Yay Rhubarb, Boo Rhubarb and more...



Yay Rhubarb, Boo Rhubarb

Or Yaybarb Boobarb, as Tim would have me title this. 

Why the "Yay"? Because Mr Rhubarb's finally up and running. Huzzah!

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Here I am, celebrating in the traditional style, with a rhubarb umbrella. You can see his friends in the bed behind me, happily growing away under the watchful eye of Barry (flamingo number two).

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We've had 5 big stems of rhubarb so far this spring, and it's still going strong. 'tis a miracle. But there is, as ever in life, a terrible downside...

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The "Boo" of course. And what a terrible "Boo" it is. Because Mr Rhubarb had a brother. A baby brother.

While Mr Rhubarb celebrates his third birthday this spring, his little sibling never even made it through the winter. I know. It's like a Leonard Cohen song. May Tiny Rhubarb rest in peace.

Because here's the thing about rhubarb - they're endlessly resilient, as long as they make it through the first two years. They like to be kept watered, enjoy a feed with well rotted manure in the autumn, and prefer that their flowers are removed in spring. But here's the important bit... strictly speaking, you shouldn't pick a single stem in the first two years. Even when they're right there in front of you, looking all pink and delicious.

Advice I followed to the letter. But it still sodding died. There was no disease. No terrible mistake on my part. Tiny Rhubarb simply didn't grow back after the winter. Damn Nature. You never quite know what it's going to throw at you next.

Thank goodness his brother's doing so well.

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I can now harvest my rhubarb from May all the way through to August. Stems should be at least 10cm long (though I aim for 30cm or taller), then simply hold tight at the base, and pull/twist at a gentle angle in one move. Ta da. Rhubarb harvested. 

Important note: never remove all of your rhubarb's leaves at once, or he'll die a sudden and terrible death. In fact, I wouldn't advise removing more than half the plant in one go. Those leaves are the only power source for growing more fruit. I say, give it a fighting chance.

Second important note: don't be the jam fool who eats the rhubarb leaf. Stems yummy, leaves highly poisonous. Put them in the compost where they can't cause trouble.

And that's it really. Planted in spring or autumn, depending on your variety (check the label tucked into its pot), rhubarb likes sun, but will tolerate shade - as I can attest. I've completely run out of space in the sunny raised bed, so Mr Rhubarb has had to make do with a shady spot. Once established, it's a wonderfully low maintenance plant that keeps on giving. 

Nice one, Mr Rhubarb. 

    
 

Bonjour, Onions

I'm the worst bloggerer in the world. I've abandoned you all. For months. Work, honeymoon, account disabled. Also... I've been writing a book. A gardening book, ironically. All of my words have gone into a first draft instead of this little piece of the internet.

Let's gloss over the whole thing, and move on... to garlic. And shallots. And good old onions.

Last time we spoke, I'd just tucked up the overwintering fellas. Now look.

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It looks like a proper vegetable patch! I've surprised myself with this one. Edenrose garlic nearest Mr Flamingo, then Griselle shallots, followed in the back by Yellow Moon shallots.

There's still another month to go until I can harvest the earliest, and there's a serious planting-harvesting-timings-fudge-up on the horizon with this year's summer vegetables, but for now... Look at them go! Good work garlic and shallots.

Other than a little light weeding, and adding some well rotted manure and compost around them, I haven't had to do a thing. The odd snail attack aside, this whole over-wintering vegetable malarky has worked a treat. Assuming they're not all hideously deformed and rotted under the soil. *fingers crossed*

Then there are the onions down the other end of the raised bed.

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They haven't died either. 'Tis a miracle. Slower to grow than the garlic and shallots, but chugging along in their own sweet time. Onions won't be rushed.These are Radar onions nearest the camera, and Senshu onions in the distance. The only ones that look a little weedy are the red onions. I fear for the red onions. Hmmm... I shall report back.

    
 

Good Luck In There, Tiny Onions, Garlics, and Leeks

Onions

At the very end of October (Friday the 31st, to be precise) I cleared the last of the summer's tomato plants, turned over the soil, added fertiliser, and planted out... my first ever 'overwintering' onions, shallots, and garlic.

This is both thrilling and worrying in equal measures. The idea of putting the raised be to use over winter is genuinely exciting to my simple minded self. Life pottering away under the frost. 

On the other hand... I'm having a low-key breakdown over the timings. The earliest any of them will be ready is May - a month after I need to plant spring's veg. The latest are July - when the whole veg plot is in full swing. I predict a riot.

The answer? Give it a go and see what happens. As is the gardening way.

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It's surprisingly hard to get hold of overwintering bulbs. One garden centre I visited said that they've simply "gone out of fashion" in the past few years. (What? How can a seasonable vegetable go out of fashion?) So in the end I turned, as ever, to The Internets. To Dobbies of Devon, to be precise, who sent me a mixed box of Onions, Shallots, and Garlic.

A ludicrously big box, it turns out. I've only got a little garden!

2 rows of Edenrose Garlic. 2 rows of Griselle Shallots. 2 rows of Yellow Moon Shallots. 2 rows of 'Electric' Red Onions. 2 rows of Senshyu Yellow Onions. 2 rows of 'Radar' Onions. And 1.5 rows of Purple White Garlic.

I still had most of the box left, so sent a load home to my dad, and put the rest under the bed 'til next year.

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One frost down and they're still alive. Good luck in there, little fellas.

    
 

The Joy Of Composting

Yes. The joy, I tell you. Just look at my new compost bin...

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Yes, it's pink. Yes, it's disguised as a beehive. Stop judging me. It's fabulous. 

And useful. I've been wanting to start this whole 'composting' malarky for a while now.

One: you get to feel outrageously smug. Recycling food waste as compost saves a bum-tonne* of global warming inducing gases - going to the garden, instead of landfill.

Two: you get to make a nutrient-rich food for your garden for free. Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium; it's all in there. Feeding your plants, helping to improve soil structure and maintain moisture levels, and keeping soil pH in check. Hooray for compost! Not bad for a glorified dustbin.

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But how to make the perfect compost? Are there rules? Terrible composting faux pas one can make? Of course.

Having consulted the Googles, it turns out that all sorts of people have all sorts of rules. Some of them quite vehement. So I've started, as ever, at the basic end of the scale. Then we'll go from there.

As a guiding principle, aim for a balanced mixture of Green Stuff (plants, veg, fruit, grass etc - they don't avtualls have to be the colour green), Brown Stuff (autumn leaves, dead plants, straw), and Other (including hair, egg shells, even torn up paper and clothing - but only a little of all of these). There are a few things that you shouldn't compost (handy list here) but mostly, just get stuck in there.

I recently cleared all my summer veg plants. The courgette, the beans, the tomato - so in they went. Some people say you shouldn't compost tomato plants, but I'd picked 85% of the last tomatoes, and I have such a small growing space, I'll be able to spot any rogue tomato plants next Spring and pick the little rotters.

I've also added fallen brown leaves, all sorts of fruit and veg scraps from the kitchen, eggshells, hair (from my hairbrush. Weird.) and periodically stirred it round a bit. I need to check that it's damp (add a jug of water if it seems dry) and warm (use your hand - if it doesn't feel warm to the touch, add nitrogen/ Green Stuff).

Now there's only one thing more to add. Wee. Apparently, there's nothing quite like it for kick starting a compost. Looks like I'll have to send Timmy out by cover of darkness...

*technical term

    
 

Rogue Courgette

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He's Marrowed himself! But never fear. He's going into a oven in a tray of roasted veg. True fact: you can't keep a good courgette down. 

    
 
 
   
 

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