Perhaps not as popular as it used to be, two or three rhubarb plants tucked in a corner of the garden can be almost neglected, yet 18 months after planting they will provide you with around 2.5kg (5.5lb) juicy stems per plant for pies and puddings at a time when little else is cropping in the garden.
A native of Siberia, rhubarb actually needs a period of frost in the winter to produce the best stalks. But even the hardiest plant will benefit from some TLC. Give it full sun or partial shade and a water retentive soil dug to a depth of 60cm (2ft) or more – its not fussy, but does prefer neutral – and it will happily last for up to 10 years. However, as rhubarb doesn’t like (or need) to be disturbed and its large leaves limit access to the ground around it, a month before planting be sure to weed the plot well and dig in as much organic matter as possible to give it a good start.
Year old rhubarb plants (or ‘crowns’) are available all year round, although by far the best time to plant rhubarb is around December, and three plants should be enough – spaced around 75cm (2ft 6in) apart for most varieties. However, some varieties need almost double that, so if you are unsure ask our staff who will be happy to advise you.
Dig a hole for each crown a little bit wider than the plant and deep enough for the plant to sit 2.5cm (1in) below the soil surface. Fill in with soil, gently firming it down to ensure no air pockets remain. Water well and mulch around the plants, but not directly above the crown. Shoots will emerge in a month or so.
NB – do not eat rhubarb leaves – they contain oxalic acid which is poisonous to humans.