Beat­ing the birds to fallen fruit



Ripe ap­ples and pears are drop­ping from my fruit trees onto the soft mat­tress of grasses and herbs, and un­less I pick them up and bring them in­side, they’ll be­come bird food or dessert for wasps. Some al­ready have, though all is not lost. If I get to them soon enough, I cut off the pecked and chewed bits and stew them up to go on top of my break­fast oat­meal or muesli. If left ly­ing, sug­ary fruits can at­tract wasps and they’re no fun to stum­ble upon or wrap a fruit­col­lect­ing hand around un­wit­tingly. For­tu­nately, there has been no sign at all of wasps in my gar­den this year, de­spite the full­ness of my fruit har­vest. In other years, they have been a dis­in­cen­tive to walk­ing bare­foot be­neath the fruit trees. The pres­ence of birds, par­tic­u­larly black­birds and bell­birds, doesn’t force me to keep my shoes on but can make me grumpy if they’ve been help­ing them­selves to too many ap­ples and pears.


Hazel­nuts should be har­vested quick smart! If you leave them ly­ing on the ground, you might find your crop will be stolen by ro­dents from un­der your feet. Th­ese small mam­mals have sharp, chisel-shaped teeth that make short work of hazel­nut shells and the wearer of those teeth won’t stop at just one nut. I vis­ited a copse of hazels just re­cently where the gar­den­ers – who for years have col­lected sound hazel­nuts from be­neath trees at their leisure – are tear­ing their hair out at the sight of hun­dreds of gnawed nuts on the ground. I ex­pect that when the chest­nuts still hang­ing on the trees nearby, fall, the same gnaw­ing fate will be­fall them. The best ac­tion to take to beat the rats, will be to shake the un-nib­bled nuts from the tree, knock them off with a stick if they won’t dis­lodge, and col­lect them straight away. Left to lie on the ground overnight, th­ese nuts will be noth­ing but hol­low shells come morn­ing!


Win­ter’s not so very far away and if you don’t have any helle­bores or other sorts of win­ter flow­ers due to blos­som over the cold months, ap­pre­ci­ate those that are ap­pear­ing now be­fore they shut up shop as the rough weather ar­rives.

At the mo­ment, evening prim­roses, cro­cos­mia and lace­cap hy­drangeas are light­ing up the green of my gar­den. I love them all, even though the cro­cos­mia is looked upon as a pest by many gar­den­ers; the flow­ers of this road­side corm still look, to my eye, el­e­gant and at­trac­tive. Hy­drangeas too, at­tract de­ri­sion from some quar­ters, but I’m a fan, es­pe­cially of the lace­caps, with their al­ter­na­tive flow­er­head form. Don’t let the sea­son of any au­tumn flower pass with­out spend­ing time ap­pre­ci­at­ing their colours and shapes. Come win­ter, you might regret it.


There are many veg­eta­bles suit­able for craft­ing into crea­tures read­ily avail­able to home gar­den­ers at this time of year. Pro­vid­ing you have no ob­jec­tion to play­ing with your food, loads of fun can be had in the con­struc­tion of peo­ple, an­i­mals, di­nosaurs or what­ever takes your fancy when you are hold­ing that cour­gette or car­rot. A sharp knife, a care­ful hand and a lit­tle imag­i­na­tion and you can make a veg­etable be­ing that might be half as good as the one any child you in­vite to try along with you, will cre­ate. Chil­dren love mak­ing vege char­ac­ters so give them a chance to ex­press them­selves veg­e­ta­tively. If their cre­ation flops, you and they can al­ways turn them into soup.


Be­fore it gets too cold, of­fer the chance to your sons and daugh­ters (or their off­spring) to spend a night out­doors in your gar­den. Pitch a tent in a safe spot and in­vite the young ones to sleep over and en­joy an ad­ven­ture amongst your trees and shrubs. I’ve put up a small can­vas tent un­der the beech trees and on top of a patch of com­fort­able spongy This col­umn is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get grow­ing, from New Zealand Gar­dener magazine. For gar­den­ing ad­vice de­liv­ered to your inbox ev­ery Fri­day, sign up for Get Grow­ing at: get­grow­ soil, and am en­cour­ag­ing my boy’s boys to spend a night or two out­side. There’s a chance they’ll hear a more­pork and per­haps see a glow-worm glow. Ad­ven­tures await the camper: camp fires, torches, mid­night snacks, talk­ing into the wee hours, wee­ing into the mosses; all the things boys like to do but can’t when they’re in the house.

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