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Posted by on Feb 28, 2013 in Fruit, Rhubarb | 3 comments

How to Grow Rhubarb

Name: Rhubarb

 

rhubarb

Description:

**It’s always nice to have a few of these plants since they are so undemanding and are one of a very few perennial vegetables. Even if you do nothing to the plant at all, you can expect a decent harvest of rhubarb.

**It freezes well for winter use and also provides you with a nice fruitlike dish in the spring and early summer when other fruits are not yet bearing.

**Remember that the leaves are poisonous and should never be eaten. The stalks, however, are rich in vitamins and flavor.

 

Position:

**This plant is a big mound that is almost 3 feet wide and almost as tall.

**Rhubarb does not like hot, dry climates. It will still grow but not very quickly and will often try to go to seed.

**Choose a spot that is out of the way, like a back row of a garden. Since the plant is permanent, it will not be part of a crop-rotation program or ever be part of the turning-over-of-soil routine.

**Plant it in a sunny spot, but if your climate is warm, choose a shady spot. It is a nice idea to plant it near your asparagus because they are planted, grown, and harvested in a similar way.

**Like asparagus, rhubarb needs a deep, fertile, well-drained soil. The large roots will spread several feet out and several feet deep. They prefer a pH that is lightly acidic, about 5.0-6.5.

 

Propagation:

**Rhubarb is not generally grown from seed, but from divisions of existing clumps. The seeds cannot be trusted to breed true and they take a long time to produce mature plants.

**If you already have an established clump of rhubarb, divide it in half where it grows. Hold a sharp spade over the clump and plunge it straight down the middle. Leave one half in the soil, where it will keep growing and will actually be invigorated by this pruning. Divide the rest into many pieces or just a few larger pieces and plant elsewhere.

**If you do not have a plant to divide, check for divisions from a reputable nursery or online gardening website.

**Plant the divisions in early spring as soon as the ground has dried out enough to be worked (in milder climates, plant in the fall). Make a deep, wide trench similar as that for asparagus and dig rich organic matter into the bottom. Give each plant a large area to spread out, approximately three feet between each plant.

 

Maintenance:

**In spring seasons, give your rhubarb plant a top-dressing of compost or manure. The more water and nutrients you give your plant, the more stalks it will produce and the thicker they will be. There is very little danger of overfeeding. Simply make sure that the water can drain and not puddle up around the base of the plant to prevent rot.

**After the ground has warmed up, mulch around the plant and then remove the mulch the next early spring season to allow the sun to warm the soil again.

**In the summer, the plant will send up tall stalks that look different from the leaf stalks and produce flowers. Cut these flowering stalks down near the base, possibly before it begins to flower if you notice in time. If the plant sends up these type of stalks, it will produce fewer leaf stalks and might stop producing altogether.

**If you want to force a rhubarb plant in your cellar for winter eating, dig one up before the ground freezes in the fall, trying to get as many of the roots as possible and leaving as much soil around them as you can. Put in a large container and fill in around it with light soil or moistened peat moss. The crowns should be cut back almost to the roots and covered with several inches of whatever soil medium you are using. Leave the container outdoors and let it freeze at least once. Then bring it into a cool, dark place (about 40 degrees) if you are going to keep it dormant for a while. Keep the soil moist but not soggy wet. When you want it to start growing, bring it into a somewhat warmer area (about 60 degrees), but keep it covered with something that will exclude the light. Soon the plant will start sending up edible stalks. When it has finished producing, you can either throw it away or replant it in the spring. The plant will recover eventually.

**Rhubarb plants will thrive almost indefinitely without being divided, though dividing will help benefit the plant. When a plant is old, the stalks will be very numerous but thinner.

**Occasionally, the plants get foot-rot, causing the stalks to rot at the bottom. Dig up the whole plant and burn it if this happens, and if you have been mulching the rhubarb, stop. Give the plants plenty of air circulation and perhaps relocate it to a new, sunny spot.

 

Harvesting:

**The first year you plant rhubarb, you should not harvest any of the edible leaf stalks, but do cut back the flower stalks.

**The second spring, you can pick some leaf stalks that are at least an inch thick, but most of them should be left on the plant to form leaves so that the roots can grow. Keep removing those flower stalks!

**The third year, you can pick the thick leaf stalks for about a month. Keep removing those flower stalks!

**From the fourth year on, you can pick as many of the thick leaf stalks as you like.

**You can cut the stalks from the base with a knife or twist the stalk and give it a tug.

 

Posted On:

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

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By Cris Daining

3 Comments

  1. So, the trick is to make it possible for it to get deep roots? We have 2 rhubarbs that just won’t grow as they are supposed to. They come up in spring, grow for a while, then stops growing. They are about 4-5 years old by now. One of them has been moved twice so far as it wouldn’t grow well. Same thing every year. Hardly enough of it for one single pie… I guess we should move it to a shadier spot? Where it is now it IS dry and sunny (as sunny, dry and warm it can be in Sweden).

    • I bet some shade will help. Maybe a raised bed, too, so it has better soil for better roots. Hope that helps!

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