Growing Rhubarb at the Allotment

Growing Rhubarb at the Allotment

Rhubarb is technically a vegetable although it is mainly consumed as though it is a fruit; hence why it is appearing under our Fruit category!

It is a hardy perennial and can grow large, with a large root system. 
Rhubarb is not commonly grown from seed because it takes too long for this slow grower to form any worthwhile crop. They are grown from crowns (root cuttings) and are planted when they are dormant throughout the autumn and winter months; from October through until March.

You can also buy active plants to plant at any time but it is not ideal to plant during dry, hot weather. 

Due to the size of the root system, it is not really suitable for container growing and will like a sunny position in well-drained soil. Avoid anywhere where it can become waterlogged, causing it to rot. 

Rhubarb will require the usual weed-freeing and watering during dry spells and will be a bit thirstier during the warmer weather. it will also benefit from some fertiliser in Spring and Summer. If they become too dry, this will inhibit or even stop growth. 

Some growers like to use the forcing method for early crops, by placing a bin over the crown so that the stems grow in the dark. Do not force the same plant each year, as this will weaken it and eventually kill it. Only force it once every 2-3 years, giving it chance to recover. 

The large leaves are poisonous however they can be composted. 

Remove whole flowering (seeds) stalks as they appear to avoid the plant becoming weaker. 

When the stems are ready for picking from March-April onwards, only pick very few stems in the plant's first year to allow it to become established. Only pick until late June/July and then leave until the following Spring/Summer.  This will allow the plant to recover. From the 3rd year you can pick all but a few stems. Your plant will produce for many more years to come. 

To pick them, hold the stem at the base and ease them out of the ground and avoid snapping them.  

During autumn, the leaves will start to die off and the plant can become exposed to the cold and frosts whilst it is overwintering. It will like approximately 8 weeks of this cold weather, depending on the variety. 

You can propagate older plants; 5 years or older by digging it up and splitting it vertically and leaving it to the frosts, remove any soft and damaged spots and replant in early Spring when the ground and weather allows. 

Rhubarb can be eaten raw or you can freeze it, after stewing it first. It can be enjoyed in desserts or preserves. 

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Growing Rhubarb at the Allotment

Sowing Rhubarb

  • Plant dormant crowns during winter
  • Propagate crowns during winter
  • Plant in well-drained soil in a sunny spot

Growing Rhubarb

  • Remove seed/flowering stalk as it appears
  • Water regularly during dry spells
  • Use mulch to retain moisture; do not over water

Harvesting Rhubarb

  • Only harvest limited amount of stems on young plants
  • Ease stem out of the ground at the base
  • Eat raw or can be stewed and frozen, or bottled