Rhubarb Growing Instructions
Rhubarb is a cool season, perennial vegetable that requires winter temperatures that average below 40 degrees F and summer temperatures that average 75 degrees F. The first heavy frost will kill the tops, but the roots will survive. Rhubarb will not do well in areas of the South that do not have winter freezes. Used for pies and sauces, the leafstalks are edible, but the leaves should not be eaten because of their high oxalic acid content.
PLANTING: Plant rhubarb in any deep fertile well drained soil free of perennial weeds. Soil pH should be between 5.5 and 6.8. Avoid shallow water logged soil. Plant crowns as early in the season as possible in the spring. Planting earlier in the season is more successful than late in the season. Potted rooted plants can be planted in spring or summer.
Don't let crowns or plants dry out. Crowns can be stored for a few days in a shady, cool area. Soak crowns in water for several hours before planting to rehydrate the crown if they look dry. Plant about 3 feet apart in a loose soil amended with well aged compost and a handful of fertilizer high in phosphorus and potassium. Dig a large hole and mix in compost, rotted manure, and pumice or large bark to create a well drained organic soil. Do not cover crown completely, keeping any buds above ground.
If planting potted rooted plants, do not bury any deeper than the original soil level.
Avoid using large amounts of chemical fertilizer the first years as some types of nitrates can kill rhubarb plants’ young roots. After plant has started to grow, add 2-3 inches of mulch to help control weeds and conserve soil moisture. Plant in full sun if possible...except in the hot South where afternoon shade will help. If planting late in the season (after April 1 in Northern areas, and after March 1 in Southern areas) give the new crowns temporary afternoon shade with a piece of wood or cardboard will help get the plants started successfully. After the first year, fertilize yearly in a circle around the plant. Use 1 cup of 10-10-10 or equivalent organic fertilizer. Remove any flower stalks as they will take energy from the crowns. If you are planting the crowns later in the season when your daytime temperatures are over 70 degrees, provide shade for the crown in the afternoon or the new shoots will burn and go dormant. As temperature increases in the heat of summer to over 85 - 90 degrees, the plant may appear dormant, but will regrow when cooler weather comes in late summer/fall.
IRRIGATION: Water regularly during dry weather. Soil should be kept slightly moist but not soggy or the roots will rot.
HARVESTING: Do not harvest the 1st year so that the plant can become established. Harvest only a few stalks the second year. In years 3 and after do not harvest more than 1/3 of the plants stalks. Harvest stalks when they are fairly young, just as the leaf expands. Rhubarb stalks can be stored in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator for 2 - 3 weeks.
In areas of extreme cold, mulch crowns in the winter and remove the mulch in the spring before plant starts to grow.
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