Forcing Rhubarb

Rhubarb is a unique plant that is often grown for its flavorful stalks, which are used in a variety of culinary applications. One way to get an early harvest of rhubarb is by forcing it in situ. This technique involves manipulating the conditions in which the plant grows to trick it into thinking it’s spring, even when it’s still winter without having to dig up the entire plant.

To force rhubarb in situ, you’ll need to start with a mature plant that has been in the ground for at least two years. In late winter or early spring, before the new growth begins, select a mature plant.

Next, mound soil or compost around the base of the plant, covering the crown of the plant to a depth of about 10-12 inches. Water the soil well, and then cover the entire plant with a thick layer of straw, leaves or mulch.  Alternatively uee a large upturned pot or ‘rhubarb forcer’.

Make sure to keep an eye on the weather, as you may need to remove the covering if the temperature goes above freezing. If the weather is mild and no snow or frost is forecasted, you can leave the covering on for up to 6 weeks.

Within four to six weeks, you should see new growth emerging from the top of the plant. Once the new growth reaches about 6 inches in length, it’s ready to be harvested. Carefully cut the stalks from the plant, leaving about 2 inches of growth on the plant.

It’s important to note that forcing rhubarb in situ in this way may stress the plant and it may take some time for it to recover and produce again. Also, it’s not recommended to force the same plant year after year, as it can weaken the plant and reduce the overall health and productivity.

In conclusion, forcing rhubarb in situ is a fun and unique way to get an early harvest of this flavorful plant. With the right technique and care, you can enjoy fresh rhubarb in the middle of winter without having to disturb the plant’s root system.

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