NDSU Extension - Ramsey County


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October 11 Horticulture Column


Wow what a last week we had!!!!  I even got back into wearing shorts and a tank top, what a sight but then who cares, I am comfortable.  People should be used to seeing me that way as that is how I dress during the summer season.  What beautiful weather for the farmer friends and for our fall landscapers.  I do wish that the lawn would quit growing as I am getting tired of mowing even thought I am probably one of the biggest proponents of a beautiful looking lawn.  Speaking of lawn care Phosphorus is one nutrient that really promotes root development in our lawns and should be applied according to labels but there is a big push on to restrict the use of Phosphorus due to soil leeching.  There are states to the east of us that have those types of restrictions in place.  Just remember always apply any lawn product according to label directions.

I have been a lot of questions lately about starting and maintaining rhubarb.  To grow rhubarb, the first thing to be aware of is that rhubarb doesn't "breed true" from seed. That means you're better off growing it from root divisions taken from the crown, or base of the plant. Choose a plant with the color of stalk that appeals to you. Red and green stalks don't taste much different, but some claim red stalks taste more like rhubarb than green ones. It might just be a mental thing. Most people prefer red stalks for the color they add to recipes. Tip: 3 to 6 plants are plenty for a family of four (with leftovers).  Common varieties of rhubarb plants include Canada Red, MacDonald, Cherry Red (red stalks), and Victoria (green stalks). To plant crowns, set them at least 4 inches deep and 3 to 4 feet apart in holes filled with generous amounts of well-aged manure or compost. Water thoroughly to prevent transplant shock. The leaves may wilt at first, but they will recover. Just be sure to keep them good and moist.  A rhubarb plant can withstand a lot of neglect, but it will do sooooo much better if you help it through the winter. After the leaves die down in the fall, bury the crowns with manure, leaf-mold, straw, compost or other organic material. In the spring, pull the mulch away from around the plants to let the sun warm the soil.                                   

How to divide rhubarb plants

Over time, rhubarb crowns become crowded, resulting in small, tough (and somewhat inedible) stalks. That's why it's important to divide your plants every 4 years or so. "My rhubarb plant doesn't produce big leaves anymore," is a common complaint. Divide plants in early spring before leaves get much taller than 6 to 10 inches. Use a shovel to slice down through the crown. Re-plant crown sections and keep them moist and mulched.


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