Rhubarb forcing

I have two rhubarb that we planted a year ago, so they are just over a year old now. I didn't pull any of the stalks during the year as I was told to leave them for the plant to settle before harvesting.  Now one plant - Champagne has died right down, and the other - Victoria has old stalks which look o.k. but are gradually dying down and a new shoot (stalk with leaf) that appears to be growing now.  I read in G.W. that I could start to force the rhubarb plant now - so I am assuming that will be the Victoria or should I force both plants even though one has died down? Forcing is covering with a large container like a dustbin until the new forced shoots have grown good strong pink/red stalks, is that right?The first picture is the died down Champagne, you can see the blackened crown - will it come back in the Spring?This is the Victoria, you can see the new green shoot, should I cut the old stalks off and just force the new shoot and should I cover just this new stalk and surrounding area but not necessarily these older stalks?  Hopefully there will be more than one growing through soon.

Posts

  • Allotment BoyAllotment Boy North London Posts: 1,817
    edited December 2018
    It's all a bit mad at the moment because most of us (in the south at least) have had such mild weather. I would normally expect all of them  to have died down by now. Mine had died down but are re-sprouting already. I would not expect them to come back till late Feb / March. You can force as you say but in theory it does weaken the crowns slightly, though I do not find it so with well established crowns. Not sure about the Victoria that has not died down. Maybe someone else will have some ideas.
    AB Still learning

  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Leicestershire, UKPosts: 7,597
    edited December 2018
    I wouldn't force rhubarb until it is at least 3 years old, GD.  At this stage you want them to be producing large roots and forcing them will make them use food stored in the roots as the leaves can't photosynthesize to make their own.  Interestingly, when rhubarb used to be commercially forced, the crowns were lifted from the ground and forced in sheds:
    Obviously this is far more stressful on the roots and is probably why there are a few myths around.  Forcing is purely to improve the culinary qualities and is in no way actually necessary to grow it successfully.
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • Thank you Allotment Boy and Bob for sharing your expertise and knowledge with me.  If my Dad was still alive he would have probably given me the same answers - he was an ace fruit and veg gardener, he tried his had at most of the staple food plants over the years, either in the garden or the greenhouse.  I don't like Rhubarb so I am growing it for family and friends to enjoy, I wish I had paid more attention to what he had done.
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