Welcome to my website in which I record my activities growing Organic Fruit. I am seriously limited for space, so I have to be smart about what I grow. The best way to maximise yield in a given space is to grow tall plants, but I wanted as much variety as possible, so my more recent additions have been dwarf fruit trees.........................................John Ashworth 27th July 2015.
Latest Update 8th August 2016.
The photo shows a 15 months old rhubarb plant in late spring It was propagated by division from a 4th generation plant, latest in a line of plants going back 25 years.
It grows well in my soil and has been pest free until 2 years ago when Harlequin Beatles took a liking to it, and I am now having trouble getting rid of them.
The stems of rhubarb are edible but the leaves are poisonous to humans and domestic animals (but definitely not to harlequin bugs). Care should be taken when handling the leaves.
The poisonous oxalic acid in rhubarb leaves is neutralised in the compost heap and any part of the plant can be recycled safely.
rhubarb was used medicinally as a herb (as a laxative). In more recent
times it has been grown as a vegetable and used like a fruit in pies
I stew rhubarb stalks with apples sweetened with sugar to make a pie filler, and make jams accompanied by blackberries or ginger. I usually maintain a few jars of each of them after sterilizing them in a pressure cooker.
Rhubarb grows all year round in Melbourne, although it slows down in winter and will lose a few leaves if we get a frost (becoming rare).
Family Group: Polygonaceae.
Garden bed type: Drip line irrigated organic bed.
Recommended soil pH: 5.5 - 7.0.
Minimum Sun per Day: 5 hours.
Plant Spacings (centres): 1000mm.
Weeks to Harvest: 52 after planting , then continuously.
Climate: Warm Temperate.
Geographic Hemisphere: Southern.
Rhubarb grows best in full sun, but it will tolerate partial shade.
They grow continuously in our warm temperate climate, but growth slows a lot in winter.
prefer well drained soil, but the soil needs to be kept moist.
They withstand hot dry weather so long as they have plenty of water.
They benefit from a thick layer of mulch in summer.
Spring, clear a space for the rhubarb by removing old mulch, dead leaves
and unwanted organic material. Choose a place where it has not been
grown for several years.
Apply a top dressing of home made compost at a rate of 60 litres /M2 and cultivate gently to 100mm depth.
You can lift
and divide a mature rhubarb plant to make more plants. Its best to do
this in winter using plants more than 5 years old.
Look for the new
shoots or crowns and cut the old plant into pieces with a spade. Each
piece must contain a crown with plenty of roots attached.
Divide the plant in
winter and plant the pieces in your prepared soil. Bury the roots
leaving the crowns exposed and water them in well.
plant can be moved at any age, but should be relocated every 3 years to well
prepared new soil for maximum vigour.
They live a
long time (up to 20 years), but are heavy feeders and to optimise
quality and output, you need to keep them well fed with plenty of
compost applied as a top dressing each spring.
Once the plants are established cover the soil with fresh mulch and apply a foliar spray of aerated compost tea every 4 weeks.
Water frequently when its hot and dry in summer.
Harvesting and Storage
Rhubarb can be harvested at any time once the plant is well established.
Begin using the stalks as soon as the plant is large enough to spare
harvest the plants stalks, as the leaves and roots are poisonous.
However, these leaves and roots can be safely disposed of in your
Take stalks from the perimeter of the plant and break them off from the base with a sharp sideways tug.
Trim off the leaves
and after washing chop them into 25mm long pieces and stew them in a
small amount of water with plenty of sugar sprinkled on them. As they
heat up, they release water from their cells, so not much added water is
We usually mix the rhubarb with apples 50% each and after stewing, bottle them for future use.
I hunt them early in the morning (summer) when they are
still slow. When I see one of them there are usually 3
or 4 more hidden in the foliage close by. I place a bucket under the bugs and tap the leaves they are feeding on.
strategy is to drop to the ground out of reach in dense foliage, but I
catch them in my bucket and summarily execute them.
wonderful mentor on all things organic in the garden Peter Cundall
former presenter of the ABC's Gardening Australia program sprays a
strong detergent solution onto the bugs. It gets into their breathing
tubes and suffocates them.