I ask much of my rhubarb growing it in the north facing front garden. In spite of this, the large leaves soak up enough sunlight to give a decent crop. Last February, I tried an experiment with the objective of bringing on one crown to give me an early bit of rhubarb. I put a forcing jar, (essentially an upside down bucket ) over the newly sprouted crown. This forces early growth as the young shoots strive to grow up through the dark ‘bucket’ in a quest for daylight.

All was going well and I checked progress every few days. Then I just forgot about the young anaemic looking rhubarb shoots for a while. By the time I looked again, the crown’s energy had been spent. No daylight having fuelled the growing rhubarb crown, the plant just gave up and died. Ever since then, a gap in the rhubarb patch has reminded  me of my oversight.

Now that the other rhubarb crowns have allowed their leaves to wither for winter and the crowns have gone dormant, it is safe to split the largest, healthiest crown, plant up each  half crown a few feet apart and watch them grow next Spring.

As rhubarb can be left year after year for many years in the same location, it is a good idea to manure or compost the soil with well rotted organic material, once the  hole  is dug for the crown. I’m advised to ensure the growing tip is just protruding above the ground when replacing soil around the newly planted crown.

In reality, I do not have a garden big enough to get value from a forcing  jar.  Ideally with 10 or 20 crowns, I could force one each year and leave it alone for a few years to allow it build up its strength again before forcing it once more. So I have a forcing  jar to give away if any other kitchen gardener out there wants to give it a good home. Rhubarb crowns and custard not included!

One thing about gardening is one never stops learning!


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