Rhubarb is easily identifiable by its large leaves with greenish, red or pink stalks. You can use its colourful stalks in crumbles, pies and as dessert.
The stems are ready to pick in spring. However, you can get an early crop in late winter by covering the plants with a large pot. You can even enjoy unique flavours based on the age of the stems.
- Apply garden compost or well-rotted manure to make the rhubarb weed-free.
- Make sure mulch does not cover the crown because it will cause rotting.
- Apply 100g per sq. metre of general-purpose fertiliser in March.
- Keep the soil quite moist by watering the plants regularly in dry weather.
- Remove the dead leaves and ensure that the crown is exposed to frost. It will take the plants out of dormancy, resulting in better stalk crops in the following year.
- Force stems to get earlier crops. For this purpose, cover the crown with a bin, pot, jar, or large bucket so that no light reaches them. Moreover, you must block the drainage hole if the pot is large. Forced stems are more tender and lighter in colour than the stems grown in the open. Moreover, you can harvest the forced stems three weeks earlier.
Rhubarb grows best in moist and sunny locations with well-drained soil. Locations that are prone to late frosts are the most unfavourable sites for planting rhubarb. Actually, the late frost can damage the young stems.
You can grow the rhubarb from seeds. However, planting dormant crowns between autumn and spring is most common. Besides, buying the plants in their active growth stages is also a good option. Whatever method you use to grow the rhubarb, you should not plant them in hot and dry conditions.
Here’s the method to plant the rhubarb
- Dig in two bucketfuls of organic matter or manure in each square metre/yard to prepare the planting site.
- Place the plant inside the hole such that you can see only the crown tip on the soil surface.
- Space the plants 30-36 inches apart if you’re going to plant more than one tree.
- Make sure pots are 20 inches deep if you want to plants the rhubarb in large pots.
Follow these instructions to harvest the rhubarb.
- Avoid harvesting any stems from newly planted rhubarb in the first year, as this will limit the plant’s vigour.
- Pick the few stems in the following year.
- Harvest the plants usually when they are well established.
- Pick the stalks of early cultivars from March or April and maincrop varieties from late April or May.
- Hold the stalk base and pull it from the ground.
- Don’t snap the stalk.
- Pick only 1/3rd stems of the plants to keep them in the active growth stage.
Harvesting the forced rhubarb
- Forced rhubarb stalks are more sweetened, pale and tender. You can produce them by covering the plants with a bin or jar in winter. These stems are ready to pick in March.
Bacteria, fungi and soil cause the crown rot. In this disease, plants don’t grow well and start rotting. Even the leaves and stems are also prone to damage to crown rot, leading to plant death.
Cut down and dispose of the affected parts of plants.
Slugs and snails
These eat young plants, leaving a slime trail in the soil around your crop and on leaves.
You can use biocontrols, copper tape, sawdust and beer traps to control the slugs and snails.
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