtrack a bit, at the beginning of the month the last of the fruit trees finally bloomed – the quince, a hardy variety called Meeches Prolific. It is self-fertile, but I like to help the bees along by brushing the stamens to spread the pollen. I really like quince and this tree produces lovely sweet ones. Anything to encourage the fruit to form.
The photo below, taken mid-month, shows the raspberries just beginning to sprout new growth. I got these raspberry canes a number of years ago from a friend who had purchased a “berry pack” containing a gooseberry, a cultivated blackberry vine and 6 canes of an unidentified variety of raspberry. My friend had only use for the first two items, so naturally I adopted the 6 canes, plonking them in a square plot of newly worked soil (now “caged” with garden wire and stakes). They proceeded to fruit the next year, late in the summer, so I suspected they were the Autumn Bliss variety that produces late, on the new growth canes where other varieties fruit earlier on the previous year’s canes. They have also spread and completely filled in the “cage”.
Of course, there are the inevitable escapees from that “cage”. Tunneling suckers crop up in the neighbouring currant bed. Since I have limited space in this urban garden, I have to keep the raspberries restricted to their own space. The suckers have to be dug out, but I try to get as much root as possible so they can be potted up and offered to friends.
I’ve been able to trick the raspberries into producing two crops – one early summer and the other the normal late summer through early autumn. At the end of the fruiting season, I cut the canes back to knee height rather than all the way to the ground. The following spring, new growth will sprout from these truncated canes for the early crop – and when finished mid-summer, they are cut down to the ground. Meanwhile, the new canes have come up from the ground, filling the space, ready to produce the later summer and autumn fruit. The first blossoms appeared late this month for the first fruiting.
The other berries are also in bloom – 1. loganberry, 2. blackberry, 3. strawberry, and 4. blueberry. Berries to follow very soon!
The grape vines have been trimmed late this year, but that does not seem to have affected the new growth – as you can see from the photo taken earlier in the month. It is now covered with bright green leaves and tiny clusters of grapes. The vines produce more leaves than fruit, which are tiny and slightly sour. This is the North of England, after all! It was originally planted as a “green” screen, for privacy next to our patio with its outdoor eating area. However, I have found uses for the leaves, the young shoot tips and even the small sour fruit in the kitchen. But, more on that in future posts when it is time to harvest.
By mid-month, the fig tree was showing signs of life as well. I had wondered since it had been given a traumatic cut back and repotting late last autumn. That saga was detailed in one of my posts at the time, The Sophisticated Fig Newton, where I used some of the jam I made from the harvest of Brown Turkey figs produced by the tree.
Another garden saga involved my “strawberry pot” in which I don’t actually grow strawberries, but plant trailing thymes in the little pockets. Last year the entire pot was taken over by a massive ant colony. I tried so many home remedies to get rid of them, such as sprinkling with dry polenta and spraying with a vinegar solution. (I won’t go into the gory details, but quite by accident I discovered that vinegar and slugs don’t react well together.) Eventually, after a series of ineffectual results, the ants and the “solutions” had taken their toll on the plants. Salvaging what thymes I could, it was time for drastic measures. The whole pot was submerged in water in a plastic garbage bin and then the lid was put on. Eventually, most of the colony was eradicated this way and I was able to empty the pot, clean it and replant again this year – this time on little feet elevating it off the ground to discourage more ants from taking up residence. All the new thyme varieties are of Thymus citriodorus – ‘lemon varigata’, ‘Doone Valley’, ‘lemon king’ and ‘silver queen’.
The herb garden is really beginning to fill in. The oreganos and sage are spreading, acting as ground covers just like the wild garlic in the shadier parts under the bay. The mint is restricted to a rectangular trough-like pot (otherwise it would spread everywhere). Some of the more scraggly thymes have been mounded up at the base and the crown of the plant with compost to promote more root growth from the woody stems, making a bushier healthy plant. Meanwhile, I’m harvesting herbs galore, making: hortopites (“Greens pies”), Sardines and fennel sauce for a rustic pasta, lovely puffy herb popovers, a minty salad dressing, an aromatic salt mixture, and finally testing my rosemary sugar in a lemon polenta cake.
The wild garlic is now flowering and will soon disappear back into the earth, so I’ve been using it while I can. I’ve also been reading numerous posts on cooking with wild garlic using different terminology which got me doing a little research. In the Americas, wild garlic is often referred to as ramps. Ramps are actually Allium tricoccum or North American wild leek. What I have in my garden are ramsons (Allium ursinum), a wild garlic related to chives that is native to Europe & Asia. The ursinum comes from Latin for bear, and the plant is sometimes known as bear’s garlic (or bear’s leeks) as it is a known favorite of brown bears who dig it up in the wild. To confuse matters more, North American ramps are sometimes called ramsons. This may be because the North American word ramp is derived from the word ramson – probably by British colonists to North America who associated the native wild leeks (Allium tricoccum) with ramsons (Allium ursinum) that they were familiar with in the Old World. I know they are different botanically, but I wonder is there is a difference in taste between these two “wild garlics”? So far I have not been able to unearth any information on this. If anyone knows the answer, please let me know.
Tasks to be done:
- Tidy up the strawberry patch; take out older plants and fill in with new ones rooted last year from runners.
- Look into screening solutions for the strawberries, otherwise the birds will get the fruit (again).
- Take soft cuttings of the lavender and other herbs to propagate more plants.
- Find good homes for the extra raspberry canes that were removed from the currant bed.