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Introduction on how to grow rhubarb at home.
I remember my aunt making rhubarb jam and me eating it spoon by spoon. At home, I would have been punished for eating that way. But my aunt didn’t mind. She said, eat it while you can. That’s one of the memories that made me the gardener I am now. Nothing can compare to homegrown vegetables and fruits.
Rhubarb is one of the plants that made a comeback. Although it was almost gone for a while, some gardeners kept it in their backyard and tended it. Now, the knowledge on how to grow rhubarb at home is getting spread again.
Now, you can see rhubarb stalks in the shop again. The health movement brought it back and it’s back with a vengeance.
what is rhubarb?
Although rhubarb is a vegetable, in America it was ruled a fruit because of the way it is used in the cooking world.
You can find rhubarb in spring on farmers markets and in shops. Rhubarb is sold stalk by stalk. We can’t sell the leaves because they are poisonous. But the stalks are so delicious.
Rhubarb or Rheum rhabarbarum is a species of plant in the family Polygonaceae. It is a perennial plant growing from short, thick rhizomes.
As already mentioned it produces large poisonous leaves that are somewhat triangular, with long fleshy edible stalks and small flowers.
In the past rhubarb-products were only found in April, May. With the upcoming of hot greenhouses, it’s now possible to grow them year round.
where to grow rhubarb?
If you want to know how to grow rhubarb at home, you have to know where to grow your rhubarb to get a nice thick crop.
Rhubarbs does need to be in a zone where the ground freezes in winter. Because the plants need a chilling period to produce a crop of stems, it’s not always easy to grow rhubarb in warmer climates.
I grow rhubarb with ease in my garden and I am in zone 8B. This must be as far south it can easily be grown as possible. Without any records of people growing rhubarb in higher numbered zones this is not a universal truth.
Rhubarb loves a soil ph-value of 6 to 6.5, so slightly acidic.
If you have rhubarb once, it’ll come back year after year.
Rhubarb loves the sun. You can plant it in half shade but the harvest will be a lot less.
Give the plant enough room to grow because the plant can easily grow 4 feet wide and as high.
If there’s something really necessary, it will be nutrition for the plant. The rhubarb plant uses a lot of nutrients and loves to stand in a well-drained, rich soil with a lot of mulch on top.
Rhubarb also loves a moist soil. Don’t make it overly wet but keep it moist during the growing season. Especially pay attention to the soil and try to keep it mulched when hot times arrive.
When to grow rhubarb?
Rhubarb mostly isn’t grown from seed in a backyard garden. Many gardeners just get a divided root from friends and other gardeners to start with.
Start your root cuttings really early in the season. If you can work the ground, you can put in the root-cutting and cover it with 6 to 8 inches of mulch. That’s about 20 centimeters of mulch.
It is possible to start your rhubarb plants from seed. Just sow the seeds indoors or in a greenhouse.
You can sow the seeds indoors in February to plant them out in April. In the greenhouse, make sure the soil doesn’t freeze tight in the pots when you start the seeds. Low freezing temperatures won’t harm the seeds but the seedlings can get killed by hard frost.
taking care of rhubarb plants
Don’t sow the seeds too deep. About an inch or 2 centimeters is good enough. the same goes for root cuttings. You don’t have to put them too deep. Just put them beneath the soil and make sure that growing points have a chance to easily grow through the soil to the light.
As already mentioned above, don’t forget to water the plants, especially if you start them in pots. And also give them lots of nutritious mulch and, or compost.
Don’t harvest the first year you plant rhubarb. let it settle and spread its roots so it can come back next year. The second year you can harvest a couple of stalks but certainly not too many. From the third year, you can harvest up to half of the stalks of every plant you have without disturbing the growth.
Split the roots every 5 years to keep healthy plants. Just dividing and replanting will give you more plants and you’ll keep your plants healthy as well.
You can divide the roots by removing the root ball as soon as you can work the soil in spring. Cut up the roots so every part has 2 or three new buds on it. these buds will start the first tender shoots. You can easily start the plants in pots but it’s also possible to put them right back in the soil in their permanent spot.
Starting from seeds is very much possible but you could get other traits on your plants. So if you want the same exact plant as the mother plant, you’ll have to divide the roots. Anyhow, you can start the seeds at a temperature of 21°C or 70°F. The seeds will emerge in about 10 days. Just make sure you don’t expose the seedlings to bright sun from day one. Harden them off slowly before you plant them outside.
transplanting or planting
I think I already mentioned everything there is to grow to know how to transplant the plants. Just to make sure let’s sum up what has to be done.
Let the plants grow for about a month and harden them off slowly.
Keep them watered at all times, especially after transplanting.
Make sure you have enough space for the plants to grow as they can span over a width of 4 feet or more than 1 meter.
Don’t harvest the first year after transplanting and harvest minimally the second year.
Okay, we are more than halfway on this article on how to grow rhubarb at home.
Just like transplanting, almost everything is already said in the above paragraphs.
Harvest the stalks that are about 15 inches long. That’s about 40 centimeters. A little bit smaller or a little bit longer is okay.
When the plant is in its third year of growth, you can harvest up to half the plant’s stalks. Just don’t overdo it as this can seriously exhaust the plant.
Stop harvesting the stalks after the end of Juli as the stalks, just like the leaves, will become more poisonous.
Remove the stalks by cutting as close to the base as possible. Try not to damage the crown this way. There’s also a way to pull the stalks from the plant but I only use the cutting method. Remove the leaves from the stalks and only use the stalks as food.
You can normally harvest for about 2 months in a row. Just stop harvesting when you see the stalks growing shorter. This means the plant is at the end of its supply.
Diseases and pests on rhubarb plants.
Leaf spot is not always detrimental to your plants. It does leave some nasty spots on the leaves but in most cases, the stalks will still be edible. It is possible that the stalks have to be cleaned and cut up to remove dead parts.
There are two different fungal diseases causing leaf spot.
Ascochyta leaf spot
This fungus will show small irregular spots on the leaves eventually uniting together. The spots will have reddish surroundings with a white center. After a couple of days, the spots will turn dark brown and just fall out. So, you’ll get holes in the leaves.
Ramularia leaf spot
This fungal disease shows itself with small red dots on the leaves. Most of the time the center will turn white with a purple halo around the center. This disease can infect the stalks as well. You can see a white fungal growth on the lesions in both the stalks and the leaves.
it’s a good practice to remove the stalks with diseased leaves first when harvesting. Also, clean up the plant debris after the first frost.
A copper-containing fungicide may prevent the disease from spreading. The disease cannot be killed and the plant debris has to be destroyed or hot-composted to keep from spreading.
Botrytis Rot or gray mold
botrytis cinerea can kill off the plant but luckily the most cases are in heated greenhouses.
This disease will show gray mold on infected spots. Removing the diseased plant is one way to contain the disease but I would advise to also apply an organic fungicide to make sure the disease doesn’t spread to other plants. Serenade garden will seriously help out in this case.
Snails or slugs
So this is it for this article on how to grow rhubarb at home. I hope you’ve found it interesting. If so, please share on social media, with friends, and other gardeners.
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Thanks for reading and see you in the next post.