How to Grow Rhubarb from Seed: A Comprehensive Guide

Growing your own rhubarb can be a rewarding endeavor, especially when you start from seed. The tart, sweet flavor of home-grown rhubarb is unbeatable, and with proper attention and care, you can grow an abundant crop right in your backyard. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the necessary steps, from planting to harvest.

1. Choosing Your Rhubarb Seeds

The first step in growing rhubarb from seed is selecting the best seeds. There are different varieties of rhubarb, each with their own unique characteristics. Some are more cold-hardy, while others are better suited to warmer climates. Do some research and choose a variety that will grow well in your specific location.

Remember that rhubarb is a perennial plant, so it’s important to have a plant that can withstand your local weather conditions. Also, note that rhubarb grown from seed may not look like the parent plant due to genetic variation. If you’re seeking uniformity, consider rhubarb crowns or divisions instead.

2. Preparing the Soil

Rhubarb plants thrive in well-drained, fertile soil. Ideally, your soil should be slightly acidic to neutral — a pH of around 6.0 to 7.0. You can add compost or well-rotted manure to improve soil fertility. Remember, a healthy start can mean a more productive plant in the long run.

Choose a sunny or partially shaded area of your garden for rhubarb. The plant requires at least six hours of sunlight each day. Although rhubarb can tolerate some shade, full sun will produce the best results.

3. Planting Your Rhubarb Seeds

To start planting your rhubarb seeds, make small furrows in the soil about 1/2 inch deep. Sow the seeds in these furrows and lightly cover them with soil. It’s important to maintain some distance between each seed to give the plants adequate space to develop their broad foliage and establish a strong root system.

After sowing, water the soil thoroughly. Regular watering is crucial in the initial growth stages of the rhubarb. Be careful not to waterlog your soil, however, as this could drown the seedlings. The soil should be moist, but not soaked.

4. Care and Maintenance

With rhubarb, patience is key. It might take a few weeks for your seeds to germinate. As your rhubarb plants grow, mulch around them to suppress weeds, conserve moisture, and slow the spread of any disease. Feeding with a high-potash fertiliser in summer can support leafy growth and encourage a healthy root system.

Remember not to harvest your rhubarb in the first year, as the plants need time to establish. From the second year, you can begin to harvest the stalks in spring and early summer when they reach around 12 to 14 inches in length.

5. Troubleshooting Common Problems

Growers may encounter a few common issues when cultivating rhubarb from seed. One problem is bolting, where the plant produces a flowering stalk. This usually happens due to stress conditions, such as a sudden change in temperature. If your rhubarb plant bolts, simply cut off the flowering stalk at the base to direct energy back into the plant.

Another common problem is root rot, typically resulting from overly wet soil. To prevent this, ensure that your rhubarb is planted in well-drained soil and try not to over-water. Regular inspections can help catch disease early, allowing prompt treatment and further prevention.

“Frequently Asked Questions”1. Can I Plant Rhubarb Seeds Indoors?

Yes, you can plant rhubarb seeds indoors. Doing so allows you to control the environmental conditions and give the seeds a head start before transplanting them outside once the weather is more favorable.

2. When is the Best Time to Plant Rhubarb Seeds?

Early spring is generally the best time to plant rhubarb seeds outdoors when the risk of frost has passed. If starting indoors, you can start even earlier, typically 6-8 weeks before the last expected frost date.

3. How Long Does it Take for Rhubarb to Grow from Seed?

Rhubarb can take anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks to germinate. It then takes two to three years from sowing before a full harvest can be taken, but some stalks may be ready to harvest as soon as the second spring.