Growing your own rhubarb; top tips.
RHUBARB is a peculiarly British fruit which thrives in our cool climate. It is hardy to at least -15[degrees]C and grows best on moisture retentive soils of high organic content.
As it can crop for 20 years, pay attention to soil preparation prior to planting. Choose an open sunny position with plenty of room and incorporate lots of organic manure or compost into your soil.
Container-grown plants and pre-packed crowns will be in garden centres for the next few weeks. Do not harvest any stems the first year and only take a light crop in the second year. Thereafter pull heavily until the quality deteriorates, then let leaves grow to build up the crown for the following year.
Timperley Early is widely grown. Holsteiner Blut and Red Champagne have vivid red stems and Pink Champagne is said to have good flavour. Grandad''s Favourite is a heavy cropper and Victoria can be grown from seed, reducing risk of virus infection.
Commercial growers force rhubarb for early crops. The area around Leeds and Wakefield is known as the Rhubarb Triangle, the forcing capital of the world.
Crowns are lifted and brought into dark, heated forcing sheds to encourage them to crop. Harvesting is done by candlelight to prevent stalks turning green and bitter.
In the garden place a bucket, bin or terracotta forcing pot over the crown in January. Mulching with straw also helps raise the temperature around the crown. Mulch with manure or compost in autumn, and apply a high nitrogen fertilizer in spring. Remove any flowering stems.