Tag Archives: Rhubarb

Groundhog Days

Last weekend the weather was glorious and it enticed many a gardener out on to their plots. Like the legendary groundhog  I emerged from my burrow, but I should have known better when I saw my shadow…This weekend it’s back to frigid temperatures  and I’m huddled back in my burrow.

Even though this weekend was less than productive, last weekend we did manage to weed and mulch the fruit patch. The shrubs all got their winter pruning earlier in January and the strawberries are already starting to put on some growth. This will be the strawberries’ second year, so I’m really hoping we might get a nice little crop this year. It’ll be interesting to see how much of a difference the fruit cage makes in regards to our current and gooseberry crops. Last spring, I arrived at the plot to find two plump wood pigeons eating their way through all the red currant flowers, so no currents last summer.

Fruit cage before....

Fruit cage before….

 

...And the fruit cage after.

…And the fruit cage after.

The rhubarb & asparagus patch even got a weed and mulch. We had a rather large rhubarb plant in the middle of the asparagus half, but it has now been donated to a neighbour plot and gives the old ‘gus a bit more space. We’ve still got four rhubarb plants, but I think that will be more than enough for us.

Of course, now that area is all done, I’m itching to push on with a few other jobs before the real madness begins in mid-March. I still need to build our raised herb bed and I want to assemble our log/scrap wood bench. I know I’m not the only one dying to get on with things. Maybe I just need to get over my fussing about the cold weather, layer up and get out there. Or maybe I’ll just have another hot chocolate and wait for another week. Yeah, that sounds good.

Feeling Fruity

Dare I write it down? Dare I even say it out loud?

I think we’re finally winning the War on Weeds. Now we haven’t won, but the plot is looking pretty tidy. I think this is primarily due to the super tidy I did in the fruit cage and it’s surrounds.

Having emerged from the sea of grass and waves of bind weed, I’m very proud of our fruit cage. My only regret is wishing that we had built it sooner. Recently I was stopped by a woman standing outside the allotment site, it turned out she once had a plot there a few years ago. She politely asked if she could be allowed in to have a look around. We had a great chat and she spent most of her time having a look over our plot. She gave a strong nod of approval to the bright blue shed, but most of her admiration was given to our fruit cage. “It’ll be the best investment you make. You don’t really get how much fruit you lose to the pigeons until you have a fruit cage. It’s so easy to just blame the weather, plants or yourself for poor crops.”

I think I understand what she was getting at. The netting went up pronto after I caught two wood pigeons sitting in our currant bushes in the midst of gluttonous abandon. Their one afternoon of snacking has meant we’ve gotten virtually no currants this summer.

This year’s currant crop: underwhelming

We planted two rows of strawberries this winter and they have been doing well. Lots of runners, which I’m trying to keep managed. We don’t have a huge amount of space for them, but I’d like to get a few offshoots to fill in a couple of gaps. As they are in their first year, we should really be picking off the flowers to stop them fruiting. This is to allow them to put their energy in growing, not fruiting. As much as we try to do things “right,” this is one aspect we’ve been a bit naughty with. The odd strawberry is such a treat, assuming the slugs don’t beat you to it first. There’s nothing more disappointing than spotting a glorious red strawberry, only to turn it over, only find it hollowed out and a happy fat slug smiling back at you. Okay, so they don’t actually smile back, but the way those beady little eyes look at you, they must be smiling in their own way.

Ripening strawberry, so far untouched!

The raspberries have been wonderfully abundant, I even got enough at one point to make home made raspberry ice cream. Mostly, at the end of a tough work session, I just pop into the fruit cage and announce loudly, “treat time!”

 

Raspberries galore

Next to the fruit cage is our patch for our rhubarb/asparagus bed. Initially, it was only rhubarb, but we were gifted with several asparagus crowns in the spring. Asparagus is one of my absolute favourite veggies, so I faced the dilemma of having to clear out some of the rhubarb to make room for it. I managed to gift two largish plants to our neighbour Tom, who has been enjoying them all summer. There’s still one big rhubarb crown that needs moving, but it’s also one of our best producers, so I’ve put off shifting it. I’ve decided that this winter, I’ll figure it out and re-jig things. We have too much rhubarb anyway, not enough asparagus!

Rhubarb & ‘Gus patch

 

So that’s that bit sorted, tomorrow I’ll get the ornamental area at the front weeded and done, then I can claim the victory over the weeds. I let you know how it goes.

Gifts That Keep On Giving

Before we launched onto this enterprise, I did a lot of reading in an attempt to understand, or at least begin to understand, just what we were getting into. One factor that was often discussed was money. In many respects you save money by not having to buy produce, through recycling materials in the most creative ways and, definitely in my case, saving money by not needing a gym membership. You also spend money on things like too many seeds, materials you just can’t find no matter how many skips you look in, and, if you’re anything like me, books.

However, there’s one financial aspect that was never discussed in any books; gift giving. I suppose it can’t be counted on or predicted in any way, as it depends so much on the kind of people we are surrounded by and by our own personalities. There may well be allotments out there where no one speaks to each other, everyone stuck in their own isolated world. I highly doubt it though, it just isn’t The Allotment Way.

One recent gift I recieved was through the Royal Horticultural Society’s Grow Your Own Campaign. As one of the first 10,000 supporters, I received a lovely parcel of seeds donated by Mr. Fothergill’s Seeds.  Very pleased with my gift of  sweetcorn ‘Swift’, spring onion ‘Ishikura’, summer squash ‘Sunburst’ and my favourite tomato ‘Sweet Million’.

Seeds from the RHS

A couple weeks ago our onion sets arrived in the post and I diligently headed to the plot to get them in the ground while the weather was still dry. I had allotted a full bed for them, but it quickly became apparent that I had far too many for the space I had. Every other square inch has already been reserved, so I faced the dilemma of what to do with them. It was about then our plot neighbour, Tom arrived. I offered them to him, as I couldn’t bear to see them go to waste. He was very pleased with them and naturally asked me how he should plant them.

This morning Scott and I got an early start at the plot. We were soon joined by Simon and his partner Alice. Poor Simon did his back in during the week, so wasn’t able to do much other than take Alice, who hadn’t seen the plot for a few months, on a tour of our work so far. Alice also arrived bearing a gift of some asparagus crowns from her mum. Leaving us with this to plant, I had to then work out where on earth to put them.

When I opened the box, I was amazed to find three different varieties and five crowns of each! I had thought of reducing the rhubarb patch down to half and planting asparagus. However, I had been thinking this would be something to do next year, after we had a chance to see how the rhubarb performed this year.  After much waffling, I ended up digging up two of the smallest rhubarb plants and dumping them into some plastic pots. I’ve rather haphazardly planted the asparagus, far too close together I’m sure, in an odd ‘L’ shape around the remaining rhubarb.

The new asparagus, erm, bed.

Once again Tom arrived on site just in time and my waste-not-want-not philosophy was allowed to remain intact. I admitted it wasn’t the best time to transplant them, but Tom was very happy to take them. He wanted to return these recent favours and offered some cauliflowers seedlings from his cold frame. As it’s been quite chilly lately, he said to just take them whenever I like. He also promised to bring some more seedlings from home for us to have. As someone who has really no space at home to start things, this was a most welcome gift.

Allotmentcation

This weekend I enjoyed an “allotmentcation.” I had a couple days of vacation that I needed to use up before April, so I gave myself a four day weekend. I have to admit, part of me would have liked to have spent those four days lying in front of the t.v. eating crisps and watching endless episodes of True Blood. Instead I ended up going to the allotment three out of those four days. Far more productive than filling my mouth and brain with junk. Enjoyable junk, but junk nonetheless.

I spent most of Friday there, just me and all the retirees. I was the youngest person there by a good forty years and boy, do they enjoy a good natter. I can carry on a good pointless conversation, but these people could chit chat for their country. It was a scorching day, so I didn’t mind any excuse to pause for a bit. The main topics of choice were the imminent hosepipe ban, which I can imagine will be a nightmare for those less able to carry water to their plots, and just how much money Plot 15 may have spent putting in those new raised beds.

Our plot neighbour, Simon proudly showed me his bumper asparagus bed and offered up suggestions for reviving my flagging sweet peas. Our newest neighbour, Tom, sweetly starts every conversation with, “now I don’t know what I’m doing, but…[insert question here]” We had a good tour of his freshly cleared plot and played the Name That Weed Game. When he asked me about what to do about Mare’s Tail, I replied, “try not to cry?”

A nice splash of colour on the plot.

I did manage to complete a rather major task. After a productive Friday afternoon of weeding, watering and digging, I felt it was time to wrap up and head home. I trundled up to the allotment site’s green waste bins, only to see that the council had brought another rubbish trailer. Now the last trailer showed up shortly after Christmas and was literally overflowing within days. Any time I had asked if another would be arriving, I was always told, “just keep and eye out for it, that’s all.” I saw that this one was already three-quarters full, just enough space for all the rubbish we had piled up. I was desperate to be rid of it, as it was occupying the space our new compost bins will go.I had arms of jelly, but I knew if I waited until Sunday, there would be no space left. With a big sigh, I headed back to our plot and spent the next two hours shifting rotten pallets, manky carpet and broken things up to the trailer. The trailer was ridiculously high sided, the lowest bit was about eye-level for me. Please note, I’m six foot tall. I managed okay, except for one rather massive chunk of rotting carpet, which managed to slither out of the trailer and onto my head.

On Sunday, Scott and Simon came and joined me. Poor Scott, he was suffering from the time change and got dragged out of bed at the ungodly hour of nine a.m. due to me bouncing about, eager to head back to the allotment. More digging, watering and weeding done, along with the main crop potatoes finally in the ground and of course, more chatting. We were given the heads up that tomato blight is a significant problem on the allotment site, which is a bit worrying given how many tomatoes I’m planning to grow. We also got lots of kind praise for our clearing and organisation of the plot. I’m hoping this is the sole nature of the chat about us, hopefully nothing about how much we spent on the shed or something…

Rhubarb looking good.

Today was a quick visit to drop off some bits I picked up at B&Q, which included a much needed watering can and a big bucket of pelleted chicken manure. I saw Tom carefully mulching and watering his newly planted broad beans, I commented that they were looking really good. He smiled, “Well, I don’t know what I’m doing, but…”