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In Barb's Garden

by Barb Foster
by Barb Foster


Inspired to nuture, Barb Foster took up gardening over a decade ago. She has a particular passion for this areas hardy perennials.

Barb collects her own seeds, grows seedlings in a greenhouse and has 500 sq ft of growing beds plus numerous perennial flower beds in her Zone 1b garden in Chetwynd, B.C.

Barb writes weekly for the Chetwynd Echo.

May 18, 2008

Our friend from the Frazer Valley mentioned that his Rhubarb was ready to pick. That got me to thinking about Rhubarb, and what a remarkable plant it really is. Our Rhubarb was showing red buds of new growth and just a few green leaves. I know it will not be harmed by cold temperatures; it is hardy to zone 1; in fact it even prefers colder climates.

Rhubarb produces one of the first crops in spring, it is resistant to most pests and disease, and is an easy to grow, low maintenance perennial plant.

There are several varieties of Rheum rhabarbarum (Rhubarb) some have been developed exclusively for ornamental use in landscape plantings. The 'Victoria' with greenish stalks,and the 'Crimson Cherry', 'MacDonald', and 'Strawberry' with red stalks are the more commonly cultivated food varieties.

The large heart shaped leaves of the Rhubarb contain oxalic acid which is poison, the leaves may be composted, but should never be eaten.

The edible red stalks contain vitamins A and C, potassium, and magnesium and are usually prepared as a fruit.

Propagate Rhubarb from root segments/crowns containing two or three points of new growth, evident by roundish red buds. Three plants should provide enough fresh and frozen Rhubarb for a family of four. Planted in full sun, with rich, well drained soil the Rhubarb plants can grow three feet tall and four feet wide. Give them plenty of room to grow, dig a planting hole two feet deep and two feet in diameter for each plant. Add six inches of compost or aged manure to the bottom of the hole, cover this with a mixture of compost and topsoil.

Make a depression to plant the Rhubarb root deep enough so that the growth buds on the top of the plant are just one inch below the soil level. Pull the soil mixture in around the top of the root without actually covering the red buds of the crown, and water well. Mulch around the crown but not over the new growth with straw or shredded leaves.

Fertilize mid-summer with a layer of compost around the crown. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Remove flower stalks to direct energy to root growth. Remove dead leaves as they appear. After the ground has frozen winter mulch for at least the first winter with as much as eight inches of straw over the crown. Be sure to remove the winter mulch before the spring growth period begins. Do not harvest the first year. The following year a few stalks may be harvested during the first two weeks of the season. In subsequent years harvesting may continue for eight to ten weeks as long as no more than half of the stalks are removed per picking. To remove stalks grasp the stalk with your hand, slide your thumb down the inner grove as far as it will go, twist the stalk while pulling up. Do not harvest Rhubarb by cutting it, the end left in the ground can rot and cause disease in the root.

After several years, when the plant shows signs of age and is no longer producing the big juicy stalks it once did, it is time to divide the crown. This is best done in early spring. The root is dug up, the side ward growing roots can be cut off, the crown is then cut into pieces each containing roots and two or three growth buds. Replant these new crowns as above.


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