Planting Rhubarb

Rhubarb Growing Tips

Planting rhubarb (rheum) can offer savings to your budget, but you will need to learn the ins and outs of growing this plant before taking on the challenge. With a few tips, it is not difficult to grow.

Planting Rhubarb Methods and Tips

Rhubarb grows well in the cooler season. It is a perennial crop. In order for the plant to break its dormancy in the spring months, temperatures need to reach below 40 degrees F. The best growth of this plant occurs when temperatures remain under 75 degrees F through the spring and summer growing season. It does well in the Northern United States and throughout Canada.

Soil Needs

Rhubarb is tolerant of many soil types, but it will do best in nutrient rich soil. The soil should drain well. Mix organic matter into the soil each spring for the best results in vegetable production. No herbicides are registered to work well on rhubarb and therefore, it is important the initial planting is done in clean soil. Remove weeds and pests as much as possible before cultivating. However, insects do not take well to rhubarb and therefore it will likely remain pest free.

For the best results, keep soil in a pH range as low as 5.0 to 6.8. It is likely you will need to feed rhubarb nutrients throughout the year. They do well with organic products as well as commercially prepared products.

Planting Rhubarb

When it comes to planting rhubarb, early spring is the best time to do so. You can grow it from seeds, but you will need to start them indoors during the winter months to get good results.

  • Space out each rhubarb plant root at least 24 to 48 inches apart. If you are planting in rows for smaller gardens, you can plant as close as 36 inches without a problem. If there is too much crowding, the crop will yield less.
  • When planting rhubarb, the roots and the crown bud should be about two inches under the surface of the soil.
  • When filling in the soil around the plant, fill it in with a mixture of soil, composted manure and peat moss. Keep the soil around the crown loose. The soil around the roots should be firmer.
  • After planting, water the crowns well. You can also use a 5-10-10 mixture of fertilizer on the soil at its planting.

Keeping Rhubarb Growing

Once you are done planting rhubarb, you will need to provide it with some care throughout the growing season. It generally does better if you give it more attention and keep it moist. When flower stalks grow, remove them. Keep in mind a few more important tips about growing this plant:

  • The first year's stalks should not be picked. Stalks and leaves from this first crop need to be used by the plant to prepare for the following season. You can do a light picking in the second year, if plants are growing well. In the third year, you can harvest the entire plant.
  • To harvest, cut stalks at the soil line. In some cases, you can pull them right from the base.
  • Harvest all at one time or you can harvest one at a time and have a continuous supply of rhubarb throughout the growing season.
  • Remove the leaves before preparing; leaves should not be eaten because they are toxic.
  • The plant will continue to grow until temperatures dip below 40 degrees F. When this happens, the plant simply stops growing.
  • Cover the plants with clear plastic during the early spring to give them a head start on growing for the year. Leave the plastic in place until the crown begins to grow.
  • In the late fall, spread a layer of compost over the rhubarb for the winter months to keep the roots from drying out. You will only need about two to three layers and you can use leaves and hay as well.

You will need a bit of patience to grow this vegetable. It is worth the work and time. Incorporate these tips into growing rhubarb and you will see excellent results, whether you're using the plant to make a tasty rhubarb cocktail or a delicious dish.

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Planting Rhubarb