Rhubarb is a highly underrated veggie that many forget to grow in the garden. It suffers from little to no pests, grows for ten years or more, and is one of the easiest plants to develop. Learn ways to grow this perennial vegetable, when and how to harvest rhubarb each year, and use your fresh rhubarb in a unique recipe.
Something about the tart flavor of rhubarb stalks is hard to resist. There are so many rhubarb recipes, from rhubarb pie and rhubarb sauce to rhubarb jam, that you’ll never get bored after harvesting rhubarb at the end of the growing season.
While it takes a bit of effort, and the red stalks are the only edible part of the rhubarb plant, growing your own rhubarb is a great way to produce organic food at home. Since it’s a perennial, rhubarb is the gift that keeps on giving since it grows back year after year.
How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest-Rhubarb
Growing rhubarb in the home garden is pretty straightforward, and while it’s tempting to harvest new stalks the first year, harvesting the stalks the second year or third year allows healthy and productive plant growth. Therefore, it’s essential to know when to pick rhubarb.
Learn how to plant and grow rhubarb plants in the garden and when to harvest rhubarb for the best flavor. In addition, discover plant care tips, which parts of the plant are safe to eat, and how to use your fresh crop to prepare a tasty dish.
How to Grow and When to Pick Rhubarb
Unlike other garden veggies, rhubarb is a perennial and a great addition to the garden for yearly food production. Find out how to grow and when to pick rhubarb to encourage healthy plant growth.
There are many varieties of rhubarb to grow in a backyard garden, ranging in size, appearance, and flavor, and most of them thrive in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 8. Some good choices for the home gardener are Victoria, Valentine, Canada Red, and MacDonald. Riverside Giant is one of the popular green rhubarb varieties.
Rhubarb is a cool weather plant that grows well when the winter temperatures drop below 40°F, and the summer temps are lower than 75°F. There are two times to plant rhubarb.
The best time to plant rhubarb crowns is in the early spring when the soil surface is workable or in the fall after dormancy. Depending on your hardiness zone, starting a garden in February with rhubarb or beans is a great idea.
The best way to plant rhubarb is to choose a garden site with well-draining and fertile soil and enough space to accommodate mature rhubarb plants that reach three feet tall and wide. Ensure the area gets full sun to light shade.
Dig large holes two to four feet apart with three to four feet between rows, and plant crowns with the buds facing up and the eyes two inches below the dirt.
Water the plants generously and spread straw or mulch over the ground around the base of the plant to discourage weeds. Try companion planting to maximize your crop. Rhubarb can be a good companion plant for Swiss chard.
Allow your plants to mature for two to three years before harvesting.
Caring for Rhubarb in the Garden
After planting rhubarb and waiting for your first harvest, it’s vital to give your plants the care they want to flourish. Learn how to water, fertilize, and prune your plants each year for optimal growth.
Water your rhubarb consistently, especially during dry periods, and apply a light sprinkling of well-balanced fertilizer each spring. During the fall, clean the garden to remove plant debris and cover the plants with two to four inches of organic matter or mulch once the ground freezes.
Every three to four years, dig and divide the roots when the plants are dormant to prevent overcrowding. When is rhubarb in season? Harvest time is about eight to ten weeks long, lasting from early summer through mid-summer.
When to Harvest Rhubarb
As tempting as it is to cut rhubarb stalks from your new garden, it’s vital to understand when to harvest rhubarb so that your plants produce better each year. Explore how long it takes rhubarb to grow and when to begin gathering the stalks.
Rhubarb Growth Rate
Rhubarb takes roughly two to three weeks to germinate and three to four years to reach maturity. Do not harvest the stalks the first year and do it sparingly the second year to allow your rhubarb plants to establish. When is rhubarb ready to pick? The best time to pick rhubarb is from May through early July during the third year.
How to Harvest Rhubarb
While harvesting rhubarb seems straightforward, there is a right and wrong time to harvest, and not all of the plant is safe to consume. Learn which parts of the plant are edible and how to pick rhubarb from the garden.
Wait until the rhubarb stalks are twelve to eighteen inches long and three-quarters of an inch in diameter before harvesting them. Grab the base of the stalk or petioles with your hand and twist it away from the plant or cut it off at the bottom with shears or a sharp knife.
Only the stalks are edible since rhubarb leaves have high amounts of oxalic acid, leading to gastrointestinal symptoms, kidney stones, and other health problems. Discard the rhubarb leaves and flower stalks into the compost pile and always leave at least two stalks on each plant for continual production.
How to Make Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce
It’s finally rhubarb harvest time, and your kitchen counter is overflowing with freshly picked tart stalks. While pie and jam are popular ways to prepare rhubarb, we prefer to use this veggie a little differently. This rhubarb barbecue sauce is sweet, smokey, and perfect for the grilling season.
Pour the oil and onions into a saucepan and saute them for three to four minutes before adding the garlic and cooking for one more minute. Add the rhubarb and remaining ingredients and cook on medium-low for 20 to 25 minutes while stirring until the rhubarb is tender.
Remove the pan from the heat, pour the mixture into a blender or processor, and blend until smooth. Pour the barbecue sauce into an airtight container and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to baste it over chicken, pork, ribs, or other grilled meats.
Harvesting rhubarb from your backyard rhubarb patch is a great way to enjoy a healthy and organic crop of fresh veggies. The best thing about rhubarb plants is that they grow back year after year with little effort.
Now that you know when and how to harvest rhubarb after growing your own plants in the garden, why not share our rhubarb growing and harvesting guide with your family and friends on Facebook and Pinterest?