Our precious rhubarb plant was always the first one to pop up in the spring (nay, before spring here in Alaska). It brought hope that the snow would melt and the rest of the plants would start to turn green. This year, it never came up. It died. The appropriate Alaskan response is: “How do you kill rhubarb?!” I don’t know! Maybe it was this winters’ lack of snow (yes, Boston took all of our snow).
Mr. T and I mourned the loss of our rhubarb, but luckily we had already started our yearly plant mooch. My friend is a tomato plant whisperer. And growing tomatoes in Alaska is no easy task. Every year we beg her to throw three more little cups of seeds under her grow lights for us, and when they get big enough to transplant, she sends them our way. Alaska has a very short growing season (plants not safe from frost outside until June 1), but 24-hour sunshine makes up for it. Plants grow much faster. Last year, the tomatoes all hit the ceiling before June 1 and vined all over our couch so we couldn’t transport them outside. We had a tomato jungle in our living room until mid-October. Anyway, back to THIS story… So, we already had our three mooched tomato plants thriving in our window, but our rhubarb…. Our poor rhubarb.
I started mentioning the loss of the rhubarb to friends (“How did you kill rhubarb?”). Mr. T mentioned its demise at work (“You killed it?!”). Then one day, my green thumb of a friend showed up with two transplant rhubarbs from her garden. And strawberry plants. And raspberries. All because we killed our rhubarb. The next week, someone brought Mr. T a bag of rhubarb from his thriving plant. And then I ended up with another garbage bag full from another lady. If people are giving away free food, we say “yes.” If they are plants that will produce more food, we say “yes” followed closely by “yippee!”
Recap: We started the season with one dead rhubarb plant. A month into the season, we had two growing rhubarb plant, 8 raspberry plants, 6 strawberry plants, and 29.5 pounds of chopped up rhubarb in our freezer (for a full winter full of pies, muffins, and rhubarb custard cake). Mmmm. Cost? Free.
Ask around about plants. People are often willing to split thriving plants that are taking over and give you half. Rhubarb. Raspberries. Strawberries. My mom did it with her calla lilies when I was growing up. My neighbor told me that her brother keeps a bucket in his trunk. When he sees a perennial he likes growing on the side of the road (public lands), he digs it up, puts it in the bucket, and plants it in his garden when he gets home. Get creative when it comes to plants. They can be expensive, but they don’t have to be. Start mooching!