Rhubarb is a perennial grown for its leaf stalks. The leaves are poisonous so should not be eaten. Stalks may be eaten throughout the season except for the concerns given below. Rhubarb tolerates most soils but is best on fertile loams with a good supply of organic matter. It is very vigorous on muck. Rhubarb should be planted at the edge of the garden in spring or early fall. Space crowns 3 feet apart and rows 5 feet apart. Cover the buds with at least one inch of soil. Firm the soil around the roots but keep it loose over the buds. Water the crowns after planting. Plants may be started from seed but it takes 2 years to get a harvest. Give the plant 1/4 cup of 5-10-10 worked in to the top 10 inches of soil at planting time. Each spring give each plant 1 cup of fertilizer, applied in a circle around the plant when growth starts. Rhubarb responds to good care and watering. Remove the flower stalks as they are seen. Divide the plants when the stalks get small and spindly. Divide in the spring with each division getting a portion of old root and some buds.
Rhubarb is not harvested the season it is planted and is only harvested lightly the second year. At any given time, harvest less than 1/3 of the stalks from any one plant. The harvest season is from early May to early July. Rhubarb may be harvested later but very few stalks should be taken from any one plant. Harvest rhubarb by grasping the stalk near the base and giving a sharp jerk sideways. If the stalk is grasped too high it snaps in two.
Rhubarb is usually not stored but can be forced. Dig 2 years or older crowns before the ground freezes. Leave them on top of the ground until exposed to several hard freezes. Leave as much soil as possible on the roots and move them to a dark area with a temperature of 50 to 65 degrees. Cover the crowns with sand and keep them moist. The rhubarb will be ready for harvest in about 4 weeks. If the plants are to be set back outside, harvest only 4 to 5 stalks from each plant. After the harvest, set the plants outside and protect them with mulch. They can be replanted in the spring. For longer harvests bring a few roots in at one time.