Rain! Finally! And Rhubarb!

It rained today! A refreshing, ground moistening, light, drizzly rain. I’m unreasonably excited by this. However nice it was to have strange, summery weather, I don’t want a repeat of last year (England’s “driest spring in a century” according to the Guardian). After last year’s disappointment when the cherry tree jettisoned all its moisture sucking baby cherries in order to survive the dry spell, I’m quietly hoping I that can pick my first cherry off it this year.

Anyway, despite all my moaning, I did take advantage of the clement weather and got a fair amount of jobs done in the garden. Mostly weeding jobs, but this weekend I also planted the first seeds in my veg patch! First step was to spread an organic, pellet based fertiliser over the patch (~140g/m2), raking the surface and then watering it in. Then the planting could happen! I probably should have waited for a week after fertilising rather than a few hours, but I had this feeling that if I didn’t leap into action RIGHT THAT MOMENT I’d never plant anything. I’m the world’s worst ditherer when it comes to things I haven’t done before.

First in were brussels sprouts (Evesham Special), towards the back of the bed so that they wouldn’t cast a shadow over everything (apart from the shallots, but I can’t really help that).


Then leeks (Musselburgh), next to the sprouts, a Christmas present from Rob’s parents. As leeks apparently need transplanting when they’re about spring onion sized, I thought I could start them off in between two rows and move them before the sprouts expand their territory into leek-space.


Pak Choi (Rubi) as a request from Rob, provided I can protect them from rampant wood pigeons…


And finally parsnips (Tender and True) furthest towards the sun as they should be quite low growing. These I got in a “veg patch starter pack” offer from Gardener’s World. I didn’t realise how light and fluffy parsnip seeds were until opening. Internet wisdom said to avoid planting when windy, and I can see why now!


Here they are all planted up and covered with multipurpose compost. I think this was a tip from the DT Brown booklet as the multipurpose compost is far less likely to form a hard crust over the seeds than the existing soil, and therefore the seeds should find it easier to sprout. From left to right we have parsnips, pak choi, leeks and brussels sprouts. The sun tends to hit the left hand side of the bed first and end at the right hand side.


You remember I mentioned shallots earlier? Well, this is them in front of my small but rapidly expanding rhubarb corner:


Yeah, they’re probably not the most upright of shallots in the world. I planted them last autumn and have pretty much left them alone until I weeded them last week. I should have done the weeding far, far earlier, something I’ll have to remember for next year. I did take a load of photos when planting which I might inflict on the blog at some point; however, that story will have to cover the broad bean tragedy and I’m not sure if I’m recovered enough to write about that yet.

The rhubarb is also a Rob request as he loves the stuff, especially raw with the end dipped in sugar. There’s a bit of a timeline to this plot and its size. Originally, I was only going to have one crown but that has rapidly expanded due to the following events:

  1. First I bought him a pack of rhubarb seeds (Glaskin’s Perpetual) as a surprise present in October last year. However, as I read somewhere that rhubarb takes ages to grow from seed and in any case the seeds should be planted in March (5 months’ time), this didn’t seem like such a good plan.
  2. So I bought him a crown of Timperley Early a few weeks later (which I literally left on the side in the kitchen for a month, not watered at all, and therefore thought had died). My Dad insisted I plant it though, and badgered me into doing so one weekend when he was down. It’s the one marked by the tall bamboo cane, so as you can see it had somehow clung to life despite all the neglect it suffered.
  3. So, believing that rhubarb MkII had perished, when Rob’s parents asked me what I wanted for Christmas I said a rhubarb crown off their allotment please. Instead they gave me TWO crowns, one of Cherry Red and one of Champagne. These went in at the end of January and are currently growing so fast you can pretty much watch the leaves expanding.
  4. Anyway, the fool that I am, about a fortnight ago I found the original packet of rhubarb seeds and as I was sowing other seeds at the time thought, “Why not, might as well plant them as a birthday present for Rob.”. Well, they have sprouted, and far more germinated than I expected. Anyone fancy a rhubarb plant? No really, I’m serious, I have sixteen mini-“Glaskin’s Perpetuals”, and I only need one! I can’t bring myself to commit mass rhubarb-i-cide. Comment if you would like one and I can legally get it to you (therefore UK people only, unfortunately).

So that’s the current state of the veg patch. I still need to sow a few more types of veg (cabbage, runner beans, spinach, some different varieties of pak choi and parsnips, maybe some broccoli if I feel adventurous). I’ve also got to construct a viable pigeon barrier fairly soon, and I’m not looking forward to that at all. At least I don’t have to contend with rabbits (touch wood)…

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