On the allotment: July 17

teaselsWhen we took on the allotment we promised ourselves one thing: we would not allow it to become a source of stress.

Easier said than done.

Last week we needed to propagate the strawberries, there was sowing to do for autumn planting and a third of the plot still consisted of nose-high grass.


I had a brief moment of head-clenching tension and then thought: enough.

We are privileged enough not to depend on this land for food. The crops will become an increasingly important part of our diet but one of the main reasons we love this plot is that as well as helping us learn to grow vegetables, it is enriching our lives and refreshing our spirits, forcing us to move away from the computer screens that dominate the rest of our time.

So we took the decision to focus only on clearing the rest of the ground and digging out new beds. That will allow us to have a proper planting plan next year.

There is still plenty to do.


weed heap

I’m a bit sad that this means we might not have our own strawberries next year, but that’s another thing about growing food: it forces you to take a longer perspective. We might have to buy them from the greengrocer for a season, but we can hope for a crop in 2016.

It’s a difficult mental adjustment when you are used to daily, even hourly, deadlines. But it feels like a healthy kind of discipline.

This has been a good fortnight for flowers …

courgette flower


French bean

French bean



… and a very bad one for rhubarb.


Things are even worse now than in this picture: almost all the leaves have dropped off and the stems have turned a nasty shade of brown. I’ve been Googling away to try and identify the problem and was a bit ashamed to turn up site after site proclaiming that rhubarb is a very easy crop to grow and poses virtually no problems.

But I fear we may have crown rot. Does anyone else have experience of this, or suggestions for a different diagnosis? I’m tempted to spread a thick layer of manure all around and hope for the best, but I don’t want to waste the stuff if the rhubarb is really a lost cause.

Linking up with Soulemama, who is doing interesting things with a bumper bean crop.

7 thoughts on “On the allotment: July 17

  1. Our rhubarb has died back as it usually does at the end of the season. It’s been very hot here. Dont worry about the strawberries. You’ll get stuff done. It comes together.

  2. Yup! One of my rhubarbs is already dying back and the lack of rain here hasn’t helped at all.

    I know everyone says that rhubarb is easy to grow but I had a real challenge getting it to grow well on one plot where it was competing with raspberries. Since I pulled those up it has flourished. My observation is that though it is easy to grow, it does like (a) plenty of room, which means lifting and splitting crowns when necessary if it is overcrowded and in poor soil (b) no competition from perennials (c) a good drenching when it’s dry (d) plenty of nourishing compost over winter and (e) being allowed to grow naturally ie no blanching unless you are prepared to sacrifice some vigour.

    Goodness. Who’d have thought I was so opinionated about rhubarb?

    BTW – lovely post.

  3. Oh what lovely rhubarb comments – thank you all! I feel relieved and encouraged. This rhubarb has probably been neglected for at least two years, so I will give it a great big drink, tuck it up in manure and wait with renewed hope to see what will happen next year! 🙂

  4. Ooh, I would love to get my hands on an allotment. Here in Oz they are called community gardens, and are as scarce as hen’s teeth. Rhubarb does tend to die back in the summer, but I have to say your case does look a bit extreme. The traditional gardener’s lore for rhubarb is that you can’t water or feed it too much. And looking closely at your rhubarb photo, I can’t see any rhubarb crowns. There should be a knobbly bit at the centre that the stems grow out of, and it should be sitting right up proud of the dirt by a good 10cm or so. If you perchance buried the crown when you planted the rhubarb, then rot would definitely have set in, and you may have to start again in spring. Or maybe dig up what you have, replant it shallower and pray for a rhubarb miracle. All the best:)

    • Thanks for the help. We didn’t actually plant this rhubarb; it was here when we arrived, which probably means it has been neglected for at least two years, which may explain a lot. But I wonder if it was originally planted too deep and that is the problem. I think I will see how things are in the autumn – it is very hot here at the moment (though probably not by Australian standards!). Thanks again!

  5. Sorry to say, yours looks much like mine which I just dug up. Roots are kind of spongey and not healthy looking. Although the rhubarb grows well, it dies off before it is fully ready to harvest. I’m getting rid of it and will start fresh.

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