Growing Rhubarb

Although rhubarb is not regarded by the housewife as a vegetable, it is definitely a crop for the vegetable garden or allotment, and should be given one of the permanent positions. Plants are set 5 ft. apart, in March, in good rich soil. The crown of each should be 1 in. below the soil surface. No sticks should be gathered the first season, but in subsequent years, particularly if the rhubarb is given a good mulch of rotted manure (the manure from an old mushroom bed is ideal) in the summer, sticks will be available from early spring to midsummer.

Early supplies are obtained either by lifting roots in late autumn, and packing them into boxes of moist soil to stand under the greenhouse staging, or by inverting boxes over the plants in the open garden, old manure being piled over and round the boxes to keep Use plants warmer and to exclude light. Such forcing weakens the plants, and should not be too freely practised. Plants can be lifted and divided every three or four years, at any time except when they are in active growth, or when the soil is frosted.

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Soil should be rather rich, and plenty of dung or compost can be dug in if available. Dust the surface with basic slag at the rate of 6 oz. per square yard. Strong roots should be obtained in early March and planted with a spade 3 ft. apart each way. The crowns should just appear on the surface of the ground when all the soil has been returned. Plant firmly, treading the soil around the roots. The young stems are pulled away from the crowns as they attain sufficient size. It is a mistake to take too many from one plant as this weakens it, and for the same reason it is not wise to continue pulling after July. Outdoors, without any forcing, supplies will be available from about mid-April onwards, but earlier sticks can be obtained by covering roots with barrels, drainpipes, boxes, or special forcing pots in early January and heaping manure or leaves over these. All light must be excluded.

If rhubarb is required earlier in the year, it will be necessary to force in a heated greenhouse or shed. Roots should be dug as required from early November onwards, and be exposed for a day or so to frost. Then they are packed into boxes with light soil around them and are placed under the staging in the greenhouse or in any other convenient place from which light can be excluded, and in which a temperature of from 60° to 75° can be maintained. Water moderately at first, but freely as growth begins.

Rhubarb can also be raised from seed sown thinly in a frame in March. Thin seedlings to at least 6 in. and transplant to permanent quarters the following spring.

Champagne, The Sutton, and Victoria are reliable varieties and give sticks of fine red colour. Glaskin’s Perpetual is a particularly good variety to raise from seed.