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Canberra Today 3°/8° | Saturday, April 13, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Growing rhubarb that’s on the run

Rhubarb leaf spot… needs good drainage to prevent fungal diseases. Photo: Jackie Warburton

This season’s wet weather has put tremendous growth on rhubarb and, if unpicked, clumps can grow to more than a metre wide and collapse, says gardening writer JACKIE WARBURTON.

Although winter’s the best time to lift and divide rhubarb, if it needs doing now, do it. It will only set it back a little, but not kill it. 

Jackie Warburton.

Dividing rhizomes can be done using a fork to dig around the clump and remove from the soil. Cut it up into segments and plant into a deep hole, double the size of the crown, with added organic compost and plant with their necks proud out of the ground. Water in well. 

Rhubarb needs good drainage to prevent fungal diseases, such as downy mildew or root rot. Like all fungal diseases, prevention is better than cure, and as soon as lesions appear, remove infected leaves and put them into the green bin. 

Keep the leaves off the ground by planting rhubarb on a mound with good drainage. Some rhubarb will send up large flowering shoots and go to seed. The flower spikes are about a metre tall and are quite spectacular. 

Some varieties will flower more than others, but generally a mature clump will seed. This means it’s to start dividing the rhubarb and replenishing the plant. 

With oversized rhubarb, “tear” the stems from the base of the plant near the ground. Most importantly, to improve longevity, remove no more than a third of the foliage from the crown at one time. 

I dehydrate rhubarb pulp in my dehydrator machine and have rhubarb leather (lollies) for snacks. 

Coleus… packs a punch with its vibrant array of foliage. Photo: Jackie Warburton

THE outdoor growing season for coleus in our region is very short, but it packs a punch with its vibrant array of foliage as potted colour to brighten a path or small garden. 

It’s an old-fashioned plant from the Victorian era and has made a comeback with what its foliage has to offer small gardens and limited spaces. 

It’s generally a small plant suited to pots that can be moved around to suit the climate. A glasshouse will get it growing through the colder months. 

It needs lots of humidity and moist soil, but not wet. As an indoor plant, misting with a spray bottle will increase the humidity or place the plant on a shallow dish with water and rocks. It needs bright indirect sunlight. Outdoors, it does best with dappled light. 

Regular tip pruning and pinching of stem growth will promote bushy plants. The flowers are insignificant compared to the foliage, but they have pretty racemes that sit about the plant and can be removed to encourage new growth. 

Coleus is easy to propagate. Cut a stem with at least three to four nodes and place it in a little water on the window sill. Replace the water every few days and, in a week or so, there should be roots forming at the base of the stem, which can gently be placed into a potting mix and kept moist. 

There are many new varieties available with velvet-textured foliage and in the brightest mix of colours. It can be used as a filler in the garden, a hanging basket or an annual display. Keep the foliage dry and water only at the base of the plant to prevent fungal diseases


  • Deadhead all flowers to encourage new growth. 
  • Place lime in the soil where winter peas are to be sown. 
  • Net all apple and pear trees as fruit begins to ripen.
  • Place diatomaceous earth around young seedlings. 

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Jackie Warburton

Jackie Warburton

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