Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Food for the Pollinators

For all gardeners not just food forest gardeners it is really important to insure that our pollinator friends have a succession of nectar to feed on. High summer can be a difficult time for these creatures best known of course are the honey and bumble bees and butterflies, but there are many other species from the insect world that also do a good job for us, no more so than the much maligned wasp.
This time of year wasps get a bad reputation for spoiling picnics and any outdoor activities that involve anything sweet, however I have observed an interesting behaviour that quite surprised me. Last week I was picking blackcurrants and was soon inundated with wasps getting at the fruit. I simply put the cover back over them and left the picking till later. I went back 2 days later and to my surprise not a wasp in site. On my way back from my picking session I happened to go past a patch of Berberis wilsonea which has just come into flower. They bear tiny insignificant flowers but the whole bush was alive with all the usual suspects but most interestingly literally hundreds of wasps.
So lesson learnt, plant a few more of these near to plums and other fruits ripening at this time of year and pick in peace. Isn't it great when you see how nature can work with us?
Just where I would prefer them to be. This Autumn I will be able to enjoy the fruits of their labour
The next fantastic plant for our pollinators this time of the year is the buddleia, however it does not attract the wasps but all bees and many butterflies just love this plant as do we as the scent is just glorius.
Our first visit ever from a Comma
While we are on the subject of flowers I recently planted my first Day Lilly bulbs and they have just started to produce flowers. These flowers are a nice edible addition to the salad bowl but look almost too good to eat.
pretty aren't they.
Till next time.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

In Praise of the Juneberry

The Amelanchia, common name, Juneberry has never been grown commercially in the UK though it grows really well in our climate and is easier to grow than the similar looking Blueberry which of course needs an acid soil to do well.
There are several cultivars which can be confusing to someone looking for a suitable fruiting selection for the first time. Even growers seem to get them mixed up and some just label them all Juneberries or Amelanchia.
They do have the following attributes in common. They are glorious in flower, they all produce tasty berries (some really rather small) and they have good autumn colour and are self fertile and tend to sucker. Its not surprising then that they are more likely to sold as ornamental's from our garden centres.
Some are small and shrubby and others grow into small trees. As far as nutrition is concerned they are more nutritious than Blueberries having at least twice the amount of vitamins and minerals, they are especially rich in iron and copper. Could this be another super fruit?? If you are inspired to try this fruit you can usually get a good selection from

Amelanchia alnifolia (Regent) a shrubby Juneberry growing just 80cm high and suckering freely, this produced 2kg of tasty berries this summer.
I also have A. alnifolia Prince William which has yet to come into fruit as I only planted it last winter. One thing is for sure I will be increasing the number and variety of these productive and nutrient rich plants over the next few years. I do believe that there is a lot of potential for the widespread acceptance of Juneberries as a commercial crop in the UK and I will continue to search for the best size and taste combinations for my land.

Other berry crops that have had a good year with me are:
2 out of my 6 cherries varieties Dunn and Small Black survived the ghastly spring weather and gave me very good crops.

On the minus side 4 out of 6 failures with the cherries and zero crop from the early plums was most disappointing. I am looking forward to the nut crop as the long period of warm dry weather will help the walnuts and especially the chestnuts. But for now I am all berried out!!!

Cherry Dunn which produced 8kg of large juicy dark red fruits this summer.

My home made strawberry cage made from my own canes and ties with NZ flax
Cherry  Small Black produced 5kg of intensely flavoured pea sized fruits which make the best juice I have ever tasted.
There really is nothing to compare with a basket of ripe strawberries, we harvested 10kg of these beauties and I must admit to watching the tennis at Wimbledon with a bowl of this gorgeous fruit by my side.