Most people regard
rhubarb as a ‘fruit’, but it squeezes
in here because it is so often grown on allotments.
It is usually neglected, although it will repay
just a little care by providing you with succulent
stalks (‘sticks’) from February until
midsummer. All it needs is a sunny spot, or an
annual dressing with well-rotted compost or manure
and division of the roots every five years. The
sticks can be left to develop naturally for pulling
in spring or the plants can be forced by covering
them in late winter so as to provide a February
or March crop. The leaves are poisonous –
dispose of them on the compost heap.
Can be raised from seed sown in April, but results
are sometimes disappointing. Much better to lift
mature roots (‘crowns’) and divide
into pieces (‘sets’) bearing one or
Productive life: 5-10 years
Expected yield per mature plant: 5lb (2.5kg)
Approximate time between planting and pulling:
Ease of cultivation: Easy
· Not fussy at all, provided that the soil
is not subject to prolonged water logging in winter.
· Pick an open site which is not shaded.
Dig deeply in autumn, incorporating a liberal
amount of compost or well-rotted manure. Rake
in Growmore fertilizer shortly before planting.
Plant in hole and set bud just below surface and
firm after planting. Holes should be 36in (90cm)
apart in every direction.
Planting time: Mid February to the end of March;
can extend from the beginning of October.
Pulling time: Usually the beginning of April to
mid July. Can extend from mid February to the
end of July.
Looking after the crop
· Keep the plants well watered. Remove
any flowering shoots which may appear.
· Feed the plants with Instant Bio during
the summer. If this is not done, sprinkle a general-purpose
fertilizer around the crowns once the harvesting
season is over.
· Place a mulch of compost or well-rotted
manure over the crowns in January or February.
· Begin pulling the sticks in April –
hold the stalk close to the ground and then pull
upwards with a twisting motion. Never strip a
plant – always leave at least 4 stalks.
Do not remove any stalks after July.
· Allow new plants to become established
during the first year – pulling can begin
12-18 months after planting.
· Force one or two plants for a February
or March crop – cover each crown in January
with an upturned bucket or plastic bin which should
be covered with compost or straw. The forced sticks
will be ready in about 6 weeks – do not
force these plants again for at least 2 years.
Hawke’s Champagne: Deep red stems make this
one of the most attractive varieties. Reliable
and early – an old favourite but still a
The Sutton: Earns its place in this list by producing
the largest stalks of all and by not running to
Victoria: A very popular variety although it is
the last one to produce its stalks in late spring.
Timperley Early: The opposite to Victoria –
thin stems which are ideal for forcing in early