Growing Rhubarb in your Garden
Growing rhubarb allows you to enjoy a harvest of tasty, richly-flavored, tender finger-size petioles, as the edible stalks are called. The stalks are fantastic in recipes such as pies, jam, bread, dumplings, cake and many more. It is quite common to grow both rhubarb and strawberries, preparing them together to create another tasty flavor. If you like the flavor of rhubarb, you’ll love growing it in your garden.
If you can, purchase rhubarb plants. These may be difficult to locate since many garden centers and nurseries offer only crows or clumps of roots with at least one eye. these root clumps are divisions of plants. Until you can plant your rhubarb crowns or divisions, place them in a cool location.
Plant rhubarb early in spring. After the last frost, prepare the ground for planting. In warm areas, rhubarb can grow in the fall as well as spring and summer. Select a place that is fertile and exposed to the full sun; select a plot where the plants will have to be disturbed for the foreseeable future. The best pH for rhubarb is 5.3 to 6.0 but it can do well in pH as high as 6.8.
The bed where you are growing rhubarb must be dug deeper and have plenty of amended organic matter. Prepare a trench about two feet across and deep enough for several crowns. Add a 50-50 blend of compost or manure and soil until the trench is 1/2 full. Then plant your crowns three feet apart, spreading the roots down the trench sides. Then refill the hole. Press the soil around the plants only until it is lightly compacted.
Mulch your rhubarb bed heavily with leaves or compost once shoots appear. The rhubarb requires at least one inch of water each week.
As stalks appear, remove them because if they remain to produce leaves, no more stalks will develop. You can tell stalks from seed stalks because the seed stalks are very thick and round. The edible stalks are called petioles and only reach the thickness of a finger.
Apply top dressing on the bed of rhubarb in late fall and again in early spring each season. Even though you are growing rhubarb that is thriving, do not harvest any rhubarb the first year; you only need to clip any seed or flower stalks during the first annual period. This allows the plants to become well established. In fact, it is best to wait until you have been growing rhubarb for two full years before harvesting during the third season.