Use the force. But not too much or you'll get manky-looking black leaves on your rhubarb.

It’s bloody freezing in the garden and not a lot is happening.

I’m starting to think that February might not be the best time of the year to begin a gardening blog: nothing is going to go into the soil for a while yet and there are few signs that anything interesting is going on out there.

Luckily there is some action at the bottom of the garden. Underneath a large terracotta forcer my rhubarb is heroically pushing itself upwards towards the sky.

Acutally, “heroic” might be a little generous. I slapped the forcer over the rhubarb a month ago and in that time the shoots have grown a couple of inches at best.  Not particularly inspiring.I read somewhere that forced rhubarb can grow so fast you can hear it crack and pop.

I have not heard these noises coming from inside the forcer.

Still, the rhubarb is much pinker-looking than last year’s (unforced) crop, so it’s a promising start.

The rhubarb crown has been hyper-productive for three years now, generously supplying me and several neighbours (the rest of the family can’t stand the stuff) with regular croppings. This is the first year that I’ve tried forcing it, and clearly we have something of a stand-off, me and the rhubarb.

A previous attempt to force its rhubarb neighbour ended badly: it pushed up a pair of flaccid stalks before giving up the fight for light and slowly dying. Apparently I should have waited a couple of years until the plant was stronger.

This time round things will be different. To say that the remaining rhubarb has been vigorous over the last few years is a bit like saying my children have a working knowledge of the Nintendo Wii.

Having said that the leaves look pretty sorry for themselves, and they have some unhealthy-looking black edges to them. I shall investigate further; to lose one rhubarb through cack-handed forcing would be unfortunate. To lose two would be a touch careless.

Still, I have faith that my plant will pull through. The force is strong in this one.

On the ipod while forcing: The Ting Tings / Great DJ

The drums, the drums, the drums, the….oh never mind.

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