Growing Rhubarb in the Garden

Rhubarb is not a difficult or expensive plant to grow in the garden. It is an ideal choice for the first time vegetable grower. It is a hardy perennial plant. It becomes dormant during cold or very hot weather.

If the rhubarb is grown for a specific purpose it is recommended that rhubarb is grown from one year old plants or crowns. It can be grown from seed but this takes a long time and generally does not grow true to type. Growing from an established plant guarantees the variety and its purpose.

Planting

The crown or root should be planted during autumn and spring. They require planting about 1m (3 feet) apart to prevent crowding and to allow the plant to establish a large root system.

growing rhubarb

Soil

Rhubarb grows best in well drained soil that is rich in organic matter. It is happy in an acid soil.

Before planting work plenty of rotted manure or compost into the soil to enrich it. Dig a hole slightly bigger than the plant or crown. The top of the crown should sit just above the surface of the soil.

Care

During the first year after planting the stalks should not be picked as this can affect subsequent crops as it weakens the plant. The young plant needs to establish itself and form a strong healthy crown.

When seed stalks are produced by the plant it is advisable to cut these as the plant will put its energy in to seed production, rather than edible stalk production. These and the leaves can be composted safely in a home compost bin.

It is beneficial to an established plant to apply composted manure or leaves in autumn or early winter being careful not to cover the crowns, to prevent any rotting. One or two shovels full would be sufficient. Too much nitrogen can make the plant flower which is undesirable unless the rhubarb is ornamental variety.

Rhubarb is fairly pest and disease resistant. The only thing to watch for is rot; this can be avoided by planting in well drained soil and not burying under compost. If rot is caught early the rotten piece of root can be cut away and replant the rest. This will hopefully save the plant.

Propagating

Every 4 to 5 years you will need to dig up the crown to either trim it down to 4 or 5 buds or divide it to create more plants. Select pieces that have buds showing and these should have more success than a piece without. This division should be done between November and March while the plant is dormant. It is possible to make up to 6 plants from one well grown crown, depending on the variety chosen. In most cases they will not all grow but it is worth having a go at propagating your own plants.