One of the most challenging aspects of running a school gardening program is planning and planting to coincide with a harvest before the end of the school year, or after we resume classes in the fall. There are a number of crops that grow reliably and happily in our climate, but not all of them mature in that window of time. If you are looking for a maintenance free, perennial crop that will keep growing year after year, then rhubarb is a super star school garden choice. Here are my top tips on how to grow rhubarb with kids!
Rhubarb can be started from seed, but just about everyone I know gets their plants from a divided plant of a friend. Rhubarb likes to be divided (which simply means a single large plant is dug up and split into 3 or 4 plants) every 5 years or so. Divided or purchased plants can be dug into a well drained garden bed and left to do their thing. It’s best to give a new plant a year without harvesting to ensure the plant has a solid chance of survival.
Related: How to grow garlic with kids
Caring For Rhubarb
Rhubarb is one of the best school garden crops because it is drought tolerant and has very few problems with pests. In the fall, when school resumes, add compost or organic material to your rhubarb and that’s all there is to it!
Rhubarb is ready for harvesting when the stalks are about the length of a yellow school ruler (30cm or so). The stalks will be red when ready for harvesting. Harvesting begins around April on the westcoast and continues until the end of June. Harvesting can also continue into the summer, but leaving the plant alone through the summer allows the plant to gain and store strength for the coming winter.
Simply tug at the stalk to break it away from the plant. You can use a knife to cut the stalk as well. Remove the leaves and dispose of them. The leaves of rhubarb are poisonous to humans, so they are not suitable for your compost bin and children must be specifically instructed not to eat them!
At several workshops and professional development sessions with our First Nations leaders, I’ve heard talk of sustainability for the seven generations. We can take this guideline with us into sustainable school garden harvesting with children and follow the rule of seven when harvesting rhubarb. Take one stalk for every seven that are growing on the plant. This ensures the plant is not depleted of the energy it needs to survive the winter months.
Rhubarb is a gorgeous ornamental plant in your garden that sends up lovely flower heads, or you can harvest it and prepare any number of amazing treats. A quick search in Pinterest will find you rhubarb and strawberry jam recipes that would make great mothers or fathers day gifts, as well as tarts, pies and even lemonades! Amazon even sells a rhubarb cookbook if you are really looking to make unique and tasty treats with your harvest. In terms of simple, kid friendly rhubarb recipes, I’ve linked a few from my blogger friends below! Don’t forget that rhubarb freezes well and can be harvested, chopped and frozen for use all through the year!
Jackie from Happy Hooligans has an Easy Buttermilk-Rhubarb Muffin your kids will love.
Cerys from Rainy Day Mom has a yummy step-by-step Rhubarb Crumble Recipe
Sandy over at Rubber Boots and Elf Shoes has a Gruffalo Crumble Recipe using rhubarb
Gardening With Kids
Come hang out with me on Pinterest to get inspiration and ideas for gardening with kids from amazing gardeners around the web: