Rabbits in the rhubarb

Tiffany Daneff / 04 March 2014

The rabbits have dug themselves a fine old hole under the rhubarb. I imagine it to be quite snug in there, huddled up on the bank at the edge of the lawn. But it’s not what I want, nor I imagine, what the rhubarb needs.

I had headed outside, full of the joys of forthcoming spring, with the snowdrops out on the bank and the first crocus in the front garden. Even the tulips, which only went into the ground six odd weeks ago, are now sending up scarlet tips through the black blanket of perfection-rotted sheep manure. The plan was to force some of the emerging rhubarb into early growth.

Every year I dream about having a proper terracotta forcer and every year I resort to upending whatever container there is to hand, often just an large black plastic flowerpot.

This time I had the large round flower pot in which I had transported my Camberwell rhubarb when we moved here last year. I am riddled with guilt over this rhubarb. Lord knows how it has survived in my company so long. I must have bought the crown 10 years ago now and it has been miserable all those years sitting in a pot in a South London garden, too hot, too dry and too constrained. I did what I could, top dressing it, watering and the like but it only ever produced enough stalks for one crumble. I would have left it behind were it not for the fact that it was in a rather nice pot. So it was shoved in the boot and brought to Northamptonshire where the neglect continued.

The poor old thing sat in its pot for 18 months, forgotten, drying out and generally ignored because there was so much rhubarb already here. But it tore at me every time I walked past. Finally, I knocked it out of the pot and transferred it into a bucket, meaning to plant it out. But then I think Christmas got in the way and I forgot all about the rhubarb. Next time I walked past, inwardly groaning, I saw that it was submerged under rainwater. I had drowned the ruddy plant. It was too awful. I quickly ran away and managed to forget about it for a few more weeks. And then the sun came out and I felt like tackling a bit of the greenstuff. So out I went, full of the joys, and this time I hoiked the clump of rhubarb out of the plastic bucket, dug a nice round hole close by the compost bins, and planted it.

Phew. That has made me feel SO much happier: a decade’s worth of guilt assuaged. Not to mention a terracotta pot freed up and ready to be upturned on top of half of the large rhubarb plant. (The one on the bank, with the rabbits underneath.)

I searched the outhouses for straw or something I could use instead of horticultural fleece to tuck under the pot and over the emerging shoots to warm things up and encourage growth. Finding nothing (I am too good at chucking stuff away) I used a clump of bubblewrap. Not so pretty, but out of sight.

So job done. I just hope those rabbits don’t drag the bubblewrap down into the burrows.

And its not just rabbits. Moles have been tunneling under the newly-laid turf. Any one got any good tips for sending them on their way? Someone mentioned wedging an electronic singing birthday card in the tunnel, making sure it is open and thus playing. Which sounds very ‘Nam.

Tiffany Daneff is also the editor of the award-winning intoGardens app - the world's first magazine app for gardens. Visit the appstore to download a free sample or go to the website for more information.  Gardening has never looked better or been more exciting. Visit www.into-gardens.com  for more info. 

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