11. MARCH

We have had some more rain so any more work on the soil is out of the question. Instead of that I was busy finishing jobs that were left, parts of my land were even neglected. One of these was a raspberry patch. It is away from my other plots, it is on a plot I was used to work on, I just have this raspberry area, a plum tree and a line of rhubarb. The neglect must have suited it, because just after clearing the weeds I discovered some super rhubarb, ready for picking and the five lines of raspberries. They were carefully planted in double rows, separated by little paths that were covered by a membrane (strips of unwanted pond liner).

It didn’t take very long and I had the plants trimmed, the dead wood cut out, paths cleared and some horse muck and contents of my composter bins spread all round the raspberry plants.

As I was working I had a very nice surprise – he/she must have been feeling quite cosy but then I came….

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I’m sure he’ll find another place to live.

After finishing for today I did my usual rounds, checking the trees and bushes. One of the old black currant bushes needed to have the big buds removed and that was when I noticed something on the old apple tree nearby.

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In the past I have been trying to rub the mistletoe berries into the bark but no luck.

Thank you birds!

2. MARCH

After the gales and downpours of the past few weeks it was quite pleasant today working in the sunshine. Blue skies and a gentle breeze, it was a welcome change. Fortunately I have done all my digging already so I could concentrate on maintenance. I managed to finish edging one path, ready for some more wood chip and then started clearing my large patch of raspberries, cutting them down. I usually do it in the autumn but I was too busy last year so left it for now. It will be interesting how they will fruit.

I picked my first rhubarb, not the forced one but the very early one – must be the earliest yet.

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To finish the activities I planted quite a number of lettuce seedlings – iceberg type – in the greenhouses. They should be fine, it feels nice and warm inside. It’ll be nice to have a fresh crunchy lettuce again.

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Another day of work tomorrow, must finish the raspberries and then I will need lots of patience to wait with sowing some more seeds.

THE ORCHARD…..

…..is finished.

Thanks to my lovely family I amassed quite a bit of money in Garden vouchers so on Monday, a few days ago, I had a big spending day.

I knew what I wanted to get – one plum and one gage tree -I knew I had only enough room for two more trees.

Our local nursery visited, trees purchased and delivery arranged (they wouldn’t fit in my little car, together with 3 bags of potting compost and 2 support poles for the said trees). Delivery was arranged for Wednesday – today – and I’m very happy to say that as I write this the trees are in their new home.

I also covered a few crowns of rhubarb as it started growing already. And the last bit – the raspberry patch is done – I took my eye off last year and it turned into a jungle. No more, all is trimmed, dead growth cut, ready to fruit again.

I am happy.

RHUBARB

At last!! I have pulled a number of beautiful rhubarb stems but unfortunately I don’t know the variety. This crown has been on the allotment for a number of years, it looks quite established but it is not too big so I don’t have to divide it yet.

The soil was quite warm and getting dry so I started sowing my parsnips – 7 lines(you can’t have too many parsnips!) Also a long line of Swiss Chard, the brilliant white variety.

APRIL

I was beginning to think that nothing will grow and the weather will stay miserable like this for ever.

All seems to be getting better. Even though the day started with a steady rain, the late afternoon improved and I was finally able to go down the farm early in the evening. The clock going forward one hour is, after all, good for something.

I couldn’t do anything there, the ground is very wet. The lettuce needed watering in the greenhouse, they are doing well. After I finished that I did walked around, just to see how things are getting on. And they are!

I did some pruning during the last months of the winter and it shows. I think we might have some fruit this year – if we don’t get any late frost, of course. My two pear trees and the plum responded very well.

The gooseberries are doing well and the rhubarb surprised me, only a couple of weeks I couldn’t see anything.

COMMUNAL TREES

A few years ago we were lucky to get a small amount of money for our site and we decided to buy some fruit trees. They are all doing very well, we planted them at the end of one of the plots. It is actually at the end of my third of a plot, together with a fair lot of horseradish and a few crowns of rhubarb.

The only problem with it is that it tends to get overrun by weeds. This time of year is ideal for some drastic action. It was another nice day today so I did a bit of pruning of the trees – nothing too drastic, just shortening some very spindly branches and cutting out branches that were crossing over. Once that was done, the weeds were next to clear. At the same time I moved Simon’s invention for washing harvested vegetables closer to the tap. He had the clever idea to use an old wheelbarrow, remove the wheel and drill a few large holes in for drainage, cut off the handles and hey presto – a perfect solution to a dirty problem.

JANUARY

I like all seasons but there is something special about January. When the weather is good, like it was today, it is a pleasure and a delight to go down to the allotment and dig.

That means that most of my land is ready. The seeds have been ready for ages – as usual I will try to grow something different. But one thing is certain – I shall have to grow more carrots. I have finally managed to grow some decent carrots, alas not enough!

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I discovered the delicious forced rhubarb last year so this is another must this year. I have marked the crowns that were not forced last year and all is ready now for some tasty pink rhubarb.

There was just one more job to do in the back garden – cutting out some bamboo canes. I try to do this about once every two years – it gives me new been supports for the allotment. The thin tops and leaves I decided to burn in my new/rescued/appropriated chimenea. It worked and I can use the ash on the allotment. Nothing wasted!

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RHUBARB RHUBARB….

…and more rhubarb.

I think it is something you either like or don’t like. It has got a lot of beneficial effects, one of them being ‘keeping you regular’.

I was walking home from the allotment carrying a bag of rhubarb. There was a lady walking the same way as I was, I overtook her and all of a sudden I heard – excuse me, do you sell it? I told her I didn’t and asked why she wanted to know. Well, she said, I have this bowel problem and I should eat a stick of rhubarb every day, just dip it in sugar and eat it. It keeps me regular, do you know. I agreed and gave her half of my harvest. I hope it’ll help her with her problem.

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A DAY OUT

It has been a custom in the last four years or so that every spring I go with Chris (Frank’s youngest brother) somewhere where the two of us can dream about the garden we’d like to have.

It was used to be the Edible Garden Show but this year the organisers didn’t feel ready to stage it again (or didn’t get sponsors etc)

Never mind – after some research I found just the place. Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire has got everything a gardener would like – especially if you like rhubarb! It is supposed to be the second biggest rhubarb collection in the world (and yes, we’re trying to find out where the biggest collection in the world is)

I noted down some names of the rhubarb I liked and in the end I bought 3 plants. I have to keep reminding myself that these crowns will spread in time and that I’ll be able to split them too.

Planting time tomorrow!

They also had a huge collection of old garden tools – quite a lot of the modern ones are very similar, just lighter I think – the gardeners had to be tough just to lift the old rake or a spade….

I’m forcing my rhubarb by using large buckets but the Victorian gardeners had very smart terracotta bell jars to do that.

Ah well, I can dream….

IT GOES ON…

…the digging I mean. I’ve finished digging the part of the plot right up to the greenhouse (not mine) and started clearing the other end of the plot, close to the main path. There is an ideal place to put a little chair, to sit, have lunch and admire the plot.

There was a water-butt in the corner, only full of rubbish. Very nice crown of rhubarb beside it – the result is that the rubbish is gone and the water-butt is upside down covering the rhubarb. You can’t have enough young tasty rhubarb.

The guy who left this plot didn’t leave in a friendly fashion – he cut his fruit trees down, the same with the large lavender bush – he just didn’t behave the way a true gardener would. His loss!

Digging will continue on Saturday. I already managed to replace the dead lavender bush – I had one at home in a pot and it was rather pot-bound. It’ll do well there.

Another water-butt was on this plot. I moved it and while I was doing that I found that it had a tap, it was working so now it stands elevated a little and I’ve got an easy supply of water at this end of the plot.