Graham Porter: Keats had it exactly right with mists and mellow fruitfulness
Aug 30 2008 by Our Correspondent, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
JOHN Keats must have either had a wonderful fruit garden or spent some of his spare time wandering the lanes and byways of 19th-century Britain in search of blackberries and other autumnal fruits when he wrote The Autumn in 1820.
Our autumn harvest, whether it is under our control in the garden or under nature’s control in the hedgerows, is one of the best parts of the gardening year.
With sloes, elderberries, rowan berries, hazel nuts (if you can get to them before the squirrels do) and blackberries to collect without any other effort on our part nature’s harvest is often the tastiest, if not the largest.
In our own gardens, with autumn raspberries, blackberries, plums and of course apples and pears to pick, we can usually gather a good quantity to eat immediately or store for the winter.
It all sounds a little idyllic and seems to hark back to a different time and age when life was a little slower and certainly a lot simpler than it is today. I seem to remember the weather was a little kinder too!
However, why not take yourself and your children or grandchildren out for a gentle countryside walk, each with a small container.
You’ll be amazed at the harvest that is out there waiting to be picked.
You will all benefit twice from this free entertainment; fresh air and exercise, along with eating the harvest of fruit.
What more could you want?
If you prefer to have fruit under your control then perhaps it is time to take out some of your flowers and shrubs and replant with some fruit trees, canes and bushes so that by this time next year you can be harvesting your own juicy autumn raspberries, plump, delicious blackberries and crunchy apples.
Autumn raspberries such as Autumn Bliss can be planted in a single clump with a central stake to tie the canes to or they can be grown in simple rows, spaced at about 300mm (1ft) between the plants and a metre (3ft) between the rows.
As they only need an annual dressing of well-rotted compost and fertiliser in early spring each year, at the same time as you cut last season’s canes down to 150mm (6in) stalks, they are easy to manage and usually very productive.
Give the canes an open, airy but sheltered situation with good light levels to help encourage pollinating insects and you can look forward to several years of bumper harvests, fresh raspberries, raspberry jam or, for the children, assuming that they have not eaten the fruits straight from the plants, raspberry jelly and fresh yogurt.
Look out for one of the yellow autumn raspberry varieties such as Fallgold that makes wonderful golden raspberry jam.
Blackberries have long been one of my favourite late summer fruits, probably because my brothers and I went picking these and wild horse mushrooms with my father when I was a small boy.
Memories of bacon, eggs and wild mushrooms for breakfast and blackberry and apple pie later in the day do not fade.
These days there are so many wonderful cultivated blackberry varieties and, given three two-metre (6ft) posts, three strands of strong wire and a ball of twine you can control these rampant monsters and harvest bumper crops.
Look out for Fantasia, Oregon Thornless, Waldo and Sylvan, Himalayan Giant and Loch Ness varieties to select from.
Whatever your fancy, get out and pick some of nature’s bounty at this time of year.
You will still be enjoying the flavours and benefits when the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is nothing but a happy memory.
Write and tell me about your garden memories at the usual address: Graham Porter, Features Department, Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Queen Street South, Huddersfield HD1 3DU.