Growing Rhubarb In Pots
Rhubarb is an herb that originates in Siberia. It is easy to grow and wild varieties can often be found in gardens of old houses even though they are not being cared for.
A good variety of rhubarb can live up to 15-20 years as long as it is well maintained. When you have the proper conditions at your disposal, you can start growing rhubarb in pots.
Starting your cultivation
Rhubarb loves the sun, so it is best to choose a garden spot that has the most hours of sun hours in the day. It can tolerate some shade, but full sun is still the best. Growing rhubarb in containers can be very ideal as it doesn’t like to be transplanted once established.
When in containers, you can freely move it around without disturbing their root system. The best time to plant rhubarb is around early spring. This way, your crops will be established once winter sets in.
The specifications of your pot or container
When growing rhubarb in pots, the size of your container is very important. Rhubarb needs a lot of room for the roots to grow, so a small container is out of the question. A small container will result to your rhubarb’s failure to thrive.
No matter how much fertilizer and water you put it, the plant will still die because of restricted root growth. You can choose a container that can hold 3 cubic feet of soil at the very least. You can grow twice as big if you want, but remember that you will only be planting one plant in one container.
If your area is particularly hot, choose a light-colored container to prevent over-heating the roots. Dark-colored pots will be needed if you are in a cooler climate. Plastic containers are ideal as they do not leach water from the plant and they are more durable and less expensive. Do not choose a container that will be too large for you to move.
You need to place your plants inside the house before hard frosts have arrived.
Preparing your soil or potting mix
Soil parameters should be considered when growing rhubarb in containers. Have a soil that has a pH of 5.0-6.8. Adjust the pH by using lime if it is too acidic and sulfur if it is alkaline.
Ordinary garden soil from your back yard is not preferred. This soil contains a lot of weeds, fungus, bacteria, and other pathogens and pests that can harm your plant.
Purchase a good potting mix in your garden soil. Cheap potting mix is almost just like garden soil that retains water and clumps together.
Invest in a good quality potting mix to help your plant grow healthy. Potting mix sold in garden soil is made up of equal parts of pasteurized soil, perlite, vermiculite, or sphagnum moss as well as aged compost.
Incorporate a good amount of compost to keep give your soil a good start. You can use a slow-release fertilizer, although compost is preferred for organic gardening.
You can grow rhubarb from seeds although it will add a year to your cultivation before you can harvest your crops. You have a high probability of producing a crop that is different from the mother plant if you use seeds when growing rhubarb in pots. Sow in the seeds and cover them with soil. Water them and maintain a soil that is moist but not wet. Thin your crops to one plant per container when 4 true leaves have formed.
For a more successful and shorter cultivation, start your crops from healthy root divisions taken from a well-established plant. You can ask a neighbor to give you one and she will be more than happy to give them to you.
Set your root division 4-6 weeks prior to the last average frost date in spring when growing rhubarb in containers. Dig a hole in the center of your container that is twice the size of your crown and in a depth that will let you place your crowns in leaving only the tips exposed.
Fill in the hole gradually and pat the soil to remove air pockets until you reach the top soil level of your pot. Water your plant well by giving it water until it leaks through the drainage holes.
Mulch your crown with compost, taking care to keep a 2 inch clearance from your crown.
Care and Harvesting
Growing rhubarb in pots requires more care compared to growing them on the ground. You need to consider the watering and nourishing your crops to compensate for the lack of space in your pot.
Always make sure you water your crops regularly especially during warm summer days. Protect your crops during hot spells by covering them with cloth covers. Make sure you give them nourishment by using a good amount of slow-release fertilizers.
However, there is a danger of giving your crops too much nitrogen when using commercial fertilizers so it is best to just mulch your crops with compost and give them a side-dressing of compost tea every week or two.
Keep your plants healthy by dividing your crops every 5 to 6 years during the dormant season. This is usually around wintertime. A plant can be divided up to 4 crowns. Use a spade to divide your rhubarb, giving each crown division a large bud.
This bud is highly important as this would be where your crops will produce new shoots. Let your plants grow for more than a year before you harvest your rhubarb. Harvesting early may weaken the plant, causing it to die prematurely.
Harvest your rhubarb by pulling the stalk sideways and down. Start from the outer side of the crop and leave at least 4 stalks at the center of your plant. This will leave your rhubarb with enough leaves to sustain itself and produce more stalks for harvesting.
Do not be surprised if you end up growing green stalks when growing rhubarb in containers. What you can do is just ignore the green stalks and mark out stalks that are red. Be sure to divide your crops with the bud and red stalk together so you can produce red rhubarbs in your new divisions.
Forcing is done when you want to harvest earlier than scheduled. Also, this will help produce a sweeter, more succulent stems as you are concentrating the sugars in just one area. Forcing your crop is done the moment the shoots start to develop.
Choose a pot that has a hole in the bottom so it will grow straight up. Place the pot upside down on the plant and let it stay there until the shoots emerge on the hole of the pot.
Aerate your crops by removing the pot for a few minutes when the sun comes down to prevent botrytis rot.
Keep weeds under control when growing rhubarb in pots by tilling the soil and pulling them out once they start to show.
Slugs can also be a problem with rhubarb and can be prevented by making sure you do not flood your crops with too much water. Harvest your rhubarb by cutting the stem at the base with the use of a sharp knife.
If you want to put some muscle into it, you can just pull the entire stalk from the crown. Cut out and dispose of the rhubarb leaves as they are poisonous. You can even make organic pesticides out of it by letting it steep in hot water and spraying it on foliage.
Cut out any flowers so your plant will have more energy to produce sweeter stems.