May 1, 2007 in Home

Rhubarb flourish in fertilizer

Pat Munts Correspondent
Brian Plonka photo

The rhubarb plant is hearty and will grow almost anywhere. The popular plant is a favorite for summer baked goodies.
(Full-size photo)

Our two 5-year-old rhubarb plants are up about 4 to 5 inches just like usual this time of year, but in years past, this is all they do.

They are in full sunshine and have what we think is decent soil and water. We have deer and slugs. What can we do to produce big enough stems for a pie?

Annie Shiffer

Rhubarb is normally one garden plant you shouldn’t have to fuss with, but it does have a few requirements. My bet is the plant could use a good dose of fertilizer now and a top dressing of chicken manure in the fall. Sprinkle a handful of a 10-10-10 fertilizer in a circle out about a foot from the bunch of leaves. In the fall, buy some bagged chicken manure (Northwest Seed has it) and top dress the plant with an inch or so. The nutrients will work their way into the ground over the winter. One last thing would be to make sure the plant gets deeply watered this summer. Rhubarb is pretty drought tolerant but doesn’t mind a deep soaking every couple of weeks when the weather gets hot.

Cold tomatoes

I’m still fairly new to this area and have a question about when to put out tomatoes.

Last year I planted my tomatoes in the end of April thinking I would give them a good start, but then they froze. Any help you can give would be much appreciated.

Dana Malone

Traditionally our last frost date is around May 15 but frosts can come even into early June. Another challenge to putting out tomatoes too early is that the soil is still very cold for them. Instead of kicking into growth mode, they sit and sulk until the ground has warmed up to their liking. There have been a number of studies that have shown that within a few weeks of the arrival of good growing weather, the growth rates of the early tomatoes and those planted at the “right” time are nearly the same. Most of us who have gardened here for a while wait until the end of May to put out tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. That said, there is something about the challenge of pushing the weather to see if you can beat it. So if you want to put out tomatoes in early May, put them in the warmest corner of the garden and then cover them with a double layer of floating row cover (Remay). This is a fabric much like the interfacing used in sewing that still lets light and water in but can hold in enough heat to save your plants from a light frost (28-32 degrees).

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