How and when to divide rhubarb plants

I’m not a cake girl, but you can make an exception for the rhubarb and strawberry shortbread. In fact, anything with rhubarb in it is easy to put in my mouth. Maybe because it reminds me of the good old days when my great-grandmother used to make the cake crust more flaky with butter, filled with scarlet berries and rhubarb. Its stems seemed to require very little care and came out reliably year after year, but realistically, I’m sure that dividing the rhubarb plants was one of her garden tasks. So the question is, how and when do we share the rhubarb.

Why is the division of rhubarb plants necessary?

The stems of the leaves and petioles of rhubarb are mainly used in confectionery and are therefore considered a fruit. In fact, rhubarb is a vegetable, but because of its high acidity, it lends itself very well to cakes, pies, jams and other sweets.

Rhubarb is a perennial plant that requires very little care and we can be sure that it will come back every spring. However, if your plant is pre-millennium, it may be time to cool it down a bit. Why? The root is old and hard and will favour stems less than the higher quality stems. Split rhubarb will give new life to the plant. Rhubarb is usually harvested during the cool early spring months; however, splitting the rhubarb plant can extend the harvest period into the summer months.

When to split rhubarb

To renew your rhubarb plant, you will want to dig up the root and divide it. Dividing rhubarb plants should be done in early spring, as soon as the soil warms up enough to work it and before the tender new shoots appear.

How to divide rhubarb

Separating your rhubarb plants is not an exact science. Just dig around the root group (6 cm deep) and pull the whole plant out of the ground. Divide the root ball into sections containing at least one shoot and up to two or three strongly rooted shoots, cutting the crown between the shoots. Very old plants will have roots as dense as wood, so you may need the help of an axe. Don’t worry, this is the only difficult part of dividing the plant.

Remember that the more shoots there are, the more the plant will be divided. You can get a larger plant by replanting small root divisions with a single shoot in the same hole. Plant the new divisions as soon as possible; otherwise they will begin to dry out, reducing the chances of a healthy transplant. However, if you don’t have time to finish the work immediately, put the root divisions in a plastic bag and store them in the refrigerator. Before transplanting, soak the refrigerated sections in room temperature water overnight.

Choose a planting site in full sun with a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.5. If your soil is particularly dense, form a raised bed of 4 to 6 cm to increase drainage before planting the new crowns. Modify the soil with 1-2 pounds of 12-12-12 fertilizer per 100 square feet of bedding, as well as fertilizer and a handful of rock phosphate or bone meal for each planting hole. Place plants 2 to 3 feet apart in rows of 3 to 5 feet. Plant the new crowns 5 cm deep so that the buds are just below the surface. Pack around the crowns, water well and mulch the plants with 5 cm of straw.

The following spring, rake the straw from the plants and place 2-3 cm of compost around the plants; do not cover the crown. Add a layer of straw on top of the manure. Add an additional 3 cm of straw as the manure decomposes.

Finally, if you want to extend the harvesting season of your rhubarb, make sure to cut off the stem of the seed of the plant. Making the seeds tells the plant that everything is done for the season. By cutting the seeds, the plant will continue to produce delicious ruby red stems, prolonging the delicious season of rhubarb and strawberry shortbread.

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