Rhubarb is a hardy perennial that will last for 10-15 years in a well maintained patch. Choose a location with rich, well-drained soil, in full sun, apart from your annual vegetables so the soil won’t be disturbed every year. Since you are building a foundation for years of production, take the time to work the soil 1 1/2 to 2 feet deep using Johnson’s Soil Recipe plus cow manure.
Rhubarb should be planted in the early spring about the same time as Irish Potatoes. Plant in a shallow trench so each bud is about 1/2 to 1 inch below the soil surface. Plants should be 2-3 feet apart in the row and 4-5 feet between rows.
For high production and thick spears follow a twice-a-year feeding program. Make one application of granular ferti•lome Gardener’s Special (11-15-11) before growth starts in the spring. Feed again after harvest with a higher nitrogen fertilizer like ferti•lome Start-N-Grow. This will promote good summer foliage growth.
Don’t harvest the first year. Cut off any flowers that develop. Limit harvest to a few stalks the second year. For established plants the harvest season lasts about 8 weeks beginning as soon as stalks are large enough to use. Harvest only the largest and best stalks. The stalks should break off easily if they are pulled slightly to one side. After the 8 weeks harvest season, allow remaining stalks to grow and develop foliage for a healthy crop next year.
It’s good practice to use a mulch over rhubarb plantings to reduce weed growth, to provide winter protection and to prevent moisture loss. Apply mulch in the fall and pull it back in early spring to allow the soil to warm and promote early growth. Later in the season the mulch can be worked into the soil around the plants.