Orchard, Autumn and Tomatoes

I managed to just about finish clearing the section of orchard I was aiming to.  The weather has turned a bit damp now – so I’ve lost this years’ window for weeding.  The soil just gets too claggy when it’s wet.  I’ve left a nice sorrel plant there, and I may transplant some more in there.  I have found some with lovely large leaves in various places round the field.

large leaved sorrel
Large leaved Rumex acetosa – common sorrel

I have also planted a few of my seedling heath pea plants along the border which I plan to keep digging up, and a marsh woundwort plant as well.  I haven’t got round to tasting the roots of this yet.  It is related to crosnes (stachys affinis) and like crosnes the roots are edible.  This plant was rather pot bound.  It had been sitting in a puddle next to the polytunnel all year – an offset from the bought in plant.  I’m hoping it will be damp enough for it at the side of the orchard there.  We can get quite a bit of water coming down the track at times, as well as being generally damp climate wise.  The roots certainly look like they could be quite productive – long and tender.  I did snap a few bits off and popped them in the fridge, but forgot they were there when I cooked dinner yesterday.  I also put a couple of seedling lathyrus tuberosa (earthnut pea) seedlings.  These are from seed that I was sent (thanks Anni).  Unfortunately with one thing and another (weather and neglect!) I only have four seedlings and one of these looks a bit poorly.  I’ve put plant pot collars on them, since I have read that slugs really like these plants.  I’m thinking that they can climb up the apple tree.  Not the ideal spot for a root crop, but if they grow and like it there I can maybe propagate more plants from these.

orchard view north
Orchard view to North

I also spread around loads of seed: firstly some of the green manure seeds I obtained recently.  I spread field beans and fodder radish fairly generally over the whole area and red clover selectively around the bases of the honeyberries and apple tree.  It may be a bit late for the fodder radish, but I’m hoping that it will stay mild for long enough for them to put on a bit of growth before the winter (I can already see shoots coming on the field beans just a couple of days later!).  I also sowed some other legume seeds that I collected:  birds foot trefoil and bush vetch (vicia sepium).  I have been enjoying the odd nibble on the latter as it has reappeared around the tree field (see here for a little foraging guide).  The birds foot trefoil makes a nice low growing ground cover – it should be nitrogen fixing, but I’m not sure how well it will keep down the weeds.  This is the first time I’ve tried sowing it direct.  I did sow some in the spring in pots, but didn’t get a good success rate (again weather and neglect…): one plant.  I also spread some sweet cicely seed and good king henry which both have done well for me in the tea garden a little up the hill.  They both seeded themselves a bit up there, but I want to transplant those seedlings elsewhere.

birds foot
How bird’s foot trefoil gets it’s name

I started trying to dig out couch grass and docken from the rest of the orchard on the north side of the track.  There is a fair amount of both and I haven’t quite finished that.  It’s only a rough going over.  I will mulch it with newspaper and card and try and give it another go during next summer depending on priorities.  I did get out some of the silver weed I planted there in the spring this year.  It is still a bit early – they are in full leaf, and the roots look very white.  Generally they are up to 6 inches long and up to one quarter inch diameter.  I’m going to transfer some to the track border.  I may see if I can use them for pathways in the orchard area.  They have made a reasonable coverage after a bit of editing in the tea garden and certainly spread like mad!

It’s starting to feel a little autumnal now.  The first trees to lose their leaves are the Wych elm, but some of the rowans are turning colour, and one of the beech is rather a nice yellow.  I’m a bit worried by how red this apple tree is.  Last year it was the best for growth, this year it looks a bit strained – the others are all still quite green.  We don’t tend to get much autumn colour here – the winds strip the leaves off the trees before they can put on much of a show.  It looks like it will be a bumper year for hazelnuts – I spotted the first nuts on our own trees (planted 2010), but the ones along the river bank seem quite laden.  I did go along and pick up a fair few from underneath the trees, but they all seem to be empty (either shed by the tree or discarded in disgust by hopeful birds!).  It’s still a bit early.  Usually the birds get the nuts, which is fair enough.  I would quite like to get a harvest off our own trees in due time.  Although they weren’t bought as nutting cultivars, the seeds they apparently came from seemed a fair size.

bumper hazelnuts 2018
bumper crop on hazels by river

The local outside brambles are starting to ripen.  Funnily enough these don’t seem to be bothered by those horrid flies!  There was a new bush that has seeded in at the corner of the river  above the pond, which seems to have quite nice quality berries.

self sown bramble
tasty self sown bramble

Saving the best till last – in the polytunnel this week!

ripe tomatoes
First ripe tomatoes – (super sweet 100)

There was a little mildew or possibly blight on some of the leaves so I’ve pulled a few off the tomato plants.  I’m hoping that I will get more tomatoes ripening over the next month or so before I have to rescue them.  Some comfrey leaves are soaking in a bucket of water at the moment to add some extra tomato feed to try and give them a late boost.

11 thoughts on “Orchard, Autumn and Tomatoes

  1. Really pleased to see you have some hazel nuts. Do you have squirrels on Skye? I’ve not seen squirrels in my vicinity, so I’m hoping when I get my hazels and they start fruiting, there won’t be a sudden influx.

    I hope your apple tree will be okay – the one that is behaving a little oddly.

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    1. I believe there are no squirrels on Skye (as yet). The birds and the mice take their fair share of the nuts (and have planted a fair few bushes too!), but there may be enough for me to have a few as well this year.
      I’m also hoping the apple will be fine! I didn’t think we had it dry or hot enough to have affected the trees, but you never know. Hopefully it will grow back fine next year.

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  2. you have done a good job on the orchard, all that bare earth, I see sorrel around but I am never quite sure which it is so I leave it alone, is the red apple tree the same variety as the others? though I find even the same variety plants can be quite different, just like people,

    I’ve been away and one reading matter I took with me was Bob Flowerdew’s Companion planting and probably due to our previous conversation I took note that he says: Tomato root exudates inhibit cucumbers …….. and more usefully inhibit couch grass …….. ,
    just throwing it into the mix of possibilities,
    and your polytunnel tomatoes look great, I say they denfinately make up for no courgettes,
    Frances

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    1. The sorrel looks like a bit like a smooth, bright green dock. I quite like to munch on it as I’m going round the field – sharp and lemony. Too much is bad for you (just like spinach!) due to oxalic acid. I have made sorrel and lettce soup which went down fairly well, so I may try it again,
      I have four varieties of apple. I can’t remember which one this is off the top of my head, but I do know it’s the only one on it’s own rootstock and up till this year had been doing better than the others! hopefully it’ll be OK next year,,,,
      Interesting on the tomato v couch grass front…not sure how one could make use of that information though – no chance of growing ripe tomatoes outside here, although one could plant extra plants – there is always more germinating than you need – and pop them in along the boundary – can’t do any harm I suppose!
      I am pleased with my tomatoes – thank you. They just taste so much better than any I can get for the shop I’m sad to say. They are far too precious to sell, though I did give the very few I had ripen last year to one old gentleman customer (since deceased) because I knew he would appreciate them. I’m sad that he isn’t here this year to enjoy these better ones.

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    2. Hopefully it won’t stay bare for long (remember nature abhors a vacuum!) I can already see the fodder radish germinating and the beans showed radical sprouts very quickly too. I think the crows have been picking them out, but there should be some to cover the soil over winter.

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      1. I gathered the seeds were a green winter manure, it is nice to see bare soil free of weeds and tough grasses though, but it does need good plants before the bad ones take over again,
        I hope your red apple is just having an off year and will be better next year,
        the tomatoes v couch grass made me smile, Mr Flowerdew lives in a different gardening world to us,
        Frances

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    1. Could be, or it could be competition for resources and the strawberries have preferred the conditions you have had (does that male sense?) If the strawberries have deeper roots than the grass, then they have had a slight advantage in the drier (!) weather you have had.

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