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Rhubarb should be high on your list of vegetables to grow this year. And actually, you’ll be growing it every year since it’s a perennial. That’s just one of the great reasons to grow rhubarb.Rhubarb may not be to everyone’s taste but the plants are very ornamental and shouldn’t be overlooked just because you hate to eat the stuff. It breaks dormancy very early in the season and is generally available at the same time as greens and strawberries.Varieties recommended for Kentucky include Canada Red, MacDonald, and Valentine. These all produce red leaf stalks, the edible portion of the plant. Rhubarb grows from a crown and will need to be divided on a regular basis (every 4 to 5 years).
SITE SELECTION & PLANTINGSince rhubarb is a perennial, site selection is important. Situate the plants in full sun to part-shade in well-drained soil with a pH of around 6.5. If planting in a vegetable garden, be sure to plant it along the edge so that roots won’t be affected by any tillage in the garden.If you have the luxury of choosing the perfect site, rhubarb would prefer a well-drained, organic soil on a slightly north-facing slope. Cool soils are great for rhubarb.Rhubarb can be planted in early spring (March). Plants (crowns) can be purchased or if you have an old plant, lift and cut the crown between the buds, leaving as large a piece of the storage root as possible with each large bud (see picture). Plant the roots so the crown is about 2″ below the soil surface. Plants should be about 3 to 4 feet apart.
CARE & HARVESTRemove weeds by hand or shallowly cultivate. Fertilize with a nitrogen-containing fertilizer as growth begins in the spring and sidedress about 8 weeks later. Organic mulches are best for rhubarb but do not spread it over the crowns.Rhubarb can be harvested during its second season (but only for a short period of time) but can be fully harvested (8 to 10 weeks) the third season and thereafter. Stalks should be pulled from the plant rather than cut. Leaves contain large amounts of oxalic acid and should not be eaten.To promote and maintain vigorous growth, rhubarb should not be allowed to flower. Remove flower stalks as soon as they appear by cutting or pinching them off near the base.For more information, call the Pulaski County Extension office at 679-6361 and request publications that will help you get started with seed starting and growing vegetables. Become a fan of Pulaski County Horticulture on Facebook and/or follow @hortagentbeth on Twitter or kyplants on Instagram. You can also watch videos on Pulaski County Horticulture YouTube channel.Educational programs of Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.
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