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How to Use a Rhubarb Forcer

how to use a rhubarb forcer original organics

What is a Rhubarb Forcer? And how to use one.

What is a Rhubarb Forcer?

A rhubarb forcer is a bell-shaped pot used to trick rhubarb plants into growing early in the season

Forced rhubarb produces tender, blanched stalks. Think of it like a time machine for your rhubarb, sending it back to winter conditions for a bit to jumpstart its growth.

How does a Rhubarb forcer work?

  • Darkness triggers: By blocking out light with the forcer placed over the rhubarb crown in late winter or early spring, you stop photosynthesis. This means no chlorophyll production, resulting in pale pink or red stalks instead of the usual green.
  • Sweet and tender focus: Without making chlorophyll, the rhubarb focuses its energy on growing longer and faster, reaching for any light it can sense. This leads to sweet, tender stalks that are less tart than regular rhubarb.
  • Early harvest: The darkness also speeds up the growth process, allowing you to harvest rhubarb weeks earlier, sometimes as early as February or March!

What are different types of rhubarb forcers?

  • Traditional terracotta: These classic beauties add a touch of charm to your garden, but they can be heavy and prone to breakage.
  • Modern materials: Lighter and more durable options like plastic or wood are also available, making them easier to handle and store.
  • DIY delights: Feeling crafty? Upcycle buckets or baskets with black plastic to create your own forcers for a personalised touch, although be careful about longevity with lower-quality materials you might be better off simply buying a tested product unless you know what you're doing. 

What month do you force rhubarb?

  • Rhubarb forcing can happen anytime between November and March, many gardeners tend to start forcing around January/December time, as there is usually a lull in the gardening calendar at this time of year.

Is it good to force rhubarb?

  • Forcing rhubarb in late winter will accelerate a harvest in spring giving you stronger, better stems.

What is the difference between rhubarb and forced rhubarb?

  • Forced rhubarb stalks grow faster as the plant searches for light to make chlorophyll.
  • The sweet glucose produced in the rhubarb that would normally be used to grow the plant's huge leaves is instead stored in the stalks for better flavours in forced rhubarb.

How Do You Use a Rhubarb Forcer?

At this time of year, there are a multitude of crops that can grow fantastically, providing us with delicious and nutritious food that sustains us. However, there are other crops that either don't grow that well or, at the very least, need a bit of help to reach their potential. Greenhouses and cold frames do a fine job of nurturing our plants and ensuring their growth during colder weather, but it's not always possible to use them due to space constraints. That's where a rhubarb forcer can be useful. Don't let the name fool you, though.

Rhubarb forcers can be used on a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and we're here to show you exactly how. So, read on to find out more!

How Does a Rhubarb Forcer Work?

A rhubarb forcer works by limiting the light that reaches a plant, particularly in the case of rhubarb. The lack of light prevents the plant from producing chlorophyll (which normally causes leaves to turn green). Chlorophyll is associated with a bitter taste, so by producing less chlorophyll the rhubarb has a naturally sweeter taste. A secondary effect of light deprivation is that the rhubarb will expend more of its energy trying to seek out any light it can, resulting in long, stretched out stems that are far less tough than their regular variety.

How to Plant Rhubarb

Rhubarb is usually grown from crowns, but it can also be grown from seeds. However, this will take much longer and be more susceptible to variations. If you plan to sow, any time between March and April will be suitable.

Using a Rhubarb Forcer

Rhubarb forcing can happen anytime between November and March.
Many gardeners tend to start forcing around January or December, as there is usually a lull in the gardening calendar at this time of year. Once your rhubarb crown is established in its planting location, you will need to cover it with the rhubarb forcer. You can also add insulation to provide even more warmth to the plant and accelerate its growth further. Plant fleeces, bubble wrap, or a rug will do the job. Luckily, by covering the crown with the forcer, it also helps to prevent pests from devouring your crop, although this isn’t likely to deter them completely. There are plenty of methods to deter pests from consuming your hard work. One of the best and most ecologically friendly methods is by using the natural wildlife present in your garden to do the work for you! Check out our guide on making your garden wildlife-friendly to find out more. The entire growth process should take around 7 to 8 weeks in total, at which point you can start harvesting. Your plants should become very pale; don’t worry, this is just a result of the light deprivation and is a sign that all has gone well.


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