Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dividing Rhubarb

August 2011
My rhubarb has been growing in this spot for 2 seasons. It’s a Victoria cultivar and had 3 seed shoots early in 2011. I cut the seed shoots off as soon as they were big enough to identify as seed pods to encourage vegetative growth. This was a new raised bed and I added a lot of compost during and after planting the store bought root.

March 16, 2012
I decided to split this plant last season but haven’t gotten around to it. And now with a week of warm weather this years shoots are starting to form letting me know hurry or wait till next year. I was surprised by the size and spread of the roots and broke several digging out the mass. I think a digging fork would have helped. I’ll have to keep my eyes open at garage sales or add it to my Christmas list.
Cleaned root ball
After digging the root mass up, I used a garden hose to wash away the dirt to identify good spots to cut.  The theory is that each cutting needs roots and buds. I used my trusty digging spade got four pieces, two big ones and two that fall into the maybe category. 

I planted all four in a newly built raised box filled with soil from the old box and some horse manure I picked up last week. The manure is so-so composted and I’m hoping not too fresh to burn the roots. I wouldn’t suggest using manure on plants that I intend to eat early in the season especially those whose edible parts are in contact with the ground such as root crops or asparagus. After putting all four divisions in their new home, this one is 3ft square (vs. triangular). I watered them well and returned the runaway earthworms I found in the lawn. 
I’m eager to see how I did. I might even sneak a few stalks late this year. Should be lots of pies in 2013!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Wall of Water

Wall of waters are great for extending your growing season. Wall of water’s are plastic devises about the size of a 5 gallon bucket. The “Wow’s” have tubes around the outside, that you fill with water, which warm in the sun and keep the inside from freezing at night when temperatures fall. I use them in the spring time to help my stuff get a head start. I haven't tried them in the fall because most of what I am growing that late in the year is too large for them. The wall of waters last several season, I've had mine for 5+ years. They do tend to get a little icky on the inside of the tubes where bugs, cottonwood seeds, and many other things get trapped by the water and feed algae. I use the garden hose to wash out the tubes when I take down the wow's in early summer, but I don't worry about it too much. The biggest danger to the wow's has been the raccoons who paw at them and puncture the plastic. I'm not sure if this is to get to the water or to investigate what they can steal from within. Either way they haven't seemed to eat my crops, but they have damaged several tubes which unless fixed tends to collapse the wow in moderate wind conditions. I have seen wow repair kits which are inserts to fit within the punctured tubes, but I have simply replaced the older wow's with new ones.

Our typical last day of frost in Boulder, Colorado is Memorial Day (late May.) There are many years where there are many warm sunny days with and without freezing nights leading up to the long awaited "last day of frost". These sunny days will heat the water significantly and keep the plants and earth inside the wow from freezing.
I tend to get anxious in the spring to get the garden started and have set up my wows early enough where the water inside has frozen solid. I seem to remember reading that the wind is more damaging to plants than the cold temperatures so I figure the frozen wows still provide some protection to the plants inside.
Here are some pictures from March 2009. That year we had a spring snowstorm  the official report was 15 inches (38cm) see:
These pictures are from the days after the snowstorm and 2 full months before our official last day of frost. The peas were planted Feburary 5, 2009 and the garlic was planted the week after Halloween 2008.
This is the day after the storm
March 27, 2009

2 days after storm
March 28, 2009

3 days after storm
March 29, 2009

Peas inside Wall of Water
March 29, 2009
While peas are pretty cold hardy the wows also protect the plants from getting smashed by the snow. Our spring, and fall, snows tend to be wet and heavy. My garlic got squished by the snow but sprang back after a few days of sun.
March 29, 2009