Gardeners' World: Monty Don shares tips for planting seeds
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Gardening is an ideal pastime to take up during lockdown, and as winter turns to spring there are plenty of improvements you can make to your garden. Adding fruits and vegetables to your garden can not only save you money but be a fulfilling way to brighten up your garden.
Rhubarb is an easy vegetable to grow, lasting all year round and able to withstand harsh weather conditions.
The leaves of the plant are large, with pink, red or green leaf stalks which are used for crumbles, jams and pies.
There are a number of rhubarb varieties, including the Raspberry Red which has sweet, bright red stems and the Victoria, named after Queen Victoria.
So when exactly should you plant rhubarb?
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Rhubarb can be planted throughout the year, but gardeners should bear in mind the ideal times to harvest.
You can harvest rhubarb in March, April, May, June and July, however, don’t harvest in the first year of planting.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) advises you to stop harvesting by June to prevent over-harvesting and weakening the plant.
When planting rhubarb you will need to find a sunny and open space that has soil which drains well but stays moist.
This is so that the plant doesn’t rot during the winter months.
You can plant rhubarb from seed, however, the most common method of planting rhubarb is to plant dormant crowns.
You can also plant actively growing plants, which can be planted all year round.
To plant rhubarb, the RHS advises “digging in two bucketfuls of well-rotted manure per square metre/yard.
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“Then dig a planting hole and position the plant so the tip of the crown is just visible above the soil.
“If planting more than one, space them 75–90cm (30–36in) apart.”
You can also plant rhubarb in large pots, but these need to be at least 50cm or 20in deep and wide.
Once growing you need to make sure the plant is free of weeds, and in March use a general-purpose fertiliser over the soil.
If the weather is dry, water the soil regularly so it stays moist and keeps growing.
Come autumn, RHS says: “When the top growth dies back in autumn, remove the dead leaves to expose the crown to frost – this will help to break dormancy and ensure a good crop of stalks the following year.”
As said above, harvesting can be done in March, April, May, June and July – however less so in July to prevent weakening the plant.
You should also avoid harvesting within the first year of planting as to do so would “reduce the plant’s vigour” according to the RHS.
The year after, pick a few stems only, then up to a third or half from then on, leaving some to keep the plant in active growth.
To harvest, you should hold the stalk at the base and slowly ease it out of the ground in order to try and avoid snapping it off.
One recipe you can use rhubarb for is the classic rhubarb crumble, check one out below.
- 500g rhubarb, chopped into chunks the length of your thumb
- 100g golden caster sugar
- 3 tbsp port (optional)
For the crumble topping
- 140g self-raising flour
- 85g butter, chilled
- 50g light brown muscovado sugar
- 50g chopped walnuts (optional)
First, tip 500g thumb-length chunks of rhubarb into a saucepan with 100g golden caster sugar and 3 tbsp port, if using.
Cover and simmer on a very low heat for 15 mins, adding more sugar if you want. When soft (but still holding its shape) and sweet enough, pour the rhubarb into a medium baking dish.
Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
To make the topping, rub 140g self-raising flour and 85g chilled butter together with your fingers until you have a soft, crumbly topping.
Now add 50g light brown muscovado sugar and 50g chopped walnuts, if using. Mix together with your hands.
Scatter the topping over the rhubarb and bake for 30 mins or until golden brown on top.
Serve piping hot with a big jug of thick vanilla custard.
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