Rhubarb is very hardy

Now is the ideal time to plant ‘hot’ and hardy rhubarb

Well-established plants can be harvested for about five to eight weeks.

Rhubarb is the “hot” new perennial vegetable that adds that tangy, tart flavour to dessert menus, sauces, fruit combos and compotes. It’s also hard to beat for pies and crumbles. Rhubarb is so very useful in our cooking and yet, far too few are being grown in our gardens, even small space ones. I mention this now because it’s an ideal time to plant rhubarb.

Rhubarb is very hardy, even in the Prairies, so it will do well in our area. There are a number of good varieties. Crimson Cherry is a large red-stalked variety; Strawberry is the thinness red-stalked type; and Victoria is, perhaps, the most well-known with large greenish-red stalks. All of these are great for the home garden.

What many folks don’t know is rhubarb plants need to become established for at least a couple of years before you can begin to harvest. Most rhubarb varieties are sold as root chunks divided up into one or two eye shoots, but if you can find a well-established container grown plant, so much the better.

Plant rhubarb at the soil line so just the eyes or new shoots are barely above ground. You’ll need well-drained soil and raised beds are best. Working lots of well-rotted manure into the soil and dipping the roots in a root booster or fish fertilizer solution will do wonders to give the plants a good start. If you set out more than one clump, keep them about three feet ( one meter) apart.

Once growing, keep feeding them, especially with root starter fertilizer to get the roots well established. I also love to top dress the plants with composted steer manure to keep them growing, particularly in late spring. If white flower stalks appear, cut them off at the base so all the plant’s energy goes into developing the foliage.

Well-established plants can be harvested for about five to eight weeks, but make sure lots of stalks are left on the plant to keep it growing vegetatively. Once the weather turns hot or the stalks become thin, stop harvesting and let the plant recover. When you harvest rhubarb, do not use a knife but rather pull the stalks away in a sideways motion to get a clean break.  Leaving short bits on the plant can cause decay on the root. Remember that the leaves of a rhubarb plant are poisonous, so don’t eat the leaves and don’t put them in your compost.

Rhubarb is a perennial and will thrive for many years, even tolerating light shade. In Europe, there is a whole industry built on forcing it early with pots and pails turned upside down overtop the plants to ensure harvesting three to four weeks earlier. If you have an established plant, you might begin this technique now.

Rhubarb is such an easy plant to grow, and now is a perfect time to get them underway. Do give this tasty perennial a try.

Brian Minter is a master gardener who operates Minter Gardens in Chilliwack.


Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

OBITUARY: Sherrold Haddad brought giant Canadian flag to Surrey car dealership, built community

‘An amazing man, business person and community leader,’ friend Bruce Hayne posted to Facebook

COVID-19: Daily update on the pandemic in Surrey, White Rock, Delta and beyond

MARCH 28: Delta council passes bylaw to fine people who don’t socially distance

White Rock council members stand by decision to close pier

Minimal push-back over closure to minimize chance of spreading COVID-19 virus

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

B.C. Ferries passengers staying away, as asked, during COVID-19 pandemic

Ferry corporation says ridership down 70-80 per cent over the last week and a half

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

COVID-19 world update: Enforceable quarantine in NYC?; France orders 1 billion masks

Spain warns EU’s future at stake; New York governor calls Trump’s idea ‘federal declaration of war

Blue ribbons popping up along streets in Abbotsford in praise of B.C. healthcare workers

Healthcare worker’s family starts local trend of morale support

Earth Hour 2020 kicks off online Saturday night

Action moves online due to COVID-19

B.C. COVID-19 cases rise 92 to 884, one more death, 81 in care

Outbreak action underway in 12 long-term care homes

B.C. veterinarians want to smooth the fur of COVID-19-worried pet owners

Vets expect to continue giving your fur buddies the help they need while social distancing

Most Read