You’re Living in Rhubarb Country

by Linda Stephenson
The Rhubarb Lady

You’re living in Rhubarb Country, so let’s make the most out of this very versatile vegetable crop.

Growing and harvesting rhubarb boils down to simple do and do not’s.

Planting rhubarb just right, makes for a bigger and better plant. To get the most out of your rhubarb patch follow these tips.

• Choose a location that gets full sun.
• Choose a location that does not get over watered, damp but NOT soaked. Too much water will cause the roots to rot.
• Dig a hole as deep as the container you purchased it in. If planting from bare root dig the hole to the depth from which the plant came out of. Use good garden compost or aged, well-rotted manure.
• Feed your plants. Rhubarb loves well-rotted manure. But if you do not have access to manure, use a fertilizer that reads 16-16-16.
• You do not want your rhubarb to put on a flower, remove them immediately. Actually it is not a flower but is a seed stalk and is causing the plant to bolt. This happens when we go from cool weather to hot weather real fast. Plants that flower produce fewer stems the following year.
• To pick rhubarb, grab the stems near the base of the plant and pull upward, twisting the stem as you pull. You can also cut the stems: cut as close to the crown as possible.

Wait a year to harvest after planting. The second year pick only a few stalks, the third year and beyond harvest freely. Never remove more than one-third to one-half of the stalks from any one plant during a picking.

When harvesting, choose stems that are 12-18 inches long and bright in color. As the season progresses, stem length shortens. Stop picking after 10 weeks so plants can store energy for the next year’s harvest.

Before taking the rhubarb harvest inside, cut off the bottoms of stems and remove the leaves, tossing them onto a compost pile. You will get the best flavor by using immediately after harvesting.

There are several varieties of rhubarb that grow very well in our area. Victoria is a green and red stalked plant, whereas Crimson has stalks that are all red. Victoria is the most common variety and usually sells for a little less than Crimson.

Photos courtesy of Linda Stephenson

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