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Why can't I grow rhubarb?

bédébédé Surrey Hills, acid greensand.Posts: 1,366
edited November 2022 in Problem solving
I have grown rhubarb in many different gardens, in many different parts of England.  But I have failed completely here in  Surrey over 40 years.

Rhubarb might need a lot of feeding, but otherwise it should be unkillable.

I have tried with given plants several times (in Lancashire no.one buys rhurbarb, it is just passed over the garden wall, here in Surrey you have to buy it.).  I have bought Timperley Early (the only variety easily available) I have tried older varieties like Champagne.   I have had  several goes at growing from seed; successful at first.  

I have no obvious cause to report but the plants fade and die within 5 years.  Before getting hardly any sticks .  I have thought Honey Fungus (I have plenty) but I have never seen any fruiting bodies or bootlaces near the rhubarb.  

It hurts to have to buy one of my favourite "fruits".
"Have nothing in your garden that you don't know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
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  • steephillsteephill Posts: 2,619
    I am on acid greensand just over the border in West Sussex (Surrey is the other side of the valley) and am growing Timperley Early. The first year in the ground it only threw up a couple of small stocks but this year it took off and swamped everything around it. I have read that it is best to lift and divide roughly every 3 years to ensure strong plants.
  • LynLyn DevonPosts: 21,143
    edited November 2022
    steephill said: I have read that it is best to lift and divide roughly every 3 years to ensure strong plants.
    What would be the best time to do that?  Mine’s taking over,  it needs thinning out. 
    It’s an early type although produces right through. 
    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • Bee witchedBee witched Scottish BordersPosts: 1,099
    Hi @ Steephill,

    I'd read that about splitting every 3 years.
    Ours is at least 8 years old and has never been split. It is producing well, and there's plenty of room for it where it is ... so I don't want to rock the boat.

    Wonder if @Dovefromabove has ever split hers as I seem to remember she has the mother of all rhubarbs.

    Bee x

     

    Bees must gather nectar from two million flowers to make one pound of honey   
  • LynLyn DevonPosts: 21,143
    Sarah Raven says lift and divide the crowns every 5 or 6 years, between November and March
    I’ve no idea why some people can grow it and some can’t,  trial and error,  maybe grow it in a big tub with soil based compost and feeding every year. 
    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • bédébédé Surrey Hills, acid greensand.Posts: 1,366
    Lyn said:

    I’ve no idea why some people can grow it and some can’t,  trial and error,  maybe grow it in a big tub with soil based compost and feeding every year. 
    That's what I am preparing to do.  Yhey might be quite decorative.  

    Last resort.  I've never reached the dividing stage.

    Perhaps I should add that I have a similar problem with Hostas.  At least these grow well for a number of years and then fade away.  Slugs are a problem, but that's not the reason. I now have them in big pots in JI3 and they are thriving.
    "Have nothing in your garden that you don't know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
  • Pete.8Pete.8 Billericay, EssexPosts: 9,869
    I planted 3 crowns I bought 3 years ago. I only wanted one, but they seem to come in 3's.
    Two have thrived that were planted in full sun, the 3rd died.
    The only difference was the 3rd had some shade from a 4ft rosemary. As new leaves grow from the crown base, no leaves got any sun at all and they shrivelled and died. The other plants a few feet away in the sun were thriving.
    They're planted in a line and I manured and dug the area a few weeks before planting.
    Had a good harvest this spring.
    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 6,328
    I can grow it in some places in my garden and not in others. I have acidic clay soil. In places where the clay is significantly improved, it grows like Topsy. In places where the clay is still quite poor, it tries to flower every year and doesn't thrive. I assume it likes consistent watering, so the soak/parch cycle of unimproved clay doesn't suit it. But that's a complete guess at the moment. The places it grows and doesn't are only a few feet apart, so all other conditions are the same, pretty much.
    “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first” 
  • bédébédé Surrey Hills, acid greensand.Posts: 1,366
    Guesses are all I need.  If I get enough I might be able to build a picture.
    "Have nothing in your garden that you don't know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
  • Wow! We planted crowns (no idea what variety) in 1978 in our garden. We are on heavy clay and always get a great harvest. They are even now starting to show new growths....but then the frosts will hit.
    We put our own compost over them during the winter.
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 82,255
    Mulch, mulch and mulch some more. 

    Feed in Feb with Fish, Blood & Bone. 

    Never pick more than one third of the stems at a time, and then allow time for them to be replaced. 

    Remove any flower stems as soon as possible. 

    Stop picking at the end of June. 

         

    This Timperley Early is about ten years old. It has never produced a flowering stem. It has never been split. 

    The soil is free-draining gritty loam. 

    For the first five or six years it was watered deeply in dry spells, but this year, even in the drought, it was hardly watered at all, and didn’t seem to suffer, other that wilting in the heat but recovering once it was in the shade again. 

    It’s in an east facing garden and even in midsummer it is in shade from mid afternoon onwards. 

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh







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