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Rhubarb

Rhubarb Stat Summary

Plant Spacing: 36" (914 mm)
Row Spacing: 36" (914 mm)
Planting Depth: 1/4" (6 mm)
Plants Per Person: 2
Soil Temperature: 70°F (21°C)
Days to Emergence: 6-18
Recommended Soil PH: 5.5-6.5
Seed Indoors: 6-8 weeks before transplanting
Earliest Outdoor Planting: After Last Frost
Tick Can direct seed outdoors
Tick Can seed indoors

Planting Rhubarb

Prefers well-drained, fertile soil, high in organic matter with a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Yields best with plentiful, consistent moisture in an open, sunny location; plants can live 10 to 15 years. Propagate by seed or division. Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before your last frost. Use sterile seedling mix and sow seed 1/4 inch deep, cover lightly. After seedlings are growing well, harden off a week or 2 prior to transplanting in garden after the threat of frost has passed.

The most common way is to plant rhubarb from root divisions (crowns): as soon as you can work the soil in spring, set crowns 1 inch deep with bud side up; space 3 feet between crowns. Firm soil around the roots but keep it loose over the top of the bud.

Growing Rhubarb

During the first year only, remove flower stalks as they appear; this focuses more energy on developing a stronger plant and root system. Keep the bed well watered and weeded the first summer. Mulch heavily to help suppress weeds and retain moisture. The beginning of each spring, spread a complete fertilizer around each plant; no other fertilizing is necessary.

Harvesting and Storing Rhubarb

Do not pull any stems in the plant's first year as the plant is still strengthening its root system. In the 2nd year harvest sparingly to avoid weakening the rhubarb plant; then after, just don't remove more than half the stalks of a single plant in one summer. Harvest stems that are between 1/2 to 1 inch in diameter, firm, and dark pink in color.

Hold the stalk close to the base of the plant; while pulling gently, twist the stalk to help it come off cleanly. Remove the leaves from the stalk; do not eat - they are poisonous. Fresh rhubarb stalks can be stored 2 to 3 weeks at 33 degrees F and very high humidity. The stems can be frozen once they have been prepared.

Rhubarb Insect and Disease Information

Rhubarb is relatively trouble-free. Rhubarb curculio beetle can be a problem. Handpick adults from plants or treat the base of the plant with a suggested insecticide. To help minimize the potential threat from this pest, remove broadleaved weeds from the area. Fungal leaf spot disease can be controlled eliminating too much moisture. Avoid wetting foliage and water early in the day so the leaves dry as quickly as possible. Proper plant spacing minimizes crowding and allows better air circulation. Eliminating weeds from around plants and garden area also improves air flow. Clean up all fallen or diseased leaves and stalks in the fall.

Rhubarb Yield Information

You may want to plant more rhubarb if you are planning on making large amounts of pie or cobbler.
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