Category Archives: Gardening

Tasty fruit – James Grieve apples

James GrieveWe’d been debating when to pick our two apples; the varietal, a ‘James Grieve’, was described as an early season cooker, and a late season dessert apple; with only two apples making it as far as September, we didn’t want to pick too early and be left with sour fruit, or too late and end up with rotten ones!

The wind last weekend made the decision for us, however, blowing one of the massive fruit off its branch – thankfully unbruised – the second apple was duly picked and consumed.

Absolutely delicious. Crisp and sweet, somewhere a sort of Pink Lady type taste (it’s a cross between a Cox and a Pott’s seedling), it was enjoyed by all the family.

One more to go.

The anticipation we’ve had all summer of fruit ripening and being ready for consumption is beginning to diminish now. We’ve still got this year’s Blackberry picking walk to look forward to and there are still ripe blueberries on the bush, but the prospects for the greenhouse and the patch are looking dimmer as more rain falls and the days shorten.

Still, we have more potatoes to uproot, a few ripe tomatoes on the branch, and the pumpkins may last until October if I remember my Charlie Brown comics… and we’re off to a friend’s house for more substantial apple-picking this weekend – huzzah!

Ongoing harvest photo tour!

The harvest continues to come in and be delicious. Here’s a quick photo tour:


The patch in the sunshine. Idyllic, no?


A pumpkin begins…


Harvest. One plant worth of Lapland potatoes, a smallish yellow courgette and a fresh batch of Rhubarb, delightfully pink.


A tomato plant jungle!


Cucumbers in progress!


Our garlic drying – only one of the cloves I planted failed!

The Lapland potatoes in particular were a fantastic result. We’re getting about 1.5kg of new potatoes with each plant (we had five seed pots), and they work in every meal context – soft, creamy and delicious. We’re going to have to get out to Finland again next spring to pick up some new seed potatoes as think I’ll struggle to keep them fresh over winter otherwise!

I do wish I’d picked up the books earlier. Paul & Rach gave us Dr Hessayon’s seminal vegetable and herb grower book, and Lilt and Jason gave us an epic gardener’s bible. Both are filled with tips I should have noted earlier in the season that would have boosted our – tomato crop in particular – dramatically. Still, can’t complain about the results for our first year of veg production!

The bounty continues

Summer bounty! This weekend, the first yellow courgette and tomatoes were plucked; we’ve been gradually denuding the plum tree as the fruit ripens with increasing pace and deliciousness (Emily loves home grown plums), and we’ve seen continued signs of life from the cucumber plant. I dug up a couple of sample lapland potatoes (looking good), the blueberries were sampled again (not quite ready) and Amanda brought up a small bushel of carrots – tricky to get up, those ones. 500g of Rhubarb was picked and turned (by mine own hand) into a reasonably delicious baby-led-weaning oat-topped rhubarb crumble, with portions for the freezer.

Rhubarb crumbliciousAbsolutely loving this stage of the season. Slightly concerned that the two apples on our tree will not survive but really hoping they do – they look enormous and delicious – as my judgement of on-tree ripeness is not great. I’m pretty much just wiggling the fruit around and seeing if it drops off the branch of its own accord, and using that as a measure of its desire to be eaten.

The first fruit*

These aren't our plums. But they are impressive.After the first ripe tomato depressingly proved unsuitable for consumption, I had held out little hope for our Victoria plum tree. Most people who know about such things had reassured us that the first year was not one in which we should expect fruit, and despite the presence of the 20 or so plums on the tree I had assumed that ants, birds or something else would get them before we would.

I was absolutely wrong. Last night’s stiff wind blew the first ripe plum from its branches and I plucked a neighbouring one as well. On cutting, I had to trim around some slightly overripe flesh but the remainder – absolutely delicious. Amazing. Lush, even. Mega-lush.

This is what its all about.

In other garden updates, there’s continued cropping on the strawberry plant, the blueberries are ripening fast and the yellow courgettes are sprouting in force.

* technically the cucumber was the first fruit, and we have had strawberries too, but the ‘first tree fruit’ just didn’t feel right as a headline

Produce challenges

courgettedeathThose who have any interest in my regular produce updates might think it is (figuratively speaking) all a garden of roses. But there have been some failures, too.

Specifically: a whole crop of rocket fell victim to a weird creeping weed, as did half a crop of carrot seedlings. I don’t know what these things are but they’re small and insidious to begin with but as they grow they dominate and choke the life out of the other plants. Both those patches have had the equivalent of a gardening carpet bomb dropped on them – total rakeover.

Yesterday, our – to date quite successful – courgette plant (pictured) said its last farewell. Whilst it had done well for a time, something was afflicting it: it had stopped flowering and all its leaves were sprouting and growing out withered and filled with holes. No idea what the problem was… But as luck would have it, we had a second courgette seedling that had been sitting in its pot in the greenhouse awaiting a planting opportunity, which it duly got last night. We’ll see what happens.

There are also a couple of plants that I don’t think will come to (literal) fruition this summer. The chilli plants I think just went in too late – whilst the four or five we have are doing rather well, there’s no sign of flower or fruiting. The aubergine plant has been sitting sad and sullen in its greenhouse bag all summer and still only stands at about four inches tall. And whilst the pepper plant does have a fruit on it, we think it might be the only one. Its hard to say on the squash and the pumpkin – whilst the plants are doing very well, we planted them very late and they may simply not have time to get to where they need to.

Still, successful tomatoes, cucumbers, rhubarb, carrots, garlic, strawberries, blueberries, apples, plums, courgettes, potatoes (not to mention chives, sage, parsley, coriander, mint, oregano) is not a bad crop for a first summer of gardening…

Produce update #24601.2

rhubarbReturning after four days away, we found the garden thriving; a few days of sunshine as well as the lateness of summer had sent everything into ripening overload; apples and plums are shifting hue, a few of the blueberries are looking almost edible, the strawberries are plentiful and ready for picking, the tomatoes have started to redden and the courgettes are continuing to come in apace. The late planted squash and pumpkin plants are growing incredibly fast and the carrots are getting bigger every day.

We took a substantial crop off the rhubarb plant and a carrot to taste (want them to have a little more time to grow out), but imagine we will have to harvest more or less weekly now to the end of the year. Apparently the flowering on the Lapland potato plants means that the pots are ready, but I’m willing to let them grow a little more – or is this a bad idea?

Will do a rhubarb taste report when we get a chance…

Managed to make myself weed the plot on Sunday – I need to do that a bit more regularly. Some weird creeping weed had made its way into the carrot plot and finding its source proved impossible. A fruitless task, you might even say (sorry…).

Produce update

potatoesThe garden keeps on giving; more potatoes have come up – they’ve been OK – I think I’m perhaps not a massive fan of this particular varietal, but I haven’t tried them chipped or roasted yet. I need to research how to keep seed potatoes fresh for a year as I’m hoping that the Lapland potatoes prove as delicious when grown in the ground here as they were in Finland.

The strawberry plant gives of itself daily – more sweet tiny strawberries keep materialising. The courgettes are starting to come in thick and fast, although cucumber production seems to have slowed – we might need to add a bit more feed.

I’ve finally got around to bug spraying the plum tree, which seemed to be suffering some kin of minor infestation. Will have to see how it pans out. The two remaining apples on our apple tree are perfectly formed. Quite exciting.

The tomatoes are ripening fast – there seem to be a lot of them. Emily’s slight allergic reactions to both tomatoes and potatoes has taken some of the fun out of these, but Amanda and I will enjoy them!!

The harvest 1.2

We’ve now had potatoes from the garden (good, but nothing magical – the Lapland potatoes aren’t ready yet and the other ones are fairly ordinary), tiny strawberries from the strawberry pot (sweet and Em loved them), as well as a bunch of courgettes (standard). We’ve tasted a couple of the (baby) carrots but they need a bit longer to get to a better size.

The rhubarb is ready for a crumble and the tomatoes are ripening fast. A small pepper has materialised but the aubergine remains dormant. The yellow courgette isn’t flowering yet, and squash and pumpkin plants are still young.

The rocket has died – bad luck, ants and weeds stifled them we think – but we may have another go.

Next year – fewer potatoes, methinks.

Huge, delicious, fun.

Company offsite with Thrive


We had a rather marvellous time on Friday with a slightly different flavour of corporate offsite; a few people around the agency researched and identified a CSR activity that would see us all contribute to something worthwhile – in this case the charity Thrive, which helps people recover or cope with debilitating psychological disorders, recover from extended illness or contend with dementia through the joy of gardening.

As someone that’s been spending a fair amount of time digging around in the dirt at home, it was a pretty enjoyable task. We were gloved up and treated to the standard health & safety disclaimer before being loaded up with strimmers, garden forks, shovels, wheelbarrows, hammers, hacksaws and the like and set to clearing a slightly overgrown orchard. We uprooted dead trees, disassembled disused raised beds, levelled out the soil and cut back the grass, digging up mountains of weeds along the way. The 60 or so of us on the ground made fairly short work of it all, getting through the clearing process in a few short hours.

After a lunch break we returned for the ‘main event’ – we’d been promised a wall to build and build a wall we did. Most of my time went into helping with the digging and levelling off a ditch so the wall would remain flat – which was a fairly frustrating process – but our architect-turned-CFO has a real talent for both project management and spirit levelling so we made good in the end.

In addition to the work teams building the two walls, my colleagues made fair progress in building a set of composters from packing crates, and others cleared a number of other raised beds of weeds. It was a pretty satisfying transformation to look back on as we left the Reading countryside and headed back to London for a performance by the Warm Leads… but more on that later

I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for a different kind of corporate day out, or if you live in range of one of Thrive’s gardens (one near Reading and t’other in Battersea Park), volunteer.