Caring For Your Rhubarb Plants
Rhubarb is a family of perennial plants, the stems of which are commonly used in foods like pies and tarts. This plant has several nutritional benefits, and is popular because of its use in the kitchen. Rhubarb plants are easy to grow and maintain, and will produce vegetation for several years if cared for properly. Rhubarb leaves are poisonous. They contain a toxin called oxalate, and are not meant for consumption.
The best time to plant rhubarbs is in early spring, when the plant is dormant. These plants prefer full sunlight, but can do well in partially shaded locations. Choose a corner or side area in the garden to plant your rhubarbs. Because the rhubarb comes back every year, placing it away from other plants will leave them undisturbed. Rhubarbs are heavy feeders, so they require very fertile soil. If the quality of your soil is low, you can improve its richness by adding large amounts of well-rotted manure or compost. The soil must be well-drained to avoid waterlogging. To improve soil quality, dig the planting spot and add in sufficient amounts of organic matter. Remove all weeds in the planting spot. Mix the soil well and let it settle for about a month. After this, the soil will be ready and suitable for planting rhubarbs.
When you buy rhubarbs, you must purchase the crowns or divisions of the plant. Seeds are not recommended, because the plant will take very long to develop. Dig a 2 by 2-foot hole for each rhubarb plant. Each hole should be about 3 feet away from the other holes, in all directions. This will give the rhubarb plants sufficient space to grow, and provide better air circulation. Make a mixture of mature compost or manure, and an adequate amount of all-purpose fertilizer. Fill each hole with this mixture to about half depth. Place the rhubarb crowns about 2 inches deep in the hole, ensuring that the top part is slightly visible above the surface of the soil. Fix the plant in place with soil and the remaining compost mixture. Apply a layer of organic mulch around the plant, leaving the soil around the root buds loose. The mulch will prevent weed growth, help moisture retention, and protect the roots from severe winter winds. Peat moss and sawdust are good choices as mulch.
Once your rhubarb plant is established, it is advisable to divide and replant it after about 5 or 6 years. This will encourage newer, healthier growth. When dividing the crown of an old plant, split it into about 6 or 8 pieces. Check to make sure that each division has at least one bud. Avoid dividing plants that are not very healthy. Rhubarb plants need fertilizing in spring. Apply a suitable fertilizer by scratching it into the soil, taking care not to disturb the roots. As your plant becomes ready for harvesting, remove the stalks by pulling them out, or by cutting them at the soil level. It is advisable to remove the flower stalks of mature plants, as they appear.