Now is a special time of year in the garden-time for rhubarb!
Oh, how I love my rhubarb!
Rhubarb is the first, early crop that can be harvested from the garden. After a long winter of a barren garden, the rhubarb pushing up is a very welcome sight!
Even after a light, late spring snow, it will still plug along.
Rhubarb is one of the perennial vegetables, and will return reliably year after year. How nice to plant it once and enjoy it every year.
It is very hardy and problem free.
It has a large bearing in the garden and can be used as an ornamental.
Rhubarb, as a herbaceous perennial, grows from short, thick rhizomes.
It produces large leaves on tall stems. The stems have a rich, tart flavor that is wonderful in cooking.
Rhubarb is a vegetable, but is used like a fruit in cooking and eating.
The reddish-green stalks are the edible part of the rhubarb plant.
Caution-The leaves of the rhubarb plant are poisonous-they contain oxalic acid and should not be eaten. (I cut the leaves off the stems while still in the garden, and lay them down in the rows and around the rhubarb plant; they make a nice mulch. They can also be composted for later use. The oxalic acid dissipates when composted.)
Since rhubarb is a perennial, and will be growing in the garden for many years, choose an out of the way place, such as the edge of the garden, where the plant will not be disturbed while preparing the rest of the garden each year.
The bed for rhubarb should be carefully prepared-eliminate all weeds, dig in generous amounts of compost that is high in organic matter
A bushel basket sized hole (1 1/2 feet deep and 3 feet wide) should be dug.
The plants should be spaced about 4 feet apart-rhubarb grows quite large.
Rhubarb is best planted from root divisions and should be planted while it is dormant, in the early spring or fall. This is a wonderful plant to share with friends, or to receive from a gardener friend.
The crown should be planted 1-2 inches below ground level.
Rhubarb prefers full sun, and well-drained soil.
Rhubarb is very hardy and needs cold winters, with winter temperatures of 40 degrees or below.
After planting, mulch the bed well with straw or cow manure. The mulch will help retain moisture, discourage weeds and provide nutrients.
Rhubarb is seldom bothered by disease or pests. The biggest problem will be crown rot if the bed is not well draining. A raised bed would be a solution here.
Rhubarb will form a nice sized clump over the years and the plants can be dug and divided every 3-5 years while they are dormant.
Care of Rhubarb
Rhubarb is a very easy care plant-just keep it weeded and well watered through the summer months.
In the early spring, the rhubarb will send up a tall flowering stalk. This stalk should be cut off to keep the plant bearing for a longer time.
In the fall, when the leaves and stalks begin to yellow and fall over, you can clear the bed off. Now is a good time to put a 1-2 inch layer of manure/mulch over the bed. I have found that rhubarb is one plant that can take straight chicken manure with out any problem.
Do not harvest any stalks the first year of its growing-it needs to send lots of energy to the roots and become established. The second year, a modest harvest can begin, and by the third year you can harvest for 8-12 weeks in the spring.
Do not harvest all of the stalks at one time. Take about 2/3 at each cutting, leaving 1/3 for growth. Harvest the 12-18 inch long stalks.
The rhubarb plant will let you know when it is time to stop harvesting-the stalks will become thinner and thinner. It is time for the plant to rest till next spring.
To harvest the stalks, grab the stalk at the base of the plant and pull and twist gently.
A well cared for rhubarb patch should bear for 20+ years, giving you lots of delicious rhubarb for dessert.
I was wondering if there were any poems on rhubarb. I was surprised when I did a search! Yes, there are rhubarb poems! Who knew?
Some may think its too bitter.
Quite the contrary.
As pie, its the tastiest
Treat, like no other.
My stomach then smiles
(who must love rhubarb pie as much as I do!)
What to do with the rhubarb you harvest? Be on the look out next week for my favorite rhubarb recipes!
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.