Gardening: Monty Don advises on how to harvest rhubarb
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As a perennial plant, rhubarb should come back year after year once planted, as long as it is done at the right time. While the crunchy stems and large leaves are hardy and easy to grow, planting it too late in the year could mean it is unable to flourish into a productive crop. According to gardening experts, timing is crucial to get rhubarb “off to a good start”, and autumn is the perfect time to add it to your garden.
When to plant rhubarb
Despite being a vegetable, rhubarb is considered to be one of the first fruits of the year.
The sweet stems are ready to pluck from the ground as early as February, and again in June, July, September and October depending on when they were planted.
There are two opportunities to plant rhubarb each year – in late spring and early autumn.
Gardening experts at Thompson and Morgan said: “Rhubarb crowns and budded pieces are best planted in autumn or spring, while the soil is warm and moist.”
This can be done in April, May, September or October.
Now is the perfect time to plant rhubarb in the UK due to the warm weather and heavy rainfall which has been recorded in recent weeks.
If you have already planted rhubarb in a pot, Thompson and Morgan explained that this can be planted out into the ground at any time of the year, as long as it is not frozen, waterlogged or experiencing drought.
How long does rhubarb take to grow?
While home-grown rhubarb is rewarding for years to come after planting, you will have to be patient when it comes to harvesting the fruit.
According to the Royal Horticultural Society, it is important to resist the temptation to harvest the flavoursome stems from new rhubarb in the first year.
Though they may look ripe and ready to eat, picking the fruit too soon will reduce its vigour and limit future growth.
You’ll be able to harvest your rhubarb two years on from the time the seeds first germinated when stalks are 12-18 inches long.
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How to plant rhubarb
The best way to plant rhubarb is from a crown rather than sowing seeds.
Crowns are offsets cut from divisions of vigorous parent plants which are usually full of roots with at least one bud.
To plant crowns in autumn, it is important to give them plenty of space in a sunny site with moist, rich soil.
Prepare the ground by thoroughly weeding the area and digging in two large buckets of manure per square metre.
Once the planting site is prepared, spread the roots of the crown so its tip is “just visible” above the soil.
Thompson and Morgan said: “When planting rhubarb crowns or budded pieces, set them so that the top of the crown sits 3cm below soil level.
“If you’re gardening on a heavy, wet soil then plant them slightly higher, so that the top of the crown sits at ground level.”
Always give rhubarb crowns plenty of space to grow by leaving around 90cm between each one.
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