I’ve always wanted to grow a Fig tree, I’ve just never had the room. I used to work in an office where there was a beautiful and quite large Fig tree outside the window. It was covered in Figs come late Summer but no-one ever picked them. It was so sad.
So here is my opportunity to put things right and grow my own Fig tree. I planted it on a south facing wall in a protected corner of the garden. As per RHS Fig planting instructions I prepared a pit and put stone slabs on all sides to contain the root system. Then I put rubble and broken bricks on the bottom too. It seems a bit harsh but apparently it helps the tree fruit better.
All I know is that, if and when my Fig tree produces fruit I will definitely be picking the fruit and none will be left on the tree!
I’ve actually planted something. I dare not plant anything in the main garden yet as there are too many hob-nailed boots around. But there is a small patch of earth just outside the gate that seemed like a safe place to put some lovely, evergreen Blueberries.
Every single Blueberry I’ve grown in the past has been deciduous. The leaves turned a beautiful flame colour in the Autumn but then dropped and sprouted again in early Spring. This was lovely and no doubt I’ll plant more of this kind in the wider garden. If I can, I’ll always plant something edible rather than just decorative and evergreen Blueberries seemed the ideal plant to keep this spot interesting throughout the whole year.
This variety is called Sunshine Blue. It’s a mid-season variety with pink flowers and can grow to about four foot.
Now that I live in Portland I felt it was time to get to know my local Apples better. I know the names of British Apples quite well, Ashmead’s Kernel, Beauty of Bath, Blenheim Orange. They all have lovely traditional names. But when it comes to Apple varieties here in the Pacific Northwest I’m a beginner.
I’d love to turn part of my new garden into a mini-orchard. In reality that probably won’t materialise for about a year but that gives me plenty of time to research and prepare the ground for planting next Autumn. So when I saw that my local nursery was holding an Apple Tasting event I had to be there. For research purposes you undersand!
I’ve had most success with fruit when I’ve grown what has evolved locally. By that I mean that the variety has been perfected for my local climate and may have even originated there. When I lived in Bath, UK I grew an Apple variety called Queen Cox that was perfectly suited to the wet weather there. It blossomed and we dined on Apple Crumble all Autumn. So I’m planning to do the same here and grow what the local farms produce.
I sampled a lot of apples! To be honest by the end of it I couldn’t discern the sweet from the tart. But there were a couple of varieties that stood out for me and I’ll be trying to incorporate them into my orchard plan.
Ashmead’s Kernal – the old favourite reins. Good all rounder for eating, baking and keeping
Brock – sweet and tart and good for eating and baking
Buckeye Gala (red) – great tasting eating Apple
Cameo – Super sweet eating Apple
Cortland – Tart and great for baking
Elstar – for its taste and amazing colour, good for baking
Honey Crisp – Sweet eating Apple and a good keeper
King David – Sweet and tart and good for baking
McIntosh – sweet, good for eating, baking and keeping
Rubinette – Great for Apple sauce
Spitzenberg – Sweet and tart and can be used for drying
Swiss Gourmet – A sweet eating Apple
Starkinson – for its sweet tast and amazing bright red colour
20th Century – this had a really interesting almost flowery taste.
About a week ago I discovered an Apple tree hidden in the garden. There was a huge overgrown climbing Rose next to it and I’d missed the Apples that were up high until recently. After cutting down the rose, I could get to the Apples. I’m pretty sure that the Apples are an eating variety but they do taste a little sharp. I asked the previous owner what variety the Apples were but she couldn’t even remember planting it. So I’m still none the wiser. If anyone can name the variety, please let me know.
The Apple tree is planted right next to a Crab Apple tree. Infact, it’s so close that it looks like they were planted in the same hole. Sometimes people to do this to ensure good pollination but it’s a bit messy for my ‘neat freak’ tastes. There is another Crab Apple in the garden in a different location so I might try to remove the one that’s close to the Apple later on.
While I was harvesting the Apples a woman came over who works in a building opposite. She said she had seen me in the garden and was itching to come and talk to me about what I was going to do with the garden. She said she had looked at the garden for many years and felt sad that no-one was looking after it. Then a whirlwind of activity started and things began to happen. She was a fruit grower too and she suggested growing Asian Pears as apparently they do very well in Oregon. And she also suggested that I buy some seed from The Territorial Seed Company. She said they are a nice family-owned business. So I’ll be checking them out. Nothing like a recommendation to spur me on to buy seed!
I just love the way that gardening brings people together. I actually prefer being in my front garden than the back garden right now because every time I’m out there someone will stop and talk to me. And I always learn something, be it a tip on how to look after something or just a name to a nameless plant.
My Tayberries are fruiting and they are literally covered in fruit that is plump, juicy and tastes amazing. I’d like to say that they are really difficult to grow and ‘it’s been a struggle but worth it in the end.’ But really, I haven’t lifted a finger. I haven’t fed them, or watered them at all. They grow in a pot that is frankly too small. I did prune them, last summer after they fruited but that’s it.
boring talking to my husband about this last night. Soft fruit really is the gift that keeps giving. My Red Currants, Black Currants, Strawberries, Blackberries, Raspberries, Tayberries, Blueberries and now Pineberries take up little of my time, yet when they fruit they do so spectacularly.
I’d say the Raspberries are the easiest of a very easy bunch. I think I could cut them down with a flame-thrower and they’d still grow back in Spring and fruit prolifically in July. There’s no stopping them.
If I really were growing fruit and vegetables to feed my family I’d fill my garden with soft fruit, Potatoes and Lettuce (hmmm maybe Rhubarb and Seakale too) and sit back and watch everything grow. Maybe my diet would be a little strange but honestly, I’m getting sick of putting in all that effort for a handful of Tomatoes (and that’s in a dry year!).
This year I harvested over 1.2kg of fruit from one Red Currant bush! That’s the most I’ve ever had I think. I’ve made Red Currant Jelly before but I wanted a simpler recipe because I knew that I wouldn’t be keeping the jam for very long as it would probably get eaten in a matter of weeks.
The bush was so laden with fruit that I even had to cut off some of the branches as they had bent over with the weight.
The recipe was a simple one. Just pick the fruit (which took about half an hour) wash and weigh the fruit. I had 1.2kg of fruit. Put these, stalks and all, into a preserving pan. Cook the fruit for about 10 mins squashing the fruit to release the juice. Add the same quantity of sugar (1.2kg)
and bring to the boil. Boil for eight minutes then strain through a muslin. I bought this stand for the job. And it worked well.
Sterlize some jars in the oven and when the mixture is strained pour it into the waiting jars.
Regarding the amount of sugar – it is alot. Certainly when you weigh it out it looks like an excessive amount. Now that I’ve tasted the jam I think you could get away with putting less sugar in. Maybe even two or three hundred grams less. The resulting jam I’m guessing will be a little more tart but personally I’d prefer that so I’ll be reducing the sugar next time. If you like your jam sweet then go for equal proportions.
I was checking over the garden and I noticed that my Pineberry is fruiting. I almost missed it since they are so very small. I estimate that the largest one is no bigger than my thumbnail. Teeny tiny!
And also the flowers have had a tendency to droop their heads to the ground so the fruit is almost impossible to see. But, yes they are indeed fruiting. They are a greeny-yellow colour with a blush on the one side that is turned to the sun. The seeds are very dark red and it's this 'back to front' colour that gives it such a strange look.
They look like unripe Strawberries but when you pick them and eat them they are soft and extremely juicy. They do taste a little of Pineapple. But really, they taste more of Strawberry I think. Maybe that's because they look like Strawberries and my brain is confused... but I think they taste more of Strawberry than Pineapple.
And…they are also sending out lots and lots of runners. Usually, my Strawberries get the fruiting over and done with and then concentrate on producing runners. But the Pineberries have decided to get everything over with at once and they’re doing both. I’m busy potting them up so that I can double my crop next year and give some away to gardening friends. Form an orderly queue now.
We spent the Easter holidays at a lovely little rural hotel in Mallorca, Spain. It was idyllic. Not least because there were Lemons the size of your head (if you’re only four years old that is) and you could spend a happy afternoon picking them…
…counting them, moving them around and counting them again. I stand amazed at the things that will amuse children.
It’s that time of year again, when my Peach tree is in full flower with not a flying insect in sight. I’m not sure why nature does this. It’s clearly not optimal to base the whole of your future existence on one short week in the Spring when the ‘one vital tool you need to reproduce’ hasn’t even hatched yet.
So… it’s a good thing that I’m around with my long paintbrush. If I didn’t dab each flower and transfer the pollen from one flower to the next my Peach tree would no-doubt be barren. As it is last year, together, we achieved almost 100 per cent pollination. Hooray!
Let’s see if we can do it again.
After a quick spin around the garden this morning I spotted this little guy sunning himself on a newly opened Blackcurrant leaf. I find the leaves on fruit bushes fascinating. They are always an interesting shape and usually a glorious colour too. If there was a design – it’s a pretty good one.