How to force rhubarb

Do it:

Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb

Takes just:

15 minutes

At its best:

Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr

Forcing rhubarb by covering the crowns and preventing light reaching them, will encourage the plants to make early growth. These forced stalks can be harvested for use in cooking when they are 20cm - 30cm long and make a useful substitute for fruit when there is little else in store from the garden. Force the stems of established rhubarb plants only - young plants may not have sufficient energy reserves to produce early stems, and subsequent growth may be compromised.

You will need

  • Large bucket, dustbin or decorative rhubarb forcer
  • Straw (optional)

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Clear around the base of a rhubarb crown, removing old leaves and weeds.Add a mulch of well-rotted manure or homemade garden compost to boost nutrient levels and aid growth.

Use a large pot, dustbin or decorative rhubarb forcer to cover the crown. Plug any holes to exclude light. In cold regions or to speed forcing, insulate the outside of the pot with a thick layer of straw or bubble wrap. 

The forced stems should be ready to harvest eight weeks after covering.Gently pull the stems from the base of the crown, and remove the poisonous leaves before eating.

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Avoid forcing a single crown of rhubarb for two years in a row. Leave it to crop naturally instead, and always have more than one crown so you can force in alternate years.

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