Posts Tagged ‘Orchard’

English Apples

I just checked my stats for the blog and realised its been over 2 months since I last posted … Lazy or what!  So I’ll put that right and I must apologise for such a large gap since my last post.

As I was sat in the garden thinking about what I might share I suddenly realised just how lucky we are. Our climate is almost perfect for growing our own food, our soil is capable of growing almost anthing we ask it providing we look after it and I constantly marvel at the range of wildlife we have living around us.

The butterfly walk

We like to attract as many insects to the garden as we can .. and no better way than with a butterfly bush walk.


Last Sunday we had a peregrine falcon sitting on the front fence gazing longingly at the row of pigeons on my neighbours roof. Fantastic … Our own pigeons scarer. They still managed to pinch all my greens this year. I can’t be bothered to use nets … Far too fiddly, so next year I’m not going to bother. Not overly keen on greens anyway other than purple sprouting which happens to be the pidgeons absolute favourite. I suppose I could shoot the pigeons but then I think they haven’t done me any harm and forget the idea.

It’s the second time I’ve seen the Peregrine this year and what a fantastic site. Sleek and majestic looking. In fact it’s the fourth raptor we have seen in the garden this year. We occasionally have a Kestrel call by and the buzzards are always squeaking away high in the sky above the surrounding fields. I think they are eyeing up the chickens to be honest. The other hawk we see from time to time is a red kite. They seem to be everywhere since they were reintroduced to the UK in the 1980’s. Easy to spot as they have a forked tail and a distinctive flight as they dive bomb the local mouse population.

But my favourite visitor has to be the barn owl that gets into my neighbours corn barns. I usually see him skirting across the fields about 4 feet above the ground. Occasionally he comes to rest on a post and I simply stop and marvel at this most magnificent bird.

It’s been a good year for vegetables but I’m especially pleased with my celeriac. I can’t believe they start out as the tiniest of seeds. Only 3 months later and they are already starting to look like baby celeriac! They should be perfect by late November early December but they will need earthing up from time to time and an occasional general liquid feed. It’s the only way to get a decent sized crop.

The polytunnel continues to provide us with an endless supply of salads and tomatoes. I don’t worry about them running to seed as I simply repeat sow every 4 weeks up until the end of October. I find if I sow any later they tend not to germinate quite as well. Also I’ve just about had enough salad by November anyway.

This autumns major project is to move the polytunnel. Pain really as we moved it last year but its just in the wrong place.

My Polytunnel
Since we built the workshop last year we’ve reorganised the bottom of the plot to make space for a couple of parking spots so visitors can access our little plant nursery and the polytunnel needs to be closer for practical purposes.

Also it’s right in the eye line as you look from the house out to the garden. Don’t get me wrong I love my polytunnel but it’s not the most beautiful structure in the garden and it blocks the view down to the workshop which is an altogether better looking structure.


I have to say I think there is a great business opportunity for someone if they can design a cool looking polytunnel. I think you’d be on to a winner!

It’s been a great year for fruit … The orchard is heaving and raspberry’s have been plentiful. We moved them last autumn and although they have suffered slightly from the move they’ve given us a few tasty treats.

Anyway .. I think that’s enough for one day and I promise to post more very soon.

Best wishes

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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Wahoooooo! … It’s finally finished!

I’m actually ready to share my first free gardening eBook with the world. I’m calling it my ‘Introduction To Frugal Gardening’.

Download Your Free Copy

It’s basically a collection of suggestions, strategies and money saving tips that I’ve pulled together from the last few years.

At 25 pages it’s crammed full of useful information for anyone looking to create their own garden paradise, without spending a small fortune along the way!

It did take a fair bit of work to prepare and may not be perfect first time round, but I would really value any feedback you’re prepared to offer as I want to write more stuff so others may benefit.

If you’d prefer not to then that also fine, in which case please enjoy the  content with our best wishes.

Oh, and we’ve also been recording a few videos over the weekend you might be interested in.

Part 1 explains in some detail how to take softwood cuttings, and how you improve your chances of success.

Part 2 introduces the idea of a sand box.


Hope you enjoy the read!

Best wishes,


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Primroses - First Sign Of Spring

Early Spring in the garden at Blackbirds is one of my most favorite times of the year and the garden is already starting to show glimpses of what’s to come.

I’ve been working in the garden all week and realised why I love this time of the year so much. It’s all the sounds,  as well as the sights that fill the garden at this time of the year that make it so special for me.

The birds are busily collecting nesting material, occasionally having a break to take a bath in the wildlife pond we made last year and the plants are beginning to wake up, albeit slowly but wake up they certainly are.

A male pheasant that visits the garden most mornings, (affectionately known as Trigger)  has started to put on the most amazing dance for the females he’s romancing at the moment.  A sure sign Spring is on the way.

I just thought I’d share some of the wonderful things that are happening in my garden, most of which are happening with little or no help from me.  I find that”s the great thing about mother nature, she’ll give you a helping hand whenever she can, just take these little beauties for example.

Viola's growing wild in the lawn

I don’t know where they came from but they are growing all over the lawn, and such a welcome site after the darker days of winter.  I’ve since found out that they are Violas and are native to the UK. They spread really easily, which doesn’t make for a perfect lawn, but I think they look pretty, so they are going to stay. 🙂

Daffodils are appearing everywhere. I bought a bag for £3.50 from Lidl’s (impulse buy) and planted them in late September wherever I could find a spare piece of soil.  Pleased to say they all came up and are looking superb.  They made the perfect gift for my mum this Mothers Day.

Spring Daffodils are flowering their hearts out!

One of my personal favourites of all the Spring flowers are the Primroses. They were growing everywhere when we arrived, but in the last couple of years the numbers seem to have dwindled. Not sure why but I remember my neighbour Jack saying to me when we first arrived, “best leave the first cut of the grass until they have finished flowering Tania “.  Perhaps that has something to do with it as I usually give my grass a first cut in early March.

Wild Primroses

This year I’m going to save some seeds and see if I can grow them from seed next year in a bid to return them to their former glory.

The herbaceous border has just started to kick into life, with the Lupins starting to peak through, along with the Delphiniums. Not sure of the variety, but they seem to like my chalky soil and produce the most gorgeous tall deep blue spires. Delphiniums do need additional support to stop them from being blown over by the wind. I tend to use bamboo canes and string.

Delphiniums in Spring

Delphiniums in the Spring border

Herbaceous border bursting into life at Blackbirds

The Lupins all came from a single packet of seed I sowed last year

This year I’m going a little more ‘organic’  and make my own herbaceous supports using hazel sticks gathered from the hedge. It grows  freely along one side of the plot. I like to get my supports in early so I don’t have to worry about damaging the plants when they are in full growth.

I plan to create a grid pattern, a bit like a noughts and crosses.  I’ll rope John into making a  ‘How To’ Video and upload to our YouTube channel in case anyone wants to have a go at making their own.

Such a versatile plant hazel, producing catkins in the spring, vibrant green leaves in the summer, and hazel nuts in the autumn, mainly for the local squirrel population I might add!

The ‘chucks’ have started to lay a few more eggs, clever girls!  We’re getting 2 eggs a day now which I think is down to the warmer weather we’ve had in Hampshire over the last month.

Spring Chicken hunting for worms in the Kitchen Garden

The chickens are so tame now they’re happy to help with the digging !

Last week I spotted the first of the frog spawn in the wildlife pond, which suggests the pond has started to settle down. The water is fairly clear, the oxygenators are growing well and the birds are enjoying their own private bath.

The first of the fruit trees to break bud are the Marjorie’s Seedling Plums, closely followed by the Conference Pears. Hard to imagine these buds will eventually be loaded with gorgeous ripe plums in late summer.

Plum tree bursting into life in the Orchard.

Marjorie’s Seedling Plums  – The first of the fruit trees to break bud in the Orchard

The kitchen garden is looking a bit bare with only few leeks left over from last year, but the ground is prepared and in just a few months it should be producing lots of lovely fresh vegetables.

The Cut Flower Garden I started a couple of weeks ago is almost ready for planting. I’m just waiting on a load of compost to be delivered to bring the levels back up. Just can’t believe how many stones are in the ground, and they just keep coming. Last year the local recycling yard was selling a tractor bucket full of well rotted compost for £20 and I’ve been back this year and they’re happy to supply me again for the same price. It’s excellent value for money and by far the best way to buy it.

The patio will be filled with perfume soon as the evergreen Clematis Armandiistarts to come into flower. The perfume is superb and it’s a very welcome addition in Spring, and it’s one of the few evergreen clematis.  I top dress with a sprinkling of fish blood and bone in late autumn, but I have to say this year it’s  looking a bit sorry for itself. Not sure how long they are supposed to last.

The Polytunnel is starting to come into its own now more than ever. It can be raining all it likes outside, but it’s nice and dry in the tunnel.  At this time of the year it’s is full of seeds and this year is no exception as there are cut flower seedlings everywhere in preparation for my new cut flower garden project.

The compost heap is working hard and I should have a a couple of barrow loads of home grown compost soon, just in time to give the roses a Spring mulch.

So that’s a brief round up of Spring in my garden in Hampshire and with April just around the corner there’s lots more to come!

Back soon.

Rural Gardener

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My first attempt at a Willow Arbour

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The lovely weather at the weekend meant I managed to get loads done in the garden which always leaves me with a great sense of achievement. I even managed to kick start my Willow Arbour project.

I was lucky to be given 20 willow cuttings at Christmas which have been sitting in a temporary holding bed until I could decide what to do with them. I had thought about creating a willow arch at the entrance to the Kitchen Garden, but then I had an even better idea.

Why not create a secret hideaway in one corner of the orchard. The corner I’m thinking of has the most fantastic view across open countryside and has an old a garden bench where I perch myself when I need time to reflect. Not sure if there are stranger things at play, but I always seem to get a better sense of perspective when I’m sitting in that corner of the garden. Probably something to do with magnets! 🙂

As its my first attempt at Willow I had to swot up on what makes the ideal growing conditions. Appears willow likes damp conditions in plenty of sun, which probably explains why you often see it growing alongside a pond or river. This makes sense as I remember once planting a willow tunnel for the children in my class when I was a classroom assistant. Although it did grow it wasn’t very vigorous, which was likely down to the fact they were planted in the shade of a tree and the tree likely sucked all the moisture out of the ground.

This time round the spot I’ve chosen is in full sun and is a good distance from any trees, apart from the fruit trees and they are far enough away not to affect anything.

If you’d like to grow your own willow feature there’s plenty of information on the web to help you get started and not forgetting the trusty book shop if, like me, you prefer the printed word. Along with the cuttings I was also given a book by Jon Warnes called ‘Living Willow Scuplture. It’s published by Search Press and has all the information you need to get started and at £7.95 excellent value for money.  I haven’t followed the book to the letter but it certainly gave me the inspiration to have a go myself.

Preparing the ground for planting

I going to create  a small arc of growth to surround my garden seat, which ideally will grow to look fairly symmetrical. When I need to create an arc in the garden I use the old string line method. Simply hammer one end of the line in the ground, then take the other end and keeping the string taught, scrape an arc out of the ground. If like me you’re planting on grass it can take a few attempts, and keep the line nice and taught and it should work just fine.

How to plant a willow arbour

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It’s worth taking your time over the marking out as when the willow eventually grows it will look all over the place.

When I was happy with the basic shape I dug the top 6 inches of soil out into my wheelbarrow. Like most plants Willow will benefit from a little helping hand, so I added some compost to the top soil and a sprinkling of Fish Blood and Bone.

Then before putting the new mixture back I first loosened the next 8 inches of soil so the cuttings would have the best chance to grow away. Into this I worked some of the mixture and gave it a good watering.

As willow likes water I thought I would add some into the bottom of the planting hole before planting the cuttings. I then put the new enriched top soil back into what was a small semi circular trench, and gave them another good watering.

I’m not sure if they will root but they have a fighting chance, so fingers crossed in a few months we should have our very own secret living willow Arbour!

Back soon &

Best wishes,

Rural Gardener

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Bramley Cooking Apples

Bramley cooking apples make a great seasonal pudding!

It’s been an excellent year in the orchard with pretty much all the fruit trees providing gorgeous fruit. From delicious eating apples, to plums, pears, and super Bramley cooking apples.

But I was wondering what to do with my left over Bramleys, other than the usual processing options like purees, pies etc I was a bit stumped.

Then I was speaking to a friend at my sewing class and she came up with a great suggestion, which I thought I must share with my readers. It’s simple to make and has a real seasonal flavour, which is perfect with Christmas just around the corner.

Baked Apples Stuffed With Mincemeat

Basically you take a good sized Bramley cooking apple and remove the core.  I found it best not to take the whole core out, but leave a small piece at the bottom. I’ll explain why in a sec.

Bramley Apple cored

Carefully remove the core, but leave a small piece in the apple

Scoop out some of the apple to leave a good size pocket in the top half of the apple. It’s purely down to personal taste, but I like to sprinkle a little cinnamon powder inside my Bramleys for that special Christmas flavour.

Then take a large spoon of fruit mincemeat and stuff it into the hole. Make sure you press it right down to the bottom (which is why we didn’t take all the core out) and remember to leave a little extra on top, as the mincemeat tends to shrink back when it’s cooked.

Filling Bramley Apples with mincemeat

Finally, take a square of tin foil (about double the size of the apple) and wrap the apple in the foil into a neat parcel.


Repeat the process for as many apples as you can fit in your freezer and you have the perfect winter pudding!

You can cook the apple parcels from frozen, straight out of the freezer. Just put them on a tray into a hot oven, and cook for between 45 mins and an hour, depending on the size. What could be simpler!

When they’re cooked, remove the foil and pour over copious amounts of home made custard, or if you’re feeling particularly naughty lashings of cream!

Very nice indeed.

Best wishes,


If you’d like to keep this post for future reference I have created a PDF. It’s absolutely free, so please feel free to download as many times as you like, with my best wishes.


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Conference Pear Blossom

First of the Conference Pear Blossom

First of the Fruit Tree Blossom

Another productive weekend in the garden, mostly spent in the kitchen garden planting two rows of my early pea crop (Kelvedon Wonder), along with a row of quick cropping carrots (Nantes). I also managed to plant a some Boltardy beetroot on modules in the Polytunnel. I saw Monty plant his the same way in last weeks Gardeners World so I thought I’d give it a go.

The first of the fruit trees to blossom in my garden are my two Pear trees, Conference Pear and Doyenne De Comerce, and what a wonderful display they make on a beautiful Spring day! I just hope they manage to hold onto the fruit this year as last year they all dropped off before they had a chance to grow. I’ve absolutely no idea why, so if anyone has any idea why I’d love to know.

Pear Blossom

Pear Blossom

Best wishes,

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I always look forward to the May bank holiday weekend  as it’s probably the best weekend for blossom. These are four of my favorites, Plum, Apple, Pear and Cherry. The cherry grows wild in the hedgerows around Blackbirds.

Spring Blossom

As the weather is so mild we stand a good chance of a bumper harvest in the orchard.



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