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Growing Rhubarb

Jan F M A M J J A S O N Dec
                    P P

(Best months for growing Rhubarb in New Zealand - cool/mountain regions)

P = Plant crowns

  • Easy to grow. Plant pieces of rhizome or roots 8 - 10 cm (3 - 4 in.) deep. Best planted at soil temperatures between 41°F and 68°F. (Show °C/cm)
  • Space plants: 35 inches apart
  • Harvest in approximately 1 years. You will have a stronger plant if you leave it for about a year before using..
  • Compatible with (can grow beside): Brassicas (Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, etc)
  • Young rhubarb

Rhubarb is easy to grow in cool climates and is a perennial. Rhubarb can be left in the ground and will return a crop for many years, at least 10 to 15 years (We have one that is more than 20 yrs old). Rhubarb is quite a hardy crop but the crown will rot if in heavy wet clay soils. It can cope with dry periods. Plant in good soil and remove as many weeds as possible. Do not disturb rhubarb roots when cultivating round the plant. Better in cooler climates, but can be grown in shady areas of warm climates. You can lift and divide rhubarb to make more plants . It is best to do this when the plant is dormant ( or at least less actively growing) in winter or late autumn. It is best to wait until a plant is about 5 years old before dividing the crown but it can be moved at any age. Some of the root structure will be damaged when lifting it, so stalk production will not be so good for a few months. If you have mild winters and your rhubarb is still producing new stalks, you can continue to pick it. Although rhubarb is used in desserts and jams, it is considered a vegetable because the stalks are used not the fruit.

NB Do not eat the leaves or roots as they contain oxalic acid which is poisonous. They should not be fed to poultry or stock either.

Remove flower stalks as they appear as the plant will stop producing leaf stalks when flowering.

Rhubarb can be 'forced' by covering dormant crowns with clay pots or a cloche in early spring.

Culinary hints - cooking and eating Rhubarb

Pick stems about the thickness of your finger. Large stems will have tough 'strings' down the length of them.
Use in pies, crumbles, fools and jams. Rhubarb goes well with orange.
Will usually need sweetener.

Your comments and tips

28 Nov 18, Heather (New Zealand - cool/mountain climate)
We have just arrived In New Zealand and our place has a rhubarb plant in the garden. I have been trying to find out how to look after it and I think I have that information but I can't find out the best time to harvest the rhubarb in New Zeland. Can you help tell me when to harvest please? Thank you.
29 Nov 18, Mike (New Zealand - cool/mountain climate)
It says dormant during winter so when it has a good production of leaves/stalks in the spring you could start harvesting depending on the age/size of the crown. Probably ease off harvesting late autumn. Other people here might have a better idea than me as I don't grow it.
22 Nov 18, Mark Cowper (Australia - tropical climate)
I bought some rhubarb crowns from Bunnings I am not sure how old they were the plant is growing really well but I'm not sure if I should cut the stems off yet as they are green and I read the Crown needs a year to develop before you should cut the stems also the stems are still Green are they ok to eat your advice would be appreciated
22 Nov 18, Mike (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
A couple of points. 1. Go back to Bunnings and ask what variety it is - green or red. 2. It is best not to pick until 20 weeks or more and preferably leave for a year so the crown grows to a good size. Picking early will reducing the size of the crown for the first few years - which means less to pick.
20 Nov 18, Christina (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
I bought one rhubarb crown at the beginning of winter May 2018. I followed all directions and planted it in a raised garden bed in full sun. I had my first harvest at the end of October ...18 stalks about 45cm long. Obviously of the green variety as they did not go red. Absolutely delicious. I have now topped up the bed with mulch and cow manure and have 3leaves about 30cm long and 3new leaves poking through
22 Nov 18, Mike (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
Christina Christina didn't you read the notes - BETTER NOT TO HARVEST UNTIL 12 MTHS OLD OR LONGER.
10 Nov 18, Patricia Boucher (Australia - temperate climate)
All the articles i read about rhubarb say that it is seasonal, I have lived in a flat at the back of a house for 11 years. We have two rhubarb plants and in all that time we have had rhubarb 12 months of the year. How is this possible if rhubarb is seasonal.
06 Nov 18, Rhonda Rolfe (Australia - temperate climate)
I was given 4 plants a couple of years ago. They produced the sweetest, most tender stalks. I have lost 3 plants - not sure why. The one remaining plant is looking a bit sick so I have moved it to a more shaded area. I seem to be getting really big leaves but short stems. Any suggestions for better rhubarb and how to keep this one plant going. We have had some really hot days in western Sydney
10 Nov 18, Tony Minards (Australia - temperate climate)
Hi, I have struggled to keep my rhubarb going this year and think I may have had a fungus problem. I lost one plant and have two more that are in trouble. Strangely a third rhubarb plant in the same area is thriving. I have given my two struggling plants a good wash with copper sulphate fungicide and their backwards slide seems to have halted.
08 Nov 18, Mike (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
Read the notes here about growing it. I would suggest to have it in a raised area so it doesn't stay wet for long. A lot of leaf is probably too much N. Don't wet the crown/heart/eye of the plant - water may sit there and rot the crown. You could have a temp shade cover for really hot days.
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