A Soil Test For Unhealthy Gardens
If the rhubarb garden soil gets stale and it looks like your plants are getting smaller, thinner, spindly and sparse, it might be time renew the dirt. Garden soil can go dry, dusty, and kind of grey-ish. It doesn't look healthy, and certainly doesn't feel healthy in your hands. Why? Because there's nothing of value in it. Your soil may be severely lacking in nutrients.
You can only take and take from your garden dirt for so long, and eventually the soil becomes totally depleted of nutrition and all the good things garden plants need to "eat" in order to flourish and continue to be productive for whatever is growing there.
Rhubarb likes to eat a lot and consistently. It relies on and heavily feeds off of the soil it's planted in. If it's not fed properly, the deficiencies show in the plants.
When your rhubarb looks "sick" it may be telling you it needs water - another consideration is that the root system might be sharing space with a tree root and competing for moisture. It might need more sun, or just some good food. If you were letting it flower, you should have cut those off when they appeared because the flowers take energy from the stalks. If that's not the case, it may be the location it's in and the soil is just no good anymore.
At this point, it's just probably time to dig up your rhubarb crowns and divide them up. Look over the crowns, and if there are any hollow woody pieces, just get rid of them. Cleaning up the crowns is helpful. In the spring, replant them into fresh new soil that's brimming with dug-in rich compost.
If you really want to know just how good the soil is, have it tested. Usually nitrogen is missing. You may need to adjust the pH with lime or sulphur to adjust alkaline and acidity levels. These ingredients can promote plant growth in your garden.
If the soil test is good, don't do anymore (don't go out and buy anything) other than continue to feed with household compost and animal manure.
If your rhubarb plants didn't do that well this year, remember that rhubarb garden soil gets stale and a soil test in Spring might be worth looking at. Get your garden beds healthy and in shape before planting anything.
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