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Rhubarb: to seed or not to seed

 
Ann Torrence
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I want to put in at least 100 rhubarb plants. Maybe 500-1000. I do not wish to spend hundreds/thousands of dollars buying divisions from a catalog. I don't mind waiting 2 years for production. I have enough for household use from 2 plants right now. But if I dig them up and divide them, how long would it take to get to 100 and then I wouldn't have any to make this syrup.

I am studying about growing it from seed. The usual cautionary about seedlings not true to the parent. Has anyone ever grown multiple rhubarb varieties and noticed a difference? Has anyone started it from seed? Were the results less than satisfactory? Is this an opportunity to start a landrace?

Or does anyone want to send/sell me 100+ rhubarb divisions?
 
Russell Olson
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I divided up 3 plants into 10 this past spring, I think Rhubarb is fairly robust as long as it's happy. If you've got some, it might be worth dividing up.
I bet you can find cheap sources though. Even garden centers and big box stores have rhubarb on clearance after the initial planting rush.
at 500-1000 I bet you can find a wholesaler that would give you a good price too.
 
Leila Rich
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I've never heard of anyone starting it from seed. I never even let mine flower.
Is rhubarb grown in your area?
Do you have a local newsletter or suchlike where you can post a request for crowns?
While rhubarb's having a massive popularity resurgence over here, older people are far more likely to have mature, divisable plants.
People might be thrilled if you offered to divide/invigorate their rhubarb in exchange for crowns.

Do you only get the red-stalked variety? Over here there's a green one too, that goes an awful khaki when cooked.
I have 'Glaskin's perpetual' cultivar that produces year-round. Oh yeah, that's not much help in your climate Ann!

*edit* maybe you could put out a call out for crowns in the resources forum
 
Jessica Padgham
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I grew some from seed one year. I got all kinds of colors ranging from green to pink to red. I can't say I noticed any variation in flavor since I tended to throw them all in together when cooking. The color shows up early enough that selection shouldn't be a problem. They may need to be stratified. I grew them in a milk jug that I left outside for the winter.
 
Ann Torrence
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Jessica Padgham wrote:I grew some from seed one year. I got all kinds of colors ranging from green to pink to red. I can't say I noticed any variation in flavor since I tended to throw them all in together when cooking. The color shows up early enough that selection shouldn't be a problem. They may need to be stratified. I grew them in a milk jug that I left outside for the winter.

Thanks Jessica. Just what I was hoping someone would know. Culinary delicacy and rhubarb aren't an association I'd be looking for. I've done the milk jug thing lots, should work just fine for this application.
 
Aaron Festa
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Newbie here. Why wouldn't we start rhubarb from seed? I started two plants from seed. am I doomed or something?
 
Ann Torrence
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Aaron Festa wrote:Newbie here. Why wouldn't we start rhubarb from seed? I started two plants from seed. am I doomed or something?


not doomed! They will likely be just fine. Some plants don't come "true to type" - exactly like the parents - from seeds. Like you and your siblings aren't exact replicas of your parents or each other. The descendants may be better, worse or about the same quality, you just can't predict what you'll get. Rhubarb is said to be in that category, but most folks are happy with 1 or 2 rhubarb plants and wouldn't be bothered started seeds if they can get divisions, or clones, of a known plant. I am just wanting way too many to buy divisions.

From my reading, some of the "bad" characteristics of seed-grown rhubarb might be an inclination to put up flower stalks when we want it just to make leaves, variations in color that aren't pretty, etc. I have read there is/was an enthusiast somewhere growing a bunch of different cultivars of rhubarb, but I find no data on taste, hardiness, etc. Could there be an amazingly better rhubarb out there? Possibly, but best is the enemy of good enough for this application.

Since rhubarb is 2 year project to prove out, I will probably just do the experiment. If I find some I think are better, I can propagate them later. Where this gets tricky is with fruit. Do you really want to wait to find out what your apple seed will grow into? Lore has it that 1 in 10,000 will be the next excellent apple. There are ways to speed up the process (Luther Burbank pioneered one method) but they take more work than I have time for. Many permies are doing the seed experiment for themselves. It's a treasure hunt and they might find something new and exciting. I prefer to graft known fruiting wood because I have too many other problematic variables and I am not so young. I might start some apple seeds just for yucks, but I am not betting the ranch on it.
 
Burra Maluca
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My husband used to grow it from seed regularly in the UK and he's never had any problem with it. He suspects that maybe you wouldn't get the very best plants like that, or that maybe one grown from seed might be more likely to go to seed itself, but that's really from what he's read, not from actual experience.

We've also tried to grow rhubarb from seed in Portugal, where rhubarb plants don't seem to be available. It's harder to judge here as we're battling the climate. My own feelings here are that it might be *better* to grow from seed and then select the very best ones to slpit or take more seeds from, in the hope of developing a strain that can cope with our climate a little better.
 
Dan Boone
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Jessica Padgham wrote:They may need to be stratified. I grew them in a milk jug that I left outside for the winter.


Just as one more data point, I just planted (actually, 9 days ago) some "Victoria" rhubarb seeds straight from the packet without pre-soaking or stratifying. In a standard seed starting tray in my makeshift $7 seed-starting greenhouse, they have already germinated (five out of six) and poked up out of the potting soil.

I am starting from seed for reasons of economy and because I'm hoping to use the genetic variation that growing from seeds provides. In my climate rhubarb is rarely grown due to it being mostly too warm for too many months, and when it is grown -- according to some local gardening forums -- it's grown as an annual, starting from purchased crowns every year.

Well, I don't have that kind of budget, nor do I love rhubarb enough to spend that kind of money on it. However I have babied one of three big-box-store crowns through two summers so far, in partial shade with lots of mulch and water. So I know it's not utterly impossible to grow here as a perennial. I am hoping that by planting seeds, I'll get enough genetic variation to find some plants that thrive under the treatment I am providing. Very long run, I'm hoping for a local heat-tolerant land-race variety.
 
Vera Stewart
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Dan Boone wrote:

Just as one more data point, I just planted (actually, 9 days ago) some "Victoria" rhubarb seeds straight from the packet without pre-soaking or stratifying. In a standard seed starting tray in my makeshift $7 seed-starting greenhouse, they have already germinated (five out of six) and poked up out of the potting soil.



I planted a dozen Victoria rhubarb seed after soaking for about an hour, into a seed start tray, seven days ago. There is no sign of sprouting yet.
I do have more seeds if nothing continues to happen!

 
Vera Stewart
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And now there is one
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One baby rhubarb
 
Wi Tim
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I planted mine from seed a couple of years ago. Did not need to stratify; all growing strong now.
But it would probably be easier to do it by division - then I would not have to babysit the little plants.
 
Deb Rebel
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I have done crown division, and am in the throes of starting 3000 plus seeds (two varieties) and letting the grand dame Victoria seed out this year, and it's just FULL of just emerging bloomheads. Victoria you will get about 5% red, and the rest will be varying sorts of green. You can select the red ones and discard the rest; start them in flats or small pots and thin out to what you want. If you put strawberries in with them (making pie for example) green or red won't matter as much. This year I'm also starting Glaskin's Perpetual and expect about 5-10% to be red. As long as there's nothing else close by to cross you will get true whatever variety you let head out. The expansion here is my spouse loves rhubarb and also wants to sell some, so I am propagating enough to put in a quarter acre. He's working on building the soil right now and the compost piles are disappearing. (other varieties are crowns just planted). I am envious of the UK growers, they have so many more varieties than are available here, and in more colors. I'm almost too warm but can get a spring crop before it hots up too bad. The first few years your plants always look pocky then they turn into lush. The best so far is raised beds with t-tape and mulch, and afternoon shade, for rhubarb... I am picking a second crop for the rhubarb beds that can grow and give shade as it gets warmer, any good suggestions for arid/hot/high wind/low humidity 6b? I want to second food the windbreak and have it provide shade. More than one thing is fine, I'll be doing 120 ft long rows, spaced 6 or so feet apart.
 
Dan Boone
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Does okra tolerate wind? I'm guessing not, but otherwise it would seem perfect for shading the rhubarb, and I suppose it could be staked. Another idea would be a line of sorghum.
 
Deb Rebel
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Okra will grow here, it can get 7' tall, and needs tomato like cages usually (or so I've seen others do). I have had poor luck with Okra, it gets maybe knee high for me. Not everyone can grow everything to a good resolution.

I'm beginning to lean to putting in vining things, maybe some zucchini and cucumbers, and other small fruited squash that I could dehydrate or freeze for off season eating.

Unfortunately, I am allergic to sorgum. I didn't know that until I moved here. When they plant, then when it blooms, then when they harvest, I suffer greatly.

Is there any way to get some of the UK varieties, or does anyone know where one can get varieties other than Victoria, Glaskins Perpetual, Valentine, Canada and Crimson Red? (I've seen a few others but they are long sold out)
 
Dan Boone
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Deb Rebel wrote:Okra will grow here, it can get 7' tall, and needs tomato like cages usually (or so I've seen others do). I have had poor luck with Okra, it gets maybe knee high for me. Not everyone can grow everything to a good resolution.


I am working on a land race of something I call "field okra" -- basically planting okra seed out beyond the reach of my garden hose and saving the few puny fruit from the few puny plants that survive the mid-summer drought. Replanting those seeds (this will be year #3) the goal is to eventually breed a productive okra that I can stick in the ground and ignore until harvest.

Deb Rebel wrote:
Is there any way to get some of the UK varieties, or does anyone know where one can get varieties other than Victoria, Glaskins Perpetual, Valentine, Canada and Crimson Red? (I've seen a few others but they are long sold out)


I don't have anything immediately useful, but I will share that when my sister just moved here from Alaska, she brought a few crowns from a variety that had been growing in our little town ever since the
gold rush in the early 1900s. If it survives the Oklahoma heat (not at all likely, but the stuff is really tough) we'll both be growing it out and I promise to share in a few years.
 
Deb Rebel
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Dan Boone wrote:I am working on a land race of something I call "field okra" -- basically planting okra seed out beyond the reach of my garden hose and saving the few puny fruit from the few puny plants that survive the mid-summer drought. Replanting those seeds (this will be year #3) the goal is to eventually breed a productive okra that I can stick in the ground and ignore until harvest.


I would be most interested in trading for that. I'm up in the end of the panhandle so we are drier and bake with low humidity and extra UV because of altitude, I can guess where you are since you say 7a and central. I will see if my 2009 started round zukes come back this year, if they do I can vouch they grow well under neglect and would trade...

Deb Rebel wrote:
Is there any way to get some of the UK varieties, or does anyone know where one can get varieties other than Victoria, Glaskins Perpetual, Valentine, Canada and Crimson Red? (I've seen a few others but they are long sold out)


I don't have anything immediately useful, but I will share that when my sister just moved here from Alaska, she brought a few crowns from a variety that had been growing in our little town ever since the
gold rush in the early 1900s. If it survives the Oklahoma heat (not at all likely, but the stuff is really tough) we'll both be growing it out and I promise to share in a few years.

I'll trade gladly, when you're ready. I'm trying to get ahold of the Victoria variant that is supposed to grow good around Amarillo and in the OK/TX panhandle. If I score some I'll trade.
 
Anita Karlson
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This is one of my rhubarb plants that I planted from seed last year. It seems to be doing ok, but probably will have to wait a year or two to be able to taste it!
 
Deb Rebel
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Anita Karlson wrote:
This is one of my rhubarb plants that I planted from seed last year. It seems to be doing ok, but probably will have to wait a year or two to be able to taste it!


Usually second to third year from seed, counting the year you start it as one. Nice.
 
Deb Rebel
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More notes on growing from seed and a few repeats:

Victoria is about 5% red from seed. Glaskins Perpetual is close. You might get as high as 10%. They will taste, just won't have the red color.
The seeds are fairly large, covered with something papery not unlike elm seeds, and three sided (not as big as elm seeds). Soak for 2-3 hours before you plant them. Plant 1/4-1/2 inch (about .5 to 1 cm) deep. They like not too soggy but moist conditions to germinate and put them in light and 70f or so (21c) until they come up. They can take a few weeks (2-3) to show.. I use a peat moss soaked for a day and just at moist not drippy soggy, plant on 1" (2.5cm) grid, and cover with saran wrap or clear plastic to keep the flat from drying out. Check every few days and give a brief lift of the plastic to prevent mold (a few minutes uncovered) or to carefully resprinkle to keep moist. They like to stick to your finger instead of staying in the soil as you try to plant them. At 4 or so true leaves I will be uppotting them carefully to separate containers/pots until they reach about 4" high and I can start determining what color they are (I intend to keep only red ones).

They are very touchy about root disturbance as a small plant, so I don't want to let them go much past showing four leaves to get them out of the starter flat. This pass I'm doing a good three thousand (looks like about 3200 when I get them all in) to get 150-200 keepers, about 100 Glaskins and 50 Victoria. I expect to be able to harvest off them in 2018, lightly, and moderately heavy by 2020 and start dividing in 2021, with a spring 2016 start.
 
Deb Rebel
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I give you a hailed upon, very happy, blooming Victoria rhubarb plant, going into it's fifth year of existence. We decided to let it bloom then divide it this year. It has been covered a few times to keep it from frosts and snow.

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Mick Fisch
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a possible source for glaskins perpetual rhubarb seeds. $4 for 50 seeds. https://oikostreecrops.com/products/glaskins-perpetual-rhubarb-seeds/?search=rhubarb
 
Deb Rebel
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Mick Fisch wrote:a possible source for glaskins perpetual rhubarb seeds. $4 for 50 seeds. https://oikostreecrops.com/products/glaskins-perpetual-rhubarb-seeds/?search=rhubarb


I went to NEseed, 1 oz (about 2200 seeds) for $18, thank you though. I expect to get about 150 reds, so have to start a lot. On 50, expect 3-5, if you want reds. If you don't care, and have 90% germ, you will be up to your eyeballs in rhubarb in 2-3 years.

http://www.neseed.com/Rhubarb-Seeds-Glaskins-Perpetual-p/32619.htm 1/8 oz which is about 250, is 5.95

The ounce was in 4 1/4 oz packets, foil/plastic sealed for longer shelf life. I'm planting them in flats with about 4 days between each 1/4 oz so I don't have them all at the same stage at the same time. I am also rearing 1000 Victoria, and let the Victoria plant bloom this year to get more Victoria.

I got the Victoria from Hazzard seeds, $17.95 for 1000. (they are geared for wholesale bulk but will sell to anyone, and you can buy just one packet).

Baker Creek also has Glaskins, 25 for $2.75 ... http://www.rareseeds.com/glaskins-perpetual-rhubarb/
and have Victoria.
 
Deb Rebel
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Sproutie success. I have four flats of Glaskin's perpetual starting to show.

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Dave Dahlsrud
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I planted victoria from seed last year and they're doing great. The plant itself seems to be very hardy. They were left out in a hale storm last year as seedlings and bounced back fine. This year I'm doing more victoria and some glaskins from seed (Baker Creek). I'm really liking having the rhubarb planted with my trees and around berry bushes on my hugels.
 
Deb Rebel
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Rhubarb up all over. Some working on trueleaves and preparing for the Great Pot-Out. Had some church lady friends saving me plastic beverage cups to uppot them. I am almost at frost date, and a week from all the houseplants can go outside for the summer. That makes it officially summer. Anyways, here's my babies, middle crop (six plantings)
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Deb Rebel
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Rhubarb. Yep. Let my 5 year old Victoria seed out as this will be the last season it's all by itself. And boy did it gift me. I am guessing well over a gallon of seeds, some stalks are still drying.

The pail is about 2/3 of the harvest, some had to be resorted and put out to finish drying. This is a pail full of cut off stalk pieces bearing seeds, the other picture is me holding a 'spring' that needs stripping. I will have more seed than I ever want. The seeds come off very easily when dry, in fact I was having difficulty cutting the stalks without dropping seeds when I harvested them about a week ago. I trimmed the bloom stalks back and am encouraging the plant now to make stalks.
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In bloom 5-22
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2 gallon pail, not all of it
 
Deb Rebel
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Third picture didn't attach.
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Holding a seed sprig
 
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