Raising Rhubarb

by April Reinhardt
(last updated July 16, 2013)

Because rhubarb was used at the turn of the century to mainly make pies, tarts, and tortes, some older people know it as the pie plant. When mixed with other fruits, and a great deal of sugar, rhubarb is more palatable, since it is naturally immensely sour. One of only two perennial vegetables—the other being asparagus—rhubarb is one of the easiest plants to grow, as long as you live in a cooler climate. Here are some guidelines for raising rhubarb:

  • It is difficult to find rhubarb for purchase at a local nursery. Find a reputable online nursery or catalog and buy rhubarb crowns. A good nursery will not ship your rhubarb crowns until it is the appropriate time of year to plant them for the zone in which you live.
  • Since rhubarb grows best in colder climates, plant the crowns in very early spring, as soon as you can work the ground. Choose a plot of ground that won't be disturbed for at least five years, and make sure it gets full sunlight.
  • Since you won't be tilling or adding fertilizer to your rhubarb once you plant it, dig a hole at least two feet deep, and two feet wide, filling it halfway with compost.
  • Make a mound in the compost, and add dirt until you've made a mound nearly to the top of the hole. Place the rhubarb crown on top of the mound, allowing the roots to tendril down the sides of the mound.
  • Add dirt to fill the hole and cover the crown, making sure that the crown buds are about two inches underneath the soil.
  • Mulch very deeply and add plenty of compost as soon as the rhubarb knuckles (shoots) appear.
  • Water rhubarb plants at least one inch of water each week.
  • Seed stalks will grow before the edible leaf stalks appear. Remove the seed stalks as soon as possible so that that plant will, instead, produce the edible leaf stalks.

Do not harvest rhubarb the first year, as the plant still needs to establish a good root system. The following spring, clip a few leaf stalks when they grow the thickness of a finger. The third spring, harvest as much rhubarb as you'd like.

Warning! Rhubarb leaves are poisonous. Never eat the leaves of a rhubarb plant.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...

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