Rhubarb can be a great winter warmer desert in the form of crumble and, because they are tough, hardy, vegetables (or are they fruit?) they can be almost completely left to their own devises. With a little help from a green finger or two at the right time you can have a truly spectacular crop.
One warning to heed is that rhubarb leaves are poisonous – don’t eat them! They contain oxalic acid which is harmful to humans.
Where to plant Rhubarb
Rhubarb is amazingly hardy; it even requires a frost over winter to get the strongest stalks. Rhubarb’s Latin name is Rheum Rhaponticum and it prefers full sun or partial shade. Rhubarb will remain in the same place for around ten years and the surrounding areas cannot be dug up – so keep this in mind when you plant your Rhubarb – you are unlikely to be able to move it for some time!
Preparing the Soil for Rhubarb
Rhubarb can grow in most soils but prefers neutral ground. Digging to about 2 feet is preferred, and with most plants, incorporating as much organic matter as possible. This should be done four weeks or so before actual planting to allow the soil to settle. Make sure you remove all surrounding weeds as rhubarb doesn’t like to be disturbed once planted – you will find it almost impossible to get at any left-over weeds without moving the rhubarb once it is in.
When to Plant Rhubarb
You can grow rhubarb from a seed – but this is a gamble, it takes a year longer than growing from a plant and you might end up with an inedible rhubarb plant. The much safer, and recommended, option is to grow from a small plant.
The best time to plant a rhubarb plant is in December – although you can source it all year round from most garden centres. You technically could plant it any time of the year but early winter is considered to be the best time as it gives the plant a chance to firmly put roots down before spring.
How to Plant Rhubarb
Rhubarb is usually sourced from garden centres as a one year old plant – what you are buying is known as a “crown.” Prepare the soil, dig a hole a little bigger than the plant and make sure the top of the crown is about an inch below the ground. Next you should mulch the soil above the rhubarb plant except for the area where the crown will be growing through in a month or so.
If you are planting more than one (there are plenty of varieties to try) you should space them about two and a half feet apart. Some varieties require some more space (up to 4 feet!) – make sure you research this before diving in!
Looking after Rhubarb
Rhubarb doesn’t need much looking after – but a little bit of attention can show the different between a good stalk and a merely average one.
Wait for the leaves to die down, once they have you should apply some compost (naturally, not touching the plant itself) – this works as a way of water conservation and weed preventions. When it is particularly dry you should water them – but this should not be regular. In February you should add a little fertilizer and remove any weed which manages to appear.
The final maintenance is simply remove any flower heads which appear in spring – if you don’t the rhubarb will become substandard. All that is left to do now is to decide what you’re going to do with it all!