Zionsville Times Sentinel

Commentary

May 7, 2014

Be prepared for early season gardening

One of the earliest producing garden plants each spring is rhubarb.

You can begin to harvest stalks as soon as they are large enough to cut. It is important to use a sharp knife and make a clean cut -- experienced growers can snap rhubarb just above the soil level -- and remember the leaves are toxic and should not be eaten.

In cooler springs, such as we have had this year, we often see increased bolting in rhubarb. Bolting is a reproductive process in which the plant produces flowers and seeds on hollow stems. These stems should be removed as soon as you see them, as the energy required to produce flowers and seeds will detract from the production of edible stalks.

You can harvest rhubarb through mid-June. After this you should allow the plants to grow and store carbohydrate reserves to build the root system and prepare for future years.

An older rhubarb patch can be renovated by dividing. This is best done in early spring before growth begins. Many growers divide their rhubarb according to a schedule, every four or five years. If you notice reduced production or many short, stringy or dry stalks, you may want to make a note to divide your patch next year.

Slugs

Slugs are often a problem in wet springs. While, so far, temperatures have been cool enough to limit their development, warmer weather in the forecast will provide good conditions for slugs.

See Wednesday's Times Sentinel for the full story.

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