The best time of year to transplant or separate rhubarb roots (crowns) is in the spring. This year, I found myself digging on St. Patrick’s Day. For the past 20 years, I have cooked with rhubarb that has come from Quail Hill Farm. Quail Hill Farm is New York’s first CSA. My friend Scott Chasky, the farmer at Quail Hill, has been guiding me as a gardener for the entire time.
The nice thing about rhubarb (other than its unique flavor profile) is that every three or four years the roots get large enough to divide and replant. My first spring rhubarb visit to the Quail Hill rhubarb patch was in 1994. Scott had been on the job for three years. He had been given a gift of several crowns in the spring of 1991 and it was time to divide that first row. He gave me two crowns for my Amagansett garden at that time. Over the years that followed, I divided my plants to a total of 12 crowns. They served my Amagansett kitchen well.
Now that my Sag Harbor garden is in full swing and the 12 crowns from Amagansett have been moved and divided last spring to include 24, I still have room for more. Yesterday’s visit with Scott yielded eight new crowns that will be planted today.
Harvesting crowns is simple. Using a sharp spade, dig into the plant edge about 10 inches in and cut the outer crowns away. Transplant them to new locations, taking care to dig a hole deep enough to accommodate several shovels filled with good compost. Then, place the roots and crowns on the compost and fill to level with more nutrient rich soil. Finally, water and mulch. Be sure that the crowns are level with the mulch, much in the same way they looked prior to digging.