Rhubarb

RhubarbRhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum)

Family: Polygonaceae
Related vegetables: none

Snapshot

  • Herbaceous perennial. Leaf stalks are harvested each year in spring. Rhubarb grows from large, fleshy rhizomes. Plant in full sun
  • NOTE: only petioles of leaves are edible. Leaf blades contain oxalic acid and are poisonous. They should be safely discarded when the leaves are harvested.
  • Medium to tall, can reach a height of 2-4 ft.
  • Plant dormant plants (called crowns) any time in early spring when the ground can be worked, starting 3-6 weeks before the average last frost date and continuing into April.
  • Begin harvest the third season after planting for about 4 weeks. Harvest for 8-10 weeks in later years. Leaves should reach 10-15” before they are picked. Estimated yield for a 10 ft row is 12 lb, about 4 lb per plant.

Rhubarb needs good drainage to prevent crown rot. If your soil does not have good drainage, grow rhubarb in a raised bed. Rhubarb does not come true from seed and is slow to establish, so crowns (rhizome with buds) are planted. Plant as early as 3-6 weeks before the average last frost date, as late as April. Before planting apply fertilizer as recommended by a soil test. If available, cover area with 2-3 inches of thoroughly composted manure and work into the soil. Crowns may be purchased or you may divide established plants. Crowns for transplanting should have at least 2 large buds. Plant the crowns 3 ft apart, minimum row spacing is 5 ft. Each plant needs 12-15 sq ft. Place crowns so buds are only 2” below the surface.

Rhubarb needs good drainage to prevent crown rot. If your soil does not have good drainage, grow rhubarb in a raised bed. Rhubarb does not come true from seed and is slow to establish, so crowns (rhizome with buds) are planted. Plant as early as 3-6 weeks before the average last frost date, as late as April. Before planting apply fertilizer as recommended by a soil test. If available, cover area with 2-3 inches of thoroughly composted manure and work into the soil. Crowns may be purchased or you may divide established plants. Crowns for transplanting should have at least 2 large buds. Plant the crowns 3 ft apart, minimum row spacing is 5 ft. Each plant needs 12-15 sq ft. Place crowns so buds are only 2” below the surface.


Asparagus

AsparagusAsparagus (Asparagus officinalis)

Family: Liliaceae
Related vegetables: Onions and related plants

Snapshot

  • Herbaceous perennial. New shoots are harvested each year in spring, usually beginning in April, perhaps a bit earlier in southern Indiana. Plant in full sun.
  • Tall, can reach a height of 6 ft.
  • Dormant plants called crowns are planted in spring. There is a light harvest the following year and a full harvest, lasting 6-8 weeks, beginning the third or fourth year and thereafter. Estimated yield for a 10 ft row is 3-4 lb.

Purchase crowns and plant in spring after the soil has warmed to about 50 °F, beginning in April and continuing through late May. Loosen soil and correct any nitrogen, phosphorous, or potassium deficiencies, as indicated by a soil test. Dig a trench no more than 5-6” deep and at least 12” across. Place a high-phosphorus fertilizer (about 0.5 lb actual P/50 ft row) in the bottom of the trench to encourage root growth. Place crowns on the bottom of the trench. Crowns should be at least 18” apart in all directions. A distance of 5 ft between rows is often recommended.

Asparagus grows quickly and will fill in. Wide spacing improves airflow and reduces diseases. Fill the trench loosely with soil. Older references recommend adding soil gradually, 2 inches at a time, as the plant grows until the trench is filled but this is not necessary. You should see leaves in a week after planting. Irrigate as needed the year of planting. Do not harvest the first year. This allows the root system to become established.