Autumn forage.

As summer ends winter is all to close and autumn becomes a rush for the insect world to gather the last of the harvest before they are beaten by the weather.The bees had a great spring but foraging has been more difficult in both the rain and extreme heat that this year has brought. The hives have grown huge in times of plenty and then had to dip into their own stores with each ‘blip’ in the weather. As they approach winter the queen reduces her laying and every spare cell is filled with honey.The hives have been reduced to brood and a half. This is basically a big box for the eggs and a smaller one for the honey although in reality they store honey around the brood and brood in the upper honey box. If they are given to much space they can’t keep it covered and it gets damp and mouldy so it’s a sensible size to aim for as a beekeeper.As a gardener the best way to help the local bee population is to plant nectar rich flowers.Sedum or ice plant as its commonly known seems to be by far the favourite this month.Although Goldenrod, Verbena and Dahlia also get visited, especially by the bumblebees who are just as, if not more, important.Soon it will be the turn of ivy and certainly my neighbour is complaining about my bees blocking his drive with their obsession for his untamed ivy hedge. (I told him bees don’t sting at this time of year and they ain’t mine anyway because I can recognise my own. He seemed OK with this!)But it’s the sedum that is this week’s star.Loved by both honey and bumblebees alike.

Blueberries.

Hidden under a mass of green netting, to keep the blackbirds out, and quite honestly looking pretty terrible are my blueberry bushes.

HubB made me the raised beds the autumn before last and I planted the blueberries and some cranberry plants into ericaceous compost straight away.

Last year we had a good crop and as well as eating them fresh with my breakfast and freezing some, I made jam. To be honest it wasn’t very popular and I still have a jar or two left.

This year I picked the first bush a fortnight or two ago and have been leaving this one. My freezer is groaning at the seams with produce and I just didn’t know what to do with them.

Having watched them falling to the ground I decided I couldn’t bear the waste any longer. The first couple of lb had to be picked today. I asked on my favourite allotment site on social media and someone suggested brandy, which sounded brilliant. Until I realised I didn’t have any!

I always have vodka, so some went into that and then I found a bottle of bacardi. It’s probably 15+ years old but can rum go off? I’m going to find out, as I used some to make a small jar of that as well.

I just have to remember to swish them around a bit, fairly regularly and they should be ready for winter. Something to remind me of summer on a cold evening in front of the fire. I can wait but it will be hard!

Sunflowers.

My whole post today is about sunflowers. A couple of years ago I would hardly have given them garden space, I didn’t really rate them as anything more than seeds for school children’s height competitions.

Last year I grew a few just for the birds. I’m trying to reduce my winter bird food costs and have packets free on my gardening magazine every year which it seems silly to waste.

This garden was the result and this is its second year with no further work from me. In fact I’ve actually pulled hundreds of seedlings out. These are just the ones I missed.

This is a more deliberate growing. Since the hedge next door was removed my polytunnel was getting to hot. I grew this ‘kong’ variety, because it said they would be tall, for the shade.

It seems to be working and the silhouettes inside are lovely.

In other parts of the garden, sunflowers just appear wherever I’m to weak to weed them out. I’ve not supported any of them and yet they are all doing fine so far.

It’s highly likely I will never need to sow a seed again and yet somehow I think they are now here to stay!

Waiting for the autumn.

This year is another one that has had us Brits scratching our heads. The winter was mild, the spring was hot and dry. The summer started wet but is now one of the hottest on record.

In the garden nature carries on. The weeds are taking over and the time available to keep on top of them is to short.

My front garden, which clearly should showcase my home, is an embarrassing mess. Having cut the pyracantha right back over winter, we exposed bindweed which is now taking full advantage of my neglect. Dahlia and fuchsia usually showcase this area after the lavender, but this year are still small and puny.

My lavender hedge is lovely and as you walk by, the smell is a treat.

Every area is covered in bumble bees. Who are there from dawn to dusk, often even sleeping in the flowers.

In contrast, the honey bees cover the oregano and marjoram.

If we still had chickens they would love the leycesteria, but no doubt the blackbirds will find them soon enough.

Something I have never seen before is the Ash tree. We cut it back years ago and since then have let it grow for a couple of years and then cut it for peasticks. We left it last winter, hoping for larger sticks this autumn.

The wet summer saw unprecedented growth and I’m assuming it was still soft and sappy when the heat hit. Amazingly whole branches are just bending over and hanging. The tree has a ring collared dove nest with young in it, so we don’t want to disturb it to much but it will all have to come down.

Another job for the growing ‘Autumn Jobs’ list!

The next step.

The next stage of our building work was meant to be replacing the windows. After a couple of failed starts we found a handyman who seemed promising.

The poor man turned up as expected. Started the job and was rather surprised to find that the lintel on one window was rotten from the water damage and the other didn’t even have one. Luckily he was unfazed by this and after a few days delay while he did other jobs, he returned with nice new concrete lintels and scaffold.

These bricks were resting on the window frame and could even be supporting the roof but they’ve gone now.

They say you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. I think my bathroom is officially broken!

I’ve got one new window and downstairs gets done next week.

Things can only get better.

Small things.

Ground elder is a constant nuisance in my garden and I just can’t keep on top of it.

I guess I should be grateful that it at least has one use. Hoverflies just love it.

Flaming June.

The weather this month is extreme. We have had days and days of rain. Days in the 20’s and days were you’ve needed socks and jumpers. We’ve had strong winds and complete calm. In all it has been a more than typical English summer and has given us all plenty to moan about. Discussing the English weather both good, bad and predicted is a national past time, especially if you work or play in it.

The garden has loved the rain with peas growing taller every hour and the sweetcorn thickening nicely. I’ve had to earth them up a bit as they fell over with all their growth. The weeds are also growing!

Some of my onions are huge while others have hardly grown. These are next door to the new strawberry bed which is doing much better now it’s in a sunnier spot. We have had pounds from it already and there are lots more coming. (oh dear I’ve just noticed a rotting one in this pic!)

I planted mange tout and sugar snap peas in this bed. I can’t now tell the difference which is becoming a bit of a problem. The rain meant I missed picking them. The snaps are good to eat at any size but the mange tout get tough as they get bigger. Last year I just let them grow and podded them but that only works if you can sort them out.

The courgettes are a yellow variety so the pale leaves must be part of the variety as they are cropping well and go darker as they age. I planted pak choi around them, I hoped the shade would stop them bolting, unfortunately the slugs are loving them too much to find out.

I have become hooked on watching Charles Dowding on YouTube so am trying batch planting. The beetroot seems a good idea but I’m not sure about the leeks which look a bit squashed together. Time will tell!

We have been eating chilli peppers for a couple of weeks now. They are not very spicy but quite prolific. The sweet peppers are also looking very promising.

The butternut squash are odd. The older ones are doing great with fruit forming, but the smaller ones are struggling with the changing weather. I have covered them with fleece and am keeping my fingers crossed.

I am also trying spaghetti squash and have one that looks hopeful. I need a net to support it I think.

In all the garden looks very green and once again the sky looks very grey.