A sunny September saves the wine from a whine

Mid autumn in the orchard means that apples and pears are still being picked but it's the grapes which are now taking centre stage

Harvest is coming to a close and soon my thoughts will turn to pruning and planting. But before we get there, one of the most exciting times in the garden is the harvest of the grapes from the Wisely Vineyard, and we did this as a big team effort on 19 October. There two cultivars in the vineyard - ‘Phönix’ and ‘Orion’ - although we do also have a collection of another 100 cultivars.

Picking grapes for Wisley wine

Orion grapes being picked

Earlier, in September, I was not optimistic about the grapes this year - the cool showery August had not brought them on well and they were low in sugar and acidic tasting.

Fortunately the weather then turned drier, sunnier and warmer and as a result, sugar levels rose and acid levels dropped - much to my relief. We picked 2 tonnes of grapes from our ¼ hectare (0.6 acre) vineyard, and these are now at Plumpton College to be made into wine. In a few weeks we should have some idea of the quality, and I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Storing the Wisley apples

Apples waiting for storageElsewhere in the orchard, we are still picking apples and pears and those harvested now will need storing for a while before they are at their best for eating - we keep them in a cold store at about 4.5°C (40°F). If you are storing them at home then it is best to store them in trays in single layers in a cool, dark, frost-free and mouse-free place; a shed or garage in a shady place is suitable. This year there have been generally good crops of apples and I have seen plenty for identification, including many at the recent Wisley Harvest weekend.

Preparing the hives

In the apiary I have prepared the hives for winter. Last week I put on the mouse guards as mice are a serious pest in the winter. With the good autumn weather that we have experienced most of the hives have enough stores as the bees have been bringing in nectar - probably from ivy and the notoriously invasive Himalayan balsam. As a precaution however, I am feeding one of the hives with additional sugar syrup.

More information

How to grow grapes
How to grow apples
Fruit storing

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