Tag Archive: apples


Winter Jasmine looking good

Winter Jasmine looking good

I wish all my blog followers and casual readers a very Happy 2018!!

It’s been a year of ‘ticking over’ in Old School Garden, as a long trip to Australia to be at the birth of our grand daughter fell right in the middle of the growing season… and voluntary activity elsewhere meant my attention was not on the Ground Elder amongst other things on the home patch!

Still, various important projects are underway, most notably the restructuring and renovation of the Kitchen Garden, where I hope by the Spring to have built a new shed, and installed trellis, rose swags and other features….watch this space.

I’ve said before, you might think that January is a month when there’s not much to do in the garden; well there are some useful things you can get stuck into. So here are my top ten tips (with a ‘grow your own food’ angle and with thanks to various websites):

Chitting potatoes- probably only worth doing for first or second earlies. Place tubers with blunter ends upwards (the ones with most ‘eyes’) and place in trays in a cool but well- lit place towards the end of the month.

chitting pots

1. The answer is in the soil.

Remove all plant debris, to reduce the spread of disease and pests. If you need to, continue preparing ground and digging beds ready for next season, but only if the ground is still workable (don’t dig if the soils is wet or heavily frosted).

2. Don’t let the rot set in.

Check your stored fruit and vegetables carefully, for rot will pass easily one to another. Empty sacks of potatoes, checking them for rot and any slugs that might have been over-wintering unnoticed. Your nose is a good indicator, often you will smell rot even if it is not immediately apparent to the eye! Also check strung onions- rot usually starts from the underside of the onion.

 3. Enjoy your winter veg.

Continue harvesting Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbages, celeriac, celery, chard, endive, kale, leeks, parsnips, turnips, winter lettuce, winter spinach, turnips. As you harvest brassicas, dig up the stems and turn the ground over. Because the compost heap will be cold and slow at this time of year, you can always bury these in the bottom of a trench along with some kitchen waste to prepare for the runner beans later in the year.

Red cabbage- lovely sliced and steamed with apple and onion in a little water, wine vinegar and sugar…

Red cabbage- lovely sliced and steamed with apple and onion in a little water, wine vinegar and sugar...

 4. Get ahead of the game.

Continue to sow winter salad leaves indoors/ under glass/ cloches- make your stir fries and salads more interesting with easy-to-grow sprouting seeds. If not already done and the weather is mild, plant garlic, onion sets and sow broad beans (e.g. Aquadulce ‘Claudia’) for early crops. Order or buy seed potatoes and start chitting (sprout) seed potatoes. Herbs are easy to grow on your windowsill and provide fresh greens all year round.

5. Not mushroom?

It’s surprisingly easy to grow your own mushrooms – try growing a mushroom log in your garden or alternatively grow some indoors using mushroom kits.

Mushroom-Logs

Mushroom logs can make you a fun guy…! 

6. Rhubarb, Rhubarb.

Consider dividing well established plants, and at the first signs of growth, cover to exclude light if you want ‘forced’ rhubarb over the next couple of months (growing the variety ‘Timperley Early’ may mean you get rhubarb in February anyway).

 7. The hardest cut.

Continue pruning out dead or diseased shoots on apple and pear trees, prune newly planted cane fruit, vines and established bush fruit if not already done. Continue planting new fruit trees and bushes if the soil conditions allow. If the ground is too waterlogged or frozen, keep bare rooted plants in a frost free cool place ensuring the roots don’t dry out.

8. Clean up.

If not already done, make sure your greenhouse is thoroughly cleaned inside and out and that any seed trays and pots you plan to use are also cleaned and inspected for pests- e.g. slugs and snails.

9. Fail to plan and you plan to fail.

Plan out what you are going to grow in the coming season and order seed catalogues.

pback1_1380165c 10. Put your back into it.

If you must dig, look after your back- remember to warm up and limber up before you do anything strenuous and try to bend your knees to ensure your legs take the strain – and not your back!

Old School Gardener

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Oh dear, first mud on a nice new floor...

Oh dear, first mud on a nice new floor…

My second Wednesday at Blickling was focused on the Walled Garden. Joined by three other volunteers (one of whom was also a newcomer to Wednesdays), we finished off shifting top soil onto the beds to level them up to the path edges.

So, more barrowing and raking for starters. The available soil had been shifted by the gardeners from the piles in the orchard next door, so we didn’t have far to go. But it was pretty strenuous, nonetheless. The space created will soon be (temporary) home to 100 tonnes of crushed Carr Stone- which will be used to surface the main paths in the Walled Garden.

Since my last session here, the Walled Garden has taken some further big steps forwards; rows of Catmint have been planted along some of the paths which will give a colourful, fragrant and insect-attracting floor to the trained fruit bushes, some of which had also been planted by the canes I had helped set out a few weeks ago.

The other big step is the finishing off of the new Bothy, from where, around mid morning, Project Manager Mike shouted ‘Tea time Team!’- I think this might have been the first time it had been used for refreshments (but probably not the first time Mike had made tea for the volunteers). I duly christened the new room -with it’s shiny spotted grey flooring specially chosen by Mike to hide the dirt!

'Tea time Team!'- Mike in the new Bothy...will it be too comfortable for our own good?!

‘Tea time Team!’- Mike in the new Bothy…will it be too comfortable for our own good?!

After lunch (taken, for now in the old bothy near the double borders), we finished off shifting manure to the beds where the soft fruit (Raspberries, Strawberries and the like) will soon be planted. I may be on trenching in this lovely stuff in my next session (back to Thursday). To finish off the day a couple of us raked over the new soil to avoid the expected rain panning the surface. Another group were finishing off the oak path edging which looks tremendous. Mike tells me he’s decided to turf these grass paths so that they can be used this season.

The final stretch of oak edging to the grass paths in the Walled Garden

The final stretch of oak edging to the grass paths in the Walled Garden

As I left for the day I had a quick word with gardener Rob in the car park, where he was about to deliver half a dozen large oak trunks to a sawmill in nearby Hevingham; these are going to be shaped into the posts for the lines of Raspberries, Blackberries, Tayberries etc.  which will be tied into wires strung between them.

So, some more lovely ‘home grown’ oak will add a touch of class (and longevity) to the Walled Garden. Mike says he’s glad that, at long last, he can soon stop being a builder and start being a gardener once again!

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

Norfolk Beefing apples before cooking

Norfolk Beefing apples before cooking

The orchard at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum, Norfolk, conceals a sacred secret – it was once the workhouse burial ground, where paupers were interred in simple, unmarked graves. And there appears to be no record of who is buried where.

Today the area serves as a demonstration plot for a wide range of Norfolk fruit trees, especially apples. A field gate displays a large number of plaques recording donations of different Norfolk apple trees to the orchard.

Gate to the Orchard showing plaques recording different varieties of donated Norfolk apple trees

Gate to the Orchard showing plaques recording different varieties of donated Norfolk apple trees

One famous local variety, the ‘Norfolk Beefing’ (or ‘biffen/biffin’), is a cooking apple of some reknown. It is recorded as far back as the 1690’s on Lord Walpole’s estate at Mannington, Norfolk. Cottagers used to pick the apples and wrapped them in  straw for a while in a warm oven, after which they would be squashed down and baked again. The final apples were packed in boxes and sent to London where they were a real delicacy, known as a ‘Biffin’.

A Norfolk Biffin after cooking

A Norfolk Biffin after cooking

Biffin/Beefing apples have very tough skins, which allows them to be baked whole, and then preserved cold. Apparently when cooked this way they are “creamy with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg”.  They were mentioned in Dickens’ story “Holly Tree” and also in “A Christmas Carol” :

“Norfolk Biffins, squab and swarthy, setting off the yellow of oranges and lemons, and in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner.”

Nearby, lies the site of a former Windmill. This can be seen if you look carefully at one of the earliest paintings of the workhouse, by Kerrison. Built in 1781, the Mill provided the workhouse with meal and flour for about 50 years. The Workhouse Master would buy a year’s supply of wheat from the local markets and this was then ground at he Mill.

In 1783, records show that William Pulling (of nearby Shipdham) was the Miller and was paid 6d a week (in old pence, or 2.5 new pence!).

By 1829 just a baker was employed, suggesting that the windmill was no longer in use. In 1837 the remains of the mill were removed. This was just one of the special buildings or rooms set aside for meeting the food and drink requirements of the workhouse, it having had a brewery as well as a bakehouse and kitchens!

Early painting of Gressenhall Workhouse (Kerrison) with windmill ringed in red

Early painting of Gressenhall Workhouse (Kerrison) with windmill ringed in red

Next to this site sits the modern compost making area, well organised and used by the volunteer gardeners to improve the soil and mulch the gardens at the Museum. Originally designed for maintenance by farm machinery, it became under used and recently has been reorganised so that the gardeners can maintain it. A system of different bays provide for the different stages of turning vegetable matter into compost (including stems and branches which are periodically chipped into smaller pieces and incorporated into the mix). There are also areas for creating leaf mould, for depositing paper waste generated by the Museum (which is incorporated into the compost) and also a turf mound which will eventually decompose into a fine loam for use in the gardens. The resulting compost is of a coarse texture, but rich in organic matter which is so good for improving soil structure, moisture retention and adding nutrients to the soil.

apple dayThe Museum  hosts an annual ‘Apple Day’ in October which is a great family day out with a range of stalls, activities and attractions including the fresh pressing of apple juice and an opportunity to bring along any ‘mystery apples’  to get them identified by a number of local experts. This lively event contrasts with the peace of the orchard, which is a fitting commemoration of those buried here long ago.

Other posts in  this series:

Down on the Farm – Gardens to ‘dye’ for at Norfolk Museum…

From Grand entrance to Grand Central at Norfolk Museum

Gypsies, tramps and thieves: garden where poor once trod at Norfolk Museum

Cottage Garden recreates 1930’s at Norfolk Museum

Old Workhouse Garden a wildlife oasis at Norfolk Museum

Unique Heritage Gardens at Norfolk Museum

Gressenhall's orchard - a peaceful place to remember the unamed poor once buried here

Gressenhall’s orchard – a peaceful place to remember the unamed poor once buried here

Old School Gardener

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