This old-fashioned fruit is making a comeback in today’s culinary world. Easily grown with an interesting growth habit it adds a distinctive presence in the garden.
Its preferred habitat is a cooler climate as it does not handle heat very well, but manages quite heavy frosts.
The earliest references to Rhubarb are from Chinese manuscripts over 2,000 years ago they use the root for medicinal purposes. The English have been using it since the sixteenth century also for medicinal purposes. There is an old-wives remedy of burying a rhubarb stalk next to cabbages in the garden. It is said to assist in the prevention of clubroot in cabbage plants.
Grow Rhubarb From Seeds
The first thing we want to do is to start with a good seed starting mix. The seed starting mix is what we are using for everything as it is a very well-draining soil. In addition, it is also very airy and light. It got good porosity which means it can hold on to just the right amount of water. So it is just like a sponge.
You can pre-moistened it and putting it into larger containers.
The reason why you want to start planting rhubarb in a larger container is that they grow very fast and they don’t like to be root bound very much. Since they are perennial, they have really fast-growing roots where they can adapt their root growth to grow super fast.
So once they start seeding, they’re going to be well established by the time winter comes. If you have some of the fastest-growing root systems out there in the garden, you will need to give rhubarb a little bit more space so they are not stressed out.
What you may consider doing is to only plant about two seeds per cell for your container. You can spin down to one typically with other vegetables. If you start with more than two seeds in there, it may break the club apart and separate them. For sure you don’t want this to happen as you don’t want to do any damaging of the roots.
So you should only plant about two seeds per square in each cell of your container. You can get a container with many cells that have a measurement of 2″ x 2″ square pot. The benefit you can get with this container is that it will allow you to not waste too much seed and you will have better results because you don’t need to rip into any of them?
Basically, you want to plant them to be the healthiest one per square and leave them until they are ready to be transplanted into the garden. These rhubarb are very fast maturing and fast to sprout. If you’re beginning a gardener, you will be able to see if you are a success or failure within about 5 to 7 days. So it is a very fast maturing seed.
Here is what the seeds look like. They just got kind of a little three-dimensional shape. They are pretty cool but each one will give you one plant and so you don’t have to worry about multiple seeds.
There are certain plants that produce multiple seeds in each seed pod. This is just one pod so they’re easy to hold and all you need to do is when you first start your seeds, you want to put your holes about no deeper than your first knuckle on your finger. You can go a little bit shallower but no deeper with about half an inch or so.
I think one of the biggest reasons why people have problems when starting planting their rhubarb is because they either put the seeds too deep or they keep it too damp. If the soil is too damp, the roots are actually going to rot. When the roots rot, the plant will go into shock and it will stop taking water. They don’t like to be drowned so they don’t like too much water.
I typically leave my soil about damp enough where I could create a ball out of it by crumple it together. It creates a ball but it just kind of crumbles apart. If it’s too dry, you won’t be able to create that ball. If it’s too wet, you will see water coming out from the ball. That’s where you know you have the optimal moisture.
The next thing you want to do is to cover the seeds gently with some more seed starting mix. You can give them a little bit of a tamp down with your hand to compact the soil so they have good contact with the seeds. Then you can water them nicely to settle all that soil around the seeds. You can then put them to bed before they sprout.
Grow From Sets
While rhubarb is available to grow from seeds, the plants are mostly acquired from sets. Rhubarb is grown from sets, which means the plant can be divided from a single root. You dig the main root out of the ground and then with a knife cut into the sections that you want.
Do make sure there is a bud or growing head on the individual pieces that you slice off the root. This is best done in either late winter or early spring Plant your new plants into the well-fertilized and drained site in your garden. The plant will tolerate some shade but does best in a mostly sunny site in the garden. When you first plant Rhubarb in the garden, it is wise to consider giving it a place that you can leave it to grow on for several years.
Grow Rhubarb in Pots or Containers
Grow Rhubarb in containers as well; they are very handy to have on a balcony or deck if you do not have a garden. Growing rhubarb in pots allows you to stand the containers in a little shade if you need to protect them from strong winds. The large leaves of the plant mean it is susceptible to being blown over by the wind.
In containers, you can move the rhubarb into the sun if you feel like it. Water rhubarb frequently whether it is in the garden or pots. For the best results, give all plants a liquid fertilizer or nitrogen-based granular fertilizer every four to six weeks. Do this during the main growing season.
Picking the stalks is done correctly if you twist and peel the stalk from the bottom of the plant, not unalike silver beet. This leaves the new growth to grow on from the center of the plant. To prepare the stalks for cooking it is imperative the leaves are removed from the stalk.
Avoid using stalks that are soft or the leaves of them drooping or not in a healthy state. The leaves are poisonous to human beings but it is all right to compost them. Keep the prepared stalks in the fridge until you need them, as they store well. The color of the stalks is immaterial and does not affect the taste.
The rhubarb is a reasonably hardy plant but is prone to some of the usual pests in the garden, like caterpillars, slugs, and snails.
Rhubarb is prepared for the table by slicing and dicing the stalks and stewing for use as a dessert, or in pies. The rhubarb will need sugar to lessen the tart taste but that is a personal preference. It is a good fruit to use as a ‘crumble dessert’.
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