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Just when gardeners begin to get excited by the signs of spring popping up, the weather takes a March turn with a cold snap. It’s not really a surprise, just entirely unwanted! Hopefully by the end of March we will all be outside in the garden more under some early spring blue skies. In the meantime when you can get outside, there is still plenty to be prepping for the warmer weather ahead. There are many seeds to sow and soon those seedlings will need to be thinned out, potted on, hardened off and planted out. I like to get ahead if possible and do some weeding because removing them now will save time later when the sun is shining and weeds begin to grow much faster. It’s also the last month to get your bare root plants out and I might see if I can bag myself a bargain rose or two for the cut flower borders.
Whilst gardening definitely teaches patience, there is one thing I can’t wait to harvest and that’s rhubarb. Rhubarb crumble, gin and jam are some of my favourite recipes to make especially when made from home grown produce. There are many different varieties meaning if you plan carefully you can be cropping from April through to summer. If you can’t wait (like me) forcing rhubarb means you can start cropping from as early as March.
To force crowns to produce tender, sweet and paler stems just cover a crown with a bucket or forcing jar and make sure it is secured down. This excludes light from the plant and in turn when you lift the bucket you’ll find early stems about 8 weeks later which are delicious and can even fill in a gap in the garden when there isn’t so much to harvest. Don’t force new crowns or the same crown as the year before.
‘Temperley Early’ is the perfect variety for forcing, although you can force any mature crown. ‘Raspberry Red’ is and early cropping variety and ‘Stockbridge’ a later one. So, whatever the weather - forcing rhubarb is a great reason to get out in the garden. It’s hard when you’re eager to get outside but the weather is stopping you so grabbing every bit of fresh air you can will help you. It’ll soon be spring!