For pies, crisps, syrups and more, an experienced gardener will definitely be sure to dedicate part of their garden space to rhubarb. This perennial plant, whose tart stalks are sweetened for all kinds of desserts, can live for as long as 10 years and makes an excellent ground cover. However, those of us with smaller backyards don’t always have room for this crop, so we’re trying an experiment: growing rhubarb in containers.
Some say it can’t be done, but we want to give it a good try. Armed with the knowledge of what can go wrong, we’re taking measures early in the season to help our science project succeed.
1. Plant Deep
One of the biggest problems with growing rhubarb in containers is that the plant has a strong and deep root system, so it needs plenty of space. Find the largest container possible if you want to try this with us—as close to 20 inches deep as possible is recommended.
2. Mind Extreme Temperatures
Second, be mindful of temperature fluxes. Your rhubarb’s roots will be sensitive to extreme heat in summer and extreme cold in winter. You can mulch the bottom, sides and top of the container to keep the roots insulated and keep moisture in the soil. Also, be sure to overwinter the container in a cellar, garage or barn to protect it from frigid temps in the off-season. If you want, you can even plant the container into the ground to keep the roots extra protected.
3. Put In Drainage Holes
The container you choose should have drainage holes (or you should drill them if it doesn’t) to prevent the roots from rotting.
4. Feed Your Plants
Start off by amending your potting soil with rotted manure or organic compost, and then be sure to apply an organic fertilizer every so often to keep the container-grown rhubarb well-nourished.
Be sure to harvest your rhubarb stalks frequently—what you can’t use right away can be chopped and frozen for later use. You know your not harvesting enough if your plants start to go to seed. These yummy recipes will help you put all the stalks to use:
- Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream
- Rhubarb Creamy Cocktails
- Rhubarb Oatmeal Upside-Down Cake
- Sweet-Tart Rhubarb Chutney
- Spirited Rhubarb Pudding