Tuesday 31 August 2021

And more fruit

First fruits from Discovery - our first apple tree
I think a theme will emerge in today's blog - a mixed story of various successes and failures. Gardening is such a reflection of the whole of life - and constantly there are lessons when we stop to think

These lovely looking apples are the very first fruits of a young tree that I planted at the very beginning of the first lockdown eighteen months ago. The variety is Discovery. Well-named as the first discovery I made it that it did not wish to be trained espalier fashion. I suspect that I was conned by the grower who must have known that the stock was intended for something more compact

As the apples were two weeks ago (mid-August)
Obviously, I should have picked them then
I reported earlier in the year that I had moved it from its original position and replanted it in a pot whilst I scratched my head a bit. To my surprise, it took off in the pot.  Five lovely apples, all clustered very close to the main stem. Sadly, I left them to ripen too long - two started to rot off from the inside inside

In gardening, as in life, we live and learn. So, I now know that I have a patio apple that ripens early - I'll live with that - and count my blessings whilst enjoying the fruit

Food for thought

In fact, there has been much to think about whilst gardening in the past couple of weeks. As the events have unfolded in Afghanistan my thoughts have frequently turned to prayer for the thousands of people caught up in the awful tragedy there

As regular readers know, the Codger project raises funds for the Birmingham City Mission (see next). Quite separate from this we also support the Barnabas Fund - a Christian aid agency that has a good record of helping on the ground in Afghanistan. If you would like to know about their current emergency rescue work please click here - Codger heartily commends the international relief they provide and the explanatory video that you'll see on their page

Tipton's hidden treasure - a reader's bijou garden that includes plants from Codger's Nursery

A timely Thank You!

This is a convenient point to thank everyone who has continued to encourage what we have been doing locally in support of BCM. Every single penny we raise is directed to BCM which continues its excellent work in the City

A reader's query:
did you really supply me with a courgette plant?
Many supporters have sent in photos of their produce and of their gardens that incorporate plants that we have been glad to supply. We appreciate your support and the donations made online. You can see the result here

As you may know, we also handle cash donations. These I transfer to the fund every few weeks. I have made such a payment today and I am very glad to say that we have met the target we had set. Since the beginning of the pandemic that figure amounts £4,000

[Incidentally - and this is particularly for newer readers - we use a charity giving website mainly for reasons of public accountability. It also means that Gift Aid can be claimed bringing the real total to £4,337.89 - this figure includes cash donations that amount to £1891.00 ]

Tomatoes: mixed fortunes

Returning to our theme of success and failure. We are enjoying a continuous supply of tomatoes (see today's photo gallery at the end). Does this count as a success? Well, most varieties are doing okay - both in the greenhouse and outside. I'm getting a lot of small fruit so am keeping my eye on those varieties that are a bit bigger
You can read more about the growing method
in two June blogs - 19th and 25th

I am particularly pleased with Golden Sunrise - a medium-sized yellow tomato that I've got growing against an outside wall in a framed growbag (see blogs for 19th and 25th June). They get sun (when it decides to appear!) for only half the day so I have cut back the leaves to encourage ripening. A number of readers have been in touch about tis point. There seems to be a lot of green growth this year so I recommend taking this step 

As a side-point, I grew these vines up twine rather than canes. All was well until the twine rotted where it met the soil - so I retrofitted two bamboo canes just in time to avoid a major collapse

A bit more sunshine would be in order. We are getting such varying reports of what to expect. I prefer to trust the Meteorological Office via the BBC rather than the tabloids - you can check the weather for September by clicking here

Early signs
Less happy

Take a look at this photo (left). It was taken five days ago - it shows the one disease tomato growers dread most: blight! At least, that it what I suspected. To my horror my suspicions proved to be correct. When I checked again a couple of days ago, most of those plants growing nearby were also showing signs of the stems turning brown

Drastic action was called and the slain plants committed to the green bin. I have checked again today and find that the few plants I left seem also to be going the same way. I think it was two years ago now that Monty Don's crop was completely wiped out. It happens to even the best. Sadly, celebrity is no protection!

Secateurs getting the treatment
Stopping the spread

All the plants affected so far are growing outside. So, my main aim is to keep the greenhouse safe - that's where the biggest disaster could occur. As far as I know, there is no cure for blight

When visiting David Austin Roses I've seen the gardeners cleaning their secateurs with methylated spirits so I hunted around my shelves. Unless the bottle is hiding I must have used it. Coming across some old Jeyes Fluid (potent stuff - is it still allowed?) I deployed that to sterilise my secateurs

Obviously, I also need to avoid hand transmission but I read that blight is airborne so we cannot be sure that my elementary hygiene will prevent the spread

It occurs to Codger that blight could be problem this year since ripening is late. If you want to get more info and what more can be done then click here for advice from the Gardeners World website


Now a slightly happier tale. Normally, we do not get many plums. I blame the pigeons. In the Spring they roost in the pear tree where, as far as I can tell, they peck away at the fresh flower buds. For a reason best known to them the lower branches are less affected so, this year, a good picking is on offer - quite soon, I think

And old Codger is ready! I shop at the local M&S Food Hall about once a month. And there, before my eyes, just what I need - see the photo below. Plum crumble will soon be on the menu

[Incidentally, a free tip. My local enquiries have evinced a useful bit of information. M&S do their yellow labelling first thing - immediately before they open at 8:00am. That is worth knowing - if you get there early, you'll get the best bargains (trophies, my mother called them)]

A more unusual fruit

Earlier this year I was listening to Gardeners Question Time (BBC Radio 4) when there was some reference to cape gooseberries. Bob Flowerdew's comments piqued my interest so I bought a packet of seed to give them a try

Very easy to grow. I now have a couple of plants just inside the greenhouse. The fruits grow very conveniently inside their own packaging. They have their own taste - a hint of vanilla, I'd say. Another way of adding interest and flavour to the garden

I included the spoon in the photograph (left) simply to give the scale. The fruits are small but perhaps they will come bigger next year

I also have some potted cape gooseberries growing outside. They are rather like Chinese lanterns. Anyway, a couple are available if anyone is interested - as are other perennials which can be planted out now. As we have mentioned before, local readers are welcome to take a look at what plants we have in stock

Bird feeder problem - solved?

We enjoy watching birds on the birdfeeder but there's a problem with the seed discarded by the birds. This problem was worse when we used cheap seed - soon the pile of wheat grew and started sprouting

We now use the dearer 'no-grow' seed that has been kibbled but this is not entirely problem free. A gooey mess can still build beneath the feeders. So, we are having another shot at keeping the area smart and, hopefully, clean. I have assembled a collection of potted plants. As you can see in this picture the result is reasonably attractive

Second flush

Before we finish, a point on the positive side. Our main flower border would, I think, come into the 'mixed border' category - perhaps very mixed border would be a better designation

Our border with the current second flush of roses
Some gardening books advise against including roses. I understand why - they are more disease-prone when crowded by other plants. In our case, this has been a rule to be broken. And, at this period of late summer, we get the compensation: a second flush of roses

It is a truly mixed planting. You may spot the self-sown sunflowers in the background. Always a lovely surprise when, late season, they appear

If you take a look at the gallery below you'll see a few of the roses. And, also an interesting imposter - please let me know if you recognise it!

Today's crop from the greenhouse
Tomatoes finale

Well, we are almost done for today. It has been good to hear from readers in the last week or so - quite a few queries about tomatoes. Just to reiterate and elaborate some advice:

  • Pick the fruit as they near ripening and finish off in the dish. This will bring on the others
  • Cut away leaves to reveal the fruit - they need sunlight to ripen
  • Reduce growth overall so you concentrate the plant on ripening. This includes topping the plant and removing trusses that don't stand a chance of ripening this season
  • Keep an eye open for blight and exercise plant hygiene
I also get asked about recipes for green tomatoes. We are afraid that Codger is the last person in the world to ask. He once tried a production run of green tomato chutney, carefully following the instructions. The first sign of trouble was the metal tops to the preserving jars beginning to corrode. Do you know that green tomato chutney can double up as paint stripper?

Best wishes from the Garden Codger!

Probably our oldest regular reader - Vera is 90 years young today!

We thought the sweet peas had packed their bags - so, a nice surprise

Dahlias have a fascination of their own at this time of year

I rather like this shot of Gertrude Jekyll

The second flush of Gertrude Jekyll en masse

Finally, the imposter - found growing among tomato seedlings
Codger's best guess is Red Veined Sorrel
But it loves the stream - not what the books say!

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