Tiny fruit trees

Last year I planted seven new fruit trees.  I desperately wanted to have lots of different types and searched for a means of making sure they were small trees.  Clearly you can choose dwarfing rootstocks but those I had planted the previous year were showing signs of getting much bigger than I had bargained for.

After some research I came across a book by Ann Ralph – ‘Grow a Little Fruit Tree: simple pruning techniques for small-space easy-harvest fruit trees’ which I have been following.  The idea is to have trees growing to approximately head height.  The method is theoretically applicable to any fruit tree regardless of the rootstock it is grown on.  In brief the technique is to cut the trunk off at knee height when planting a young tree.  There are some other techniques that follow on which are precisely documented in the book. If you are interested in the idea I would heartily recommend the book to you, the photographs of the trees produced by this method are entrancingly lovely!

So at planting time last year I cut my new trees at knee height.  Obviously I could not be sure how they would react to the shock of such radical treatment and sure enough some trees took it better than others.  It has clearly slowed the growth down a lot, most of them made little growth at all last year.

At the moment the quince is growing nicely and has a good shape:

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Quince ‘Vranja’

The pears and cherry are growing slowly but look fine, one mirabelle is also fine but the other was affected by the late frosts after a mild winter with several branches looking dead.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Mirabelle ‘Golden Globe’

So thus far I am happy with how this experiment is going.

In the spirit of experimentation (and because I wished I had known about this technique at the time of planting) I also lopped off four of the trees I planted the previous year – plum Denbigh, damson Abergwyngregyn, apple Trwyn Mochyn and cherry Cariad (these are Welsh names for those of you who are confused!).  Ann Ralph explains how to do this in the book so again I followed her instructions.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Cherry ‘Cariad’

Like the other group of trees they have responded differently, the cherry has fared best and is about to flower, the plum is also fine and about to flower, the apple was

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Plum ‘Denbigh’

set back by late frosts after starting to leaf and the damson appears reluctant to grow much!  However I think they will all get there in the end.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Plum ‘Denbigh’



Posted in Borderland Garden, Fruit, Fruit trees, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Baby rabbit

One morning last week my partner noticed that we were being visited by a tiny baby rabbit and I managed to take this photo through the bars of the decking.  We watched her / him having a good feast as s/he stayed for quite a while going up and down the bed leaving a trail of tiny pellets to mark progress through the plants.

I have seen rabbits in the fields nearby but never in the garden before and it put me in mind of one of my favourite childhood stories – The Tale of Peter Rabbit (by Beatrix Potter).  Peter ignored his mother’s warnings to avoid Mr McGregor’s garden and instead headed straight for it looking for food.  Mrs Rabbit knew Mr McGregor would undoubtedly kill Peter on sight if he was found in the vegetable patch.

Unlike the fabled Mr McGregor I don’t mind a bit.  Years ago I didn’t like it when we let our pet rabbit out in the garden and she ate all my best plants; but these days I have a much more relaxed approach to sharing with other creatures.  I don’t suppose I would be too happy if bunny returned with the whole family and they ate everything, but as it is the garden can very easily afford him some sustenance in what will probably only be a short life anyway.

Post Script 21 April 2016: The baby rabbit did indeed have a short life. We saw him again this morning whilst having a coffee and by this afternoon all that remained was one paw.  The neighbour’s cat who has a reputation for killing rabbits had caught and eaten him.


Posted in Borderland Garden, Relationship with nature | Tagged | 3 Comments

Plants For A Future Need Volunteers! — Forest Garden Plants

This is re-blogged from Forest Garden Plants, Plants for a Future is SUCH a BRILLIANT project ………


For the past five or so years I’ve been going down to help Addy Fern on the beautiful Plants for A Future Land near Lostwithiel in Cornwall. Though I’d like to be able to help more I can usually only make it down there once or twice a year at most.When I visited last year…

via Plants For A Future Need Volunteers! — Forest Garden Plants

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Yet more mashua

If there is anyone else who would like some mashua tubers please let me know.

6 April, update, I have packed up some parcels today and there are still more lying in a basket hoping for a home so do get in touch if you would like some!

14 April update – they have all gone now!


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Otter Farm updated update!

I am very pleased to say that Otter Farm reached their target!


With six days to go, the Otter Farm Crowdfunder appeal is at 60% of its target.  Mark is offering some additional rewards for pledging as per his letter below.  If you can, please support him and his work, it is a brilliant project.  Anni


Hello hello

So here we are, 6 days to go, 60% raised of the 60k. And I feel about 60, so there’s some symmetry at least.

Can I just day a HUGE thank you for getting us to this point.

It’s a tall order still, but we are in with a racing chance of reaching the total, thanks to you.

I’m going to do a 5 day countdown, starting tomorrow: every day at noon I will randomly draw a name from all those who have pledged and that person will win the £300 prize of two places on a course of their choice, or any prizes that add up to the same value if they prefer.

You’ve been amazing in getting us this far, and I hope you won’t mind me asking you to share this far and wide on any social media you use, by email and word of mouth. I’ll tweet and Facebook about it from today so that people are aware, so anything you can do to help reach people will make a real difference in our chances of getting there.

It’s an all-or-nothing deal: if we don’t reach 60k we get nothing! All part of the fun.

I want to offer you an exclusive too: if you pledge again for any amount, we’ll add the £25 pledge to it – that means we send you a bottle of Otter Farm wine on top of what you pledge for. Pledge anything, even a tenner and you get it. And anyone pledging twice, doubles their chances of winning when we do the 5-day daily draw.

Thanks again, you are why we are in this position, and I’m enormously grateful. There are 6 more days to make it, and one of the reasons I want to get there is to share a glass with each of you to say thank you.

Enjoy the sunshine

Mark x

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Please support Mark Diacono’s Otter Farm Project (Crowdfunder)

You may well have heard of Mark Diacono and his amazing Otter Farm project in Devon (UK).  He is currently planning to extend his work by adding a building to the site in which to host courses in all sorts of food related topics.

He is currently doing a crowdfunding appeal so have a look at the details and support him in this venture!

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Masses of mashua and plenty to spare

Further to my post on 7 January 2016 I have had a chance at last to dig up some of the mashua harvest – this is the haul from what was either one or two plants.  The tubers were all clustered tightly together and just kept on coming.  There were over 125 of them weighing 3.8 kg in total.

masses of muddy mashua

masses of muddy mashua


I have to say they are not my absolute favourite vegetable but they are fine in small quantities in stir fries and roasted vegetables; however when my partner cooked some with lots of others in a hearty veg curry yesterday they absorbed the curry spices and did not have any of that disntictively peppery flavour that can be a bit strong.  So that is the way we will mainly be eating them I think.

all cleaned up

all cleaned up

Having said that we cannot eat this many, and there are lots more still to harvest, so the question is if anyone would like some to plant for the coming season, please let me know, particularly if you could distribute some to other people as well.  There is no charge for the tubers but as they are heavy I may ask for a contribution for postage.

Update on 7th February – I have allocated all the tubers dug up the other day, but expect there will be more next time I can get out to harvest.  So do let me know if you would like some after that.

Posted in Borderland Garden, roots and tubers | Tagged , , | 17 Comments