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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Rhubarb Growing in the Hot Desert?

Q. I would like to grow my own rhubarb. Could you tell me where I can find the plant or the bulb, and when would be a good season to start?
Not my picture of rhubarb but I figured some readers have never seen it. From Wikipedia By Dieter Weber (User:Uellue) - own work, photo taken in a private garden in Kiel, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=743387 

A. Rhubarb can be grown in our climate but it is commonly grown in more northerly states including the Midwest, upper Midwest, Pacific Northwest and New England. It is less commonly found in warmer climates. So, it can be tricky to grow here.
            It is technically classified as an herbaceous perennial which means it’s large leaves and fleshy petioles comes from underground rhizomes, much like iris, artichokes and asparagus. All the top growth freezes back to the ground with the first hard frost. If it doesn’t freeze back in our climate, cut it to the ground in late winter.
Image result for rhubarb rhizome
Rhubarb rhizome for showing growth from  http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/propagating
            Seeds are available but start it from a good-sized rhizome instead. They are a bit pricey. Order them online from a reliable seed company.
            Rhubarb will struggle in our heat. There are complaints from people that it doesn’t taste the same when grown in cool climates. Probably true. Grow it on the north or east side of a building and keep it out of late, hot afternoon sunlight. It needs plenty of sunlight in the morning, but not the afternoon.
            Amend the soil with quality compost at the time of planting. Mix compost with your existing landscape soil at a rate of 1:1 by volume or use a bagged, commercial soil planting mix amended with compost.
            Never cover the soil with rock mulch or plastic but use 2 to 3 inches of wood chips instead. Fertilize it with compost or a lawn fertilizer in late December to mid-January. It comes out of the ground early.
            The leaves are toxic so cut off the leaves and compost them. The leaf stems or petioles are what people eat provided it's cooked with a lot of sugar. 

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