This is the time of year when you can think about increasing your fruit crops for the following year, planting bare-root plants or putting pot grown plants into their permanent home. This is exactly what I have turned my mind to now that the vegetable growing side of things has slowed down for the winter.
I have bought and planted three bare-root gooseberry bushes in the forest garden. The chickens took great delight in getting in my way as I dug the holes and eating any worms or other little creatures that I unearthed. I mulched with some fallen leaves and amended the soil with a little compost.
The blueberries are pot grown and they will remain in containers in the orchard/forest garden area. They are best grown in a container as they like acid conditions. I will be keeping them in their own area of ericaceous compost rather than amending our soil.
I am hoping these plants will thrive and we will increase our fruit stocks next year. We should now have some blueberries and gooseberries in addition to our strawberries, raspberries, wild and cultivated, mahonia berries, elderberries, plums and apples. Perhaps we will also be able to help our cherry trees to keep their fruits and our pear tree to produce more than one sad looking pear. I hope my little damson sapling will also fruit next year or the one after, so we will have to wait and see which of these plants will deliver a bounty next year.
Just because winter is here, that does not mean that there is nothing to do in the garden. I have now received and planted the rhubarb crowns I ordered to create a rhubarb bed.
First of all I prepared the bed, adding some of the rough compost that the chickens very kindly helped us to make to the vegetable bed that contained a few squash in the summer. (They did not do all that well.) I decided that this spot is rather too exposed for squash but it could do well as a permanent rhubarb bed as rhubarb does not need to be mollycoddled.
I placed the three crowns around 1m apart along the length of the bed, taking care not to bury the crowns. I hope that other than applying some mulches and weeding or watering occasionally I will not have to do much with them until they can be harvested in their second year. It is best not to harvest from the plants in their first year as they need time to become established. I hope they will do well.
Originally, I was planning on planting the rhubarb in the orchard/forest garden but I have not been able to establish whether or not this would be dangerous for the chickens. Reading on-line, some people say that the leaves are poisonous to chickens, as they are to humans in quantity, while others say they have been feeding rhubarb leaves to their birds with no ill-effect. In the absence of hard facts, I decided to err on the side of caution and avoid putting rhubarb where the chickens could get at it.
Oops. I really did mean to update this blog a lot sooner than I have done but things have been all go recently on the work front and of course there is always lots to do around here.
Just after I wrote my last post we celebrated one year here, one year since we started to transition to this more sustainable way of life. It does not feel like a year but we have done a lot since we got here. We have made a lot of progress and eaten a lot of home grown food. We erected our polytunnel, prepared vegetable bed areas, rescued the chickens, did work on the house and – great news – we finally have the planning permission to carry out our planned eco-conversion/renovation of the outbuildings!
There have been many successes and several failures – by and large though the baby steps we have taken have really added up and it is pretty staggering when we look back and see how far we have actually come.
The garden is not looking at its best at this time of year but we do have a few things still growing. I have planted onions and garlic and a few swedes and Brussels sprouts still in the vegetable beds and in the polytunnel there are a variety of winter cabbages, beetroot and a few other bits and bobs. Some herbs are in on the windowsill for winter, others are drying nicely. There are plenty of jars of jams and chutneys to see us through the coldest months and a few things like peas and beans in the freezer. We have one small pumpkin/squash on the windowsill still.
The chickens all seem to be doing well. We are still getting two or three eggs most days even though the weather has got so much colder. The girls saw snow for the first time the other day – they were not too impressed. I gave them some porridge to warm them up.
I still have a lot of tidying up to do in the vegetable beds before the ground freezes too hard and the orchard/forest garden is the main area that will get my attention over the winter. Time flies and there is no rest for the wicked…