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Growing Rhubarb

(Rheum rhabarbarum)

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
                P P    

(Best months for planting Rhubarb in Australia - temperate regions)

P = Plant direct in garden where they are to grow.

  • Easy to grow. Plant pieces of rhizome or roots 8 - 10 cm (3 - 4 in.) deep. Best planted at soil temperatures between 5°C and 20°C. (Show °F/in)
  • Space plants: 90 cm apart
  • Harvest in approximately 1 years. You will have a stronger plant if you leave it for about a year before using..
  • Compatible with (can grow in same bed): Brassicas (Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, etc)
  • Young rhubarb

Rhubarb is easy to grow in cool climates and is a perennial. Rhubarb can be left in the ground and will return a crop for many years, at least 10 to 15 years (We have one that is more than 20 yrs old). Rhubarb is quite a hardy crop but the crown will rot if in heavy wet clay soils. It can cope with dry periods. Plant in good soil and remove as many weeds as possible. Do not disturb rhubarb roots when cultivating round the plant. Better in cooler climates, but can be grown in shady areas of warm climates. You can lift and divide rhubarb to make more plants . It is best to do this when the plant is dormant ( or at least less actively growing) in winter or late autumn. It is best to wait until a plant is about 5 years old before dividing the crown but it can be moved at any age. Some of the root structure will be damaged when lifting it, so stalk production will not be so good for a few months. If you have mild winters and your rhubarb is still producing new stalks, you can continue to pick it. Although rhubarb is used in desserts and jams, it is considered a vegetable because the stalks are used not the fruit.

NB Do not eat the leaves or roots as they contain oxalic acid which is poisonous. They should not be fed to poultry or stock either.

Remove flower stalks as they appear as the plant will stop producing leaf stalks when flowering.

Rhubarb can be 'forced' by covering dormant crowns with clay pots or a cloche in early spring.

Culinary hints - cooking and eating Rhubarb

Pick stems about the thickness of your finger. Large stems will have tough 'strings' down the length of them.
Use in pies, crumbles, fools and jams. Rhubarb goes well with orange.
Will usually need sweetener.

Your comments and tips

08 Feb 15, Marion Mc Neill (Australia - temperate climate)
Hello , how do you know when to pick rhubarb to eat thank you
15 Feb 15, Genevieve (Australia - temperate climate)
When the stalks of the plant is big enough, pull it and remove the leaves.
25 Jan 15, Gordo (Australia - temperate climate)
When I was a young child in Scotland my 'job' was to empty the teapot on the rhubarb patch. I don't think it ever got any fertilizer as that was another of my occasional 'jobs' on other parts of the garden. The plants were cut back before the snow and covered with buckets until spring. We had mountains of the rhubarb for most of the year as well as jam in the cold part.
31 Dec 14, Peggy (Australia - temperate climate)
Last year I bought a nasty looking plant, $2.00 what the heck. Planted it in a sunny spot mostly out of the wind, The soil is top soil scrapped off a building site in the back yard. 3/4 bag of 'Wooley Beasts sheep poo' from shearing sheds dug through and rain water. It got 2 metres across and 60 cm high. Mad thing - I had to shift the lettuce and the spring onions. I just let it have its way. This year - yum!. Nanna always said cow manure was the feed for rhubarb. Sheep poo yeeehaaa.
28 Dec 14, Andrew Martin (Australia - temperate climate)
We have several rhubarb plants growing large stems that are not turning red. Is this normal as the plants have only been in for several months, (since June)? We live in the hills east of Perth WA.
03 Jan 15, Barb (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
Hi Andrew, Some varieties of rhubarb go redder than others - some stay quite green. However, we've found more mature and cooler weather tends to redden those prone to be being red. So best wait and see, giving them a seasonal top up with good compost to keep them well fed.
18 Dec 14, Ann (Australia - temperate climate)
I have 'Sydney red' variety rhubarb, 18mths old, lots of good compost, sugarcane mulch etc, full sun. My rhubarb was red last season but this season only about 15cm is red, lots of huge green leaves! What am I doing wrong?
18 Dec 14, Gerald Earles (Australia - temperate climate)
nI have 2 rhubarb plants which grew well for several months but lately the older leaves are wilting turning brown/yellow and falling off as they rot. have 50% white shade cloth covering them. any ideas to get them healthy ?
21 Nov 14, christine (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
why is my rhubarb still green, not red what does it need?
15 Nov 14, Garry Neilson (Australia - cool/mountain climate)
Hi I have 2 new Rhubarb plants in the same bed Both growing very well until now 1 has a problem the leaves and stems are turning a Purple / Red colour .Can you put any light on it for me . Regards Garry
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