Posts tagged with “Constant Gardener”

Harvest Festival

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Now’s the time to turn your attention to the fruits of your labour

For most of the year, whether in our own gardens or out and about, we probably pay little attention to the fruit trees and shrubs. When there’s roses to prune and lawns to mow, these plants are pushed to the back of our minds, and, save for revelling in a little blossom in the springtime, seem to stay that way. That is, until autumn kicks in. When the calendar flips from August to September there’s usually a noticeable shift in these trees and shrubs in the form of the produce you’ll discover. Suddenly, you’ll spot apples, pears, plums and blackberries galore in gardens, fields and hedgerows. And, the good news is, they’re yours for the picking (with permission, of course!)

Read on to find out how to make the most of the fruits you find during this harvest season

Pick your apples and pears

September is the start of the apple and pear picking season, so if you have trees bearing these fruits on your land, you’ll want to get out and check on their progress. Depending on the type of apples and pears you’ve grown depends on when the fruits will be ready to be harvested. Early ripening varieties are best left to ripen on the tree and should be picked selectively, depending on how ripe they are, whereas varieties that ripen later can be picked in a larger quantity for storing.

It can be tricky to know when to pick your fruit, but you want to get there before the gusty autumn days beat you to it and you lose it to the ground. Try gently holding the fruit in your hand and twisting slightly. If it comes away with ease then it’s ready to be picked; if it’s a little more stubborn then it might need a few more days of ripening. The optimal temperature for storage is around 10 degrees celsius, so rather than popping the fruit in the fridge, choose somewhere like a cellar, or a brick shed or outbuilding. Wooden sheds vary greatly in temperature, so won’t be ideal for keeping your fruit fresh!

The best way to store apples is to wrap each fruit in newspaper and then keep them stored in boxes. Pears on the other hand prefer to remain unwrapped, and they can be stored in boxes too.

If storage isn’t an option and you want to tuck in now, then there are lots of delicious ways you can enjoy your apples and pears, from warming crumbles to garnishing cocktails. To keep your fruit trees thriving, use a tree mix, which will help in promoting long term tree health.

Plant blueberry bushes

Blueberries aren’t just a superfruit and tasty breakfast accompaniment, they’re also great additions to the garden - in the autumn the shrub’s leaves will turn a gorgeous vibrant red, and in the springtime it’ll produce pretty white flowers. Then, come summer, you’ll have the juicy berries to enjoy!

The shrubs are best planted in autumn, and they’re ideal for smaller gardens, growing to around 1 metre in height. But, the key thing to be aware of before popping your plant in the soil and hoping for the best, is that blueberries are fussy creatures - they need to be grown in acidic soil and like to be watered with rainwater. They also need to be grown in a sunny spot. Not asking for much, at all… We have a specially formulated blueberry mix, which is an ericaceous compost, blending fine and coarse peat with pine bark to create a low pH, free draining growing media. Add this to a pot, or to the ground before planting your blueberry bush.

Turn your damsons into dessert

Damsons are often a fruit that get ignored and left hanging on trees because unlike their much sweeter plum cousins, they’re much sharper and therefore harder to eat. But, they aren’t just destined for damson jam recipes - they actually taste delicious in a crumble, adding the same level of tartness you’d expect from rhubarb. We’d recommend combining damsons with apples to bring down the sharpness - and if you’re able to pick the apples from your own garden, even better!

Here’s our recipe to try:

Damson and apple crumble - serves 6

Ingredients:

For the fruit layer:

● 700g damsons (remove the stones)

● Three apples, peeled, cored and sliced

● 60g soft light brown sugar

● Knob of butter

● 50ml port (optional)

For the crumble topping:

● 250g plain flour

● 150g unsalted butter

● 150g demerara sugar

● 50g ground almonds

● 50g chopped walnuts (optional)

Method:

● Pre-heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

● Add all of the fruit to a saucepan and heat on the hob over a medium heat until the fruit starts to soften and the damsons start to release their juices. Add in your port, or if you’d prefer, you can just add a couple of tablespoons of water. Once the fruit is done, place in a dish and set aside.

● To make your crumble mix, rub your butter and flour together until the consistency is like breadcrumbs, but not as dry. Then, add your sugar and nuts, stirring gently to avoid clumping.

● Once your topping is mixed, sprinkle it evenly over your fruit.

● Place in the oven and bake for around 35 minutes until the topping is golden. Tip - you may want to place a baking tray under your dish so if any juices decide to escape, they don’t stick to the bottom of your oven...nothing ruins the crumble experience like having to clean the oven afterwards!

● Leave to cool for a few minutes, then serve with custard, cream or ice cream - the choice is yours!

Get ahead with gifting

The other great thing about having a glut of fruit, is you can use it to make homemade gifts for Christmas and beyond. You could try making damson gin or vodka, which is just three ingredients - the fruit, the alcohol and some sugar! Plum wine is another gift you could make, especially for those who are lovers of the Japanese version. It’s a little trickier than just adding the plums to alcohol and does require some fermentation, but will surely delight the recipients.

Fruit can also be turned into a multitude of sweet and savoury preserves - jams, chutneys, jellies and pickles are all ways to use up those excess fruits, and not only will they make excellent personal gifts, they’ll also taste great served with your Christmas dinner.

Your Garden in September

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September isn’t just the beginning of the new school year, it also marks the start of a new term for your garden too. It might feel as though it’s time to start winding things down for the winter, but - sorry to break it to you - September is actually a busy month for the garden, getting it prepped and ready for autumn, winter and even spring.

While you won’t need a new pencil case or lunch box in order to get outside and spruce your space, purchases of new tools, pots and gloves will all be forgiven - after all, what’s a fresh start without some fresh new kit?

Keeping house

If your house plants have been living the al fresco life over the past few months, now’s the time to bring them back inside before the cooler weather arrives. You’ve also probably been giving your house plants inside a little more TLC of late with the warmer temperatures, but you can start to scale back on the regularity of watering them now to prepare them for autumn temperatures.

Grass tasks

It wasn’t the scorching summer we dreamed about, but nevertheless, the likelihood is over the summer months you won’t have needed to mow the lawn as frequently as you did in the spring. You may also have consciously left some of your lawn long to encourage wildlife - but as we head into September it’s time to consider treating your lawn to a fresh new shorter style. If you’re experiencing any bare or less-healthy looking patches, or the lawn just needs a little pampering, use an autumn fertiliser to bring back some of its lustre.

Set your sights on spring

The warm, September soil provides the perfect environment for your spring bulbs to get a great head start. And, in planting them it gives you an excuse to start dreaming about warmer days again. Crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths, bluebells and snake’s head fritillaries will all be suitable for planting now, either in pots and borders. Hold off on the tulips though, as they prefer slightly cooler temperatures, so you’d be better off waiting until November or December to plant these.

Harvest festival

All the hard work you’ve put into tending to your vegetables will come into fruition this month, because it’s finally time to harvest them and enjoy the fruits of your labour. Dig up any remaining potatoes, pick fruits such as apples, pears and plums before they fall to the ground, collect any late raspberries, dig up courgettes, pick tomatoes and harvest your onions. The next challenge is finding a recipe to incorporate all of your newfound ingredients...

Get swept away

It’s best to start tackling the falling leaves earlier rather than later, in a bid to avoid them quickly taking over - you’d be surprised how fast they drop when they all start to go, and all it takes is a couple of blustery days to give your garden a whole new carpet of brown. If you can, sweep them after a few dry days to avoid making too much of a mess with mulchy leaves. Or, if you have one in your possession, grab the leaf blower to do the hard work for you.

Wondering what to do with those leaves once you’ve gathered them all? Once they’ve decomposed the leafmould will make a great addition to compost, so collect them in a hessian sack or large bag, make sure there are some holes in the bag, and then keep them for up to two years before using them as compost.

Bedding in for winter

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We know, we know, we hate to say it, but (and without sounding like a Game of Thrones cliché), winter is coming. And, much like Christmas shopping and bringing the heavier tog duvet out of hibernation are part of the winter preparations, so too is the act of preparing your flower borders for the colder months.

If you act now before the autumn arrives, you’ll be in the best position to keep those beds thriving throughout the next few months and into spring next year. Here’s some ways to prepare your beds for winter and the 2022 season.

Weed ahead of winter

It’s one of the more arduous tasks, but come spring you’ll be thankful you tackled the weeds ahead of winter. If bindweed is being a pest then you’ll want to get rid of it as soon as possible to avoid it strangling your other plants - but this can take a bit of time, so make sure you’ve boiled the kettle and got a good playlist to keep you motivated.

The best way to approach removing the bindweed is to untangle it until you get to the ground, then chase the roots through the soil. Avoid breaking them so they don’t just grow again! If you’ve got raised beds that are carpeted with weeds, lay down tarpaulin to kill them off over winter.

Choose winter bedding plants

It might sound obvious, but to keep your beds looking vibrant in winter, you’ll want to select plants that are naturally acclimatised to the cooler weather. Bear in mind that during the winter, growth is slow, so make sure you give your beds a head start by using plants that are already fairly established. Hardy flowers worth planting include winter-flowering pansies, cyclamen and primula. These will mostly flower in the spring, but you may get flowering during the winter too if the weather is mild.

Go green

Another way to keep those beds looking lively even on the bleakest of days is to invest in some evergreen shrubs and plant these up now. Foliage is also another good option for keeping the garden looking green - try ornamental cabbage which looks lovely in winter and will survive moderate frosts, too.

Keep conditioning

Adding compost to your beds now will ensure the soil is full of nutrients and ready to help those flowers flourish come spring. For raised beds, consider something containing loam, which will help maintain a good volume of material in your plant bed, as well as encouraging good plant growth.

Mulch and maintain

Adding mulch to your soil can be a great way to protect your plants from frost, keep weeds at bay and ensure your beds are kept healthy over the winter months. Autumn is a good time to add mulch around newly planted shrubs and herbaceous perennials, and then come winter you’ll want to mulch the entire bed to trap in moisture.

Your Garden in August

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With the summer holidays in full swing and the chance to hopefully spend more time outdoors than usual, tending to the garden might be quite low down on the list - especially if entertaining the kids and getting your cost-per-use on your sun loungers are in order.

However, there are some tasks that need tackling this month, but we promise they’re not too arduous. You’ll still have plenty of time to soak up the sun and relax, and you can do so safe in the knowledge that your garden is in tip top condition. Cheers to that!

Banish the brown

Soaking up the rays in pursuit of a golden tan might be on your agenda this month, but the plants in your garden don’t have the same ideals - if they’re looking a bit brown, they’ll need a bit of TLC to keep them fresh. Keep watering regularly and make sure the lawn is looking healthy - if there are brown patches don’t mow these as it’ll only make things worse. In fact, ease up on the mowing altogether if you can, to help keep the lawn looking its best.

Trees and hedges will also need some attention to avoid unsightly brown patches too - clip conifers now so that new young shoots can form before the frost arrives, and if you have laurel hedges, trim them with secateurs rather than a hedge trimmer. This will allow you to remove whole leaves rather than cut into leaves and cause them to go brown.

Compose your compost

If you’ve been thinking about introducing a compost heap into your garden, then now’s the time to do it. Compost heaps are best created in the summer because the heat helps to break down the waste quicker. For the best results, you need a 50:50 mix of green (nitrogen rich, i.e. grass clippings) and brown (carbon rich, i.e woody stems and cardboard) materials. Be strategic about how you layer them - add materials like twigs at the bottom to aid circulation, then grass cuttings and vegetables on top, then your carbon-rich brown materials - this is a great place to use old coffee grounds, for example. Turn your heap to aerate it and help to speed up the process. If you turn regularly it’ll take about six months for your compost to be ready.

Get savvy with seeds

As your favourite flowers finish for the year, collect and save the seedheads ready for planting in the spring. Choose a dry day to collect them, and then store them in paper bags or envelopes - avoid plastic as this can attract moisture and your seeds may be mouldy by the time you come to plant them!

Pep up peppers

Keep your peppers and cucumbers healthy and thriving by using a high potash fertiliser on them once fruits start to form. For courgettes, harvest them before they become too big, and it’s probably also time to harvest beetroot that was planted in the spring, although this can be left a little longer if you’re running out of space in the salad drawer!

Re-use the rain

No, we’re not wishing for rain or for autumn to arrive, but before they do, it’s worth considering installing a water butt before next season’s rainfall. That way next summer you’ll have plenty of reserves to water your summer flowering plants and containers without needing to untangle the hose or worry about water bills.

Start brushing up

Make the most of the warm, dry weather by working on those painting projects you’ve been putting off. Tidy up fences, sheds and garden furniture - the paint will dry quickly in the sun and the tasks will be over before you know it. It’s also a good time to bring inside projects outside to get them finished - internal doors that need a new lick of paint will be quicker and easier to paint outdoors, and there’s less risk of spilling paint on the carpet/upholstery/kids/dog, too.

Six ways to enjoy your garden this summer

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You’ve mown the lawn, grown the begonias and sown the sweet peas...now what? Now, it’s time to sit back, relax and admire your hard work! After all, what’s the point in making your garden glorious if you have no time to enjoy it?

With many of us facing another summer of staying put, it’s time to put away those passports and instead head for Destination Garden, where you might be surprised just how much there is to appreciate...

Garden for garnishes

Surely, one of the best ways to enjoy your garden in the summer is to admire your handiwork with a cold drink in hand? But, why not add the fruits of your labour to said drink to make it even more special?

It’s easy to grow plenty of garnishes for cocktails and other drinks right in your own outside space - herbs like mint, rosemary, basil, thyme and verbena all make great garnishes, and don’t forget about fruits, too - if you’ve been growing strawberries and cucumber in your garden, you’re almost halfway to having the ingredients for a fresh, fruit-filled Pimms!

Some flowers are also edible and look delectable in drinks - if you’ve got any borage knocking around, pick the flowers and freeze them in ice cube trays - they’ll brighten up any G&T!

Rosemary Gin Fizz recipe:

(makes one drink)

Ingredients:

  • 50ml of your favourite gin 1 tablespoon rosemary simple syrup (check out how to make your own here)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Soda water
  • A rosemary sprig to garnish

Method:

Shake your gin, simple syrup and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice, then strain into a chilled glass.

Add soda water to taste

Pop in a sprig of rosemary to garnish

Enjoy!

Pick a good egg

When it comes to seating for your garden, you want something that’s comfy, allows some shelter from the sun’s rays and of course, looks stylish too. You might have seen egg chairs cropping up in magazine spreads and online; these hanging chairs are de rigueur right now, and offer a stylish and secluded spot in any garden. Available everywhere from Aldi to John Lewis, this is one trend you’ll definitely want to get on board with. After all, how better to enjoy your eggs in the morning than with a slice of sunshine?

Sleep under the stars

If the opportunity to get away on a much-needed holiday hasn’t presented itself this year, then don’t despair - glamping in your own back garden could still afford you some luxury away from home (but with the benefit of having a working toilet and shower just metres away.) And if you think your garden is a little too close to home why not try an idyllic glamping site set in a wildflower meadow surrounded by vines and hops in our very own Weald of Kent?

Lots of companies, both in Kent & Sussex and further afield now offer you the chance to hire a bell tent and have it pitched in your own back garden. Perfect for that real home away from home feeling, and also a great and affordable option should you have guests to stay and want to offer a unique alternative to the spare bedroom.

Get a pizza the action

Barbecues might be a British right of passage come summertime, but they’re not the only way to enjoy al fresco dining. Pizza ovens have become increasingly popular recently, with leading brand Ooni going from making £10million to £50million over the past two years. With gas fired, wood fired and even ovens you heat on your barbecue available on the market, adding pizzazz to your own pizzas is easier than ever. Plus, many of these ovens don’t have to be used exclusively for pizza; smoking meats, baking potatoes and even flame grilling your steaks can all be achieved.

Dabble in a paddle

With the school summer holidays on the horizon, you might be looking for simple ways to keep the kids entertained at home. Enter the paddling pool - an easy way to make a splash and cool the kids (and yourself) down in no time. Choose a smaller one for little kids and for dipping your toes in, or bigger options are available where the whole family can get in and enjoy some wet play.

Be a good sport

A paddling pool isn’t the only way to keep the kids busy in the garden - why not set up your own sports day? Minimal equipment is needed for this, but you can have hours of fun enjoying three legged races, egg and spoon relays and obstacle courses in even the smallest of outside spaces. You’ll get bonus points for offering ice creams as prizes, too.