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The Rhubarb Bed

Updated: Feb 28, 2022

I posted one of my famous ASMR Gardening videos.

Obviously, the blog and the newsletter are my primary forms of broadcast communication, but every so often (and really, not very often at all!), I post a meditative video of slow, repetitive work and a diegetic soundscape of digging, wind and birdsong.

You could also call them boring if you so wished. The Dogme95 -cum- cinéma vérité genre does not suffer negatively from being called boring.

I thought I might go all multimedia this time and add viewing notes. With maybe the occasional gardening tip.

As long as you understand that my tips are "This is how this pirate does it" and should under no circumstances be taken as advice. I really do make it all up as I go along.

in action

0:00 Video starts

I figured out how to add "chapters" to my videos. One of the tricks is that you have to add the first one at 00:00 exactly. Actually, that's the only trick. Youtube then figures out that what follows is chapter headings.

Seeing as the average watch time for my hour-long videos is usually two or three minutes, I thought I would see if adding chapters would encourage people to watch more. The idea being that they might try each chapter for maybe 30 seconds or so. If you look carefully, you'll notice I have been super sneaky and every chapter opens with absolutely nothing happening for the first 5 to 10 seconds. Sneaky, eh?

0:28 digging holes for two new roots

I bought 5 rhubarb crowns or roots or corms (are they even corms? I'm not sure) when I first moved in here. I'd love to tell you who I bought them from, but only if they sponsor me. I have not asked them to sponsor me, so that's probably not going to happen. I'd love it if they did, though. They have all sorts of lovely things that I would like for free.

I bought 5, but I dug a bed big enough for more. Probably about 7 or 8, I thought. They are all doing terribly well, so it's time to divide some of them up and make more. You never really buy a plant. You only buy a fast-forward card. You buy plants so that someone else takes them from very very small to "you probably can't kill this any more" and you pay them for their time. There are not many things that you can't grow yourself from seeds or cuttings.

3:26 adding manure and sand for soil conditioning

I think I've mentioned it before. My ground here is crap. It's highly compacted rocks and clay with a 30cm thick hard pan somewhere between 10 and 60cm beneath the surface. Any time I get the excuse to improve the texture, conditioning or humus content of the soil, I take it. So, let's dig some holes for the cuttings, and slosh in some sand and horse crap.

I was quite surprised myself to find I need a whole wheelbarrow full of tools for such a simple task

5:30 deciding where to take root cuttings

The Pirate way. If you find another video on YouTube about dividing rhubarb, or if you read it in a book, you'll almost certainly be told to completely uproot the, uhm, root, and divide it above ground. I say Narrrrrrr.

There are essentially two reasons you are dividing rhubarb roots. One is to renew your stock, the other is to multiply it. Some people will tell you that once a rhubarb root gets old, it loses some of its potency, and should be replaced with it's own younger parts. So you dig it up, find the youngest sproutiest parts of the root, chop them off and replant them. The old gnarly root, you can throw away or stick on the compost heap or feed to the pigs. I have no idea if pigs like this, but they are, at the end of the day, pigs, and will eat anything.

Second thoughts, they love roots. I bet the love rhubarb roots especially.

Each root will produce three or four (or more) of these really good strong and young looking bits, so you can either take one off and replace it in the same hole you took the original from, or you can take several off, and multiply your stock.

I think this is nonsense. I've seen 20, 30, 40 year old rhubarbs chucking out beautiful, strong, succulent shoots earlier and in greater numbers than you would think possible. If you want to force your shoots in the early spring for an especially pink and sweet desert, then you definitely need roots with plenty of energy.

My old roots are staying in the ground until they put me in there with them.

So, I don't want to cause them any more damage than necessary. I'm going to leave the majority of the root in the ground, but clean up around it a bit so I can find the good new bits, and then just cut them out.

It's a woody root, so it makes a heck of a crack when you put the shovel through it. But they don't seem to mind too much.

The camera set up for the video. A broken gorrila and an very old wooden step ladder which doesn't open up properly any more

13:09 Edging the bed

I don't have particularly strong memories of my maternal grandfather. He died when I was quite young. Strange how some comments you hear in your childhood stay with you, though. Apparently, although he had a gardener, he insisted on doing the edging of his lawn himself.

I don't remember who told me this, but I do remember being confused by it. Why would you hire a professional to do a job, and then insist on doing it yourself? I dunno if ti seemed bloody minded or just plain rude, but I do know that it inculcated a long-standing belief that if you pay someone to do a job who spends 8 hours a day doing it, then you get out of their way and let them get on with it.

Or perhaps, he just enjoyed it. It is quite satisfying.

17:22 Oops. Forgot the rakes

Watch me go get the rakes!

Fortunately, they were in the wood shed. I had been doing some raking near by. If they had been in the greenhouse (polytunnel) this section of the video would have been even less fascinating. I would have quickly exited screen left, and returned quite a lot longer later.

24:48 Weeding the edge

Some of the soft fruit beds are in a slightly better state than others. The rhubarb bed was pretty good. The left-most third, which has been free from rhubarb since it was dug three years ago, was beginning to get a bit weedy. The rest of it just needed a quick tidy up.

51:10 Final tidy

And then we rake it, stand back to admire our word and go inside for a nice cup of tea.

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