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Rhubarb is one of the easiest edible plants to grow. It’s frost-resistant and doesn’t need much care and attention. You can grow rhubarb from seed, but it’s much easier to plant a dormant crown. These are taken from strong plants and will establish faster. Alternatively you can buy pot-grown rhubarb.

Rhubarb will grow happily in a container, but it has a large root system and will need a deep pot.

Planting

  1. Prepare the soil by digging in plenty of organic matter like compost or well-rotted manure
  2. Dig a hole wider than the crown. Spread out the roots and plant so the tip of the crown is just above the soil level
  3. Fill in the hole with soil and water well
  4. If planting pot-grown rhubarb, plant as above and keep well-watered

How to look after me

Soil: Moist but well-drained
Position: Sunny
Location: Outdoors, container

David’s Top Tip

If you already have rhubarb in your garden, why not try forcing it? Clear the ground of weeds in late winter and cover the plant with a large pot or dustbin to block out all the light. It should be ready to harvest eight weeks later. Never force a plant two years in a row as it weakens the crown.

Firework SafetyRhubarb in a garden

Growing

  • In spring, remove the flowers as they appear. That way the rhubarb will put all its energy into producing tasty stems, instead of making seeds
  • Boost plants with a general fertiliser in spring
  • Keep the soil clear of weeds
  • Apply a mulch of well-rotted manure or other rich organic matter to the soil. Keep the mulch clear of the crown to avoid crown rot
  • Water rhubarb during dry spells to make sure the soil doesn’t dry out
  • Watering is especially important for rhubarb in containers
  • When the leaves die back naturally in autumn, cut the old stalks back to expose the buds, and apply a layer of mulch
  • Every five or so years, lift and divide the crowns into three or four smaller plants
  • If you don’t divide large plants, they will become congested and produce less stems

Harvesting

  • Harvest rhubarb when the leaves have fully unfurled and the stems are around 30cm long
  • Hold the stem at the base and pull it gently but firmly away from the crown. Do not bend or the stem may snap
  • Do not remove many stems in the first year after planting while the rhubarb gets established
  • Only harvest a few stems at once, and beware overcropping – it will reduce the plant’s vigour
  • Stop harvesting in July to allow the plant to rebuild its energy stores before the autumn
firework-display

Did You Know?

Strictly speaking, rhubarb is a vegetable and not a fruit! It’s related to the buckwheat family.

More tasty foods to grow


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