Rhubarb

 

Two or three rhubarb plants are usually adequate for the average family.

The leaves are not edible, either raw or cooked.

General
Rhubarb responds to good care and watering. Remove the flower stalks as they are seen. During the first year of planting, the stalks should not be picked, since food from the leaves is needed to nourish the roots for the next year's growth. One light picking may be taken during the year following planting if the plants are vigorous, and the second year following planting, the entire plant may be harvested. When harvesting rhubarb, pull the stalks out individually. All of the stalks of a plant may be harvested at one time, or pulled out selectively over a 4-6 week period. After the stalks are removed the leaves may be cut off.

Soil
Deep, fertile loams, well-supplied with organic matter, are best suited for rhubarb growing. Well-rotted manure benefits most rhubarb. Rhubarb tolerates most soils but grows best on fertile, well-drained soils that are high in organic matter. Manure is an extremely valuable source of organic matter as it helps to conserve moisture, preserves the soil structure, and makes nutrients readily available. A clean planting site is essential for the cultivation of rhubarb. Small areas of perennial weeds can quickly build up to serious proportions. To prevent this, all perennial weeds should be killed the year before planting. Rhubarb is relatively free of insect and disease problems.

Divide Plants to Reset
Rhubarb is usually propagated by divisions of crowns formed during previous seasons. Crowns are divided in late autumn or early spring. Take care to leave as much root as possible with each eye or bud. Plants from crown divisions are preferred to plants raised from seed. Plants grown from seed seldom equal the production, colour or quality of the named rhubarb varieties. Planting in raised beds helps ensure against rotting of the crowns. Crowns will have a longevity of many years,  it is normal to reset a bed after 4-5 years.
If more than one row is planted, rows should be 5 feet apart with plants 3 to 4 feet apart in the row. Set crowns about 4 inches deep. Rhubarb is usually planted at one side of the garden where it will not be disturbed.

Resetting Plants
Divide and reset plants about every fourth year to keep the bed in vigorous condition. Use two forks back to back or a sharp spade to divide the crown, leaving 3 to 4 buds undisturbed in the old location. Portions removed may be used to enlarge the bed.

Do this renewal work in the autumn or early spring. Plants not divided in this manner become large and the stalks become more numerous than is desirable. Remove seed stalks as they appear. They reduce the yield and vitality of the plant.

Forcing Rhubarb
Rhubarb can also be forced outdoors during the winter by placing large light-proof pots ( plastic buckets) over the crowns and if possible insulating with straw, or better still, fresh horse manure which is warm and will speed up the forcing process.