Rhubarb is a aromatic leaf vegetable of great rusticity and extremely easy to grow. Icing on the cake, it brings a decorative touch to the garden. Absolutely delicious plain but also in pies, jams or compotes on their own or combined with strawberries, and even as an accompaniment to certain meats such as pork and chicken, rhubarb seduces gourmets. Here is everything you need to know to plant, maintain and harvest your rhubarb.
This perennial with a hard rhizome is a plant with great development. It therefore needs sufficient space. Better to plant it at one end of the vegetable garden. Rhubarb likes permeable soils, i.e. well drained, riches, deep et costs as well as a semi-shaded to sunny position.
Is the spring that rhubarb is planted in a harsh climate and in fall in temperate zones where winters are milder. But once well rooted, it can supporter without blinking down to -20°C.
The planting method rhubarb is:
- Soak the root ball in water to rehydrate it for a good twenty minutes,
- Dig a hole 40 cm deep and 30 cm in diameter,
- Install the foot in the center of the hole,
- Backfill by tamping down the earth,
- Finish by placing a well-ripened compost on the surface, which you cover with mulch to keep the soil cool, limit watering and provide a screen against frost.
We often read that manure should be placed at the bottom of the hole. Experienced gardeners who are familiar with the needs of rhubarb prefer, on the contrary, add organic matter to the surface so as not to burn or rot the roots.
Rhubarb seeds are sown in August September in small jars. The young shoots thus obtained are then transplanted into buckets in order to spend the whole winter under a cold frame. At the end of March or during April, it is then time to transplant in the ground, respecting a distance of 150 cm in all directions because later, these beautiful rustic plants will have taken on quite a size…
Gardeners who do not wish to go through sowing can buy rhubarb in pots.
Propagation of rhubarb plants
After a few years, one can opt for the division of tufts to multiply rhubarb plants very easily. This helps regenerate aged feet that produce less than before.
In mars or in octoberthem stump splinters are obtained with a sharp-edged spade. Every shard must absolutely count at least 2 eyes. Then simply replant the shards immediately in a pot containing garden soil. Rooting takes a few weeks, after which the new rhubarb plants can be transplanted. They must be spaced from each other about 120 to 150 cm then water them copiously.
In order not to weaken the young plants, it is recommended not to harvest the rhubarb stems the first year. But if the plants are vigorous, it will be quite possible the following year.
A stump should always be placed in the planting hole so that the eyes lie at ground level and not underground. This is a crucial point so that the plant does not degenerate in just a few days.
Caring for rhubarb
The maintenance of rhubarb does not occupy the full-time gardener, far from it. You just need to give it basic care.
Young plants need a little more water than well-rooted older plants. Watering must be very regular in summer or in any season in case of drought. During the summer period, they are indispensable if you want to be able to benefit from a second harvest, namely the one that takes place in September because it is only possible if the soil has remained very cool throughout the summer.
It is not a size strictly speaking, but rather a regular cleaning which is required. It simply consists of removing yellowed or completely dry leaves. It is also useful to cut the inflorescence (flower) which appears in the spring so that the plant does not wear itself out unnecessarily when going to seed. Indeed, the suppression of the inflorescence favors the production of leaves and increases the taste quality of the stems.
Once a year, during the last week of march, it is advisable to fertilize the soil in order to give a boost to its rhubarb. To do this, it is necessary to scratch the earth all around the foot of the plant in order to incorporate compost taking care not to damage the roots. We end the session by spreading a mulch of dried grass clippings or straw.
The mulch limits the proliferation of weeds. You can also install ground cover plants such as ground ivy which keeps the soil cool, smothers unwanted weeds and creates a nice carpet that the rhubarb has no problem with. Despite all these precautions, it is still useful to weed regularly at the foot.
If weeding is done often, it takes very little time each time. It is strongly recommended to remove the weeds by hand rather than resorting to chemicals.
Harvesting rhubarb: only the stalks are edible
The first rhubarb harvest takes place only 1 to 2 years after planting. These are his petioles (stems) that are taken during the months of May and of June then after the summer break, a second less abundant harvest is possible if care has been taken to water sufficiently during the summer as we have seen previously.
The petioles reach 100 cm in length, are very fleshy and edible. They are delicately tart. They bear very large leaf blades (leaves) which should not be consumed because they are toxic due to their high oxalate content.
When harvesting rhubarb, cut the petioles at the base and then remove the leaves. Then just take a vegetable razor or a paring knife to peel each petiole (much like you do with asparagus) so that it is ready to be eaten, raw or cooked.
At harvest time, the rhubarb leaves should not be thrown away because they allow you to prepare a insecticide naturel by maceration, at the rate of 250 g of leaf blades for 1.5 liters of water. Leave the leaves to soak for 24 hours. The liquid obtained is then transferred to a vaporizer and will be used to treat leeks against ringworm or roses and other plants against aphids. Finally, note that rhubarb being a highly effective insect repellentit can be planted near a patch of potatoes because its mere presence will prevent the beetles from settling there.