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Forcing Rhubarb

Forced rhubarb

Forced rhubarb

Rhubarb is traditionally a cool-weather crop, mostly harvested in the spring and sometimes in the fall, depending on the zone in which you live. It is possible, though, to grow rhubarb even when it isn’t rhubarb season. You can force rhubarb to grow in the late winter and early spring to get some tender stalks.

Dig up the roots of plants that are about three years old. Don’t disturb the soil around the roots. Put the roots in large pots and leave them outside to enjoy the cold winter weather—several hard freezes are what they need to get them ready for forcing.

Once the roots are thoroughly chilled, bring them inside and store them in a basement with a temperature range of 50 to 65 degrees F. Cover the roots with soil, sawdust, or peat, and keep them moist (but not soggy). Keep the plants in the dark because this makes the stalks grow faster as they search for sunlight.

Harvest the stalks when they’re between 12 and 18 inches high. This harvest period will last about a month. When it’s over, put the plants outside and protect them with a layer of mulch. In the spring, replant them.

Have you ever tried forcing rhubarb? Please tell us what steps you took and if your efforts were successful.

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