Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Moving Rhubarb

From Allotment to Garden

Allotment Sit. Rep.

So, if you've been following me here or on any of my social media, you'll know that I have finally given up my allotment.

It was a 1/4 plot about ten minutes walk from our house, and I know some people would kill for that convenience, but there were so many issues with the plot, it's location, access and the surrounding plots, that trying to reclaim it every time I visited was increasingly backbreaking and heartbreaking.

Besides rescuing tools, storage boxes and watering cans there wasn't much to bring home from the plot. The only thing I had in the ground was some Stockbridge Arrow Rhubarb plants, which I had carefully lifted, divided and replanted in a new bed (well, new to the rhubarb) last year. They did really well in their new location, and we managed to get a really decent crop from them earlier this year, but trouble was brewing...

Rhubarb Stockbridge Arrow stalks
Rhubarb Stockbridge Arrow freshly picked

Our neighbour's raspberries, planted along our shared fence line, were sending up vigorous canes on our side. Initially I tolerated them, scoffing the odd fruit on my side, but as our plot visits became more infrequent, so the raspberries began to take over. First they engulfed the grass path, our main route up and down the plot. Digging is impossible in dry months as the soil is clay, flint, chalk, the raspberries didn't let that stop them, but all we could do was chop back the top growth. I considered napalm for a moment, but...p'raps not!

Then the odd shoot started appearing in the first raised bed where the rhubarb was now setting up home. These canes were easier to pull/dig up as the cultivated soil was a looser structure than the uncultivated paths, but by the time we visited in early May the runners had spread to further beds and more paths. You could barely see the huge rhubarb leaves amongst it all.

Lifting

Mr PB and I worked together using a border fork and spade to dig round each plant, keeping as much of the rootball as possible. I did a quick clean up of the roots, removing any obvious weeds and raspberry runners that had wormed their way in, and then removed any damaged leaves and stalks. Some crowns were too badly compromised, so we came away with five and left the others. We popped them all in the car and drove straight home.

It was a hot day, and I had absolutely no idea where I was going to put them in the garden, so I filled a huge container with water and popped all the plants in, with the intention of making a decision within a day or two.

Fast forward about a month...

On a shopping spree at Wilkinsons, I found these great planting bags, £2.00 for one tall and one short bag with handles, made from tarpaulin type material with neatly eyeleted drainage holes. They looked perfect as a temporary/semi-permanent home for my rhubarb so I bought three packs of 2...oh and a pack of Seed and Weed gloves, 3 pairs for £1.50...and a load of other things!
Wilkinsons Vegetable Grow Bags perfect rhubarb
These Wilkinsons Vegetable Grow Bags would be perfect for my rhubarb - cute gloves too!

Transplanting

It took a bit of planning to do the actual transplanting of the crowns. First I needed to unbag and harvest my Red Duke of York Potatoes, so that I could reuse the compost. Then I needed to empty the tumble composter which was full of well rotted chicken manure. I put a layer of each into the bottom of the bags, making sure the compost went right out to the edges so there would be no air pockets.

Wilkinsons Vegetable Grow Bags planting
Wilkinsons Vgetable Grow Bags ready for planting

Then I drained the disgustingly smelly water out of the rhubarbs' container and picked over each crown for weeds/raspberry runners again.

Stockbridge Arrow Rhubarb crowns soaking
Stockbridge Arrow Rhubarb crowns after soaking
A month in water had not done the tuberous roots any good at all, some had gone horribly mushy, and the smallest plant wasn't worth keeping.

I cut away as much rotten material as possible, put one crown per planting bag, and continued filling with a mixture of the two composts, leaving a gap of about 5cm before the rim of the bags, to allow room for watering.

Stockbridge Arrow Rhubarb planted Wilkinsons Vegetable Grow Bags
Stockbridge Arrow Rhubarb planted in the Wilkinsons Grow Bags
Hopefully the rot hasn't destroyed the roots completely, only time will tell.
Love PB xx

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