Amended soil key to rhubarb

Please give me some guidelines on planting rhubarb. My son has some plants he wants to move. A number of years ago, I planted some new roots and, as I recall, we dug about 2 feet deep and put in a layer of barnyard compost, then dirt, and roots on top of that. They seemed to do OK for a few years and gradually became spindly.

If I move my son’s plants, should I treat them the same way? What will keep them producing well?

— Enid

The best time to move rhubarb or any herbaceous perennial is later this fall. An herbaceous perennial is a plant that lives for more than one year but dies down to the ground every winter, re-sprouting from the ground in the spring. I like to dig up, divide, and replant plants like this any time from very late September to Nov. 1.

The weather’s cooling down then, so there’s less transplant stress. Though the air is cooler, the soil is still warm so you get good root growth before things freeze sometime after Thanksgiving. One of the biggest advantages of transplanting in the fall is the winter dormancy period, which triggers the plant to grow and flower normally the following year. This process is called “vernalization.”

As for planting, I always like to do a good job of amending the soil before planting them in the garden. Rhubarb likes well-drained soil, but our soils are heavy clays that don’t drain well. People often struggle trying to grow rhubarb because they overwater it. They often grow it next to their strawberry patch because, after all, they just go together, don’t they? Well, as good of a combination as they are in a pie, they really need different things in the garden.

Adding a good amount of low-salt organic matter like Soil Pep opens up the soil so it drains better and the rhubarb grows and produces better.

Plant rhubarb in a spot that gets a good amount of sun every day — at least six hours, I’d say. Watch the water you give it as I indicated before. Soak the plant well when you do water it, but allow the soil to dry slightly before soaking it again.

Rhubarb really isn’t fussy about fertilizer, but if you want, sprinkle a little garden-type fertilizer around the plants in the spring and water it in well. The plants can get crowded and overgrown,  and you might want to divide them (in the fall) every five or six years.

 

There’s something wrong with our tomatoes this year. The leaves are yellowing and spotty; I’ve attached some photos. Any suggestions on how and what to treat this with? Thank you.

— Frank

 

It looks like the tomato has a fungal disease called early blight. Traditionally, there really hasn’t been anything we could do about it. A foliar fungal disease requires a systemic fungicide to cure it, and none of them were labeled for use on edible plants.

However, there is a relatively new fungicide that might help with it. The product is from Fertilome and called F-Stop. It’s a “localized” systemic that’s absorbed into the leaves as you spray it on and it doesn’t move farther. Spray two or three times at 10-day intervals. Your only other option is to remove the plant (especially if there are unaffected tomato plants nearby).

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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