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Rhubarb – how to grow, soil conditions, care that should be taken.

Rhubarb originates from Siberia, and is a very hardy, frost resistant plant – in fact it needs a period of frost in the winter to produce the best stalks. One word of warning – do not eat the leaves of rhubarb – they contain oxalic acid which is definitely poisonous to humans.

Characteristics of Rhubarb

– It is a cool season, perennial vegetable, grown for its leafstalks that have a unique tangy taste used for pies and sauces.
– Rhubarb season runs from April to September.
– The best time to plant them is early spring.
– Rhubarb is easy to freeze.
– Although rhubarb is typically eaten as a dessert, it is actually a vegetable since the fruits are not eaten.
– The rhubarb curculio, a rusty snout beetle about 3/4 inch long, can, on occasion, cause serious damage to the leafstalks.
– It requires temperatures below 40 F to break dormancy and to stimulate spring growth and summer temperatures averaging less than 75 F for vigorous vegetative growth.

Cultural Requirements for Rhubarb

– Rhubarb will grow and produce on most soils, but grows best in fertile, well-drained soils that have good organic matter content.
– It thrives best in full sun but will also tolerate part shade.
– Rhubarb can be grown in acidic soils down to about pH 5.0 but grows best in slightly acidic soil – pH 6.0-6.8.

Planting Rhubarb

– Rhubarb is generally purchased as crowns or divisions, rather than propagated from seed.
– Plant your rhubarb roots in a hole two feet deep and two feet wide and leave at least three feet between plants.
– When you place the plant in the hole, the crown bud should be two inches below the ground surface.
– Add some composted manure or peat moss to the hole before filling it in.
– The plant won’t be big enough to harvest the first year, but starting in the second year you can cut a few stalks as soon as they grow to about the size of your finger.
– Cut the stalk to the ground level.
– Once a rhubarb plant is over five years old, it can be dug up and divided into three new crowns. This should be done when the plant is dormant during the winter.

Caring for Rhubarb Plants

– In very dry periods during the summer a good watering goes a long way, and try to remove any weeds as they appear.
– In early winter when the leaves of the plant die down, spread a good layer of organic matter around (but not over) the rhubarb plant.
– In February a little general fertiliser can be spread around the plant to feed it.

1 comment to Rhubarb – how to grow, soil conditions, care that should be taken.

  • Lots of good points here just in time for rhubarb season. I faithfully scatter coffee grounds and egg shells around my rhubarb plants to keep slugs out.

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