Allotment

Rhubarb and Raspberries

A quick update on the allotment, I have a shed arriving in a couple of weeks time! I’m so excited to have a little space to retreat for a cup of tea. I have some little curtains for the window and I think I’ve settled on a colour to paint it….but knowing me that will probably change so I’ll reveal once I’ve committed to buying a tin.

After uncovering the old shed base from the pile of rotting wood we noticed the front row of slabs had sunk, we raised them up and checked it was all level. I’ve also weeded the rhubarb patch and levelled off some of the soil to tidy it up a bit.

I said previously that I wasn’t going to cut the raspberries down because I didn’t know if they were summer or autumn fruiting, I changed my mind and gave them all the chop to be able to remove grass and weeds without running the risk of losing an eye, a small price to pay I feel. The neglected patch of raspberries now looks tidy and the new canes can grow without competing with grass and weeds, a touch more hand weeding needed to get rid of the last stubborn bits and then I’ll give it all a good mulch of compost.

raspberry bed
Raspberry pruning and weeding before and after.

Plot 33 is tucked under more tarp and sheeting for now to prevent excessive weed growth, except the rhubarb and raspberries of course. Meanwhile, I’m on the lookout for bits of wood to make some raised beds!

I’ll update again soon.

Grow Your Own Guides, Vegetable Garden

How to Force Rhubarb

rhubarb forcer
If you’d like to get an earlier crop of rhubarb now is a good time to force it. Choose an  established rhubarb in your garden and simply cover the crown with a forcing jar, upturned dustbin or very large pot. Doing this creates a dark and warm environment inside, forcing the stems into premature growth. Restricted light creates baby pink stalks which taste less tart and not as fibrous, ready approximately 8 weeks after covering.
forced rhubarb stems
However, once you force a crown you should allow it to crop naturally the following year (preferably two years of recovery), forcing it year after year could seriously weaken it. Before forcing, be sure to clear away the area around the base of the crown, removing decaying leaves and weeds to avoid the rhubarb crown rotting. Add a mulch of homemade compost or well-rotted manure to give a boost of nutrients.

Timperley Early rhubarb beginning to grow in winter

A tip is to grow 3 crowns (providing you have the space), allow one to recover from being forced the previous year, force one and let the other crop naturally, when it should. A good variety for forcing is Victoria.
rhubarb january
Timperley Early rhubarb in our kitchen garden 8th January 2017
Our favourite rhubarb variety to grow is ‘Timperley Early’, it starts cropping naturally as early as March. If you grow this variety you have to get a wiggle on and force it earlier than other varieties to produce an earlier crop, usually December for cropping in February. As you can see, our young crowns (planted last year) are already well on their way to producing some fine stalks! They’re not established enough to start forcing them yet, it’ll be another year or two before we can use the forcing jars on them.
Allotment

Back on the Plot

rhubarb

The weather has been settled and sunny for many days now, a pleasant respite from the rain allowing many hours of work at the allotment to prepare the ground for sowing and planting. Rich made a couple of raised beds using the wood we recently recycled, our plot now pretty much finished with regards to the design and layout. Gone is the tarp covering the unused difficult area, the ground now workable.

blackcurrant bush

During a break from weeding and turning over the soil I noticed mounds of fresh lupin growth by the shed, the beautiful shaped leaves easily recognisable. Fat leaf buds on fruit bushes are beginning to burst open and crisp white broad bean flowers sparkle in the sunshine. A previously sleepy allotment, suddenly bursting into life.

lupin leaves

IMG_6151broadbeans Blog

Simple pleasures, just one of the reasons I enjoy gardening and the outdoors so much.

rhubarb crumble

After grafting at the allotment there’s nothing better than a warm serving of rhubarb crumble with a cup of tea, the first crumble of the year always tastes the best.

Uncategorized

Missing the Rhubarb Patch

Timperley Early rhubarb in March

As I froze my socks off in the garden today I thought about tucking into warm rhubarb crumble. This is how the Timperley Early rhubarb patch (which no longer belongs to us) will be looking around about now. I miss it.

And the rhubarb crumbles I would be making and enjoying around about now…..

making rhubarb crumble

rhubarb crumble

To cheer me up we started the ball rolling for our new patch today and bought my favourite variety of rhubarb (Rich hates rhubarb), three puny looking Timperley Early crowns sweating away in a plastic bag. Buying them this way was a great deal cheaper than the potted single crowns and I couldn’t find my favourite this way anyway. I saved the crowns from the sweaty bag and potted them up individually, placing them in the greenhouse until we’re ready to plant them out.

It will be a long while before I can pull garden rhubarb again and our allotment rhubarb patch needs at least another year before pulling to give it the best start possible. Not to worry, I can always pop to the farm shop for sticks to satisfy my crumble cravings!

Harvest

Forced Rhubarb is Ready

In January I forced my crown of Timperley Early rhubarb, using my rather stylish forcing jar. Stems are ready to harvest once the leaves reach the top of the forcer. The sweet aroma of rhubarb filled the air as I pulled pink tender stems from the ground early this morning.

A bowl of warm rhubarb crumble is just what’s needed to cheer up such a wet and miserable-looking day.

Fruit Garden, Vegetable Garden

Forcing Rhubarb

Last year I treated myself to a terracotta rhubarb forcer for my birthday, using the money I’d been given as a gift. The forcing jar spent much of the year nestled alongside the rhubarb looking rather stylish, eventually disappearing behind a jungle of rhubarb leaves. My rhubarb crown is just over 3 years old so I’m going to start forcing it. I grow Timperley Early rhubarb, as the name suggests you do get an earlier crop than other rhubarb, forcing this variety isn’t going to make that much difference with cropping time but what I’m after is the beautiful pink stems and sweet champagne flavour that forcing produces.

You can force established rhubarb by covering the crown with a forcing jar, an upturned dustbin or water-butt will do the job just as well. Doing this creates a dark and warm environment inside, forcing the stems into premature growth. Once you force a crown you should allow it to crop naturally the following year, forcing it year after year could seriously weaken it. Some gardeners force the same crown annually with no problems and would disagree with the advice above, I just tend to be a bit more cautious. A good tip is to grow 3 crowns, allow one to recover from being forced the previous year, force one and let the other crop naturally, when it should. However, keep in mind that rhubarb is a thug once established, each crown needs plenty of space and they’re hungry plants.

I’m looking forward to tucking into champagne flavoured crumbles and fools.

Fruit Garden, Grow Your Own Guides, Harvest, Vegetable Garden

Pulling Rhubarb

My Timperley Early rhubarb is ready for pulling, yay! As its name suggests it is one of the earliest to crop and known to be great for forcing too. My crown is now three years old, huge and healthy. I left it well alone in its first year, no harvesting at all which can weaken a young crown, then only lightly harvesting for a few weeks in its second year. Now it’s big and strong I can harvest sticks as and when I need them – right up until early summer.

To harvest sticks of rhubarb, grab a nice thick stem at the base and give it a gentle tug whilst moving/rocking it from side to side, it should pull away from the base easily. If it doesn’t then it’s not ready yet.

I will be pulling my first sticks of rhubarb this weekend for making that first delicious crumble of the year. I highly recommend this variety for a super early crop.

Harvest, Vegetable Garden

Rhubarb Harvest

I bought a year old crown of ‘Timperley early rhubarb last year. Once planted I pretty much ignored it, allowing it to establish. Although it is very tempting to harvest new rhubarb plants you shouldn’t, otherwise it could weaken the plant. This season my rhubarb is looking very healthy and has tripled in size. I have just taken my first light harvest, only a few stems – enough to make a small crumble.

Faithful followers of my blog will know that I am not a cook, in fact I’m pretty rubbish. Still, I ventured into the kitchen, modest rhubarb harvest tucked under my arm and made a damn good crumble with it. Now, I don’t know if it was the particularly recipe that I followed, or if it was the fresh rhubarb that made it taste so good, either way it was very tasty indeed. I won’t harvest the rhubarb again until the following year, giving the plant time to recover and produce more healthy stems.

What is your favourite rhubarb dish?

Uncategorized, Wildlife

Frosty Morning

Brrr baby its cold outside! A hard frost descended upon the garden smallholding last night and turned it into a magical twinkling wonderland. I find frost quite beautiful, especially with low winter sun beaming across it. I spent longer than usual letting the hens out this morning, it felt so clean and fresh outside that I wanted to enjoy the peace before facing the usual morning rushing about.

Im chuffed and amazed at myself for remembering to put the tender herbs in the mini greenhouse, im certain I would have lost a few if I hadn’t. On the other hand, im not that clued up on herbs anyway so I may eventually kill some off by accident. The pheasants are once again a welcome sight, I do miss them during the summer months. The bird feeders are topped up and feeding the hungry small birds, the pheasants and other ground feeders clean up the mess.

I moved a rhubarb clump a few weeks ago, hopefully it will be OK and come up again early spring, all the rain that we have had recently should have helped to settle it in. The raised vegetable frames are looking good, filled with fresh homemade compost and being turned regularly. I will top dress some of them with rotted horse manure in the spring. I really must get around to making a compost bin from wood, we have 13 hens now and my compost bins are filling up fast!