Last Updated: April 20, 2014

Weather: Canberra 0°C - 17°C . Mostly sunny.

Gardening

Peter Cundall: How to protect rhubarb plants from soaring summer heat

rhubarb plant

Keep it moist: Rhubarb needs all the nutrition and water they can get in hot weather. Source: Weekly Times Now

rhubarb stem

Tasty: Rhubarb. Source: Weekly Times Now

< Prev

 of 2

Next >

NOW the weather has settled, summer has finally arrived and the heat is on.

The amount of moisture now being lost from the soil due to evaporation is massive - far greater than that taken up by plants.

Some plants can't get enough water at this time of the year. Celery and celeriac for example. They cannot be over-watered. Freshly sown seeds, especially carrot, parsnip, spring onion and many annuals will need to be watered several times daily.

All tiny seeds are sown close to the surface, so are vulnerable to drying out. When this occurs after germination has started, they die. So keeping the soil constantly moist is difficult during this crucial stage in hot weather, but has to be done.

Rhubarb is easily taken for granted and is often an ignored clump on the fringe of the vegetable patch. Right now these clumps need all the water they can get. In fact, they also need all the nutrition we can shove into them.

I always give our rhubarb clumps a very heavy soaking at least once every week in summer and apply a thick, deep-feeding mulch well tucked in to the base of each clump. This is nothing more than straw, grass-clippings and wilted weeds, soaked in a weak solution of liquid manure, fish emulsion and heavily laced with well-rotted animal manure.

Keep in mind that some varieties of rhubarb produce green sticks while others produce red sticks.

It's impossible to make green rhubarb turn red.

Most green rhubarb fully dies down during winter, while red-stemmed forms usually continue to produce plenty of tasty picking almost all year round.

During summer, rhubarb clumps often send up great flowering spikes, even while still supplying plenty of sticks.

There are several reasons for this.

When a clump gets too old and overcrowded - more than five years after planting - it lets us know by sending up a distress signal in the form of powerful flower spikes.

Rhubarb clumps also begin to flower if they are not getting enough water, so are under stress. All flowering spikes can be cut off or even tugged out, but new flowers will appear within a week or two.

During hot sunny weather, many large, thick rhubarb stems flop over the ground. This is a clear indication that an extra-deep soaking is urgently needed. Do the job in the evening so the water soaks down to below the roots overnight. The best time to divide and replant an old rhubarb clump is during July. The roots can be massive and with very old plants, many original, deeply probing roots will have turned black and died. These are cut free and discarded.

Mulching all parts of the garden is one of the most significant ways of preventing moisture loss from the soil.

The best materials for the vegetable patch are always soft forms of organic matter, such as straw and grass clippings, because they rot down rapidly.

In the ornamental garden, pine bark and woodchips are best, because they rot very slowly and help smother weeds while sealing in moisture over many years.

At one time, black plastic film was used beneath mulching materials.

Not any more though, because this unnatural material not only caused soil to turn sour and infertile, but prevented rain or irrigation water from soaking in. This attracted ants on a huge scale and areas beneath plastic film, being bone dry is a perfect environment and cover for ants to build nests and multiply.

The only solution is to first remove all plastic from the surface of the soil and get rid of it. Next, deeply water the newly exposed surface to create a moist environment.

This gradually brings the soil back to fertility and at the same time destroys ant nests. All without the use of poisons.

Have your say

Skip to:
Read comments
Add comments

Add your comment on this story

Comments Form

1200 characters left

Your details
Post Options

Rheola gets ready to party

Rheola Charity Festival

RHEOLA is not a big town.

Flocking to see those sheep dogs

Easter Show

SOME dogs bark, others chase but the best sheep dogs tame a flock by staring them down. It is what stockman call the “eye”.

Castlemaine’s true brew

Coffee Basics. Castlemaine.

A GOOD coffee, says Edmund Schaerf, should be made from single-origin coffee beans.

Cobba to take on mighty Murray

Cobba to take on mighty Murray

THERE is a particularly pristine part of the Murray River that Danny Dunn is proud to call his local turf.

Mitta Mitta on road to success

 North East Victoria Trip Mitta Pub's Tom Simpson who - with his wife Sally - manages and part-owns the pub, originally calle...

THE Omeo Highway, between Albury and Bairnsdale, is one of Victoria’s oldest and most spectacular roads.

More from our partners

Panthers on the prowl

 New hand at the wheel. Former Werribee player and now coach of the Lavington Panthers James Saker at work for Albury City.

LAVINGTON coach James Saker isn’t buying into talk that anything less than a grand final berth would mean the Panthers had failed this season.

Leaping lamb exports continue

LAMB export values in February jumped 40 per cent compared to last year.

Gaining control of sprays to cut costs

VIC_WT_MACHINE_WIMMERA_DAY 2_12FEB14(2)

VICTORIAN farmers are trialling new nozzle control technology retrofitted to self-propelled boom sprayers.

Going for gold

 Cut Daffodils in the cool room. David and Robin Jackson of Jacksons Daffodils in Surges Bay on their farm.

FEW growers have won the top daffodil award in the UK or the US. Yet one Australian has taken out both. Meet David Jackson.