Divide and conquer

PUBLISHED: 17:20 01 February 2006 | UPDATED: 14:35 12 May 2010

Rhubarb clumps need separating

Rhubarb clumps need separating

LAST week I noticed that my pentstemon cuttings in the unheated greenhouse were drooping and when I went in to get a closer look I was surprised how warm it was inside with the sun shining on the glass despite the fact that there had been frost on the gro

LAST week I noticed that my pentstemon cuttings in the unheated greenhouse were drooping and when I went in to get a closer look I was surprised how warm it was inside with the sun shining on the glass despite the fact that there had been frost on the ground and very low temperatures outside. The compost had dried out and the cuttings just needed a drop of water to make a complete recovery. From now onwards it pays to keep a close eye on plants in the greenhouse as longer daylight hours bring higher temperatures. Walking round the vegetable garden I noticed the deep pink buds of rhubarb were just beginning to show above the ground and this reminded me that the clumps needed dividing. February is a good month for this. The roots should be lifted with a fork, the old centres discarded and the healthy parts re-planted making sure that their buds are just level with the soil. To force rhubarb for early eating, cover the emerging buds with a bucket, an old pipe or something similar which will exclude light and protect from frost. Alternatively, plant one of the roots in compost in a deep bucket in the greenhouse and cover it with black plastic. I had left the stems of my autumn fruiting raspberries in place since I needed to dig up some of the canes which were growing to the side of the two rows and use them to fill in a couple of gaps. Now that I have done this I shall cut all the canes to the ground since unlike summer fruiting varieties these raspberries fruit on new wood which will be produced later this year. Finally I have had to net the remains of my over wintering broad bean plants after pheasants ate most of them judging from the footprints along the rows.

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