Tag Archive | Forcing rhubarb

‘Romantic’ Seed Potatoes

I was very excited this week as I purchased my seed potatoes (little things make me happy).  I like to buy them early so I get the varieties that I particularly like to grow.  I have chosen:

‘Marfona’ which are second earlies,

‘Picasso’ which are an early main crop and

‘Desiree’ which are red potatoes.

I bought the potatoes from a nursery in Enderby, as I like to be able to pick the exact number of seed potatoes that I need for each row at my allotment.  It was fascinating to see the amount of different varieties of seed potatoes that they stock.  I must say they have an amazing choice.

However, the best price per kg for seed potatoes that I have found this year, is at Wilkinsons.  Unfortunately they don’t stock the varieties I wanted, but If I wasn’t fussy then I would definately buy them from there.  They are also selling some potatoes loose this year for the first time, so you can also just buy the exact number of potatoes you require, rather than buying a bag.

I have now put my seed potatoes in seed trays to ‘chit’ them.  You don’t really need to ‘chit’ main crop potatoes but there isn’t really anything else to do with them until April.

As per normal, I am the most romantic wife around and I have the potatoes ‘chitting’ in our bedroom, as it is the coolest room of the house.  It’s a good job Mr Thrift is a tolerant man:

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This week at the allotment I removed the environmesh over my overwintering onions and weeded.  A couple of years ago I lost most of my overwintering onions to the ‘allium leaf miner’ (you can read about it here).  When I harvested my onions last year, they were great after I covered them with the enviromesh, so I did the same thing again when I planted this crop.

After weeding I replaced the cover again.

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I also forked my green manure into a couple of beds.  I sowed ‘Phacelia’ in the beds in late summer and then chopped it down just before it flowered, but I find it never seems to die completely and keeps growing.  So now, I cover it with weed suppressant for a few months to make sure it dies back and then I fork it in.

I then covered the two beds with plastic to warm the soil ready for my onions in February or March:

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I also spread some manure around my rhubarb plants.  I have placed a bin over one of my plants to ‘force’ the rhubarb.  This way I will have lovely pink tender rhubarb a couple of weeks earlier than my other plants.

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  I inherited the rhubarb when I took on my plot number two, so unfortunately I don’t know what variety it is.  What I do know is it is a very early variety and it’s actually starting to grow already:

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Back at home I have started my seed sowing.  I used toilet rolls filled with compost to sow my broad beans in.  I sowed an overwintering variety called ‘Aquadulce’.  I will leave them in my greenhouse until they germinate.  You can plant these broad beans directly into the ground at the end of October but I find that mine always seem to get eaten by mice, so by planting them at home it ensures success.

I also sowed my leek seeds and I planted some garlic.  I am a bit late planting my garlic but it should still be ok:

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I am still harvesting things from my allotment and this week we have had some cabbages, carrots and a swede.

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One of the cabbages was huge and I have loads left in my fridge:

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One bit of bad news this week is we finished the last of my butternut squashes (which were also stored in my romantic bedroom with my pumpkins).  I made a butternut squash soup and it was lovely and thick.

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Finally, I picked my last red cabbage from my allotment and I decided to make some pickled red cabbage.  If you have never pickled red cabbage before, it is really easy to do:

All you do is wash the cabbage, shred it and then cover it with salt:

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Cover it and leave it overnight:

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Rince the salt off the cabbage and then put the cabbage into a sterilised jar and cover with pickling vinegar.

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Leave for a month before eating.

Enjoy!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back again on Monday at my usual time.

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Onion Sets, Peas And Watercress

There has been some lovely warm weather this week and I have been working at my allotment in short sleeves at last.

On Tuesday I noticed the temperature in my polytunnel rose to nearly 37C, even with both doors wide open.

It was lovely to see that bees, butterflies and other insects were coming into the polytunnel, attracted by the mizuna that I can’t bring myself to dig up yet, as it is so beautiful.

Mizuna in flower

Mizuna in flower

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I spent this week planting my onion sets.  I started my onion sets in modules this year, as the soil was in no fit state to plant them direct last month.  I was very pleased with the result as most of them had started to sprout:

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I am hoping this will be a one-off though, as it takes extra time to plant the sets in modules and obviously uses extra compost.  I planted 416 onions all in all, including 80 red onions and I’ve got to say my back did ache a bit afterwards.

This year is really an experimental year with my onions, as I had a problems last year with the allium leaf miner, especially on my overwintering onions.

In autumn, I planted seed sown onions instead of sets (in the hope they would be stronger plants) and covered them in environmesh.  I have also planted summer onions that I sowed in January (again, in the hope they will be stronger plants) and two different varieties of onion sets, in the hope that one may grow stronger than the other.

The two varieties of onions sets I planted this year are ‘Turbo’ and ‘Sturon’.

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The allium leaf miner is a pest that was only detected in Britain in 2002.  It has been spreading rapidly since and spread to many places in the Midlands for the first time last year and unfortunately found my allotment site too.

The allium leaf miner isn’t choosy which allium it attacks.  Alliums include onions, leeks, garlic and shallots.

You can find details of the allium leaf miner here.

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I have also been planting peas again this week.  I have planted some mangetout as my youngest daughter absolutely loves them (though she won’t eat peas, which is very strange), so I would be in trouble if I didn’t grow them. I grew them in guttering as I find I have a better germination rate this way.  You can read how I grow my peas in guttering here.

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I also grow a tall, climbing variety called ‘Pea shooter’, which are really sweet, large peas.  The peas were expensive to buy, so I saved some seeds last year and I am pleased to say that they germinated really well.  I made a frame out of canes tied together and draped pea and bean netting over it, so the peas will have something to climb up onto.

There is nothing like opening your first homegrown pea pod straight from the plant and eating the wonderful, sweet tasting peas inside.  It is something I look forward to every year.

My tall, climbing peas

My tall, climbing peas

As the weather is warming nicely, I decided to sow my watercress.  Eric (the gentleman who had the fourth plot before me) always grew a really good crop of watercress in a great big black pot, so last year I decided to give it a try and it worked really well.  I just sprinkled the seeds and covered them with a small amount of compost and I  just made sure I didn’t let the compost dry out.  This was the result:

My watercress in 2012

My watercress in 2012

When it began to flower, I left it to set seed and I was surprised to get a second growth of useable watercress.

This year I replaced the top inch of compost with new compost and sowed new seed.  I covered the moist compost with glass to help the seeds to germinate.

I am looking forward to the results.

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This week I have been working on this years wildflower patch, as last year I was really pleased with it.

I have been raking the area to produce a fine tilth (a fine crumbly soil) and yesterday, I mixed the wildflower seeds with horticultural silver sand and scattered it over the area, avoiding the foxgloves I had transplanted in the patch.  I raked the seeds in, covered them with net to protect them from the birds and hoped the forcasted rain would come.

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If the patch is only half as good as last years, then I will be very pleased:

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I noticed my comfrey patch is growing well now.

I use comfrey a lot at my allotment.  Comfrey is high in potash, as the deep roots of the Comfrey plants absorb the potassium from the subsoil. Therefore it’s great for using on most fruits and flowers, including tomato plants.

I add comfrey to my compost bins, as it is a great ‘free’ activator and I use it as a mulch around plants.  I also have a water butt which I use solely for ‘comfrey tea’, which I use to feed certain plants.  You can read how I make it on one of my very first posts, here.

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I thought I’d mention a few of things I have harvested this week too.

Over winter, we have been eating the cabbages I sowed last summer.  The variety is ‘Robinson’s Champion Giant Cabbage’.  They have stood through all the wet and snowy weather the winter threw at them and I am really pleased with the results:

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My purple sprouting broccolli is doing well and tastes delicious.  It takes approximately a year to grow from seed, but it is so worth the wait:

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And finally, remember I put a ‘bin’ on my rhubarb in February, to ‘force it’….

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I removed the bin and the rhubarb was beautiful and pink.  I could actually smell the sweetness as I removed the dustbin.  I will be making rhubarb crumble tonight, as it’s my favourite.

If you want to make something different with rhubarb, you could try a Rhubarb and Ginger Cake, which is just as nice.  This recipe is here.

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There is always some confusion about composting rhubarb leaves, as the leaves are high in Oxalic Acid, which is toxic to humans, but this is broken down and diluted in the compost heap as the leaves decompose.  So yes, it is safe to put rhubarb leaves into your compost bin.

Also, a long time ago when I pulled my very first rhubarb stalks from the ground, one of the ‘wise old allotment chaps’, saw me chopping the leaves off.  He told me to always leave part of the leaf on the stalk, so it looks like there are three claws left (like a chickens foot):

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When I asked why, he told me the reason for this is because the end always dries and you chop it off again when you are preparing it for cooking.  This way, you don’t waste any….and he was right!

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I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back again on Monday at approximately 4pm.

Enjoy your gardening weekend.

The Start Of A New Gardening Year.

I thought I’d start today by saying a ‘Big Welcome’ to anyone that has recently started to follow my blog and a big ‘Thank you’ to the Somerset Waste Partnership, who have included a link to my blog on their website here,  I feel most honoured.

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This week there has definitely been a feel of spring in the air, as temperatures have been mild compared to the cold, winter weather that we have had lately.

I have noticed that bulbs are growing nicely, the tiny shoots of my autumn raspberries are forming and unfortunately the weeds are starting to germinate.  In fact, I saw my first dandelion ready to open its yellow flower this week.  This is a stark reminder that the soil is beginning to warm up and spring is on its way and it’s now time to finish winter jobs.

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Before I went on holiday last week, I laid plastic sheeting over the beds that I will soon be planting my onions and shallots in.  This will help to warm the soil nicely for them.

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 I also planted my shallots in newspaper pots and put them in my cold greenhouse, to give them a head start.  Next month when they have rooted, I will plant the shallots, still in their newspaper pots, as the pots will compost down in the soil.  This will also help to stop the birds pulling them up, thinking they are worms.

I will show you how I make the newspaper pots in my  blog post on Monday.

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Also before my holiday, I cut back my Michaelmas Daisys, ready for the year ahead.  They look so unattractive at this time of year and yet they look so beautiful in the autumn and attract many beneficial insects:

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The rhubarb is going nicely now.  I don’t know what variety I have, as I inherited it with the plot, but it is a very early variety.

Two weeks ago I covered some of the rhubarb with a bin to ‘force’ it.  This will give ‘sweet tasting pink stems’ in a few weeks.

The Rhubarb at my plot

The Rhubarb at my plot

This week, I cut back my autumn raspberries to ground level, which is a job I do every February.  Autumn raspberries are treated differently to summer raspberries, as autumn raspberries bear fruit on the new year’s growth, so they can be cut right down to ground level at this time of year.

I have had my autumn raspberries for quite some time and unfortunately they have quite a lot of couch grass and bindweed in amongst them, so I decided it was time to dig them up and start again in a different bed.

I split a few roots and replanted them in a new bed with plenty of compost worked into it and in the next few days I will feed the plants by scattering some sulphate of potash around the roots.  I was very careful not to transport the weeds too.

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Another job I completed this week, was to dig up all my Jerusalem artichokes.  My family love these roasted in olive oil and my daughters eat them like sweets.

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Jerusalem artichokes are one of the easiest vegetables that I know of to grow.  Each February, I dig up any that remain in the soil and replant the biggest ones, approximately 30cm apart and 30cm deep.  Every other year I dig manure into the bed before I replant them and in November, I cut down the old stems so they don’t suffer from the wind dislodging them from the soil.  You can dig them up all through the winter when you need them, as they store really well in the ground and they rarely suffer from any pests or diseases.

One thing to be noted though, is they are thugs and once you have them you will find it hard to get rid of them.  So make sure you plant them in an area away from the rest of your vegetables, or you will regret it.

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Remember the area between my summer raspberries, that I prepared the soil and sowed grass seed in the autumn?…I have now edged it with a plastic ‘Lawn Edge’ from Wilkinson’s and gave it a quick mow on a high setting (as it was so long) and I think it has really made a difference:

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This week I have also opened up my oldest compost heap.  It is now 3½ years old and it contained all types of perrenial weeds.  As you can see all the weeds have completely died off and a beautiful, sweet smelling compost is left.

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This proves that perrennial weeds can be composted, provided they are left long enough to fully decompose.  So many books I have read tell people to burn them, which really isn’t a very environmently friendly thing to do.  This way you are returning them to the ground and adding nutrients into the bargain.

One thing to be noted though, there may be weed seeds in the compost, which is why I quickly hoe off the seedlings as they germinate.

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I spread some of the compost in my polytunnel, after I gave it a quick weed and dug up the last of my turnips and celeriac.

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The winter salads are doing well in the polytunnel and are ready for eating and I planted some ‘leggy’ broadbeans that I couldn’t plant earlier due to the wet weather in January.

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For those who are new to my blog, my dad has a small area on my 4th, newest plot.  He had his own allotment for many years, but sadly age caught up with him and a full plot became far too much to manage.  Last Spring, he asked if he could possibly have a small part of my plot to look after and I thought this was a great idea, as I can make sure he doesn’t do too much.

  I love it with him there.

April 2012

April 2012

So finally this week, I bought our old garden chair from our back garden at home.  I put it in a small area next to my dads patch, so he can sit down when he is tired.  I made a little table out of bricks and an old piece of crazy paving, so he now has somewhere to put his flask of coffee when he sits down.

I finished it off with some left over woodchip and I think he will be pleased when he sees it.

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I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at 6pm.