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Rhubarb – How to grow the perfect “pieplant”

Chipman's Canada Red Rhubarb

Chipman’s Canada Red Rhubarb

When I was in my late twenties we moved to a ranch-style house outside of a small town in central Ohio. My husband, in an effort to keep track of our two dogs, immediately paid to have the yard fenced in. I had lobbied for this house because it had fruit trees- peach, two apple, and a pear. I also saw a grapevine and, as I love preserves, I was ready to unpack my mason jars and fire up the boiler. I was delighted when a row of gorgeous old fashioned peonies popped up in the spring, and as I was investigating I found a dirt row that ran near the grapevine and started planning what vegetables I would try to grow there. I decided I likely had to pull the few weeds that were sprouting up- including what appeared to be a monster weed anchoring one end. As I approached with my sleeves rolled up, gloves on, clutching my favorite shovel with a heavily toothed edge, my neighbor was hanging her clothes out on the line and yelled “Don’t you touch that rhubarb!”

I had almost hacked apart and unceremoniously dug up and tossed out the easiest perennial vegetable to grow!  With very little care, rhubarb performs year after year. Rhubarb likes a sunny spot, cool climates, and well-drained soil. Crowns should ideally be planted 1 to 2 inches below the soil surface in a hole that is 3 feet wide and about 1.5 feet deep. Mulch in spring and fall with grass clippings, and make sure to trim off any seedstalks that form. Seems really easy- and it is.

Victoria Rhubarb

Victoria Rhubarb

The only way I ate rhubarb growing up was in strawberry-rhubarb pie. This tart and tangy plant can also be used as a savory seasoning in sauces for meat and fish, and most of us have had some type of rhubarb preserves. Interested in planting rhubarb? Gurney’s does offer old-fashioned Victoria. It’s an heirloom variety and deer resistant, and doesn’t get stringy when you cook with it. Of the newer varieties, I’m most interested in Chipman’s Canada Red Rhubarb which also happens to be a Gurney’s Choice. The intense red color and flavor doesn’t fade, and that would be a plus when making preserves and pies. Have some rhubarb growing tips to share, or a recipe? Let us know in the comments!

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2 comments to Rhubarb – How to grow the perfect “pieplant”

  • Raygina

    We have some rhubarb that hasn’t been dug or divided in 20+ years. Mom swears that if we do, it will all die. We get some good sized stalks but most are very small.
    Any suggestions?
    Thanks.

    • Lauren Karch

      I spoke with our Gurney’s expert and they recommend dividing it — here’s a good step by step guide for dividing – http://rhubarbinfo.com/propagating
      Most sources say you should divide every 3 to 4 years

      However, since the plant is 20+ years old it may just be running out of steam and that’s why the stalks are small. That’s a pretty good run for a rhubarb plant, again, most sources say a well cared for rhubarb plant will live up to 20 years.

      Happy Gardening!

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