The Wonderful World of Rhubarb Care

Rhubarb, with its vibrant red stalks and tart flavor, is a beloved addition to many gardens. If you want to ensure a fruitful harvest of this delightful plant, it’s important to know how to properly care for it. In this article, we’ll explore the essentials of watering, weeding, feeding, forcing, harvesting, and over-wintering rhubarb. So grab your gardening gloves and join us on this journey!

Watering, Weeding, and Feeding Rhubarb

To keep your rhubarb happy and healthy, it’s crucial to provide it with the right amount of water. If your rhubarb is grown in semi-shade and mulched regularly, you may not need to water it at all. However, in prolonged dry spells or if your rhubarb is planted in full sun, a thorough drenching of water from time to time is recommended.

Weeding is another important task when it comes to rhubarb care. Regularly removing weeds from around the base of the plant will prevent them from taking hold and becoming difficult to eradicate. Trust us, you don’t want a jungle of weeds competing with your rhubarb!

Feeding your rhubarb in spring and autumn is essential for its overall growth and productivity. Organic fertilizers like blood, fish, and bone or bonemeal work wonders. Simply sprinkle two handfuls around each plant. If you have some well-rotted manure, spread a layer around the plant, making sure to keep it away from emerging stalks.

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Forcing Rhubarb: Unleash the Rhubarb Magic!

For the adventurous gardener looking for an early rhubarb harvest, forcing is the way to go. Yes, it may sound like a strange and slightly crazy process, but the results are worth it! Imagine enjoying fresh rhubarb three weeks earlier than usual. How cool is that?

To force rhubarb, start by covering the plant with something that traps in warmth and excludes light. A large bucket or a purpose-made rhubarb forcing pot will do the trick. Cover the container with straw, compost, or any other material that will keep the warmth inside.

Keep a watchful eye on your rhubarb as it undergoes this forced growth. Within three to four weeks, you’ll be rewarded with delicate and sweet stalks. Just remember, forcing weakens the plant, so give it a break for two to three years before forcing it again.

Harvesting Rhubarb: A Labor of Love

When it comes to harvesting rhubarb, there are a few essential rules to follow. First, avoid harvesting rhubarb in its first year of life. During this time, the plant is building up its strength, and removing the stalks will also remove the leaves, which provide vital nutrients. So be patient and wait for the second year before indulging in a harvest.

Another crucial point to remember is never to eat the leaves of rhubarb. They contain oxalic acid, which is poisonous. Stick to the stalks, which are safe and delicious.

To harvest rhubarb, don’t cut off the stalks. Instead, grip a stalk near the base, twist slightly, and pull it outwards in one swift motion. This method helps avoid introducing infection.

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Harvesting usually begins in the second week of March, depending on your location. We recommend continuing the harvest for three months, allowing the plant to recover and prepare for future bountiful harvests. However, if your plant looks healthy and has an abundance of stalks, extending the harvesting period to four months is also acceptable.

Over-Wintering Rhubarb: Let it Brave the Elements

Rhubarb is a tough plant that can withstand cold weather without much trouble. In most cases, there’s no need to cover the crown to protect it from frost. In fact, doing so can increase the risk of fungal infections by trapping moisture.

For established rhubarb plants in the ground, simply clear up fallen stems and leaves during winter. They don’t require any additional protection. Let them face whatever the UK weather throws at them, as they actually thrive when exposed to the elements.

If you’ve recently planted a rhubarb in the current year, lightly cover the crown with bracken or shrub prunings. However, make sure not to trap in too much moisture, as this can lead to rot. When in doubt, doing nothing is often the best course of action.

If you have a rhubarb plant in a pot or container, chances are it will fare well during a UK winter. For added protection, consider moving it to a spot shielded from strong winds, preferably next to a house wall. And, of course, don’t forget to tidy up fallen stems and leaves as they wither away.

So there you have it—your ultimate guide to rhubarb care! Remember, by following these tips and giving your rhubarb some love and attention, you’ll be rewarded with a bountiful harvest and the satisfaction of growing your own delicious produce. Now, go forth and conquer that rhubarb patch!

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