Homesteading 101: Growing and Harvesting Rhubarb

rhubarb

In the spring, Rhubarb is one of the first plants to pop up in the garden. It’s a perennial and a vegetable, so it comes back every year and you can harvest it every time it pops up. It can be used in pies, sauces and jellies, and most people agree that it goes particularly well with strawberries, a perennial type of fruit.

Rhubarb grows best in areas that have cold winters. You’ll need the average temperature to drop below 40 degrees to allow the plant to go dormant. In the spring, when temperatures rise, the dormancy will be broken and the plant will grow, producing a nice crop of stalks.

Caring for rhubarb is incredibly easy. You just need to plant it somewhere that it has some room to grow and can get some water. I personally put it in a raised planter near my deck, because we like to till the garden every year and that would kill the rhubarb. Full sun will help it grow nice and big.

You can buy rhubarb as a crown or a root at your local garden center or even Walmart. Plants should be spaced 2 to 3 feet apart, so they have room to grow and you have room to harvest. The leaves get quite large. To plant, simply bury them in the ground. You should cover them with 1 to 2 inches of soil.

A good rule of thumb is to not harvest your rhubarb the first year it is planted. Also, you’ll want to remove any flowers you see right away. Flower stalks don’t normally appear until the plant is 3 years or older, but they can quickly rob the plant of nutrients, so removing them is essential.

Rhubarb pretty much takes care of itself. it doesn’t require a lot of maintenance except for removing flowers. If there is a drought, it should be watered.

Rhubarb can be harvested beginning the second year after planting. To harvest, grab the stalk and pull while twisting, or simply use a knife to cut it off. Remove most of the leaf from the plant, but not all of it to allow the stalk to retain moisture. Remember that rhubarb leaves are poisonous, so they should be removed completely and discarded carefully before consuming.

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