Filed under: Garden Advice, Garden Courses, Garden Visits, Gardening, growing veg, Oatridge College, Suntrap, Suntrap Garden | Tags: Ann Burns, dieting, excesses of christmas, forcing rhubarb, healthy eating, Scotland on Sunday, Suntrap Garden, suntrap open day, The Scotsman
Are you fed up already with the excesses of Christmas, too much turkey, too many mince pies and too much mulled wine? You probably need a bit of exercise outside in the garden. A great idea at this time of year is to lift a clump of Rhubarb for forcing to give you the earliest and sweetest crop around:
• Choose a large rhubarb plant already growing in your garden, one that is a minimum of three years old is best.
• Dig up the plant keeping as much soil on the roots as possible. (This is not a job for the faint hearted – but you will deserve a small tipple afterwards.)
• Leave the clump outside on the ground to go through at least three or four hard frosts.
• Pot into a large tub, wooden box or even a bag ……. I use a woven blue plastic one from a certain Swedish furniture store! You can use old compost, soil or even sawdust to pot the roots into.
• The plant then needs to go indoors to a temperature of 50 – 60OF in complete darkness, a large cupboard or cellar is ideal.
• Keep the roots moist but not wet and around 10 to 12 weeks later you will be able to harvest your first Rhubarb stalks when they are around a foot to 18” high. The stalks will be bright pink and really sweet with small unformed leaves. Use all the stalks that are produced over around a four week period.
• When the harvest period is finished set the plants back outside. They can be replanted in the spring when they will give a small crop; they will recover back to full cropping outside within a year or two.
If you can’t be bothered with all the fuss described above remember it is easy to force Rhubarb ‘in situ’ later:
• Cover the clumps with upside down buckets, pails or proper custom made clay forcers in March.
• Check during April and May and harvest the young shoots as they appear.
• Give different clumps a ‘rest year’ in between ‘forcing years’.
Merry Christmas and happy forcing.
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