There is no better way to banish the January blues than to get outdoors and look out for new shoots. Yes, spring is a while away but today I saw the first snowdrops, just coming through, in the old orchard. This early flowering cultivar is John Gray. I bought a specimen ‘in the green’ last year from Ashwood Nurseries. I’m pleased to see it has survived!
Garlic and rhubarb are both showing signs of growth.
We’ll be propagating from and transplanting our ‘Timperley Early’ this year. This can be done in early spring or autumn, though as we need to prepare the new planting area at the end of the piggery it’s likely the move will be in the autumn. I may add ‘Poulton’s Pride’ and ‘Sutton’ as these varieties are reputed to have very good flavour.
The globe artichokes came through the cold snap unscathed; I leave the flower heads on through the winter as a potential food source for the birds and an overwintering home for ladybirds.
New leaves are already appearing at the base.
The hazels are awash with catkins and tiny female flowers; looking hard I can see the tuft of red styles.
So lots of signs of new growth – spring will be here before we know it, so now is the time to kick back and have a breather before the main sowing season starts in earnest!
The recently planted garlic has put on growth already!
As has the Timperley Early rhubarb which the lovely OH lightly covered with straw a few weeks back.
Plus the indoor hyacinth bulbs, (‘Blue Jacket’), I belatedly planted have started to poke above the compost.
The cuttings and mini plug plants are doing fine.
All good. However, the real new shoots will be a big project for 2016. We will be designing and building an ornamental garden in the space between the house and the productive garden. A blank canvas of grass at the moment.
Those who know me from my design days may be falling off their chairs at this point.
First steps….a site survey!
We have started to pick the first crops – lovely crunchy red radishes, (Cherry Belle), from the polytunnel and forced pink rhubarb, destined for a rhubarb and ginger crumble pudding tonight. Baby salad leaves will be ready to harvest from the tunnel next week. We have planted up two tubs of first early, waxy salad potatoes in the tunnel to add to the swell of produce.
Also, under cover, pea sticks have been pushed into place and extra seed sown in the gaps. The protected broad beans look green and lush – hopefully the growth will be able to support a bumper crop.
Outside, we have weeded through the alliums, (garlic; onions and shallots), and planted the last of the sets for this year. Tomorrow, weather permitting, we will dig the first trenches and set the bean poles.
In the orchard the almond blossom has started to break…..
March is here. Combine that with a run of sunny days, (still a bit parky, but hey…. ), and spring has started.
Back in the days when I did a bit of gardening I became particularly fond of a spring planting combination of pink and acid green. After the long cold, wash out of late winter I really looked forward to some punchiness – think dicentras, pink tulips, alchemilla, euphorbias etc. Get the combination right and it packs a real zing.
On the smallholding I don’t have much time for gardening per se but the forced rhubarb, (Rheum x hybridum), makes a pretty good alternative:
Forcing rhubarb isn’t difficult. It’s basically a process of light exclusion. Victorian kitchen gardeners might have had access to beautiful thrown clay pots
but anything that shuts out the light will do. I commandeered an old metal bin that we used to store corn feed in. Forcing weakens the crown which is why it isn’t advisable to do it every year on the same set but as we have a number of varieties, (Timperley Early, Glaskins Perpetual, Raspberry Red and Victoria), I’ll be able to rotate. The variety I have forced this year is the Timperley Early. I can’t remember exactly when I popped the bin over the crown; I seem to recall I did wait until I could see the new buds just breaking; the RHS site suggests that the rhubarb can be covered in December or January, Gardeners World – anytime between November to February. I suspect as long as the plant hasn’t put on any above the ground growth and therefore hasn’t started to green up and photosynthesise, then it’s okay to stick on a cover.
I’m very fond of marrying rhubarb with ginger. Here’s a recipe from Mr Oliver.
I’m checking out yellow rattle, Rhinanthus minor. We have a field that used to be grazed by an organic herd of dairy cattle. It isn’t quite a monoculture of rye grass. We also have – in no particular order of dominance – dock, creeping buttercup, bull thistle..and if you clear an area – a spectacular crop of bittercress and groundsel appears . I quite fancy some corn cockle or poppies, perhaps a smattering of ox eye daisy, plus any native orchid that might want to mosey along – because if I stretch my memory back to when I was a nipper of oooooh…. round about seven, that’s what fields were like – cornflowers, poppies and daisies.
Hence the yellow rattle research. Yellow rattle is an annual plant which is also hemi-parasitic. It invades the roots of other plants and takes nutrients therein weakening the host – in our case rye grass. It’s also not that easy to get established. I’ve been reading a number of articles – it seems to be a bit of a palaver….and the seed costs a fortune. So I’m thinking of buying a small packet of seeds to start with. I’ll try sowing a patch in the old orchard area to build up, (hopefully), a stock bed the offspring of which I can then cast amongst the tussocks.
In the veg. plot the stems of Timperley Early rhubarb have already made good progress and the knobs of Glaskins Perpetual and Raspberry Red are poking through. I haven’t harvested much from the rhubarb as yet – I left the crowns for a few years to bulk up. Here’s hoping for enough stalks to pull for some crumble, fool or a spiced rhubarb sauce to have with fresh mackerel.
There is blossom on the wild cherry plum tree.
Reading this week: Do we need pandas? The uncomfortable truth about biodiversity by Ken Thompson.