I started asparagus seeds this summer. My plants are between 2 and 3 inches tall now. I have them in a container. My question, do I leave them on the deck through the winter, or should I bring them inside to plant outside in the spring? I don't want to loose them, I have about 200 little plants! :)
When are you thinking about eating asparagus, Mellisa? It usually takes two or three years to harvest one year old crowns. We have a very old bed that's been refurbished with old and new crowns several times. We grow Mary Washington. Our bed is about twelve by eighteen feet. Asparagus seedlings pop up in every corner of the yard (bird's love the seeds), and I like that they look good in the garden, but even years later they are no where near edible size.
Check your plants when they go to seed. Get rid of most, but not all the females. The males produce better and bigger spears. Some females are good for pollination. The females produce more stalks but they are really thin.
The roots do not need to be protected from freezing. They are very cold hardy but are better off in ground because they mature as crowns that need to establish in deep, rich soil. You can bury your containers to the soil line and then think about planting out the seedlings in spring.
I would think the freeze damage would depend on how deep the soil freezes. My bed in Idaho was exposed, and did seem to suffer from the freezing, but it also grows wild up there in protected areas. It grows much faster down here in CA. I did have asparagus big enough to eat the first year, but it does get bigger as time goes by.
The way my beds have developed, is some spears will be bigger than others, so i just harvest the ones over 3/8" diameter, and let the smaller ones grow into ferns. I had a couple or three that produced seeds, and i am letting the seedlings grow, but if, as MayPop says, they do not get to be of good eating size, i will thin them out.
My bed is 2' X 20'. 18 months old, harvested all we wanted to eat last summer, then had enough to give away some this summer, and now, after cutting the ferns down 3 weeks ago, i have harvested another tweleve or fifteen pounds, or so. It is a very prolific crop to grow. I prefer half inch diameter or less, but had a couple today that were 1".
Ernie, we're warm here, and can harvest asperagus all year. Some of my first year seedlings grow really fast and I can cut spears big enough to eat, others grow more slowly. I too like less than 1/2 inch spears.
Calla, Maybe you can answer something i have been wondering about. Before this year, both up North and here in So. CAL, i would let my Beds go to Ferns for the rest of the year, but this year, a heat wave scorched the ferns so i took them out and am getting that unexpected second crop.
How do you handle the ferns? Do you harvest all year by going in between the ferns?
Or, if you cut the ferns out of the way of harvest, do your root plants maintain enough energy? I like a Spring and Fall harvest, but do not want to weaken the plants.
I could forego the harvest for say 3 months in the summer, letting the ferns grow, as i do not need or want to eat it all the time. Never too old to learn something new.
I used to leave them alone and only harvest in spring, never cut green fronds, etc. We usually don't get a hard freeze. In 2010 and 2011 we did have hard freezes which took the fronds to the ground and new growth came up and I harvested a few spears. Now they have been growing non stop since Feb 2011. I talked to some of the other growers here and they either let the plants grow all year taking a few spears and they whack the plants back to the ground in late fall and let them start over. My plants are huge. They are about 6 years old, were transplanted in 2009 to a new location, a raised bed in the main garden. When the fronds get too big and fall into the pathway I either cut them down, or cut half the frond so it is out of the path. I have 100 new plants (two year old crowns, planted late Jan) and I've even snipped a few spears from them this month. I dug some seedlings (my first plants were Mary Washington which reseeds everywhere) from the garden's edge and must have missed part of the crown. I have plants coming up.
I think asperagus is much tougher than people think. I remember seeing it growing wild all over MN. It was in hayfields, along roadsides, everywhere. The roadsides get mowed often, hayfields at least once if not twice in the summer and the asperagus was beautiful. Their growing season is short, less than 120 days in some areas.
Where my new asperagus is planted the soil is rich, deeply dug and fertile with pH of 7.2. Where the old asperagus is planted, the beds haven't been turned since before planting, the soil is hard as a rock, the plants have less than a foot spacing and I didn't plant them deep enough. They do get a top dressing of compost once per year and water every day when the regular irrigation comes on for the rest of the garden. There were 20 plants to start with, now it's pretty much wall to wall asperagus and I get more spears than we can eat.
Calla., It appears from your email that you just wade in amongst the ferns and look for new spears, which seems to be one way of doing it. My ferns get too heavy and dense to make that practical, but what you say about them being tougher than most people think is also my opinion.
So based on your experience and what i have seen, i plan to harvest in the Spring until the shoots become too small, let them fern out, and then about October cut the still green ferns and enjoy this second harvest.
Some of the smaller plants, seedlings, etc, are too small to harvest so i will let them grow now, and just take the larger spears, and will probably get winter kill in December or Jan, and start a new cycle then,
I'm envious of you guys that can harvest all year! I like the smaller ones too, and will always look for bundles that have smallish stalks. Maypop, I wasn't planning on having anything to harvest for 2 to 3 years, I started the seeds because I got 200 plants for 5.00 versus paying over 100 for the same amount and being able to harvest a year earlier. ;) I just don't want to loose what I have. They'll eventually bear! LOL
Ernie, have to stop harvesting this week so the plants can grow. i am going to miss my fresh asperagus! I have the plants in raised beds with walkways between the beds. One bed has cattle panels down the center. I tie the asperagus to the panels to keep the fronds out of my walkway. The beds without panels, yeah, I wade right thru! If they get too unruly, I whack off the offending fronds, or at least enough so it will stand up straight and not lean over the path.
I have noticed that only some of my plants have the berries on them, which i assume are the female plants. I may start making a point to cut those ferns down, as i do not want the bed to get too thick.
We had frost here last year that stopped the growth in December, but a lot of sub tropicals seem to survive, and not supposed to frost in this Zone, so do not know if it will frost again this year.