Harvesting, germination and why we (sometimes) don’t like deer

I’ve not had much time in the garden recently since there are a number of issues that have arisen mostly relating to the shop.  One of my members of staff is poorly, so I had to do extra shifts.  An exciting delivery from a new supplier came during one of my afternoons off so I had to go back down to the shop again to unpack it.  Palmer and Harvey were one of my main suppliers, who have now ceased trading, so I’m having to work out where and if we can get the groceries we normally get from them.  And someone put a planning application for mirror faced cube camping pods in the Glen which I felt obliged to object to.  The weather had been better though – cool and still and a little damp.  S. has bought me for christmas (not really I hope!) two pallet loads of hardwood which arrived on Friday and we spend much of Sunday warming ourselves once by stacking it all away in the woodshed.

Back in the Polytunnel, I have managed to harvest most of the fruit.  I have four more sharks fin melons, ten bunches of ripe grapes, and a very few achocha.  I still have the kiwi to harvest.

polytunnel crops

The grapes were starting to go mouldy, it’s just getting a little cool even in the polytunnel to expect any further ripening.  I think maybe I wasn’t ruthless enough when I thinned out the bunches earlier in the year, although it felt pretty brutal at the time.  I have picked them over and placed them in a glass of water, which hopefully should enable them to keep a little longer.  I also dried some in the bottom oven to make raisins which worked pretty well.  I could do with an easy way of removing the seeds however!  I need to give the vines a good prune now.  I’ve always taken my own approach to pruning; which is to make a cordon stem of the vine from which the fruiting spurs come off.  This seems to work quite well.  I had left a lower branch as well as the high level one, but it still isn’t really growing well.  The branches that come off it are weak and tend to droop down, interfering with the crops at lower level.  This year I’m going to prune the lower branch right out, and remove the wooden framework which also gets in the way of the polytunnel beds.


I’m not sure I’ll try the achocha again.  I quite like it – it tastes like a cross between a cucumber and a courgette, but it seems not to set very many fruit with me.  Only the fruit later in the season have set.  Mind you, I have noticed a lot of spiders in the polytunnel this year and have suspected that they may be eating a lot of the pollinating insects this year.  Maybe I’ll give it one more go and try and start them off nice and early.

The sharks fin melon I consider to be a big success, despite not getting that many fruit.  They are huge and pretty, and tasty see here.  The noodles do retain their noodly texture when frozen, so I may roast the melons as I need them and freeze the noodles in portions.  I’m going to try and save seed (apparently they carry on ripening in storage) but also see whether I can overwinter the vine, since it is a perennial in warmer climates.  So far I have buried one vine root in kiwi leaves (which have mostly shed now) and covered another with it’s own vine remains.  Although it’s not been very cold for the last couple of weeks.

I seem to have got very good germination from the two lots of Akebia seeds.  Both the ones that I sowed direct and the ones I left on tissue in a polythene bag have almost all got root shoots.  I moved them inside onto a windowsill, rather than leaving them in the polytunnel.  If I can get them through the winter, then I may have rather more plants than I need!  If not then I have dried the rest of the seed and can try growing them  in the spring.

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The last few weeks have seen an intruder in the garden.  For the last few years we have seem thankfully little sign of the deer, and I have been thinking they don’t like the smell of Dyson.  However recently they have been in and caused a little damage to a few of the trees, and munched some of the greenery in the fruit garden.  Luckily I don’t grow much for ourselves outside, but I had been getting a little complacent.  We have planted a hawthorne hedge which I am hoping in the longer term will screen the garden and deter the deer, but that will be a long time before it is big enough to do any good.  I’m pretty sure I heard the stags calling in the rut this year for the first time as well.  I wonder whether one of them was looking for greenery to decorate his antlers?  I gather they do this with bracken at this time to make themselves (presumably) more attractive or impressive.  In the past when we’ve had damage to the trees it’s been in the spring, which is more likely to be them rubbing the velvet off their antlers which they grow new every year.


21 thoughts on “Harvesting, germination and why we (sometimes) don’t like deer

  1. I wonder why the deer run the velvet off their antlers?

    I’m charmed to think that the stags are deliberately beautifying their antlers with greenery. I didn’t know any animals consciously adorned themselves apart from humans.

    I’m glad you are warm at home. Even with the heating on I’ve felt cold over the last few days.


    1. I’m not sure why they rub off the velvet. I gather they often eat it since it is full of nutrients. The adornment may be a side effect of the thrashing of the undergrowth rather than the cause of it, I don’t know but it is certainly impressive and destructive! We’ve got snow again, but it’s nice to have a full woodshed!


      1. One of the reasons we opted for a dedicated wood fired range was to make sure we had a source of heat in the event of a power cut. One of life’s rules is that boilers only break down in cold weather (windscreen wipers when it rains, headlamps when it’s dark…). In our first house we had a combi boiler that would never fire up if the outside temperature was below 4 degrees celsius! Hope yours is fixed soon!


      2. Thankfully, a British Gas engineer came yesterday morning and fitted a new fan to the boiler, so now not only is it working but it is quiet as well!

        I’m sure you must be glad not to have the temperamental combo boiler now.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Glad to hear you can be warm again Helen! Yes we don’t miss the boiler, although I need to find a way of reducing the dust from the wood fire! Always a downside as well as a silver lining 🙂


  2. I don’t blame you objecting to the mirror faced camping pods, when the sun is out they will be reflecting beams of sunlight every where, someone dumped an old van on the peat track beside my house and the refection from the windows was more of a nusiance than the eye sore van, thankfully it was taken away within a few weeks,

    I always learn of new fruit and veg with you, grapes I know and yours look good, I’ve only read here about sharks fin melon and cooking melons, as I do not have any covered growing area I can’t even consider them, I know this sounds weird but what interests me most is the dry ground under them in your photo, I think a poly tunnel would be worth it just to see dry soil!

    sorry about the deer nibbles, I hope it doesn’t make a habit of it, Frances

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes the dry soil is a blessing – there is much less problem with slugs for example in the tunnel. The downside is that the soil is dry – you need a good system for watering. I’ve not done too badly this year since I replaced the garden hose with proper blue water pipe. I have a trickle irrigation system (actually old hose pipes that I’ve made holes in!) which are permanently in place and I move the feeder hose from bed to bed as I feel it needs it.
      I do love my polytunnel and would recommend one if you get the chance – the cover on mine lasted about 10 years, and may have lasted longer if I’d looked after it better. I was able to work in there at the weekend when the rest of the land was inches deep in snow.
      I did look into various deer deterents when the deer were a problem before, but if it’s just the odd visit I don’t mind too much. I actually don’t mind them eating things so much as the thrashing at the trees. That little pine took 9 years to grow that big!


      1. wow 9 years, is that little pine a lodge pole pine, Pinus contorta? only they grow fairly quickly here, my soil is perfect for them apparently low nutriant wet peat!

        if I ever have the money I would like a clear roof put on the stone shed in the garden, it could make a wonderful indoor garden, Frances

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes I think it was pinus contorta. I planted both scots pine and contorta, but neither have really done that well. The quickest growing ones tend to get blown over a bit. The soil where this one is planted is a bit shallow and rocky, so I guess it’s taken a while to get a good root system…. Good luck with your indoor garden ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow Akebia, how is that doing now? Did you say that it grows pretty decent from seed? I really like the sound of it also as an ornamental (If someone was looking for an alternative to Wisteria for example) Would you know how long it would be to get fruit if grown from seed?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jeff, The seed I had was really fresh, it may not come so easily from stored seed. I managed to get several seedlings overwintered, they are still pretty tiny, but I have planted four directly into the polytunnel, since I think it will do better with the extra warmth and shelter here on Skye. I have no idea how long it’ll take to set fruit I’m afraid – try Dr Google! I know it does need two different plants to set fruit. These turned out to be Akebia trifoliata, the fruit they came from looked pretty impressive. I think I will have spare plants if you want a couple (or seeds) to try you would be welcome – email nancy at p6resthome.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would love some seed to try for next year if you had any spare? Could pay, or swap but I’ve not prob got anything you’ve not got lol! I try melons every year not getting very far, and this year the plants just died 😦

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s annoying when that happens. Particularly for a long season crop which you know won’t catch up! The sharks’ fin melons are more like squash than melons. The flesh is like vegetable noodles. I’ll put some seed aside for you (fresh if my melon does ripen this year!) I’m saving other seeds and will post about them soon. Or let me know if there is anything else I’m likely to have that you fancy. If there is anything you grow that does particularly well in our climate I may be interested (we’ve got about 50mph winds just now) – particularly perennials.


      3. I’m really pleased with how well my chilli did when overwintered. The one I planted out still did better than the ones I left in pots, but at least I got fruit on them unlike the one (single survivor) that was sown this year. Next year I may try sweet peppers and overwinter those!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Oops pressed enter by accident! I’ve not got much except herbs growing outside just now, as like you say, the deer! The oregano is pretty rampant, I’ve a nice lilac growing, lavender that sort of thing. Planning on getting stuck into clearing an area for Permaculture garden this autumn/winter, but thinking might have to fence it in to protect it.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. If you have deer then I think fencing is the answer. I’m trying to grow a hawthorne hedge, but that will take ten years to become a sufficient barrier at the current rate. Luckily the deer haven’t been around much this year, it is usually mid spring they are most of a nuisance here. My tree field and tea/pallet garden are deer fenced and it made a lot more difference to things growing away from the house.

        Liked by 1 person

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