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St Austell, Cornwall, England                    Duana Pearson                    ediblestaustell@gmail.com 

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Rhubarb

Rheum x hybridum

If you love Rhubarb then it’s definitely worth growing in your garden. They’re pretty big plants, with a spread of around 1m. Preferring full sun - but they will still do really well in partial shade. 

 

You can grow rhubarb from seed, but it will take a while, easily 5 years, before the plant will be big enough to harvest. Rhubarb crowns are better. A generous crown could be harvestable in the same year. For smaller crowns, it’s best to let them establish and wait until next year. You can buy rhubarb crowns or find a friend and encourage them to divide their plant.

 

Rhubarb is really hungry - so, when you plant new crowns, dig in lots of manure or compost. Then mulch around the crown annually in autumn/winter.

You can also grow rhubarb in a big pot, just make sure you keep it well watered.

 

When your rhubarb gets big with crowded stems (and it will) it’ll benefit from dividing. Do this in winter by lifting the plant and using a spade to split the rootball. Make sure you have at least 1 growing point with each root section.

 

There’s a bit of a myth about not harvesting rhubarb after summer solstice, in part, because of concerns about oxalic acid building up in the stems. Oxalic acid does build up, but in the leaves which are poisonous. 

Another reason to stop harvesting is to allow the plant to recuperate and build up energy ready for a bumper crop the next year. There’s no harm in resting the plant, however as long as you don’t ever pick more than half the stems when you harvest - this shouldn’t be a problem.

 

Great varieties:

‘Victoria’ - popular older variety, late, very red stalks

‘Timperly Early’ - very early variety, paler stalks, heavy cropping

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