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I needed a rhubarb crown for pics for my book, pronto, so I thought the best thing to do was to dig up and divide a rhubarb plant on my allotment. From what I’ve read, November through until March is the best time to divide and replant crowns, as the leaves have died back and all is dormant. In fact, this is similar to planting bare-rooted fruit canes. Having said that, Ben Asquith at Brandy Carr Nurseries (specialist Rhubarb growers) has divided his ‘Timperley Earlies’ as early as August in previous years and the crowns have grown on well since then.

I haven’t divided rhubarb plants before and wasn’t sure how much root I’d be digging up from my 3 year old plant (ordinarily you’d need to divide plants every 5 years or so).  The roots are fairly sizeable and try as you may to remove them intact, you can’t help break one or two of the longer roots as some spread out like tentacles for nearly a couple of feet.

When dividing, you’ll need to leave some buds on each new piece of root as the plant won’t regrow without root and bud combined. At first I couldn’t make these out, but if you carefully search through the top of the crown, rounded pinky/brown buds do become more evident. Bearing in mind where these buds were situated, I turned the Rhubarb root side up and then cut into the plant with a sharp spade, creating three new crowns from my original.

After replenishing the planting area with plenty of rich compost, I popped one piece of crown back into its hole and the others I planted up into pots, ensuring the crown was sitting just above the soil level. Rhubarb does grow well in pots, but make sure they’re big’uns to accommodate the chunky roots and again, fill with tons of rich compost before planting. In spring it’s a good idea to feed Rhubarb in pots with pelleted manure and give plants in the ground a good mulch around the roots with well-rotted manure in March. Be careful not to cover the crown when mulching though as this could lead to rotting.

Now divided, I’ll need to let this plant have a good year to settle in again and won’t be harvesting any stalks next summer.  Luckily though, I have a couple of other plants growing to keep me well supplied with Rhubarb Crumble.

If you don’t have  a plant to divide, but fancy growing a few of these delicious and decorative perennials, Brandy Carr Nurseries in Yorkshire are sending out crowns now. They have packs of 3 different varieties: ‘Grandad’s favourite’, ‘Raspberry Red’ and ‘Queen Victoria’ and they also have a pack of three ‘Timperley Early’ crowns’ if you want to try your hand at ‘forcing’ in years to come.

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