Rhubarb Growing: Site and Preparation
Rhubarb prefers a well-drained but moisture retentive, fertile soil in a sunny or partially shaded position. The site should be well worked, incorporating plenty of organic material such as well rotted manure or garden compost. Care should be taken to remove all perennial weeds. Apply a base dressing of general fertiliser as per Manufacturer’s recommendations.
Rhubarb Growing: Planting
This should take place as soon as possible, provided soil and weather conditions are suitable, e.g. not over wet or frozen. Planting is best done in October and November or February and March. Plant the crowns 90cm (3′) apart with the bud end just below the soil surface. Firm in and water during dry weather as necessary.
Rhubarb Growing: Harvesting
Rhubarb can be harvested in spring and early summer by grasping the base of the stem, pulling and twisting until the stems come free of the crown. It is recommended that harvesting rhubarb does not commence until the second year, allowing the crown time to build and become well established.
For early rhubarb crops outdoors cover with an upturned bucket or other vessel to exclude light, this should be done before growth commences in January.
The sticks will appear after a few weeks and will be blanched and sweet and tender. After a few pickings remove cover and allow to grow normally to replenish the crown. Rhubarb can also be forced indoors for very early production.
Dig up two or three rhubarb crowns from a established bed in early November and leave on the soil surface to expose to cold – this will break dormancy. Move to a greenhouse or outhouse and plant in a box using soil or old compost. Cover to exclude light and pick when ready. The spent crowns can then be replanted outside where they will recover after a couple of seasons.
In the autumn, when the foliage has died down, remove any dead vegetation and perennial weeds. A 5-8cm (2-3″) layer of garden compost or well-rotted manure can then be applied. In the spring apply a top dressing of general fertiliser as per manufacturer’s recommendations.
PLEASE NOTE – Rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid and are poisonous; do not consume.