The question of the day is, “Can you have too much Rhubarb?” I would say no. I have four rhubarb patches. Patches not plants as I use a lot of rhubarb. The other day I chopped 87 cups of rhubarb for jams, pies and crisps from one picking.
With all the rain this spring, the rhubarb will be growing and growing. Remember to break off any of the seed stalks the plant may shoot up during the spring. You don’t want the energy going to the flowers and seeds right now, if you want to save seeds to grow more plants, wait until later in the summer. You want your rhubarb to continue to grow through at least the end of July, last year I had rhubarb until September.
Never take more than one-third of your stalks at any one time and if your plant is young be especially careful of this. Now, people may have told you not to pick your rhubarb for the first year or two, some even will go so far as to say four years. Poppy cock! Even in your first year if your plant gets large, twist off some of the stalks. I wait until they are at least 18 inches long, I grab at the base of the stalk and twist to remove the rhubarb. The leaves are toxic so you cannot eat them, but I do compost them, I also use them to make concrete rhubarb leaves for steppingstones and bird baths. I use a sharp knife to trim off the leaves.
Plants can be propagated by seeds or by dividing a large plant. In early spring or late fall when the plant dies back, take a sharp spade and cut the plant in half, that way you are sure both halves have a good root system. Dig up one have and place it in a hole at about the same depth as it was before, leave the other one there. Put compost around both plants and I use my foot to press the compost around the plant. Water well. Having said that I have seen rhubarb plants that have been buried in a pile of dirt make their way up to the surface.
Today I planted my fifth rhubarb patch and with ten beautiful plants I grew from seed this year. I started them this last winter and grew them under lights, transplanting them as they grew. Most have 5 to 8 healthy stalks ranging from 8 to 14 inches high. I planted them with good soil that was mixed with rabbit manure. This patch will get early morning sun and be in the shade by three o’clock and will be shaded the rest of the day. It is next to another patch so I know it will be successful.
All my patches have various degrees of sun, from complete full sun all day to as little as about 6 hours a day. All grow beautifully. I have mostly “Victoria”, which I have grown from seed, but I was given a plant and I can’t say for sure it is the same. Rhubarb comes in red, green, red-green and pink. Being that we are zone 4, I would recommend this variety. It is hardy, produces well, can be used in jams, jellies, breads, pies, cobblers, crisps and I have a great recipe for rhubarb BBQ sauce that the Victorian cooks used to use.
I hope you will consider this plant in your garden or yard. Stalks can be eaten raw, dip the stalk in sugar and enjoy. As kids we eat raw rhubarb all the time, we also used them to sword fight with.