Growing Rhubarb : How
to to Grow Rhubarb - Plants, Seeds, Harvesting
Everything you should know for growing rhubarb. We show you how to grow
rhubarb and give you tips to make your rhubarb season a success. We
show you how to plant rhubarb from seeds, crowns, the soil conditions
and how to harvest your rhubarb when it is ready. Rhubarb is a very
strange plant, because although the leaves are highly toxic, and are
not to be eaten at any cost, the stems are perfectly safe.
is an old-fashioned plant that has been mainly used throughout the
ages, and especially by the Chinese, as a medicinal plant, usually as a
laxative. It is only over the last couple of hundred years that rhubarb
has been cultivated for eating purposes.
it is well known that the leaves contain oxalic acid which is poisonous
to man, and although you would need to eat a lot of the leaves to end
up at a sticky end, they will give you a very bad upset stomach if you
do end up eating them by mistake. Therefore it is only the stems of
this rhubarb plant that we can eat.
also applies to livestock. Never feed your chickens or other livestock
rhubarb leaves at any time, however you can add them to the compost
The rhubarb plant is a
perennial. And although it is classified as a vegetable, in the USA it
is classified as a fruit, and it will grow quite happily in your garden
after year. If the soil is particularly good it can spread over 3 - 4
feet and grow just as high. So remember this when spacing out your
Soil Preparation and Growing Rhubarb
Good soil preparation is
the key. Rhubarb plants are heavy feeders so before planting, dig
compost, manure and blood and bone into the soil. Water well and leave
for a week to 10 days before planting.
Prepare the bed in early
spring and add at least 3 inches of
well-rotted farmyard manure to the bed. Poultry manure and good compost
is an excellent mix.
They will grow in any type
of soil, however, if they soil is light and
rich with humus and in a sunny and open area your rhubarb will thrive.
Rhubarb grows very well in moist soil, although it will not be happy
when its feet are too wet.
the growing season you can, once a month, feed your plants with seaweed
fertilizer and fish emulsion which will encourage stem formation. It is
almost impossible to overfeed rhubarb.
When to Plant Rhubarb
Your rhubarb seeds should
be sown in spring and your first harvest should be late spring, early
summer the following year.
You can forced in
mid-winter by placing a
bucket upside down over the rhubarb plant. All daylight must be shut
out and a thick mulch should be placed around the rim of the bucket. By
doing this the stalks should be ready to be harvested in about 3
The plant can be
re-covered to force more stalks, but once used this
way the plant should be discarded as it will take a long time for it to
Climates and Growing Rhubarb
Rhubarb grows best in
regions with a good rainfall. It can be grown in the subtropics in
cooler, elevated regions, but it is not suitable for the coastal
sub-tropics or the tropics.
Rhubarb needs good
drainage, but it also needs plenty of water in hot, dry weather.
Regular watering during dry spells is important and an
application of manure during winter, prior to the growing season, will
ensure strong new-season growth.
If you can plant your crop in an
area where it gets a full morning sun with afternoon shade this is
Growing Rhubarb from Seed
Growing rhubarb from seed
is one of the easiest ways of cultivating
rhubarb, however growing rhubarb from crowns will result in better
reliability. Although most rhubarb shouldn't be harvested the first
year the variety "Glaskin's Perpetual" is one rhubarb variety that you
can start picking in the first year.
Simply sow the seeds
outdoors in shallow drills or indoors in trays or boxes during spring.
Thin or transplant them to 6 inches apart, and when they begin to touch
transplant them out to about 3 feet apart.
Growing Rhubarb by Crowns
The rhubarb plant, when
purchased from the nursery, comes in the form of rhubarb crowns. Again,
one should wait at least a year before harvesting your rhubarb.
Prepare the holes for your rhubarb so
that the hole is just deep enough to allow small shoots to protrude
from the surface of the soil, and wide enough to take the whole
Plant the young rhubarb crowns at 3
When planting your rhubarb, make sure
that the crowns are at
crowns with a thin layer of soil and firmly press them down into place.
Water in well and mulch with compost, lucerne or pea straw. Keep mulch
away from the crown to discourage rot.
Top dress the soil with
well-rotted farmyard manure or homemade compost each winter or early
Lightly fork this into the
surface. Feed with a liquid
fertilizer every summer. After 4 years lift the crowns and after
dividing them into smaller plants during spring and replant.
Rhubarb Flowers and Growing Rhubarb
Never let your plants go to flower. If you see any flower
stems appearing, cut them off.
Growing Rhubarb and Dividing the Clumps
up and divide the clumps every 4-5 years, preferably in the winter. Use
a fork or spade to dig the whole clump from the soil. Shake off the
excess dirt and with either a sharp knife or spade cut through the
clump making sure that the pieces that you end up with have 2-3 growing
points and good roots.
Replant into well-prepared
soil, in a different position where the original clump was growing.
Stem Color of your Rhubarb
stem color of your rhubarb plants can vary, even within named
varieties. The reddest colors are produced during cold weather, the
optimum temperatures being 10 degrees C. Temperatures above 25 degrees
C. slow growth and suppress the reddening of the stalks.
the different temperatures if you have stems that are green you won't
be able to make to turn red. Green rhubarb stems can still taste good
but if you want to have red rhubarb stems then you will have to decide
to buy a new plant.
Harvesting your Rhubarb the Right Way
When harvesting your
rhubarb never be too eager to pull the stems from new plants. Pick only
from those that are well established and pick the largest stems. This
allows the root to get well established.
Never cut the stems from
your rhubarb plants, but rather harvest them by picking the stems. When
pulling the stems from
the plants, hold the stem near the base and gently pull downwards and
outwards with a twisting movement. This will cause the stem to come
away from the plant cleanly without breaking the plant from the crown
or having it come right out of the ground.
It is also wise not to
allow the stems to turn yellow on the plant. By doing this, you will
promote more and larger stems.
Pests and Diseases when Growing Rhubarb
Luckily this is a plant
that suffers from few pests and diseases. Occasionally you will find
your rhubarb being invaded with snails, but they can be easily
dispensed with by leaving snail traps made with bowls submerged in the
soil filled with beer, or placing sawdust, crushed egg shell, or
similar material around your plants as they don't like crawling on such
If you see reddish-brown
spots on the leaves, your plant could have rust. And sometimes you may
have a problem with the caterpillar of the white apple moth. See our
page on Natural
Pesticides for organic solutions to pests in your
may occasionally be affected by downy mildew, and leaf spot. These can
be prevented by watering only in the morning and at grow level rather
than on the leaves as well.
warm, humid regions crown rot can be a problem. This causes the whole
plant to collapse. This is why it is important to make sure that you
have the right climate before you plant and that the soil is
in general, it is the rhubarb plant that can be grown and used against
other pests in the garden as a natural pesticide.
a large pot with roughly chopped rhubarb leaves. Cover with water and
bring to the the boil and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes. Leave to cool
and strain through a cloth. Add the leaves to the compost.
30 grams of soap flakes in one liter of hot water. Add this to the
mixture. Spray against aphids, whitefly, and caterpillars. Use it in
the evening so that bees aren't affected as the toxicity will be
weakened by the following morning.
How much Rhubarb should I Plant?
Usually 6-8 rhubarb crowns is enough
for one family. An established rhubarb plant can yield about 4.5 kg of
fruit for a year, but remember that this is spread over period of about
6 months as you would be able to harvest from late winter through to
summer. And of course there is lots one can do with them, not just
rhubarb crumble. See our country
recipes for rhubarb recipes.
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