To plant new rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum), fall is the ideal time. From the location and the right soil to the recommended planting depth: this is what you should pay attention to.
When planting rhubarb, the most important thing is the right time for planting and the choice of a suitable place for planting. After that, patience is needed, before you harvest the delicious stalks, you should wait until the second, or better yet, the third year of growth. Then, however, it is time for rhubarb cakes, rhubarb compote, rhubarb desserts. Because when you think of rhubarb, you automatically think of something sweet. But the large-leaved perennial is actually a stem vegetable and belongs to the knotweed family (Polygonaceae).
Rhubarb is a permanent crop
Anyone who decides to plant rhubarb is almost making a decision for life. Rhubarb is a perennial crop, which means that once planted, it can easily remain in the same location for ten years. It is absolutely winter-hardy and, with minimal care, delivers higher yields from year to year. Only after ten years the location should be changed and the rootstock of the rhubarb should be divided at the same time. The best period for transplanting a rhubarb are the months of September and October.
Where should rhubarb be planted?
As mentioned, rhubarb, unlike most other cultivated vegetables, is perennial and will be a guest in the garden for a long time. It will take a few years for it to become well established, as well as to produce good yields. So choose the location wisely. Rhubarb prefers soil rich in humus and nutrients, preferably permanently moist. The soil should be loose and crumbly. It loves sun, but can survive in partial shade. The less light it gets, the thinner the leaf stalks remain and the smaller the perennials.
When to plant rhubarb?
The best time for planting is autumn, because then the perennials take root until spring and already in the first year of cultivation make much more growth than specimens planted in the spring. Rhubarb needs enough space to flourish and produce good yields. Depending on the variety, you will need at least one square meter (11 sq ft) of bed space, preferably much more. The distance from other plants should be at least one meter (40 in).
How to plant rhubarb correctly?
Having decided on a sunny and spacious place, you should first prepare the ground. Ideally, remove all weeds and dig the site spade-deep. This deep form of tillage loosens the soil so that the rhubarb can grow its roots quickly and easily. In addition, you should ensure sufficient water storage capacity in sandy soils by working in leaf humus, for example.
You can buy different varieties of rhubarb at garden stores or simply ask your neighbor and cut off a piece of the rhizome from their perennial to get your own rhubarb. Don’t set the rhizome too deep in the ground. The overwintering buds should be just a few centimeters below the surface of the soil. Water the young plant thoroughly after planting and keep it evenly moist. A layer of compost or other organic fertilizer will provide the necessary nutrients. Covering with leaf or bark compost protects the soil from drying out.
Care of rhubarb
There is no need for winter protection of newly planted rhubarb, it comes from Russia, so it is used to cold weather. Its main period of growth is in May and June. During this period, you should provide sufficient water. Already in the spring you can fertilize rhubarb with compost, horse manure, horn meal or similar. After the last harvest towards the end of June, apply horn meal again as a fast-acting organic fertilizer.
Do not harvest the rhubarb in the first year after planting, so as not to weaken the young plant unnecessarily. This way you can harvest all the more juicy rhubarb stalks the following year.
To increase the harvest yield, it helps if well-grown rhubarb is sprouted. To do this, invert a container (black plastic bucket, terra cotta pot) over the plant toward the end of winter. In the darkness, the leaf stalks remain particularly bright and tender and can be harvested weeks earlier.