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Rhubarb Harvesting and Problems
Although rhubarb is relatively simple to grow, a few problems can sometimes occur with this edible crop.
Rhubarb can Bolt
Bolting is when a rhubarb plant blooms prematurely. This can be caused by a number of factors that include overcrowding, poor soil, and weather. Typically, here in western North Carolina this is caused by unseasonably warm weather during the spring. Generally, the mostly likely ones to bolt are older plants and those varieties with red stalks.
Some Other Possible Problems of Rhubarb
Rhubarb is generally easy to grow plants that are relatively pest and disease free compared to some other vegetables.
However, rhubarb can sometimes be prone to certain problems. Slugs are one possible pest. These plants are unbothered by deer and other browsing animals.
I was surprised to learn that saddleback caterpillars will feed on the underside of the leaves. Normally, these caterpillars prefer corn plants but when my corn died back at the end of the summer they moved to the rhubarb.
One other insect that can sometimes attack the plant is the rhubarb curculio. This can be controlled by destroying the affected plant parts and removing any wild dock plants that are growing nearby for these harbor the pest.
One potential problem that can sometimes occur is root rot. This is basically untreatable. The only solution is to destroy the entire plantódonít compost it.
Root rot is most likely to happen in poorly drained soils. If that describes your garden soil, try growing rhubarb in raised beds to prevent the disease.
Rhubarb can sometimes experience problems with leaf spots. This is mostly likely to be during spring to early summer. Wet rainy weather can promote the problem.
Minimize leaf spot by avoiding overwatering. If the disease strikes, cut back the affected plant by removing all the foliage with leaf spot. At the end of the growing season, cut the plant to the ground for the winter.
Only half of the plantís total stalks should be harvested each year. Otherwise, the plant canít remain healthy. Harvesting can generally begin the second year.
Normally, it is best to avoid any harvest the year the crop is planted so the plant can get established. The harvest period extends for eight to twelve weeks each year, depending on climate. Halt harvest by mid-summer in cold areas where the plants go dormant for the winter.
Generally, the earliest harvest will be in spots with a southern exposure and a light sandy loam. Traditionally, the sprouting stalks of rhubarb are seen as a sign that spring is on the way.
Separate the stalk you wish to harvest from the others at the base. Snap the stalk off at the bottom. Cutting the stalk can possibly lead to rot.
Select only the best stalks for harvest. The young stems with leaves that havenít yet fully developed tend to have a delicate flavor and are more tender.
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