The Q&A Archives: Rhubarb Dies Back

Question: For three years I have tried raising rhubarb. It does fine for about three months and then begins to wilt and die very rapidly. This year I moved it to a new location to no avail. I have fertilized using manure and still no luck. I have purchased my plants from a reputable nursey and also tried planting bare-root stock.

Answer: Usually, rhubarb is relatively trouble free. There are a few diseases that attack it; one is verticillium wilt. Cut open one of the stalks; if this disease is the culprit, then the veins running through the stalks will be darkened. There is no cure once the plant is infected. To minimize problems, choose a new site for your rhubarb plants that has well-drained soil, preferably in raised beds that warm up early in the spring. To reduce the volume of disease spores in the soil, remove all crop debris at the end of the season, because verticillium overwinters on old leaves and stems. You might try adding generous amounts of compost to the planting area, and spraying plants once a week with a compost "tea" or seaweed extract, both of which exhibit some fungicidal properties and provide nutrients. Use only aged (composted) manure in your garden.

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