Rhubarb

How to force rhubarb

Discover how to force rhubarb in late winter so that you can enjoy an early crop in spring.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
At its best
At its best

Plant is at its best in January

Plant is at its best in February

Plant is at its best in March

Plant is at its best in April

Plant is not at its best in May

Plant is not at its best in June

Plant is not at its best in July

Plant is not at its best in August

Plant is not at its best in September

Plant is not at its best in October

Plant is not at its best in November

Plant is not at its best in December

To do
To do

Do To do in January

Do To do in February

Do not To do in March

Do not To do in April

Do not To do in May

Do not To do in June

Do not To do in July

Do not To do in August

Do not To do in September

Do not To do in October

Do To do in November

Do To do in December

Forcing rhubarb – covering the crowns to prevent light reaching them – will encourage the plants to make early growth. These pale, forced stalks can be harvested for use in cooking when they are 20cm – 30cm long and are a useful crop 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.

Forcing rhubarb - covering the crowns to prevent light reaching them - will encourage the plants to make early growth.

You will need

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

Step 1

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.

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Step 2

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. 

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Step 3

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.