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Rhubarb buds

I am sure that most of you will have a clump of it in your garden or on your allotment, although it can grow quite big it is often overlooked and not really eaten – it’s Rhubarb.

If you do have a root or crown you will notice that it is coming to life, its large smooth coated ‘buds’ are splitting to reveal new leaves on short stems, to get long, tender, delicious pale pink stems you need to block out all light and ‘force’ them by covering the crown with a large container/bucket, old chimney pot, dustbin or a traditional terracotta Rhubarb forcer, my dad even uses an old dolly tub, place bricks on top to weigh them down, you can start forcing Rhubarb in January for an earlier crop. Harvest the forced stems when they are approx. 20-30cm long, cut off the poisonous yellow leaves, these can be put in your Compost Bin, to pick Rhubarb hold the stalk at the base, pull and twist away from the crown so that it tears off.

Rhubarb is actually a perennial vegetable although we often regard it as a fruit, it is available to pick fresh when other fruits are in short supply and often expensive, even if you have to buy some it is inexpensive when in season.

Forced Rhubarb

This picture shows forced taller, yellow leaved Rhubarb stems and smaller green leaved Rhubarb stems which haven’t been forced

Rhubarb is an easy plant to grow and will thrive on neglect, it prefers a moist fertile soil in a sunny position, plant Crowns in Spring or Autumn, although it can grow quite big it can be grown in a large Dirt Pot or Growing Bag (minimum size 40 litres), fill with a good quality Compost and mix into it well-rotted farmyard manure. Plant the crown about 3cm below the surface and water in well. Place the bags in a sunny spot watering the Rhubarb regularly especially during the Summer and during dry periods, allow new plants to become established for the first year before harvesting any stems, the following Spring only harvest a few stems at a time, remove any flower heads that appear these can be put in the Compost Bin. Rhubarb should only be forced every two years so if you prefer forced Rhubarb have two or more plants so that you can alternate them, don’t harvest stalks later than July. During Summer feed with a liquid or general-purpose fertilizer then in Autumn put your Rhubarb to bed; remove any old leaves and mulch around (not on) the crown with well-rotted farmyard manure.

Rhubarb makes a delicious dessert why not have a go at our

Easy Rhubarb Fool

Ingredients

  • 350g Rhubarb, washed, trimmed and sliced
  • Finely grated zest and juice of half an orange
  • 55g Caster Sugar
  • 150ml Double Cream
  • 150ml Greek Yoghurt
  • Shortbread or Oat Biscuits

What you need to do

  1. Place the Rhubarb, Zest, Juice and Sugar in a pan and heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the Rhubarb softens and starts to break up, remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. Softly whip the Cream and Yoghurt together, fold in half of the cooled Rhubarb mixture.
  4. Spoon the stewed Rhubarb/Orange mixture and the creamy Rhubarb mixture in alternate layers into glasses or small dishes and serve with the biscuits.
  5. For a grown up version add a splash of Cointreau Orange Liqueur to the Rhubarb/Orange mixture.
  6. Serves 4

Why not have a go at our other Rhubarb Recipes?

Click here for the Rhubarb Crumble Recipe or here for Rhubarb Muffins, I don’t think you can beat Rhubarb Crumble served of course with Custard, simply delicious.

Enjoy!

Gill

WOW what an incredible day it was yesterday when 3 amazing celestial events happened:

  1. The Solar Eclipse – which I watched with Thomas at his Primary school all the children were really excited, although it was cloudy we could clearly see it
  2. The Supermoon – this is when either a full or new moon is at its nearest point to earth on its elliptical orbit making it appear larger and brighter than normal
  3. The Spring Equinox – this is the first day of Spring when the length of day and night hours are approximately the same, from today we will have longer days than nights which increase each day slightly until 21st June (the longest day) when unfortunately the day light hours start to reduce.

Daffodils

This weekend the weather forecast is good if you are planning to get out into the garden here are some things that you can be doing:

Start/continue your Spring tidy up

  1. Clear away dead leaves, stems and twigs – why not place them in a corner of your garden and make a wildlife habitat.
  2. Give your lawn its first cut, taking off the tops only, grass has now started to grow quickly.
  3. Give your greenhouse and your gardening equipment a good clean, hygiene is very important when sowing seeds and potting up young seedlings/plants.
  4. Weed any remaining Raised Beds and Vegetable Plots removing large stones, dig over and incorporate a general fertilizer or nutrient rich compost from your Compost Bins, cover with polythene, fleece or cloches to warm the soil.

Chitting potatoes

Planting and Sowing

  1. Plant First Early and Salad Potatoes, if space is limited they will grow successfully in potato bags on the patio, chit second early and main crop potatoes in seed trays/egg boxes for planting next month.
  2. Onions are very easy to grow from sets, plant in soft earth with their tips showing approx. 10cm apart, leaving 23cm between rows, if birds are a problem cover with netting.
  3. Direct Sow Broad Beans, Lettuce, Radish, Spinach, Peas, Spring Onions, Swiss Chard, Leeks, Carrots, Turnips, Beetroot, Summer/Autumn Brassicas and cover with fleece or cloches for protection, if it is too cold or wet they can be started off in pots and trays indoors.

Have a lovely weekend

Gill

This Sunday is Mother’s Day or Mothering Sunday, in Britain it is celebrated in March on the fourth Sunday in Lent, it is also celebrated in 46 other countries around the world (on different dates) and is the day that millions of people honour and thank their Mums, Grans, Great Grans and those who care for them for raising, looking after, caring and supporting them and for just always being there.

The origin of Mother’s Day dates back to the ancient Greeks who celebrated an annual spring festival dedicated to maternal goddesses and to honour Rhea who was the mother of many of the Greek gods and goddesses, ancient Romans too celebrated a spring festival, called Hilaria dedicated to Cybele, a mother goddess. Early Christians honoured the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ, this was later to include all mothers and was then called Mothering Sunday or Rose Sunday because roses were handed out to all women in church on that day. Flowers represent purity, beauty and life they are traditionally given on Mother’s Day and are always well received and much appreciated.

Fresh flowers can sometimes be expensive why not have a go at making your own, I always think that home-made gifts are nicer as they are unique and personal and made with a lot of thought, time and effort, why not have a go at our:

Paper Waterlily 8

Water Lily Mother’s Day Card

What you will need

  • Thin Paper (Coloured, White, Wrapping paper, pages from magazines)
  • Scissors
  • White card
  • Green felt tips/crayons/paint
  • Favourite Sweets/Chocolates (optional)

What you need to do

1. Cut your paper into squares.

Waterlily 1

2. Fold the square paper in half diagonally, corner to corner, crease the centre, unfold and repeat with the two remaining corners.

Water Lily 2

3. Fold all four of the corners into the centre, and then repeat again.

4. Turn your square over and again fold the corners into the centre.

Water Lily 3

5. Then carefully fold each corner over to about half way into the centre.

Water Lily 4

6. Place your thumb on the tip of each corner and carefully pull over the corner flap which is underneath whilst pressing down on the straight edge of the folded corner with your other thumb, this is the tricky part, don’t worry if the corners of the ‘petals’ tear slightly, a bit of practice may be required.

Water Lily 5

7. If you use different sizes of squares you will get varying sizes of flowers, you can then stick one flower inside another.

Paper Waterlily 7

8. Draw a Lily Pad on a piece of card and colour/paint green or cut one out of green paper and stick onto the card, stick your flowers on top of your Lily Pad and add your message, if you wanted to you could make a flat card and put some of your Mums favourite sweets inside the flower.

Have fun this weekend and Mums have a lovely Mother’s Day

Gill

Have a look at our two Garden Bird Competitions:

In the School Zone find 10 hidden garden birds in our Garden Birds Wordsearch and you could win a

Birch Log Nest Box

Birch Log Hole Nest Box

a Wooden Peanut Butter Bird Feeder,

Wooden Peanut Butter Feeder

a Discovery Seed Feeder

The Discovery Seed Feeder

and a Fat Ball Feeder

Metal Fat Ball Feeder

 

In the Kids/Family Zone correctly identify the birds shown in the pictures

  1.  Goldfinch         B.  Robin         C.  Great Tit         D.  Blue Tit
  2.  House Sparrow         F.  Blackbird

1.

Metal Fat Ball Feeder

2.

Square Ground Bird Table

3.

Guardian Seed Feeder

4.

Hanging Star Fatball Feeder

5.

 Discovery Seed Feeder

6.

 Teapot Nester

and you could win a

Build Your Own Nest Box Kit

Build Your Own Nest Box

and a Wooden Peanut Butter Feeder

Wooden Peanut Butter Feeder

For full details and an Entry Form visit The School Zone and The Family Zone

Hurry as the closing date for both competitions is Saturday 14th March, 2015.

Good Luck

Gill

Chilli Peppers

Every year I grow my own Sweet and Chilli Peppers from seed, they can be very slow to germinate so are one of the first crops that I get going, if you want to have a go at growing your own now is the time to get started, seeds can be sown between February and April, I will be sowing mine in the next couple of weeks.

Sweet and Chilli Peppers make very attractive plants, there are lots of different varieties to choose from producing fruits in varying shapes, sizes and colours, and different degrees of heat, did you know that the heat of Peppers (and other spicy foods) is measured on the ‘Scoville Scale’, one of the hottest known peppers is called the ‘Carolina Reaper’ and measures ‘2,200,000’, at the opposite end of the scale the Sweet (Bell) Pepper which does not contain any heat measures ‘0’.

Sweet Peppers Yellow

Peppers can be grown in a greenhouse/polytunnel, on your windowsill or even outdoors in a warm, sunny sheltered position, Peppers love the sun and will thrive in warm/hot conditions which allow their fruits to ripen and change colour, those grown indoors tend to produce bigger crops that mature quicker.

How to sow your seeds

Fill your seed trays or pots with seed compost and sow the seeds thinly on the surface, lightly cover with a fine sprinkling of compost or vermiculite and water carefully, don’t forget to add a label, Chilli and Sweet Pepper seedlings and plants look almost identical.

Place in a propagator at a temperature of 15-20C (60-68F), do not exclude light this helps germination, be patient some varieties can take 7-21 days.

pepper plant

Growing On

Once your seedlings have appeared, remove them from the propagator and grow on in a warm environment, once they are large enough to handle pot on into small pots of good quality compost.

When they have outgrown their pots (you may notice roots growing through the bottom) it is time to transplant them into their final growing positions (larger pots, hanging baskets, containers, grow bags) where they are to crop. If you want to grow them outside harden them off first and plant out in a sunny, sheltered position after all risk of frost has passed.

Aftercare

Gently spray the flowers with tepid water to encourage fruit to set, feed the plants weekly after the first fruits begin to form, keep the plants moist but do not overwater. As the fruits develop you may need to stake the plants to support the fruit bearing stems which can become quite heavy.

Sweet Peppers Purple

I grow both Chilli and Sweet Peppers, I give a lot of my Chilli Peppers to friends and family as I am not a big fan of hot spicy food, I do enjoy the Sweet Peppers in salads, stuffed, roasted and stir fried they are delicious.

Happy sowing

Gill

This week is British Chip Week (16-22 February) and there is no better way to celebrate the humble potato than by eating freshly cooked, crispy chips, whether they are chunky, thin, crinkly or wedged, add your favourite condiment; tomato sauce, brown sauce, mayonnaise, salad cream or traditional salt and vinegar or cover with gravy, curry sauce, baked beans or cheese and enjoy. Chips are so versatile they are a snack, a meal and can be served with most foods they are delicious, filling and we just can’t get enough of them, in Britain almost 676,000 tonnes of British potatoes are made into fresh chips each year.

If you want to have a go at growing your own potatoes this year, now is the perfect time to get started. Commercially potatoes are grown in fields, in Britain we grow around 14,000 hectares of ‘chip’ potatoes each year, if you don’t have a garden or an allotment potatoes can be grown very easily and successfully in growing bags or containers.

Potato Growing Bag 40 Litre

What you will need

What you need to do

  1. Once you get your ‘seed’ potatoes put them into egg trays/boxes with the ‘rose’ end upwards, this is where you might see tiny shoots or the ‘belly button’ end facing downwards and place them in a frost-free light (not sunny) room, this is called chitting and helps the potato to produce strong shoots, which speeds up growing once they are planted, when the shoots are about 2-3cm they are ready to plant.
  2. Fill your bag with compost to a depth of 10cm
  3. Place 4/5 seed potatoes, with the shoots facing upwards, on top of your compost equally spaced out so that they don’t touch each other.
  4. Add another 10 cm layer of good quality potting compost and water well.
  5. Position the bag somewhere sunny and sheltered, on cold nights cover the bag with protective Fleece to prevent frost damage.
  6. As the leaves emerge cover with more Compost and repeat until you reach the top of the bag.
  7. Potatoes need to be kept well watered but not soggy.
  • First Early varieties – plant from end of February until end of May, harvest in approx. 10 weeks
  • Second Early varieties – plant from March until late May, harvest in approx. 13 weeks
  • Early Maincrop varieties – planted from March until late May, harvest in approx. 15 weeks
  • Maincrop varieties – plant from March until mid May, harvest in approx. 20 weeks

Why not give it a go children love planting, growing and harvesting potatoes they taste so much better when they are home grown.

So get growing and have some fun

Gill

 

Nyjer Seed Feeder

Winter is all about looking after our wonderful wildlife especially the birds, as their natural food resources decline they increasingly rely on us for food and water, putting out a regular supply can make a huge difference. The RSPB monitor British Bird populations using the results from their Big Garden Birdwatch Weekend, if you took part don’t forget to submit your results before 16th February, Schools have another week left to do their Big Schools’ Birdwatch it’s a great classroom activity and a great introduction to birds.

 Blackbird Nest Box

As the days lengthen the birds sense that Spring is on the way, they become noisier this is often to attract a partner or to defend their territory, the next step is to build a nest you may notice birds carrying twigs, feathers or moss in their beaks, now is the perfect time to give birds a hand and put up some nest boxes in your garden/school garden/local community they come in all different sizes and shapes to suit different species of birds, it may take a while for the birds to show an interest in your box, be patient, they will start by ‘checking it out’ to make sure it is suitable and safe, once chosen they will quickly build their nest inside.

Build Your Own Nest Box

Organised by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to encourage individuals, families, Schools, Groups and Clubs to put up Nest Boxes in their area, National Nest Box Week (14th-21st February) coincides with the half term holidays so get the children involved, choose and put up some nest boxes in your garden, put up different types to encourage more species, if you really want to get ‘hands-on’ my favourite is the Build Your Own Nest Box Kit it contains everything you need (pre-cut, pre-drilled wood pieces, screws, nails, washers and a hanger) to make your own Nest Box it has a 32mm entrance hole making it suitable for a wide variety of birds including House Sparrows, Tree Sparrows, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal, Tit, Marsh Tit, Nuthatches.

 Nest box showing removable sections

If you want to go ‘high tech’ in the garden why not put up a Bird Box with a Camera, you will be able to watch the day to day life of your birds and witness that special moment when the eggs hatch.

So give a bird a new home, there is nothing more satisfying than a bird nesting in your Bird Box especially if it is one that you have made.

Love your environment

Gill

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