2017 Harvest

Friday, April 15, 2016

Rhubarb...a huge dilemma

When I think about gardeners I always think that there are 3 types of gardeners. Quick gardeners that buy 100 fully grown flower containers in one year, plant all of them and have fully grown garden in less then 2 months. Normal gardeners that have a garden filled both with bought plants and sown ones, and then there are slow lunatics like me. ;)

I buy only seeds and grow everything from seeds. It takes me twice as much time to have a nice grown plant but I still prefer to do it this way. Over the years I've noticed that with bought grown plants and bought bulbs I've had more disappointing moments than enjoyable ones. Some might remember my despair with my bought lilly bulb. That was the last time I bought any kind of bulbs or plants in the store.

This year I decided to grow rhubarb. Vegetable very popular in other parts of Europe but very rare in Croatia. Grown vegetable can be found only in old kitchen gardens and some street vegetable markets but never in stores. Rhubarb seedlings are almost impossible to find and people who grow them have seedling only for themselves or for professional use.
Also there is almost no way of getting seeds and it's a common myth that rhubarb can't be grown from seeds.

This was one of the reason I never grew it before, since I don't want seedlings, only seeds, I couldn't find any until now.
This year I managed to get some Rhubarb Glaskins seeds. Like a big nerd I searched through the internet to get as much information as I could, but the information made me more confused.

Croatian sites all say that rhubarb is almost never grown from seeds and that it's a plant difficult to grow. European sites say it's an easily grown perennial vegetable and American sites say that it's a vegetable that can be easily grown but in some parts can be grown only as annual.
The only thing all sites have in common is the fact that rhubarb grown from seeds shouldn't be harvested first year.

I've sown my rhubarb in late February and moved it outside in late March. Today I have separated it to individual containers and now I have absolutely no idea what to do with it.

 Should I grow it as an annual and force it outside in early May, or grow it as perennial and leave it in containers until it gets strong enough to form a little bush. Right now it looks to me like it is still too small for transplanting. Roots are still small and delicate and it would not survive my clay soil.

And where do I plant it? Some sites say it should go in sunny place, but my sun is like a desert sun and I have a feeling it would burn it completely. I've seen rhubarb in only one garden in my village and it is in shady place, protected from wind and rain. The more information I get the more confused it makes me

What should I do? When do I transplant my rhubarb seedlings?


  1. It's best to copy how others grow it in your area. If someone grows it in shade, you could follow that. Or, you could try half your plants in sun and half in shade.
    I'd let them get a bit more sturdy in the pots, then plant them out in late summer---giving them time enough to establish a good root system
    Good luck!

    1. Thank you for your advice :)
      Comparing with other gardeners in the area is the biggest problem here, only one person grows it and she doesn't use it at all, it's like an ornament plant to her and it looks like it didn't get much bigger over the years.
      I will definitely keep all the seedlings in pots until late summer and then see what I'll do with them.

  2. I would let them establish into decent sized plants in pots before you transplant them into the garden. We bought some new rhubarb roots last year and a planted them into a large container before planting them out in the final position. We may even leave it in the container and see how it goes on. We have clumps of rhubarb in all sorts of places on our allotment plot but generally speaking they don't to be baked in a hot dry position. If it gets very warm in summer they are fun flag and wilt so maybe have shade would be best for your garden. You could always try large containers and move them around the garden until you find a position that suits them.

    1. Thank you Sue :)
      I had no idea rhubarb can be left to grow in pots. I always thought it was an aggressive plant like Canna lily. That would actually be a good solution until I find a place for it because judging by your answer my whole vegetable garden and front yard are out of the question. Temperatures reach over 40°C there from June to September.
      I'm starting to realise why people here don't like to grow it, it's a very moody plant for our climate.
      I will try placing containers next to the woods, there's not much sun there so maybe it will like it.

  3. Yes, I think the reason that they don't grow rhubarb in your area is because the temperatures are too high in summer. But you have so many plants you can try some of them on different places of your garden and keep some in pots.
    I have some experience with sowing rhubarb, some years ago I found seeds of a very old English rhubarb cultivar 'Queen Victoria' which should taste delicious. I have sown the seeds and got many seedlings. I kept them in pots until the plants were sturdy, so I think you have to keep them in pots for another month. Then I planted them on different places in the garden in half shade. They have grown up and the second year I could harvest some, the plants get bigger after some years, they need a lot of fertilizer (cow manure) and then you can eat lots of them. But, there was one problem......'Queen Victoria' rhubarb did not taste all so good, even the plants were all different, there were red stems and green stems, the red were better than the green ones. So it's always a gamble, but gardening keeps us busy and is often fun.

    1. Yes I have lots of seedlings, every pot has two of them, they were to delicate to separate them completely. I was lucky because all my seeds germinated.
      So there is a possibility I could get different rhubarbs from this bag of seeds, I had no idea that could happen.
      I will definitely try placing them in different places around the garden and see where they like it the best.
      Thank you Janneke :)

  4. As an American in zone 5 (the state called Maine) we tend to neglect rhubarb. It is the plant that we either use for pies or let grow until we wish to do something else with it. As a kid, i would go out to the garden with a baggie of sugar and pull a few stalks, dip them in the sugar and nibble it. it has a great sweet-tartness... better than commercial candies. As pie, it could stand alone or be mixed with strawberries. It wasn't until i started reading garden blogs that i learned that rhubarb could be blanched. So i tried covering my very large, unnamed rhubarb plant with a black rubber tub to block the sun. The stalks grew sweet and more tender than i ever knew rhubarb could be. I still used the stalks only for pie (less sugar was needed) and there was definitely less "stringiness". After taking the tub off, the rest of the plant continues to grow unhindered. I have not heard until now that some US states can only have rhubarb as an annual. I can only guess it must be in states that don't have cold enough for the plants to have a dormant period or are too severely dry for periods long enough to harm the plants. We have a pretty wide climate span here, from -40 F in the northeast to over 125 F in the southwest. My grandfather grew rhubarb from seed, but i think the myth about doing so it mainly about true-to-type.


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