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Rhubarb is a delicious perennial vegetable. Learn how to grow Rhubarb in your backyard!
Rhubarb is one of the first plants we see here in early spring. It’s very easy to grow Rhubarb and it is a hardy perennial, meaning that you plant it once and it will come up year after year.
Many people get 20 years worth of harvest off of a single rhubarb plant. That is a great return.
Rhubarb is very healthy for our diets, a it has high levels of potassium and is a great source of dietary fiber.
How to Grow Rhubarb
Rhubarb grows throughout Canada and many parts of the cooler United States. It likes to grow in full sun, but it can certainly tolerate some shade as well.
Rhubarb will grow in any of the cooler gardening zones throughout Canada and the US.
You can plant the Rhubarb roots in Spring or Fall, making sure to plant them several feet apart. Rhubarb is a heavy feeder, which means it loves to grow in healthy organic matter. When you dig your plant hole, add plenty of compost for fertilization.
Then every Spring, top dress around the plant with more compost. Rhubarb also likes a planting spot with good drainage; if you are planting in clay soil, add some sand as well as the compost.
The plants get big and prolific, so make sure you keep that in mind when you are planting.
If you can’t find someone with enough to share, you can order Rhubarb seeds or buy Rhubarb seedlings at a nursery.
By mid-April our Rhubarb crowns are already poking the buds out of the ground. Rhubarb loves to live in climates where there is a good freeze each Winter.
Buy 2 or 3 year old roots, or better yet, get some from a fellow gardener.
At some point, everyone has enough Rhubarb in their gardens and are willing to share their bounty.
Pests attracted to Rhubarb
Here in the north, we don’t have much a problem with pests and our Rhubarb. However, aphids, slugs and beetles can be a problem in warmer garden zones.
Remember though that pest damage may be done to the leaves, but the only edible portion are the stems. So don’t worry too much about leaf damage.
If you plant it in the Spring, don’t pick any stalks the first year. Wait until the second year. Let the plant and its roots grow.
You will be doubly rewarded the following year. If you plant it in the Fall, you can lightly pick it the following Spring.
Make sure you never pick a Rhubarb plant clean.
Leave a few stalks on the plant, the plant needs this for new growth for the following year.
I leave at least six stalks; it would be better to leave a few more than that.
Keep in mind that the stalks are the only part of the plant you use. The leaves and the roots are poisonous, not only to humans, but also to animals.
The rhubarb leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid, which can cause health problems. Only the stalks can be eaten.
Use those large leaves as a mulch for around the base of your Rhubarb plants. They are perfectly fine for that purpose.
Weed the area first, then harvest Rhubarb, cutting off the leaves and laying them down to smother any more weeds from coming up.
Pick your Rhubarb by twisting and snapping the stalks. The bigger the stalk, the better the harvest, so leave any small stalks on the plant.
At some point during the growing season, your Rhubarb will send up a thick flower stalk.
Be sure to cut this down using a sharp knife as soon as you see it. This is one of the most important things when you grow Rhubarb.
You don’t ever want Rhubarb to go to seed; you want your plant to keep putting its energy into making new stalks.
Dividing Rhubarb Plants
When your plants are nice and large (maybe after 3 or 4 years) you can propagate and get new plants. Want more Rhubarb plants?
Grow rhubarb by taking your garden spade and cleaning slice your plant in half or thirds.
Then, dig up the pieces and plant them in a new fertile hole. Dig in some well composted manure before you plant.
Water really well and if it is hot out, water it several times a day for the first three or four days.
Before you know it, you will have enough Rhubarb to feed your family and then you can start giving your own plants away.
To preserve Rhubarb, you don’t even have to blanch it before popping it in the freezer.
It can’t get much easier to provide your family with tasty Rhubarb all year long, can it?
I like to bag mine up in 4 cup measures, as that is what is generally called for when it comes to pies.
You could freeze it in 2 cup batches and make a blended pie with berries making up the other half.
Pick a sweet berry, so that you won’t have to add much (if any) sugar. Paired with Strawberries and topped with ice cream is the perfect choice!
But sometimes we use Raspberries or Saskatoon berries.
I don’t can our Rhubarb, but it can certainly be done. Use a boiling water bath canner.
You have to add a fair bit of sugar, about 3/4 cup to 1 quart of Rhubarb.
Mix together well and put some of the cooking liquid into each jar. Process for 20 minutes.
If you want to learn about canning, here is the process of how I can using a water bath canner.
We often make a batch of Rhubarb wine with our harvest. Want to try it? Read how to create your own Rhubarb Wine!
Here are 8 Great Ways to use Rhubarb! Different Rhubarb recipes for you to try. From how to cook Rhubarb to stewing Rhubarb to Rhubarb ice cream and more.
Take a look at this book for more than 200 recipes using rhubarb.
Make this the year you start to grow Rhubarb!
Once planted, you will be able to eat Rhubarb every year!
Want to find out which are The 5 Easiest Vegetables to Grow?
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originally published 2011; latest update May 2022