2011 Veggie Patch Layout

It’s been a hugely busy day/week in the patch, but that’s for another post. This is a quick post to show this year’s veggie patch layout. We use a 5 year plot rotation system, which seems to work out quite nicely for the amount of veg we eat. As far as the plot sizes are concerned, they were all meant to be 5 equal 10′ x 30′ plots, but my amazing maths skills meant that the plot divided by the walk-through path has ended up 16′ wide, in the form of two 8′ wide plots. Last year we had a bumper crop of spuds from it – we’re still happily munching through the Anya salad potatoes, which make a fairly decent mash and seem to be a good all-rounder. More importantly they’re storing really well.

This year the monster plot falls in the onion plot, so we’re going to go hell for leather on shallots and onions. The shallots sold quite well out the front so we’ll be able to put more out and have plenty for us…they make fantastic pickles and they seem to have stored better than the onions. As pickled onion beasts, we’re going to put in 3 rows of pickling onions as well, from seed.

The rest is fairly self-explanatory – the Jerusalem Artichokes and Asparagus are stuck where they are so all other crops will move around them as they go through their 5 year cycle. We’re not bothering with spring onions, as we discovered we’re not that fussed about them, but we’re putting in more beetroot and dwarf french beans. I think we’re also going to invest in a big chest freezer for some of these things – it’s needed!

Roll on planting 😀

First Day in the Patch

What a feeling. After the harsh winter cold, the first day mild enough to venture to the patch as a family arrived. On went the scruffs and the task of de-weeding was jumped on. Well…more like sidled up to, but it’s better to sound passionate about these things 😉

Last Tree-planting Session

The final, monster-sized batch of trees arrived from Keepers Nursery and with the help of friends Simon, Sue and their two lads, we set about planting the gnarly whips. With this number of trees (44) we enlisted every trug and bucket we could lay our hands on to help get the roots all soaked in time. I am so glad we had already dug the holes out!

After a few hours of planting, the day was finished off with an impromptu game of lads and dads footy – not sure who won, to be honest I was amazed we could still run!

The trees that went in this time are:


  • Allington Pippin – 1884 – Lincolnshire – A versatile English apple, with a strong pineapple-like flavour, useful for both cooking and eating.
  • Barnack Orange – 1904 – Leicestershire – A late season aromatic Cox like dessert apple.
  • Catshead – 1629 – England – An ancient English apple, cooks to sharp firm puree.
  • Elton Beauty – 1952 – Cheshire – An attractive early-season English apple, related to James Grieve.
  • Marriage-Maker – 1883 – Leicestershire – Dessert
  • Queen – 1858 – Essex – Queen is a very pretty large cooking apple. It cooks to a lovely bright yellow sharp puree but is also good for baking.
  • Ribston Pippin – 1707 – Yorkshire – Famous Yorkshire apple variety, probably the parent of Cox’s Orange Pippin.
  • Summer Golden Pippin – 1800 – Dessert
  • Warner’s King – 1700 – England – Warner’s King is an old cooking apple which was popular in Victorian England. It is not as acid as Bramley but cooks to a well flavoured puree.
  • Wyken Pippin – 1700 – Warwickshire – Dessert.
  • Beeley Pippin – 1880 – Derbyshire – A rare English dessert variety.
  • Dabinett – Somerset – An old Somerset cider apple producing bittersweet cider.
  • Devonshire Quarrenden – 1676 – Devon – A popular Victorian early dessert apple with a distinctive strawberry flavour.
  • Forfar – 1771 – Netherlands – Versatile cooker, recommended for apple charlotte.
  • Harvey – 1629 – East Anglia – Harvey is a very old cooking apple probably dating from the early 17th Century and originating in East Anglia.
  • Hoary Morning – 1819 – Somerset – Produces really classic looking cooking apples. Nothing special raw, but becomes sweeter when cooked. Very scab resistant making it a wise choice for the organic farmer.
  • Medaille d’Or – 1884 – Medaille d’Or is a small russet cider apple producing a full bittersweet cider.
  • Red Joaneting – 1665 – England – Red Joaneting is an old English summer apple with a sharp refreshing flavour.
  • Rosemary Russet – 1831 – Middlesex – Dessert
  • Sanspareil – 1899 – England – An English apple variety from the Victorian era, or possibly earlier, with a good flavour, deserves to be more widely grown.
  • Yellow Ingestrie – 1800 – Shropshire – An attractive old yellow apple, with quite a strong apple flavour.


  • Black Worcester – 1575 – Worcestershire – Black Worcester pear is a historic variety and one of the best traditional cooking pears.
  • Catillac – 1665 – France – One of the oldest and best of the cooking pears.
  • Blakeney Red – 1800 – Herefordshire – Perry.
  • Brandy – 1800 – Gloucestershire – Brandy is a traditional perry pear with small red flushed fruit.
  • Conference – 1885 – Hertfordshire – A delicious pear and one of the best choices for shadier and colder spots, Conference is the UK’s most widely grown garden variety.
  • Doyenne d’Ete – 1600 – France – The earliest ripening pear useful for extending the season.
  • Pitmaston Duchesse – 1841 – Worcestershire – An excellent old English dual purpose pear with very large fruit.
  • Williams Red – Red Williams is a red sport of Williams Bon Chretien.


  • Coe’s Golden Drop – 1880 – Suffolk – A very attractive yellow plum considered by many as the best flavoured of all plums.
  • Laxton’s Gage – 1899 – Bedfordshire – An excellent yellow dessert gage.
  • Warwickshire Drooper – Warwickshire – Warwickshire Drooper is a heavy cropping late yellow plum. Attractive tree with weeping habit.
  • Merton Gem – 1923 – London – Merton Gem is a heavy cropping red dual purpose plum.
  • Orleans – 1600 – France – A very old French cooking plum.
  • Purple Pershore – 1877 – Worcestershire – Purple Pershore is one of the best culinary plums. Excellent for jam and stewing.
  • Yellow Pershore – 1827 – Worcestershire – One of the best and most popular traditional English cooking plums.


  • Bradbourne Black – Kent – Dessert.
  • Hertford – Dessert.
  • Merton Favourite – Cambridgeshire – Dessert.
  • Merton Marvel – Cambridgeshire – Dessert.
  • Merton Premier – Cambridgeshire – Dessert.
  • Penny – Kent – Dark, sweet cherries with lovely juicy flesh. Resistant to splitting in wet weather.
  • Summer Sun – Norfolk – Big, sweet, dark eating cherries with firm, slightly crunchy flesh. Will still crop well after a gloomy summer. It is also recommended for cold, frosty spots.
  • Merton Glory – Cambridgeshire – Merton Glory is called a “white” cherry, but really its skin is golden with red highlights and the flesh is pale yellow. They are large, heart-shaped and very tasty. They bruise easily when fully ripe, so they don’t store well & aren’t grown commercially.

Jerusalem Artichokes

Just a quick post to say ‘We did it!’

We finally ate some, and yes, they do affect you! If we had a wind turbine here at Merrybower then we could keep ourselves in electricity by eating these blighters!

Sliced finely, brushed in olive oil and oven baked, they are sublime though…slurp!

More trees

Finally the permafrost has thawed enough for the two remaining nurseries to pull up the bare root trees we’ve ordered from them and get them to us. The second batch arrived last Monday from Ashridge Trees – a fantastic supplier who has spent more time than I could expect on the phone, helping us through the complexities of planting, especially in these extreme conditions.

The trees came packaged in bubble wrap, cable-tied around a 10ft bamboo cane, then wrapped in a plastic sheet to help retain the moisture at the root balls. They are best left outside if it’s not frosty, or inside in an unheated outbuilding. The first thing to do was to cut the cable ties and remove all of the trees from the packaging, then the roots were soaked for an hour or so (no more than two hours).

Suz’s brother, Pete, volunteered to help dig the trees in, so with his arrival at 11am the six of us (including Penny the now not-so-small puppy), armed with spades and rakes, trooped down to the patch to tackle the 20-odd trees that were now soaking.

There’s no better feeling that planting trees in a group – Smiler helped shovel the soil in with his new spade he had for Christmas, and Jay helped Suz keep the whips (young trees) nice and straight when planting them. The time went much quicker than expected and by lunchtime we were munching on well-deserved bacon and egg cobs. The big lot of 40-something trees arrives this coming week from Keepers Nurseries, so not long for another update!

On a side note, I read a few days ago that one bush tree can keep a family in fruit. With 75 trees going in it makes you realise how many people you can feed – friends and family won’t want for fruit again, and there’ll be loads left to try out our ideas…more chutneys and jams, of course, but also having a hand at fruit juices, and more importantly, ciders and perries 🙂 Can’t wait! Suz bought me 6 bottles of apple juice from an orchard down south for Christmas, each made from one variety of apple. The differences in taste was amazing, and fascinating to line them up and sup each in turn.

The trees that have gone in this time are:


  • Ashmead’s Kernel – 1700 – Gloucestershire – A classic old English variety with excellent aromatic flavour, good keeping quality and very attractive blossom. An eater that is also good in cider – a sweet/sharp acid drop flavour.
  • Slack ma Girdle – Devon – A very sweet apple, making it a good choice in a blended cider when combined with a bittersweet and a sharp cider apple. The sweetness also makes them ideal for jams, especially in blackberry and apple jam. A late ripener, from November and on into the New Year, this may be the reason for the name – a bit of a slacker.
  • Tremlett’s Bitter – 1880 – Devon – A proper cider apple – one bite from a fresh one and you won’t take another! A hard bittersweet flavour, high in tannin, popular in commercial ciders when blended with a sweet and a sharp cider apple. On its own will give a very dry cider. Fruit drop when ripe – very useful – though they do tend to have a biennial habit, one year good, the next not so good.
  • Yarlington Mill – 1800 – Somerset – A good, medium bittersweet apple, classed as a vintage cider apple, so no combining needed with other varieties to make a full-bodied drink. Another tree with a biennial habit, and another to drop its fruit when ripe, so a net is all you need!


  • Beth – 1938 – Kent – An early ripener, the green and brown dappled pear gradually turns yellow as it ripens. A very succulent flesh that almost melts in the mouth.
  • Beurre Hardy – 1820 – France – Named after the Director of the Jardins Luxumbourg in Paris, this pear is very popular on the continent and quite popular in farmer’s markets there. Tender, juicy and sweet with a hint of rosewater.
  • Doyenne du Comice – 1849 – France – A very popular pear in France, this variety was brought to Britain in 1858 by Sir Francis Dyke Acland. Still widely grown commercially in Europe, it is an all time classic dessert pear.
  • Concorde – 1977 – Kent – A sweet, soft, modern fruit of good quality and stores well.
  • Merton Pride – 1941 – London – A superb English pear with melting, smooth, sweet and very fruity flesh, and big to boot! It was bred at the John Innes Horticultural Institute, crossed from a Glou Morceau and Double Williams – a sport of Williams Bon Chretien. Originally called Merton Favourite, it was renamed in 1957.


  • Shropshire Prune – 1670 – Shropshire – A classic damson with seriously a astringent flavour when fresh. However, once cooked it is delicious and makes fantastic jam or compote and, after drying, a prune. Not a great cropper, and not an overly large fruit, but the taste more than makes up for it. A very old English variety that thrives well in the North and better than most plums in very damp soil.
  • Rivers Early Prolific – 1820 – Hertfordshire – Produced small, rounded, juicy dual-purpose fruit. Good for areas that suffer from spring frosts.
  • Merryweather Damson – 1907 – Nottinghamshire – A heavy cropping tree with the largest blue, plum-sized damsons. Can be eaten raw or cooked and particularly good for jam, pickles and – of course – damson gin and brandy. Slurp!


  • Amber Heart – Kent – Also known as Kent Bigarreau, the cherries are red on gold when ripe with a pale yellow flesh and are large, sweet and juicy.
  • Bigarreau Napoleon – Kent – Known as ‘Naps’ to their fans, and Royal Anne/Queen Anne in America, these cherries are sweet and full bodied, but less sweet than their darker cousins. Due to the colour of their pale flesh, they are considered to be white cherries.
  • Merton Bigarreau – 1924 – London – Dark red-black, firm, sweet and rich. Bred at the John Innes Institute, this is a vigorous, reliable and heavy cropping.
  • Stella – 1968 – Canada – One of the first of the modern, self-fertile cherry trees, with big, dark red and delicious fruit. Suitable for the North and Scotland, they are one of the most common to be found in supermarkets – but don’t hold it against them.
  • Van – 1944 – Canada – One of the most popular sweet cherries before self-fertile trees were bred in the 1960’s, with the ruby red fruit turning black when ripe. Not a self fertile, but a very good pollinator, and suitable for Scotland and the North.