How To Grow Rhubarb

How to grow rhubarb?

It’s a perennial that lasts for years and once you get rhubarb established it pretty much takes care of it’s self.

The stalks of the rhubarb plant are the only part eaten.

The leaves contain oxalic acid so are not eatable.

The stalks are great in pies, sauces and jams.

They have a tangy flavor that I loved to bite into as a child. It reminds me of the sour candy kid’s love today.

Rhubarb is a cool season vegetable and needs temperatures below 40 F in the winter months to grow new shoots the following spring making it a great vegetable for northern climates.

Rhubarb will grow in a variety of soil, but like most vegetables love moist fertile soil.

Since rhubarb is a perennial choose a location where it can thrive without disturbance from year to year.

Rhubarb makes a nice ornamental in a flower bed or at the edge of your vegetable garden.

I used a mulched no till method for my vegetable garden so my rhubarb is growing along side my boysenberries and summer squash.

Rhubarb is grown from crowns or plant divisions. Crown can be purchased in the spring at your local nursery. My first rhubarb plant came from my mother’s large rhubarb plant.

If you get a division from a neighbor or friend make sure the plant is healthy. Buying from a nursery insures clean stock that is free of diseases.

Plant rhubarb in the early spring some where it will have 3 square feet of space for growing.

  • Dig a hole double the size of your root and add compost.
  • Place the rhubarb root into the hole and fill with soil. Cover the top of the root with only about 2 to 3 inches of soil. This will allow the shoot to emerge sooner.
  • Water well and keep the root moist.

As the shoots appear you can add mulch around the plant. I have had trouble with slugs and snails feeding on the new rhubarb shoots. This can cause the plant to die if it can’t produce the leaves to feed the root.

I sprinkle a generous amount of diatomaceous earth around the young rhubarb plant until it gets established. Diatomaceous earth is natural and keeps the slugs and snails at bay. It can be purchased at your feed store.

Because rhubarb is dependant on it root staying healthy from year to year, it needs a fertilizer higher in potassium and prosperous. In the spring give your rhubarb plant a dose of compost tea or a good 5-10-10 fertilizer.

In mid summer give the rhubarb another round of fertilizer.

For the first year do not harvest any rhubarb stalks. Let the roots develop.

The Second spring you can harvest a few shoots in the early spring. By the third year your rhubarb can be harvested every year in the spring.

Harvest the stalks from May through June. After June stop harvesting so the plant can regain its vigor for another season.

When the rhubarb produces a flower stalk, cut them off to promote stronger roots.

After 5 to 7 years it is a good idea to divide the roots to alleviate over crowding.

In the fall dig a portion of the rhubarb root out and divide. You can plant the roots in other areas of your garden or give to friends.

Knowing how to grow rhubarb as a perennial will give you years of harvesting from this versatile vegetable.

Rhubarb Red Leaf Disease

Rhubarb is a hardy plant and needs cold freezing winters to give the roots a rest to regain strength for the next spring’s growth. Few pests and diseases affect rhubarb. Red Leaf is the most serious diseases and is deadly with out any controls.

Red Leaf is caused by a bacterium called Erwinia rhapontici.  Red Leaf bacterium can be in the soil or in infected roots bought or dug from a neighbor. It can be transmitted from insects. Red leaf starts in the root and moves to the foliage causing the leaves to turn red then yellow and die.

Infected plants should be removed to keep from infecting other plants. Do not replant rhubarb in the same location as plants infected by red leaf. Buy roots that are fee of infection and varieties resistant to viruses.

How to grow rhubarb with out disease is not hard but when your patch is infected with Red Leaf it is important to act quickly and remove diseased plants to avoid losing your whole planting.

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