Rhubarb - Growing Advice
Rhubarb plants are perfect for beginners & low-maintenance lovers. For best results, we recommend that you dig your patch over at least a month before planting, improving it with lots of well rotted compost and/or manure.
Where to grow Rhubarb:
Soil: Rhubarb needs fertile soil, but the most important thing is that it has decent drainage. If you have poorly fertile soil, this isn't a problem: you can remove the soil to a depth of about 60cms and replace it with rich topsoil and compost.
Sun: Partial shade is fine, but like any cropping plant, the more sun it gets, the bigger your harvest will be.
Hardiness: Rhubarb is from Siberia and actually grows best in places that have hard winter frosts.
Winter is the best time to plant out rhubarb. Depending on the variety, leave about a metre between plants.
Caring for Rhubarb:
If you don't do anything else, the most important thing is to remove all of the flower heads that appear in spring.
Mulch around your plants each winter, but don't cover the crown: leave it exposed to the cold.
Water your plants in hot, dry weather during summer, but not every day. One soaking per week is plenty. Water the soil around them, not the plants themselves.
Your new plants need to settle in for one year after planting before you harvest them: if you plant in winter, this means that it will be over a year until the first harvest.
The first year that you do harvest your plants, harvest early in the season (i.e. during May) and do not take all of the stems. Choose 2-4 of the best ones for yourself and leave the rest; there should be at least 5 stalks remaining.
Mature plants are harvested between May and August. Do not harvest the stems until their leaf has opened fully and the stem is half an inch thick. Cut off the leaves and get rid of them: they aren't edible. With mature plants, you can harvest about half the stalks that they produce each year, choosing the best ones and leaving the smaller ones.
The easiest way to harvest a stem is to grip it near the base and gently twist and pull it out: it should come away neatly from the crown of the plant without snapping. Wiggle the stem back and forth as well if it resists. Do not cut the stems out.
All you need is a large, tall bucket or a dustbin. Put it over a mature plant in late winter and harvest the shoots within a month from the time they appear. You can force a rhubarb plant every other year.