Growing in the Garden

Growing in the Garden: Rhubarb

Old patch of rhubarb, 3 plants

While working at Farmer’s Market several years ago, we met another vendor who shared with us a great tip for reviving an old patch of rhubarb.  I hadn’t had a chance to try it out until last year and I am pretty excited about the results!

Tip:  Rhubarb plant roots will continue to thicken and twist around one another.  Heavy picking can increase the timing of this process.  This will decrease the productivity of the plant.  To keep the plant healthy and to increase yields, you will want to dig up the roots and divide your plant in early spring…just as the buds are coming up, but before leaves begin to open.

Last year I divided two older plants into 10 new plants.  (If you have no room for that many new plants, consider giving some away to your neighbors or friends).  This year I divided 3 plants into 20.

You will need to dig about a foot away from the plant and dig down at least a foot to 18 inches to get underneath the established roots of the plant you intend to divide.  After digging it up, you will want to divide it into smaller pieces.  Twist the roots to try to divide with minimal breaking.  I found I still heard roots breaking and snapping off, but the plants still all grew back.  I tried to keep each clump with at least one bud (up to 2-4 buds) with some roots connected to it.  Plant in a new hole, like you would for a bush, dig a hole twice as wide and much deeper so that the soil is not as compacted around the new transplant.  Keep the buds at ground level as they were before. Fill soil under and around the transplant.  Rhubarb enjoys full sun and even partial shade (if you are trying to figure out where to place them in your yard).

This first year, do not pick from the new plants, let them get established.  The second year, pick lightly so you do not stress the transplant.  The third year you can pick as heavily as desired.

I stood the same distance from an old patch above (first picture in this post) and the 2nd year transplants below.  You can visibly see how much healthier the transplant is.  It has larger leaves and longer thicker stems.

I thought of a few spiritual applications as I was writing this post.  I will share a couple below, but I invite you to comment additional thoughts, as well.  This helps all of us to recognize spiritual thoughts in nature/gardening and we can share these with our children, too.

*We can wear ourselves out by too much work and not enough rest, just like over-picking can decrease the productivity of a rhubarb plant.

*Challenges in our lives can be like the dividing of the plant and help us grow to be more productive.

*It reminds me of the Stewardship of Talents found in Matthew 25:14-30.

* One plant can supply our family with a couple rhubarb desserts or a batch or two of jam .  If I divide that plant into 5, I now can share with others and still have plenty for us at home.   When I share of what the Lord has given me, He will bless what is left and often you will find what’s left is enough to supply our needs.

Please share your additional thoughts below.

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