Rhubarb thrives in good, deep rich soil. Although often thought of as having few demands, a good rich soil will result in far better quality and yield.
Good rhubarb is impossible to buy in the shops so you really should think about affording some space for a couple of clumps which will last you for many years and provide bountiful crops of tender, luscious sticks. Space 5-6' apart. Any odd corner will do, a little shade is acceptable and Rhubarb is often seen growing near to the compost heap where it can feed off the richness of the residue!
The most important aspect of concern in ensuring good rhubarb is that of stock origination. Make sure you buy disease free stock. This is vitally important as a lot of older stocks were decimated by disease and lack vigour. Buy from a specialist wherever possible.
Cultivation notes for Rhubarb
Avoid planting clean stocks of rhubarb on soil where old stocks of rhubarb have been growing and preferably not where brassicas have grown the previous year. Rhubarb will establish and grow well on a wide range of soil but sites with bad drainage should be avoided, dig the site deeply and mix in compost etc. before planting. Plant firmly and be sure to level a thin layer of soil over the buds and then tread firmly again to ensure that the soil ‘hugs’ the newly planted crowns. Plant 3 feet apart.
PLANTING POT RAISED PLANTS. Cut off the very large leaves as these usually wither and die if planting in the Summer. Thoroughly soak the pots prior to planting (approximately half an hour) and allow them to drain. Tear off the whale hide container before planting as if left on, this will result in poor establishment.
GENERAL CULTURE. Water as necessary in Spring and Summer and avoid pulling sticks the first year, In future years never pull off all sticks at one time, always leaving at least two sticks with leaves. This ensures that the plant is strengthened again for the next season. If flowering seed heads appear these should be removed as they show because they will only exhaust the plant.
FEEDING. Feed in early Spring with Sulphate of Ammonia at 2oz per square yard or with a general Growmore fertilizer at 4oz per square yard if you feel this is necessary. If your soil is acid an occasional dressing of lime may be required.
FORCING. Crops intended for forcing should be planted for at least 18 months before forcing. Cover crowns with straw or a similar material in January and place upturned dustbins, boxes, buckets etc., over them. Sheltered in the darkness the buds will quickly produce long tender stalks and by late April the covering should be removed and the crown allowed to grow normally. Do not use the same crown for forcing for another two years for the best results.
Good varieties of Rhubarb
Timperley Early Although sometimes derided in favour of newer varieties, this remains hands down the best all round variety. It forces excellently from February or earlier and can be pulled over a long period.
Champagne has super-sweet sticks.
Cawood Delight is legendary and sought after for it;s brilliant red sticks but such a feeble grower best left to the enthusiast.
Victoria is valuable for its late season.
Other varieties of note - Prince Albert, Glaskins Perpetual, The Sutton, Reeds Early Superb.