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Vegetables - Rhubarb

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



" About 12 years ago," writes W. T. Suter of Pennsylvania," I began to sit up and take notice that rhubarb would make a fair side dish for our general meal of market goods. The following spring's inventory showed about 150 hills of worn-out and grass-grown rhubarb roots. These were divided and laboriously transplanted by marking out as for corn, and with a shovel digging holes 12 to 14 inches deep, in which to plant the roots.

" These roots grew wonderfully and by dividing part of them each season I soon had all our small market demanded. But it was soon evident that there was too much labor connected with the trans planting, and we were too busy in the spring, so we tried the following method, which seems to give maximum results with minimum labor:

" In November, with a strong team and plow, we turn out the oldest or poorest roots for transplanting. If the ground is wet, we set the large roots on edge and allow them to dry a day or more, perhaps a week. The soil is then removed with a pick by striking the side farthest from the crown. The roots are divided by breaking apart and some must be cut with a heavy knife or hatchet. Our aim is to have two or more uninjured eyes in each plant.

" Any soil that will grow corn will do for rhubarb, but the freer it is from grass roots the better, and it must not contain quack grass. Prepare the soil as for wheat, then with a two-horse plow draw furrows 5 or 6 feet apart, as deep as you can plow, going twice to the row. The land will now be ready for the roots, which should be set about 3 feet apart, eyes up and enough soil drawn in by hand to hold the roots in place.

The setter is followed by a man with a shovel, who places four or five shovels of soil on each plant in a mound, leaving the furrow open between the hills. These open places are filled with manure and some put over the mound, after the ground is frozen enough to bear a team. Level culture is given in the spring. Large weeds and seed stalks are promptly removed. No hoeing is required. Old plantations are cultivated after the crop is marketed.

" Transplanting rhubarb can be done as success-fully in the fall as in early spring. The ground works better, we have more time, and the plants get an earlier start in the spring. After first sea-son's growth we mulch liberally in November and December with coarse manure or litter of almost any kind.

KIND OF STALKS IN DEMAND

" If we want nice, straight, pink, plump rhubarb, we shake up this coarse litter in the spring as soon as the stalks begin to show, and pile it around and over the hills. If the work is well done, the results are remarkable. Instead of a green stem 4 or 5 inches long, and with a broad leaf, we have a pink stem 8 or 1o inches long and a small leaf similar to that grown in a rhubarb house.

" This very early rhubarb is the product that we work for. A pound of early rhubarb is worth as much as five pounds later, and sells much better. We begin to sell outdoor rhubarb as soon as it gets 6 or 8 inches high, and continue as long as there is a sale for it. This varies according to the supply and abundance of fruit, etc. The sales greatly diminish as soon as strawberries and cherries be-come plentiful The prices vary from 2 to 10 cents a pound according to season. The first is bunched in pound bunches and sold at 1o cents retail. A little later it is sold at 8 cents and then as low as 5 cents. As the rhubarb grows, the bunches are gradually increased in size, until at -canning time they weigh 2 or 2/ pounds and are sold at 5 cents or six for 25 cents. At this time, the rhubarb is 12 to 24 inches high, and is very little work to prepare.

"One year the sales from about one-half acre reached $158.30. That season opened March 21, which is very unusual in central Pennsylvania. The following year the season opened April 20 and sales from about the same area reached only $103.60. The third year, with the aid of a dozen sash, sales reached $163.75. In the winter of the fourth year we fitted up an old greenhouse 20 by 38 feet by removing sash and covering it with straw and leaves, thus making very little heat necessary. The house was perfectly dark. Rhubarb was grown here that increased sales to $253.75. We think 40 to 50 degrees better for rhubarb forcing than a higher temperature.

" Bear in mind that nearly all of this was sold locally in a town with a population of about 9,000; after the first few days we could have sold much more had we had a larger population within our reach. We now have about 1 1/2 acres in rhubarb, but most of this is to produce roots for winter forcing."

RHUBARB FOR WINTER

Few people realize that with comparatively little trouble a bountiful supply of rhubarb for the ordinary family may be had from the middle of January until the outdoor product is available.

Dig up a dozen or 15 crowns, at least two years old, lifting as much of the root system as possible without shaking off the soil. Do this before the ground becomes frozen hard. Place the crowns on some well-drained spot and cover slightly to pre-vent their drying out, and allow them to freeze solidly. When in this condition take them up and place closely together in a dark corner of an ordinary cellar or cave. Fill the spaces and cover to a depth of 1 to 2 inches with any good garden soil, then thoroughly wet down with water. If the cellar is dry, one or two more waterings may be necessary, but often the first one will be sufficient.

In two to four weeks the stalks will be large enough to use and the supply will continue from the same crowns for two to three weeks. By bringing in half a dozen crowns at intervals of three to four weeks a constant supply may be secured. The best temperature is between 40 and 50 degrees. If the temperature is higher the crop will come on quicker, but the stalks do not last as long. The old crowns should be thrown away after forcing, as they have exhausted themselves in the production of the crop in this artificial way. New crowns may easily be kept coming on by sowing a little seed each year in very rich soil and cultivating until at least two years of age.



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