Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club (http://www.paulparent.com/) sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM.
"If you are looking for the hardiest perennial vegetable for your garden, look no further than the rhubarb! Rhubarb is a plant native to Siberia, Russia. It was first grown for medicinal purpose but quickly became used for food. Because there were no early fruits available in April, the rhubarb plant filled the need for a fruit substitute.
The stems of the rhubarb are tart and can be eaten raw when lots of white sugar is used. When cooked, it is delicious added to sweetened sauces and desserts, and is wonderful mixed with strawberries in a pie. It was very popular 50 years ago, but today many berries and fruit are shipped into this country from all over the world, and rhubarb has lost its appeal. Today it is an acquired taste--and those gardeners who dare to taste it love it.
I like the looks of the giant leaves in the garden as much as the taste of the red stems. Remember one thing: the leaves of the rhubarb are poisonous so remove them and add them to your compost pile. If you notice that large stems with white flowers develop from the center of the plant, remove them as they will steal the energy from the plant to make seed.
Rhubarb should be planted in your garden during April or May. Start with a big hole filled with compost or well rotted animal manure. Rhubarb is a heavy feeder and needs to be fertilized during the summer, when the harvest is over. Summer fertilizer helps the plant to rebuild itself for next year. Select a location in your garden with full sun all day. Loosen the soil and add organic matter like compost if your soil is clay base. Rhubarb will grow better if the soil is neutral to acid. If you have a compost pile, spread fresh compost around the plant every spring to get it off to a good start.
Rhubarb will be in your garden for a long time and it needs space to grow, so be sure you allow at least a 3' square space for it to grow. The large arching stems with large fan-like leaves will fill in that space in no time at all. Also, do not pick the rhubarb for the first year. The plant will need all the energy it makes to become established in its new home--your garden. When the plant is ready to be harvested, just twist the stems at the base and pull up. Never pick more than half of the leaves from the plant during the season. You must leave some stems so the plant is able to make food to replace the stems you harvested.
Rhubarb is good for you and contains vitamins C and K. It is also a good source for magnesium, calcium, potassium and manganese. If you need fiber, this plant has that too.
Rhubarb is relatively problem-free--an occasional hole in the leaf now and then is not a problem. Keep the plant healthy by feeding in spring and during the summer. Water rhubarb often during the hot days of summer! If your soil is on the sandy side, water your rhubarb more often. Now you are ready for years of enjoyment."