How to Grow Rhubarb
Rhubarb is an easy to grow perennial, that is just beginning to be re-discovered.
Native to Asia, Rhubarb was popular in grandma's garden. It's easy to grow,
and is one of the earliest producers in the vegetable garden. Put a few plants
in the ground where they won't be disturbed, and they will produce for many
years. It will certainly reward you with almost effortless production of
stalks to enjoy.
Rhubarb is also called the "pie plant", as it is most popular cooked in pies.
The rhubarb plant has a long, thick, edible stem with good flavor, but a
tart taste. Rhubarb recipes use sugar to sweeten it.
Through the years, debate has raged as to whether Rhubarb is a vegetable,
or a fruit. It is commonly thought of as a fruit, as this is the way it is
used. In actuality, Rhubarb is actually a vegetable.
Important: Rhubarb leaves are poisonous. Cut the stalk at the base
of the leaf and discard the leaves.
Did You Know? Rhubarb is one of just two perennial vegetables, that
lives for several years. The other is Asparagus.
Garden Tip: Do not confuse Rhubarb with "Rhubarb
Swiss Chard". They are not the same.
Sowing Rhubarb Seeds:
While seeds can be planted, rhubarb plants are most often propagated by
separating the roots, or crowns. A piece of root with at least one
bud is planted with the rhubarb crown just at soil level. Plant outdoors
as soon as the soil can be worked. Rhubarb is hardy, and will survive late
spring frosts. If there is a really hard freeze, the leaves and stalk could
be damaged, but new ones will soon replace any that are damaged.
Space Rhubarb roots two to three feet apart. They will spread. Rhubarb tolerates
a little crowding, but the stalks and leaves will grow bigger and healthier
if you allow them plenty of space. A few plants is all you will need for
a home garden. If you are planting large quantities, space rows three feet
Days to Maturity:
Rhubarb can be picked in the spring as soon as the stalks are large
enough to harvest in sufficient quantity for the recipe you are planning
to use. Newly planted Rhubarb will be ready to harvest the following year.
How to Grow Rhubarb Plants:
Before planting, select a location where they will not be disturbed for years,
and where they will not be in the way when tilling your garden in future
years. Rhubarb can be planted in partial shade, but prefer full sun.
Being easy to grow, Rhubarb will thrive in most garden soils. But, it will
reward you when compost and manures or fertilizers are added. Use a general
purpose fertilizer, or a high nitrogen mixture, for well established plants,
to promote leaf and stalk growth.
Make sure ample water is in the soil during the harvest period. After harvest,
don't forget to provide water, to keep your plants healthy all year long.
As a rule of thumb, when watering the rest of your garden, water your rhubarb
Healthy plants will grow and spread. Separate or thin the plants every five
years, or sooner if the plants become crowded.
Temperatures - Ideal germination temperature by vegetable
pH - by vegetable
Insects and Pests:
Insect infestations are fairly uncommon. For occasional infestations, use
an insecticidal soap or mild insecticide.
Rhubarb plants are long lived, and suffer few diseases. On occasion, fungus
and crown rot can occur. Fungus problems are more common in wet and humid
weather, if the plants are crowded.
Plant Problems - Diagnosis,
causes and cures for many common plant problems.
You can harvest the Rhubarb regardless of size. When harvesting, grasp
a stalk firmly close to the ground. Twist and pull the stalk, and it should
break free of the plant. While harvesting, pick the largest stalks first.
Don't let them get too big. Stalks remain sweet and flavorful, until the
warm summer weather begins. Then, the stalks turn bitter.
Did you know? Rhubarb plants can be forced into growing earlier. While
the ground is still frozen or covered with snow, cover a couple of plants
with a five gallon bucket, preferably black. You can also use a thick layer
of straw or leaf mulch. The plants will begin growing earlier, and you can
harvest them days or weeks before your neighbors!
Rhubarb plants are as hardy as vegetables come. They begin to grow as soon
as the ground begins to thaw. No matter hold cold it gets in late spring,
the weather will not kill the plant, although in some cases it may damage
the first leaves.
Rhubarb Custard Pie
More of our garden recipes
More Gardening Resources:
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day