Monday, August 31, 2009

Growing Rhubarb


The planting area should be thoroughly weeded prior to planting. Rhubarb is generally purchased as crowns, rather than propagated from seed. Planting Rhubarb seeds is not recommended, except in extremely southern areas of the United States. In addition Rhubarb is generally not propagated from seed since seedlings are not always true to type. Quality nursery stock for starting new plantings is recommended; this is due to freedom from virus, crown rots, root rots and weeds.

Rhubarb crowns can be purchased from seed catalogs or a local nursery, garden center. Plant the crowns as soon as possible so they don’t dry out.

Rhubarb is normally planted as early as possible in the spring since growth begins when soil temperatures are still well below 50ยบ F. Rhubarb can also be planted in the fall after dormancy has set in.

Plant with the crown bud 2 inches below the soil surface.
Space the roots 36 to 48 inches apart in rows approximately 4 feet apart. Work plenty of well-rotted manure or compost into the rhubarb bed before planting.

Since rhubarb is a perennial, it should be planted to one side or at the end of the garden so as not to interfere with planting and growing annual vegetables. The rhubarb plant has bold ornamental texture and size, and some gardeners find it suitable to include in a perennial flower border.

Plant (or divide) rhubarb roots in early spring while the plants are still dormant, in well drained soil

Old roots may be dug and divided to make new plantings by cutting the roots into no more than eight pieces. Each piece must have at least one strong bud.


Cultivation


Cultivate shallowly as often as necessary to remove weeds. Apply a complete garden fertilizer in early spring before growth begins and side-dress with a high-nitrogen fertilizer in late June. Except in poorly drained sites, organic mulches help moderate soil temperature and moisture. Do not cover the crowns. Flower stalks should be cut off as soon as they appear.

Fertilizer

Lime - should be applied to maintain the soil pH in a range of 6.0 to 6.8...ranges as low as 5.0 are tolerable but not recommended.

Nitrogen - rhubarb has a high nitrogen requirement. Apply as necessary in the first year; otherwise apply nitrogen at bud break along with the phosphorus and potash. Apply a side dressing of nitrogen after harvest

Fertilize with a handful of a 5-10-10 fertilizer in the spring. A modest midsummer application will also benefit these vigorous plants.

Harvest

Do not harvest rhubarb during the first year of planting. Newly set plants need all their foliage to build a strong root system. Stalks may be harvested for 1 or 2 weeks during the second year and for 8 to 10 weeks (a full harvest season) during the third and subsequent years. Harvest in the fall only when the plants are to be discarded the next season.

If seed stalks and flowers develop during the spring and summer, cut them from the base of the plant as soon as they appear and discard them. Rhubarb is an extremely hardy plant. It is a beautiful garden plant, with huge extravagant, lush green leaves and pink or red stalks. Rhubarb is an ancient plant as well.

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