Tag Archive: rhubarb


Winter Jasmine looking good

Winter Jasmine looking good

I wish all my blog followers and casual readers a very Happy 2018!!

It’s been a year of ‘ticking over’ in Old School Garden, as a long trip to Australia to be at the birth of our grand daughter fell right in the middle of the growing season… and voluntary activity elsewhere meant my attention was not on the Ground Elder amongst other things on the home patch!

Still, various important projects are underway, most notably the restructuring and renovation of the Kitchen Garden, where I hope by the Spring to have built a new shed, and installed trellis, rose swags and other features….watch this space.

I’ve said before, you might think that January is a month when there’s not much to do in the garden; well there are some useful things you can get stuck into. So here are my top ten tips (with a ‘grow your own food’ angle and with thanks to various websites):

Chitting potatoes- probably only worth doing for first or second earlies. Place tubers with blunter ends upwards (the ones with most ‘eyes’) and place in trays in a cool but well- lit place towards the end of the month.

chitting pots

1. The answer is in the soil.

Remove all plant debris, to reduce the spread of disease and pests. If you need to, continue preparing ground and digging beds ready for next season, but only if the ground is still workable (don’t dig if the soils is wet or heavily frosted).

2. Don’t let the rot set in.

Check your stored fruit and vegetables carefully, for rot will pass easily one to another. Empty sacks of potatoes, checking them for rot and any slugs that might have been over-wintering unnoticed. Your nose is a good indicator, often you will smell rot even if it is not immediately apparent to the eye! Also check strung onions- rot usually starts from the underside of the onion.

 3. Enjoy your winter veg.

Continue harvesting Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbages, celeriac, celery, chard, endive, kale, leeks, parsnips, turnips, winter lettuce, winter spinach, turnips. As you harvest brassicas, dig up the stems and turn the ground over. Because the compost heap will be cold and slow at this time of year, you can always bury these in the bottom of a trench along with some kitchen waste to prepare for the runner beans later in the year.

Red cabbage- lovely sliced and steamed with apple and onion in a little water, wine vinegar and sugar…

Red cabbage- lovely sliced and steamed with apple and onion in a little water, wine vinegar and sugar...

 4. Get ahead of the game.

Continue to sow winter salad leaves indoors/ under glass/ cloches- make your stir fries and salads more interesting with easy-to-grow sprouting seeds. If not already done and the weather is mild, plant garlic, onion sets and sow broad beans (e.g. Aquadulce ‘Claudia’) for early crops. Order or buy seed potatoes and start chitting (sprout) seed potatoes. Herbs are easy to grow on your windowsill and provide fresh greens all year round.

5. Not mushroom?

It’s surprisingly easy to grow your own mushrooms – try growing a mushroom log in your garden or alternatively grow some indoors using mushroom kits.

Mushroom-Logs

Mushroom logs can make you a fun guy…! 

6. Rhubarb, Rhubarb.

Consider dividing well established plants, and at the first signs of growth, cover to exclude light if you want ‘forced’ rhubarb over the next couple of months (growing the variety ‘Timperley Early’ may mean you get rhubarb in February anyway).

 7. The hardest cut.

Continue pruning out dead or diseased shoots on apple and pear trees, prune newly planted cane fruit, vines and established bush fruit if not already done. Continue planting new fruit trees and bushes if the soil conditions allow. If the ground is too waterlogged or frozen, keep bare rooted plants in a frost free cool place ensuring the roots don’t dry out.

8. Clean up.

If not already done, make sure your greenhouse is thoroughly cleaned inside and out and that any seed trays and pots you plan to use are also cleaned and inspected for pests- e.g. slugs and snails.

9. Fail to plan and you plan to fail.

Plan out what you are going to grow in the coming season and order seed catalogues.

pback1_1380165c 10. Put your back into it.

If you must dig, look after your back- remember to warm up and limber up before you do anything strenuous and try to bend your knees to ensure your legs take the strain – and not your back!

Old School Gardener

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My latest session at Blickling was mainly spent hoeing between some of the side beds in the Walled Garden, alongside Aussie Peter, and we also spent time harvesting rhubarb for sale by donations.

I do enjoy hoeing, especially using the Wolf hoes that we now have . I also have one of these at home and I think it must be my favourite tool (well it at least pushes the hand fork for first place)- it’s a joy pushing and pulling and getting an effective result both ways with the two cutting blades.

I was also pleased to see the result of my (and others’) tulip planting last autumn- there are soem splendid rows of very blousy blooms (see above). Having hoed we harvested the rhubarb. Some stalks must have been as thick as my wrist, and we managed to sell off nearly two crate loads by the end of the day. I don’t think peter had harvested rhubarb before as he set about two plants with such enthusiasm that only a few straggly stalks were left before Project Manager mike noticed and advised to pull rather less per plant! (you can see our respective results in the picture below- ‘Peter’s plants’ are the two stumps in the foreground).

Still, no harm done, as the roots are pretty substantial. The other volunteers were involved in potting on tomato plants, and Peter and I occasionally paused to mix some compost for them. Meanwhile Norfolk peter and Mike were doing some remedial works on some of the irrigation points which had become rather sunk as the soil level around them has built up. It was a reasonably simple job of lifting them up and fixing them in a new wooden case.

There had also been progress elsewhere in the Walled Garden, as some new volunteers with a building background had begun installing the hard surfacing beneath the benches , which Mike says will make mowing the grass a lot easier! Progress continues on the central pergola or apple tunnel, with the arches now fixed in place and the bottom rails also welded on. The rest to follow shortly….

And another bit of progress as the roses that have been temporarily stored in pots on one area of the Walled Garden have bene relocated to the small garden at the back of the Walled Garden- a lovely little enclosed space, just perfect for plant storage until the time comes for it to be properly used…perhaps as a bee hive area, according to Mike.

The tulips in the double borders are also coming to their peak, so enjoy a few pics of these and our rhubarb exploits to close….

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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En route to West Devon recently we had time for a brief afternoon stop at this wonderful National Trust property just outside Tiverton.

The house was built by Sir John Heathcoat Amory, the grandson of John Heathcoat, creator of the mechanised bobbin lace making machine and owner of a lace factory in Tiverton.

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The foundation stone was laid in 1869, but it was not until 1873 that the elaborate interior designs were completed. William Burges, designer of Knightshayes, had a rocky relationship with the family and was fired half way through the project, leaving his imaginative vision incomplete.

Burges was replaced by another reputable designer, John Dibblee Crace, who turned out to be another ill-fated choice. Much of Crace’s work was covered up by the family, but later restored by the Trust.

We only had time to see the ‘Gothic Revival’ house and its colourful interiors (the Trust has imaginatively opened up some of the unrestored rooms too)  and quick tour of the formal gardens. These were originally designed by Edward Kemp (1817-1891), a reputable landscape gardener, but it fell into decline by the 1920s. Rescued by Sir John and Lady Heathcoat Amory, after the Second World War, the garden became one of the finest in England, winning the highest horticultural awards, with more than 1,200 species unique to Knightshayes. This garden has a very strong structure created by extensive Yew hedging and some amusing topiary animals scampering along the tops!

The restored Walled Garden was also an interesting spot, with its steeply sloping site being used to grow vines the ‘French Way’.

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Knightshayes is certainly worth another, longer visit, when we can also explore the woodland garden… on the way out we stopped at a new ‘natural play’ site which cleverly uses three huge toppled oak trees to create a series of walkways, swing points, tunnels and other features.

Further information: Knightshayes National Trust website

Old School Gardener

Rhubarb, Rhubarb

rhubarb-growing-l_A2Rhubarb Ted

‘I knew a funny little man

His name was Rhubarb Ted;

They called him that because he wore

Rhubarb on his head.

I’d grown so used to this strange sight,

The cause I did not seek;

But then one day to my surprise,

I saw he wore a leek.

I asked him if he’d please explain,

And let me know the reason;

He said, ‘I’m wearing leek because

Rhubarb’s out of season!’

Ann O’Connor

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