The Pie Plant

    • Plant bright and cheery primroses to brighten your flower beds and boxes.
    • Plant peas in well-drained soil for a spring crop. Protect from birds with bird netting or lightweight row cover.
    • Blueberries make delicious fruit on attractive plants that you can use in the orchard or the landscape. Choose varieties now.
    • Clean out bird houses. Remove old nesting material and scrub the inside with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water.
    • Cut branches of forsythia, pussy willow, quince, spirea, and dogwood and bring them indoors to force them into bloom.

The Pie Plant

Rhubarb – the name alone starts pie lovers’ mouths watering. Rhubarb is a very cold-hardy perennial vegetable grown for its leafstalks that have a unique tangy taste used for pies and sauces. Native to western China and Tibet, it grows best where the ground freezes in the winter. In the spring, up shoot new leaves and bright red, succulent stalks from which pies and sauces are made. While the leafstalks are edible, the leaves themselves contain oxalic acid and should not be eaten.

Rhubarb will grow and produce on most soils, but grows best in fertile, well-drained soils that have good organic matter content. Careful soil preparation will help rhubarb stay healthy and productive for many years. The planting area should be cleared of any weeds, especially tough, hard-to-control perennial weeds. Good garden drainage is essential in growing rhubarb. If necessary, build a raised bed to help ensure against rotting of the crowns.

Space rhubarb plants 3 to 4 feet apart with the crown at the surface of the soil. For each plant, prepare a large hole and mix in 3 to 4 inches of compost or well-aged manure and a handful of fertilizer such as 5-10-10. Firm the soil around the roots. Water the crowns after planting and keep them well watered, especially in hot weather.

Rhubarb responds well to fertilizing. Give each plant 1 cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer each spring applied in a circle around the plant, after you finish harvesting. Keep weeds pulled around the plants. An application of composted manure or leaves is beneficial in late fall and early winter, but do not cover the crowns as this may promote rotting.

During the first year after planting, the stalks should not be picked, since food from the leaves is needed to nourish the roots for the next year’s growth. One light picking may be taken during the second season if the plants are vigorous. Beginning the third season the stalks may be harvested by pulling them off. Choose only stalks that are 10 inches tall and one inch thick. The stalks may be harvested a 4-6 week period, as long as they are long and thick. Stop harvesting leafstalks when the plant begins to produce slender stalks, a sign that its reserves are low. Rhubarb is harvested in late May through June.

When summer temperatures rise, plants will go semi-dormant until it cools down again. In summer some stalks will grow taller – up to six feet and bear small, creamy white flowers. Just remove them as they appear as the blossom robs the nutrients from the plant and affects the quality of the stalks.

Rhubarb should be given some shade in our area. Find a good location and you will be harvesting delicious stalks for years to come. It is one of the easiest, long lasting, high yielding, great tasting, nutritious crops you can grow in your home garden.

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