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Posted on Wed, Jun 5, 2013 : 6 a.m.

6 reasons why every garden should have rhubarb

By Jim and Janice Leach

Fresh Rhubarb.jpg

Janice Leach | Community Contributor

In June, rhubarb is in the fullest stages of production in our backyard gardens. We like rhubarb so much that we think every garden should have some. Here are some reasons why:

1. Rhubarb is a lovely sturdy plant with large leaves. It grows in clumps and spreads very slowly. It adds some height to a low garden. Our plants average about two feet tall, although some varieties grow taller.

2. Rhubarb is not dangerous. You may have heard that rhubarb leaves are poisonous to humans, and that is true. The leaves only contain oxalic acid. According to sources, a 140 pound person would need to eat more than 10 pounds of the very sour leaves to be in the toxic danger zone.

3. Rhubarb is a perennial, which will provide years of delight in the garden. Rhubarb grows from rhizomes, which are creeping underground rootstocks. Rhubarb settles in where planted; it’s difficult to transplant so be decisive about your chosen spot.

4. Rhubarb is great for making pies, cobblers, crisps and other sweet treats. It’s fun to pick something in your yard, wash it up, chop it, and then turn it into something wonderful to eat.

5. Rhubarb also does savory. Yes, it’s true. If you truly want to take a walk on the wild side, try Curried Rhubarb Chicken.

6. Rhubarb thrives in Michigan’s climate. It needs winter temperatures below 40F to break dormancy and stimulate spring growth. Our spring temperatures are also good for rhubarb, which does well in the 70s.

Plant rhubarb in the early spring or in the fall. It will grow in almost any soil conditions, but it will do better in compost-enriched soil with a generous addition of mulch. To establish plants, don’t harvest the first season and harvest lightly in the second season. After that, you can enjoy up to 20 years of delightful rhubarb.

Jim and Janice Leach tend a backyard plot in downtown Ann Arbor, where they try to grow as many vegetables and other plants as possible. For the last five years, they've published gardening tips, photos and stories at their 20 Minute Garden website.


Marilyn P.

Wed, Jun 5, 2013 : 2:34 p.m.

I have been wanting to start some rhubarb, but have had trouble finding a place to purchase any. Do you have a suggestion? Thank you