Following on from the raspberries, the next thing to sort out in the new fruit area was the rhubarb. I had plonked 5 small rhubarb plants (variety “Victoria”) in this spot last summer but it was a rushed job. I had received them as part of the Rocket Gardens Small Constant Garden in a box-load of more needy plug-vegetables. It was hot, I had no bed available for what would become large, permanent plants, so I just whipped off some grass turf, dug in a bit of compost into what appeared to be clay and stuck them in the ground. A claggy, uncomfortable, ‘youth hostel’ of a welcome. Most lived, but they didn’t enjoy the rest of their gap-year very much.
Although tricky, the spot is actually quite a sunny one, which rhubarb needs. I had my chillies (in pots) here last summer too, and they did alright considering they were outdoors. In summer, even when the sun goes over the house, its rays throw a triangle of warm sunlight beyond the shade of the shed and up to the edge of the stream from mid-morning and well into the late afternoon*. So I decided to stick to my initial instinct, and keep them in this spot.
What they needed was some decent TLC in the roots department. So I dug up the sorry-looking survivors (1 had perished), and set to work on making a raised bed**, full of new top soil, horse compost, mixed with home-made compost from my Bokashi bins. In addition to these 4 plants, I’ve added 3 divided crowns of “Champagne” rhubarb that I bought at Pennard Plants Potato Day at the end of January. These blackened lumps of root had been sat, half-buried, in an open sack of compost since then, showing no signs of life. Until now.
A week after moving into their new digs, and all the student rhubarb are looking very happy indeed. It’ll be another year or two before they’re established enough to contribute, but they are unfurling shiny new leaves and their emerging stems are full of glossy pink vigour. What a difference good soil (and some sunny days) makes!
As I lean on my spade, the sun touches me too, and I feel the rush of a very simple pleasure: that I’ve ‘done good’.
*when you move to a new home, it’s worth noting how much sun these odd places get in the first summer, before putting anything there permanently. I left plant pots as markers so that I knew this year where exactly the sun would reach once spring and summer got going.
**I made the raised bed using Everedge. This is a fantastically useful, durable edging that I’ve used in two previous gardens. I’m using Everedge again on another project-in-progress, and I’ll show more on that later in the spring.