By National Gardening Association Editors
- Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable; put it where it won't be disturbed.
Purchase and plant rhubarb roots (not seeds) in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked.
Three to five plants should provide enough for an average family.
- Select a well-drained site in full sun.
Eliminate all perennial weeds before planting.
- Dig large bushel basket-size planting holes and add a mixture of equal parts garden soil, sand, and rotted manure or compost.
- Space rhubarb roots 4 feet apart. Set roots so buds are 1 to 2 inches below the surface of the soil, cover with soil, and firm the area.
- Mulch with straw and composted manure if possible to provide nutrients and retain moisture during the summer.
- Remove seed stalks as they form.
Fertilize in the early spring each year with 2 to 3 shovelfuls of well-rotted manure per plant (or 1/2 cup of 5-10-10 or similar fertilizer). Side-dress plants at the same rate in early summer after the main harvest period.
Dig and split roots every 3 to 4 years. Expand your patch or give root sections away.
If you keep your rhubarb patch weed-free, it is not apt to be disturbed by insects or diseases.
- Start harvesting the year after planting in early spring when the stalks are 12 to 18 inches long.
When the plants are established (after 3 years), the harvest period should run 8 to 10 weeks, or until the stalks become thin, a sign that the plants' food reserves are low.
At least one third of the stalks should be left on the plant after the harvest.
The petioles (leafstalks) are edible; the leaves are poisonous.
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