Blackberries

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The first nip in the air signals a change of season and the start of the blackberry harvest

The turning of the year as we travel through the seasons was a huge factor in pulling us back to the UK. The recent change in the weather, with its wonderful chilly bright mornings and nippy evenings, has warmed my heart. Whilst the other seasons have their appeal I can’t love them half as much as I love Autumn.

Blackberries, mypottingbench, mypottingbenchblog, hedge, hedgerow, harvest, hedgerowharvest, autumn, autumnal, September, berry, fruit, native, native harvest, blackberry jam, blackberry pie, blackberry recipes, apple, Devon, countryside, gardening, gardeningblog, gardening blog, allotment, allotment blog, garden, seasonal, seasonal harvest, free food,
Blackberries

Autumn is our season. The most potent memories of the last ten years with my wife belong to this time of year. It is the season of our wedding, of our first kiss, and of our first meeting. It also marks the onset of a series of celebrations and birthdays stretching all the way to Christmas.

Blackberries, mypottingbench, mypottingbenchblog, hedge, hedgerow, harvest, hedgerowharvest, autumn, autumnal, September, berry, fruit, native, native harvest, blackberry jam, blackberry pie, blackberry recipes, apple, Devon, countryside, gardening, gardeningblog, gardening blog, allotment, allotment blog, garden, seasonal, seasonal harvest, free food,
Mollie our Golden Retriever enjoys a foray into the green lanes

I am not a summer child; the sight of me in shorts should be enough to banish any misunderstanding on that matter. Instead, I am happiest in warm jumpers, walking boots, and damp woodland. Days spent walking the dog under a tree canopy are my favourite. Also at this time of year comes the bounty of hedgerow harvests. Already this year I have Crabapple Vodka and Sloe Gin steeping in the larder, all collected from the hedgerows and trees around our village. The other important harvest of the season is blackberries.

This year I read Alys Fowler’s book on foraging and I’m making an effort to note the harvest when it presents itself. Already this year I have Crabapple Vodka and Sloe Gin steeping in the larder, all collected from the hedgerows and trees around our village. The other important harvest of the season is blackberries.

Blackberries, mypottingbench, mypottingbenchblog, hedge, hedgerow, harvest, hedgerowharvest, autumn, autumnal, September, berry, fruit, native, native harvest, blackberry jam, blackberry pie, blackberry recipes, apple, Devon, countryside, gardening, gardeningblog, gardening blog, allotment, allotment blog, garden, seasonal, seasonal harvest, free food,
A view over the Devon hills

Blackberries

I think the ritual of blackberry collecting, bound up as it is in the season, might be even better than the fresh berries themselves. I’m working my way through a jar of blackberry and apple jam made 3 years ago which I find infinitely more alluring than the fresh berries. September signals the start of hunting season for blackberries.

Blackberries, mypottingbench, mypottingbenchblog, hedge, hedgerow, harvest, hedgerowharvest, autumn, autumnal, September, berry, fruit, native, native harvest, blackberry jam, blackberry pie, blackberry recipes, apple, Devon, countryside, gardening, gardeningblog, gardening blog, allotment, allotment blog, garden, seasonal, seasonal harvest, free food,
Not all the berries ripen at the same time

So, with my jumper on for the first time since moving home, we ascend a local hill to find the best berries. Jewel-like berries gleam from the yellowing hedgerow senescence. The bunches of berries carry both mature and immature fruits. The rule of foraging that states you only take a third of the crop you find (the other two-thirds being left for wild animals and someone else) reinforced by the plant itself.

The light prickling on skin reminds you that no harvest comes for free. This only intensifies the sensory experience. You feel like the proverbial child in the sweetshop picking only the choicest fruits between thumb and forefinger. The idea to bring surgical gloves comes to me as I notice the purple staining on my fingertips, as it does every year but is never remembered.

It’s not long before my cheeks are chilled and the light becomes thinner. It’s time to go home.

Blackberries, mypottingbench, mypottingbenchblog, hedge, hedgerow, harvest, hedgerowharvest, autumn, autumnal, September, berry, fruit, native, native harvest, blackberry jam, blackberry pie, blackberry recipes, apple, Devon, countryside, gardening, gardeningblog, gardening blog, allotment, allotment blog, garden, seasonal, seasonal harvest, free food,
Blackberry harvest

Home made plant feed: How to turn nettles into liquid feed 

Home made plant feed: How to turn nettles into liquid feed 

Turning a common and productive weed into nutritious liquid feed for your plants

I’ve never before made nettle liquid feed, but after seeing a large hedgerow bursting with opportunity, I couldn’t resist. The field margins around the allotment are ripe with possibilities when it comes to sourcing nutrients for my plants. One major concern with using weeds is introducing the weed seeds or roots into the plot so liquid feed is ideal. The steeping process kills any seeds and roots so you get all the good stuff without the risks.

Why nettles?

Nettles are able to grab lots of nutrients from the ground and a plant feed made from them captures nitrogen and other essential minerals which can be given to more useful crops. The liquid feed is good as an all-rounder when it comes to feeding plants. Those looking for more specific fruiting or flowering boosters should try some like a comfrey feed.

Home made plant feed: How to turn nettles into liquid feed 
Nettles

What you’ll need

Home made plant feed: How to turn nettles into liquid feed 
The tools you’ll need

I went armed with some good gardening gloves, a 5-litre bucket, and some good gardening gloves. The Golden Retriever came along to help but I’m pretty sure it can be completed without her. The gloves were an obvious choice. I bought large buckets with a good lid to keep the contents, and associated smell contained.

The process of nettle liquid feed production

Home made plant feed: How to turn nettles into liquid feed 
Fill the bucket well with nettles

Completely fill a bucket with cuttings of nettles. I wasn’t sure where in the plant the most nutrition was hiding so I put a mixture of leaves and stems, young and old. Press the leaves in tight to maximise the nutrients. Fill the bucket with water until the nettles are covered and put the lid on.

Home made plant feed: How to turn nettles into liquid feed 
The stinky product after a couple of weeks

After two weeks you’ll have a stinky stew of your very own. The smell is bad! The neighbours even stuck their head over the fence to enquire about the health of my newborn!

Bottling nettle liquid feed

Home made plant feed: How to turn nettles into liquid feed 
Tools for the bottling process

I gathered a funnel and sieve (purchased for garden use only) and some empty bottles.

Nettle debris

After straining the mixture I ended up with some very stinky stalks that I threw up the top of the garden, and a stinky brown liquid.

Home made plant feed: How to turn nettles into liquid feed 
Dark smelly gold

The final product

Home made plant feed: How to turn nettles into liquid feed 
A little of the final product

Here’s two of the bottles I found to fill with nettle liquid feed. I pour in a couple of glugs of liquid and dilute with 9 litres of water in my watering can. The smell does linger for a while after feeding the plants but not forever. The water is slightly coloured only. I don’t want to overdose the plants because this can scorch the roots and doesn’t mean better results. Less is more.