How to Divide Rhubarb with Pots & Trowels and Martin Fish

It’s officially spring! Sunshine, blue skies and lighter nights. You’ll find the soil is starting to warm up, green shoots are appearing, and we can soon pick up our spades, shovels and trowels and really get to work!

The first place we’ll be heading is the veg patch. Now (early spring) is the perfect time for dividing rhubarb, as lifting rhubarb can take place any time from February to late March. If you’ve not done it already, get on it this weekend so your rhubarb’s got time to settle in and can start growing through the summer.

In a recent Pots & Trowels video, Martin Fish shared his advice for splitting rhubarb with ease. You can follow along with his video below, or you can keep reading to see how a quick weekend job could pay off for years to come. Who doesn’t love tasty rhubarb fresh from the garden?

What Do I Need to Divide Rhubarb?

Having the right tools makes at your disposal makes garden jobs easier and can save you a lot of time. We’ve listed all the items you’ll need to divide your rhubarb, so you’ve got everything ready and in place for when it’s time to get the job done:

  • All-purpose compost
  • Fertiliser Growmore from our friends at Mr Fothergill’s works well for rhubarb. It’s got a fantastic balance of ingredients and it’s great for all sorts of plants, fruits, and veggies.
  • A rake or fork – The Darlac Doubled-Sided Telescopic Rake is the perfect tool for this task. It’s strong and flexible, with a long handle to prevent backache.
  • A shovel
  • Gardening gloves

The Darlac Doubled-Sided Telescopic Rake is perfect for splitting rhubarb

Why Should I Divide Rhubarb Plants?

You may have a clump of rhubarb in your garden that’s getting a bit old and tired. It could have been nestled into a veg plot for a few years and be ready for a move, or it could have had an unproductive year. But it’s quite normal for rhubarb to ‘move house’ every few years.

Rhubarb is a herbaceous perennial. It grows from a thick, fleshy root and then dies down in the winter. At this time of year, you’ll start to see some new growth on your rhubarb plant, but you may also see the old woody growth and, after five or six years in the same position, your rhubarb will lose its rigour and can get even more woody. That’s why it’s a good idea to dig part of these clumps up and divide them so they can be replanted with a touch of fresh soil and fertiliser to rejuvenate your plant. You’ll get much stronger growth and better sticks of rhubarb.

Splitting rhubarb can look and feel a little drastic, but don’t fear, your rhubarb will be able to handle it

How to Divide Rhubarb Plants

Splitting your rhubarb can look a little drastic while in the middle of the process, but don’t fear, your rhubarb will be able to handle it.

Lift a clump of rhubarb by digging under the roots with your spade/shovel and chop through some of the larger roots. This process may take some time, depending on how large your rhubarb patch is, but keep going. Don’t worry about cutting through roots, your rhubarb will grow from the buds at the top.

To divide your plant, just as with perennials, it’s good to work with edges. Get your spade and chop a lump of rhubarb off from the edge. As long as there’s a bud at the top, it will continue to grow. Pull off any dead growth, such as the old leaves from years gone by. From a clump, you could get four or five good growth shoots.

You’ll need to spend time preparing the ground, as your rhubarb will be in place for a few years. This includes raking over the soil. Then, add compost. You can use homemade compost for an even better cosy bed for your rhubarb. Then dig a hole, ensuring it’s about 2ft away from walls and other obstructions, so there’s space for growth.

Plant your cutting, pull the soil around, and firm this in place. You don’t want your rhubarb sticking too proud out of the ground, you only just need to see the buds poking through.  Fork the ground again after firming.

Rhubarb is greedy! It will need fertiliser and lot of it, so sprinkle some feed over your cutting and then rake over your ground once more, as if you leave fertiliser on the surface it can oxidise.

Rhubarb needs fertiliser and lot of it

Finally, add a little more compost and give it a good mulch. Don’t cover over your plantings, allow them to still poke through – think more of tucking them in! There’s plenty of moisture in the ground and it won’t be long before reasonably sized sticks of rhubarb are growing in your garden once more. However, don’t be tempted to pull them this year.

Your patience will pay off. You want your rhubarb to build up and gain strength this year. If they are pulled now, it will weaken them. In the summer, you may need to give the plant a good soak of water if it’s very dry, but by the autumn the plant will die back, and you’ll need to clear the leaves. Next spring, you’ll start to see growth again and you’ll be able to pull your rhubarb. This plant will last three or four years and will provide lots of delicious crops.

Split your rhubarb to help plants to build up and gain strength

Where to Buy Darlac Tools to Divide Rhubarb

You can find Darlac products in store from your local garden centre. These tools will not only help you divide your rhubarb in no time, and you’ll also be prepped and ready for the busy gardening season ahead. Find your local Darlac stockist here.

If you enjoyed this blog post and the Pots & Trowels video, be sure to subscribe to Pots & Trowels on YouTube and to follow them on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for weekly practical videos all about gardening.

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