What an amazing autumn it's been for fruits and berries. Just look at these glowing red crab apples on Malus Comtesse de Paris.
Knowing that a surfeit of berries usually signals a hard winter, we checked out David King of Weather Without Technology's latest update. He reads the situation differently and believes the abundance of rosehip, elder, crab, sloe and snowberry is nature's way of providing the birds with much-needed water and sugars after so many died of thirst and starvation during this summer's drought.
David explains that when heavy snow is likely, low-growing berries like Lords and Ladies rarely produce much fruit (there's no point if it will be smothered and inaccessible) but their red pillars are everywhere. If he's correct, we can expect a mild, wet December, a blustery January, a frosty February and an earlier spring (thank goodness!) than 2018.
We enjoyed a welcome visit from Karen's old school pal, Alison Fure. Alison is a field ecologist specialising in birds and bats, a director of Kingston Environment Centre and author of 'Kingston's Apple Story'. Alison believes orchards can help soften the impact of urbanisation:
"If each child could plant an apple tree – in their name – it would halt the spread of ‘green desert’." She loved the Waterfurlong gardens and we're hoping Alison will return next summer to lead a bat walk for us! Meanwhile, do check out Alison's blog Wildlife Circus.
As you might have read in our recent blog post about the mole - The Secret Life Of Mouldywarp - our gardeners are tripping over molehills this autumn. Moles maintain their subterranean networks for years, creating new tunnels (and throwing up piles of soil in the process) mainly when earthworms are in short supply. It seems the common worm has been another victim of the summer's parched ground. Meanwhile, we're collecting the fine, weed-free soil to add to next year's potting compost.
November is the traditional month for a good garden sort out and thanks to Debbie and Liz's sterling efforts liaising with the salvage merchants, many of our gardeners were able to get rid of rusty panels, barbed wire, old rollers and even ancient animal traps. As dusk fell we shared tea, home-baked muffins and satisfaction that another van-load of tat was heading to the tip. Clearing the plots is an ongoing headache - in decades gone by few of the gardeners had transport and their only means of disposing of rubbish was to pile it up in a corner, bury it or shove it into the hedgerows. Last winter Helena even found a submerged car chassis! The challenge continues ...
Our honesty-box scheme has continued to go great guns. Although the produce season is now coming to an end we've been able to offer fragrant quinces, fresh eggs from Jo and Rob's new chickens and at least three different varieties of apple at any given time. Hit of the month has been Crimson Bramley - a gorgeous red sport of the regular Bramley's Seedling apple, which looks as if it could have stepped off the pages of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. We now have a waiting list of customers for next year's crop!