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Rhubarb

UK Garden Centre - How to grow Rhubarb as a vegetable

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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.

Plant facts
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 more buds.
Productive life: 5-10 years
Expected yield per mature plant: 5lb (2.5kg)
Approximate time between planting and pulling: 15 months
Ease of cultivation: Easy

Soil facts
· 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.

Planting
Plant in hole and set bud just below surface and firm after planting. Holes should be 36in (90cm) apart in every direction.

Calendar
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.

Harvesting
· 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.

Varieties
Hawke’s Champagne: Deep red stems make this one of the most attractive varieties. Reliable and early – an old favourite but still a good choice.
The Sutton: Earns its place in this list by producing the largest stalks of all and by not running to seed.
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 spring.

Troubles
Crown Rot
Honey Fungus


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