Can you Grow Rhubarb from Seed?
The most common form of propagating Rhubarb is crown
division, but like many plants it is also possible to buy Rhubarb Seed. So, a
few years ago wanting to make a large patch of Rhubarb rather than buy a Rhubarb crown I decided to buy some
Rhubarb seed and try to grow Rhubarb from seed.
When we sowed the seed I used the same basic techniques as I mentioned in sowing seed indoors.
The seedlings took quite well, and so we transplanted them into separate containers, and let them grow on for several months. Then we hardened them off. The resulting plants looked quite healthy.
When planting rhubarb it is important to put it on top of large amounts of nutrients. Preparing the soil is important, and In the old days people used to put them on the compost heap. In my case a lot of manure sufficed. When we planted them in our kitchen garden we used a bed of compost and poultry manure since we keep chickens.
Where is the best place to plant Rhubarb?
Rhubarb is a plant that needs a lot of shade. It doesn’t do too well if it is left to dry out. So the best place to plant it is probably under trees, or anywhere where it isn’t too bright. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a choice of where to plant it, and it is in a brighter spot than is really ideal so sometimes we need to give it a lot of water or it dies back in the hot summer sun.
Problems with growing from seed
I think the main thing we noticed is that it took a lot longer to get a decent harvest. You can’t force Rhubarb grown from seed for the first three years. Doing it this way is defiantly a long term investment. Whereas people who grow the Rhubarb from a crown will get their first crop much faster.
In addition to this I found that for some reason Rhubarb grown from seed is much more prone to bolting. In fact, I would say that for the first four years, we had to regularly remove flowers where the Rhubarb was trying to set seed.
I think part of this was that the Rhubarb was in too sunny a position, but Rhubarb grown from seed is more likely to be distressed for the first few years.
Rhubarb crowns are very expensive, and if you want a really large Rhubarb patch it can cost a lot to buy them from the garden centre. Once they are established there is not much difference between a bought rhubarb plant and one grown from seed.
What to use the Rhubarb for.
A lot of people make Rhubarb Jam, and Rhubarb Crumble. Other people use it to make an ice cream that is more delicious than you would think. Most people eat Rhubarb with cream, because it contains oxalic acid which is neutralised by dairy products.
Maintenance of Rhubarb Plants
The main requirements for looking after rhubarb plants are to divide the clumps when they get too large, make sure they are watered, and give them extra food each year. Rhubarb is a hungry plant. So mulching the soil around them with compost or very well rotted manure is a great idea. You also need to stop any hardy perennial weeds growing in the bed, so be ruthless at removing seedlings.
Other than that, they are a very easy plant. Probably the most easy fruit plant to grow (and yes, I know technically they are a vegetable, but everyone eats them as a fruit).
For the first few weeks you need to keep them protected from neighborhood cats, using a cloche, to stop the cats from digging them up.