The Vegetable Garden

Care & Cultivation Of Rhubarb

Care & Cultivation Of Rhubarb


Choose an open site in full sun or where there is no more than very light or partial shade. Rhubarb will grow in almost any soil, provided it doesn’t become waterlogged in winter, but best results will be obtained on fertile soils, so dig in plenty of well-rotted organic matter, like farmyard manure or garden compost. Just before planting, rake in a dressing of balanced fertiliser, such as growmore, to help plants establish.

Set plants 90cm (3ft) apart each way and with the growing point 2.5cm (1in) below the soil surface. After refilling with moist soil, firm in each plant with your boot.

Aftercare Tips

Keep plants free of weeds and water well in dry spells. Remove any flowering stems that may appear. Do not pull any sticks in the first season and pull only lightly in the second year to allow plants to establish and build up strong crowns.

Harvest between April and early July, holding each stalk close to the ground and pulling upwards with a twisting motion. Never remove all the stalks; always leave at least four strong ones on each plant. Rhubarb is a heavy feeder so apply a balanced fertiliser at the end of the harvesting period and mulch generously with rotted manure or compost during the winter.

For an early spring crop, strong plants are easily forced by covering them in January with suitable containers, such as buckets, bins or large pots. Cover these, in turn, with a thick layer of straw. Forcing has a weakening effect on crowns so don’t force the same plants again for at least two years.

After several years of cropping, stems will tend to get thinner and yields will start to decline. When this happens, it is best to lift plants, to divide the crowns into pieces, each with at least one strong bud, and to replant these divisions, if possible on a fresh site.

N.B Rhubarb leaves are poisonous and must be removed completely from the stalks before they are cooked.

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