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Rhubarb is an old-fashioned perennial vegie that’s both easy and rewarding to grow. It’s part of the Polygonaceae family, which includes buckwheat and edible weeds such as sorrel. As a perennial, it produces a harvest of crunchy stalks over many months.

Although rhubarb is usually treated much like a fruit, it is considered a vegetable as the leaf stalk is the edible part of the plant. Enjoy rhubarb stewed or roasted with a little sugar and lemon juice, or mix it with fruits such as apple. It can be eaten on cereal, made into a pie or crumble, or served with yoghurt, custard or
ice-cream. It can also be used to make sparkling wine and chutney and is rich in vitamin A and C.

Follow our five easy steps to successful rhubarb harvest including tips along the way.

How to grow vegetables - rhubarb
Improving soil over winter Seasol Liquid Compost

When to plant and location.

When to plant.

In all but the very coldest and hot, humid regions, rhubarb grows year-round and is planted in winter from a crown (the dormant root system of the plant).

  1. In spring, as the crown begins to grow, allow it to develop a strong clump of leafy stems. It takes 6 to 12 months for a new crown to develop thick leaf stalks ready to harvest.
  2. Rhubarb grows from cold to subtropical regions but does best in the cooler months of the year in hot climates.
  3. Rhubarb dislikes hot, wet and humid conditions, so is difficult to grow in coastal subtropical regions and is unsuitable for tropical climates.

Location.

  • Grow rhubarb in full sun with light afternoon shade in summer in soil that holds moisture well.
  • Keep plants growing vigorously with good watering and regular applications of PowerFeed PRO SERIES Tomatoes & Vegetables.
  • Potted plants in leaf can be planted at any time but should also be allowed to develop thick stems before they are harvested.

Soil.

Get the soil conditions right to harvest a bumper crop of delicious rhubarb.

Follow our steps for easy soil preparation.

How to grow vegetables - rhubarb
How to grow vegetables - rhubarb

Step 1 – Rhubarb crown.

  • While rhubarb is grown from seed, it takes up to three years to produce a plant that’s developed enough to harvest.
  • Plants selected for their stem colour, vigour and flavour are grown from crowns (roots).
  • Rhubarb crowns are planted during winter or very early spring when they are widely available.
  • Mature clumps can also be divided in autumn or winter to create new plants.
  • Space each plant around 1m apart and place crowns so the ‘eyes’ (points where leaves will shoot) are at ground level and the root system is firmly in the ground.
  • Plants can be grown in large pots or raised vegetable beds but need extra moisture and nourishment to thrive.
  • Water in well with Seasol to reduce transplant shock and promote strong root development. Mix 30mL of Seasol concentrate per 9 litres of water. Continue applying Seasol every one to two weeks for strong, healthy growth.

Step 3 – Early leaves.

  • As the crown begins to grow it will produce small crinkled leaves.
  • Allow the leaves to grow strongly with long stems.
  • For strong healthy leaf growth liquid feed with PowerFeed PRO SERIES for Tomatoes & Vegetables every 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Water regularly especially when it is hot and dry.

Step 4 – Mature Clumps.

  • After six months the clumps will be growing strongly.
  • Harvest thick, glossy stems by snapping them at the base of the clump to remove the entire stalk and base. Avoid tugging up or pulling at the stalks as it is possible to accidently pull up the entire clump.
  • Pick the large outside stalks to encourage new leafy grow.
  • Continue to water well especially when conditions are hot, windy or dry.

Step 5 – Flowering & harvest.

  • Despite its large, leafy habit, rhubarb is a flowering plant. Clumps eventually send up thick stalks from the centre of the plant that carry heads of small white flowers.
  • Cut flowering stems off at their base to encourage a return to leafy growth.
  • Plants that are dry or stressed may bolt to flower at the expense of leaf production.
  • In cold climates rhubarb may die back over winter.
  • To eat rhubarb, simply cut or break off the leafy tops and retain the stalk. This removes a toxin called oxalic acid that is present in the leaves but not the stalks. Discarded leaves can be added to the compost but should not be fed to animals such as livestock or chickens.

Tip: To harvest, pull down and twist the stem at the base of the clump or use a knife to make a sharp cut. Discard the leafy tops.

Thing to what for…

  • Leaf spots: This fungal disease can mark leaves with small brown spots but rarely reduces harvest. Remove badly affected stems.
  • Slugs and snails These pests damage leaves but rarely damage the edible stalk. Snails and slugs are active at night. Use iron-based, non-toxic baits to control them.
  • Thin stems These could be due to over harvesting, lack of nutrients or root rot. Remove any stems that are soft or with yellowing leaves. Check soil and, if it is dry, increase watering frequency. Apply liquid fertiliser such as PowerFeed PRO SERIES for Tomatoes & Vegetables every 10-14 days.
How to grow vegetables - rhubarb
How to grow vegetables - rhubarb

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