Soil Conditions For Growing Rhubarb
and Rhubarb like each other and since neither plant requires re-sowing
spring, many people plant these two vegetables next to each other.
Both like a loose soil and are not as sensitive to pH levels as other
garden plants. Rhubarb can grow in soil with a pH of 5, but like most
plants prefer a 6 to 7 pH level to thrive.
Fertilizing and Cold Protection
Apply organic fertilizer in the fall and some good compost or composted manure. If you don't have any you can use your lawn clippings for mulching around the plants instead. Covering the Rhubarb bed with leaves, grass clippings or straw
in the fall helps to protect them from the cold.
Rhubarb is drought tolerant and easily recovers from late frosts and
hard, cold winters as long as you remember the one important factor:
the Rhubarb." Because, Rhubarb requires little water, it will drown
easily if you plant it in an area that is moist year round.
Growing Rhubarb in
raised beds helps to prevent moisture saturation, which can cause
stunted growth, thin, weak stalks and failure to produce rich, vibrant
Propagating and Transplanting Rhubarb
When growing Rhubarb, don't harvest in the first year as it requires
time to establish. Do cut the flower stems as soon as they appear, as
from seed is quite difficult. In the third and fourth years before in
the spring, divide rhubarb plants and set new beds.
During the third or fourth year transplanting Rhubarb can be done in the
late fall or early spring. Many gardeners prefer to divide and
transplant in the
early spring about the time new growth appears so they can provide
special attention to the newly transplanted crowns.
Dividing and transplanting is stressful on the plants which is one
reason some gardeners prefer fall division of plants. Dividing plants in
allows the Rhubarb to go dormant instead of attempting to grow stalks
and leaves during transplant recovery.
When transplanting Rhubarb from divided stools, separate the parent
plant into crowns which are small leaved parts of the parent plant that
buds. Sometimes these require cutting to separate them from the parent
In order to divide properly it is necessary to dig up the entire plant
many gardeners recommend that you leave at least one third of the
original plant when dividing and transplanting. If you need to relocate
the Rhubarb bed,
dividing is easy during the relocation process.
Be careful - toxic leaves!
While learning how to grow Rhubarb is easy, you should take precautions
as this plant is very high in oxalic acid and some studies indicate it
glycosides which when combined with oxalic acid can be toxic.
The symptoms of oxalic acid poisoning include difficulty breathing; ear, eye, nose and
throat discomfort; as well as abdominal cramping, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.
While the very large Rhubarb leaves are not edible, they will contribute green manure to compost heaps.
Rhubarb toxins are contained in the leaves and by following a few simple rules you can avoid poisoning.
- Teach children to avoid Rhubarb leaves
- Trim the leaves from the stalks as soon as they are cut
- Do not feed the leaves to any livestock ever
- Do not use any damaged stalks, especially those that show any signs of frost damage or insect damage
- Wash all stalks well prior to cutting
Harvesting Rhubarb requires a sharp knife but keep in mind you should
only take healthy, firm stalks. The leaf part of the stalk is removed
and added to the
compost bin or thrown away as the leaves contain toxins that can be
dangerous to people and animals. Gently rock the stalk and give a light
Once trimmed from the leaf, chop the stalk into small pieces before
cooking, baking in a pie or canning. Blanch the stalks prior to
freezing, and when home
canning, make sure you follow all directions for quality and safety.
Rhubarb Varieties to Try
Many varieties grow easily in most northern areas, and each one has a particular color, size or use.
- Cherry Red has thick, long, deed red stalks that home can easily, freeze well and produce nice jams.
- Canada Red, also known as Chipman Rhubarb, has shorter stalks used for pies, jams and freezes well.
- Crimson Red prefer a moister climate and is
grown mainly in Oregon producing long, deed red stalks that are often
home canned, frozen or used as pie filling.
- German Wine has long green stalks with light pink blotches and is used primarily for pies
- Mammoth Red has large, long, thick red stalks that easily home cans, producing thick pies, jams and freezes well
- MacDonald has long thick stalks that are both pink and red that are often used for pies and freezing
- Sunrise has pink thick stalks that are used to make jam, home canned and freeze well
- Riverside Giant has thick, dense green stems that freeze, can and are often used with strawberries when making jam
- Strawberry has long pinkish red stalks that get quite long and are perfect for use in pies, jams, home canned and frozen.
- Victoria also has long green and red stalks that are very thick which can be home canned, frozen and used for pies and jam
- Valentine has red stalks that are long and thick, and often used in pies and jam, home canned and frozen.
While Rhubarb doesn't do well in the south and extreme heat, with
babying, growing it in shaded areas, and watering it well, you can enjoy
"fruit" also under difficult growing conditions. Mulching with lots of
organic matter or manure also helps to produce fresh, strong stalks in
Easily grown in raised beds, drought and frost tolerant, growing Rhubarb
for its tasty stalks will provide a green background for flowerbeds as
as a low maintenance raised bed of self-reproducing vegetables.
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