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Beginner Vegetables: Thinking of starting asparagus this year...some questions

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gardening_momma
southwest, OH

January 1, 2013
2:20 PM

Post #9372565

When I was a teen, a family we knew moved out of state for a couple of years and allowed us to pick from their asparagus field while they were gone. We used to go every day after school (in the spring?) to pick. A couple of times in the season someone else would come and plow the whole field under, and a fresh batch of asparagus would grow, and then we'd eventually let it go to seed.

So my questions are:

* when do I plant? I'm probably going to get 2 yr plants. I'm in zone 6a.

* should I do any plowing or turning under? I'll be planting on a small scale, so any turning would be with a Mantis (I don't want to pulverize the poor things, so Mantis might be too much?) or pitchfork.

This message was edited Jan 1, 2013 5:21 PM
nancynursez637
Madras, OR

January 1, 2013
2:45 PM

Post #9372583

Pick your asparagus bed carefully. It can last with planning 15-20 years. Once planted it needs to ber kept weed free, beccause you cannot turn the bed or cultivate deeply.

I have 4 beds, 4' side and 12' long. I planted them in good soil, with lots of compost. I dug 3 trenches a foot deep, and back filled it with about 4 inches of compost. then a foot apart, I planted the asparagus root, spreading the roots out in the hole. (crowns pointed upward) Then covered the trench with 8 inches of soil. Every year, I keep it well watered, add about 2 inches of compost to tthe bed and every 2 or 3 years, add a mineral supplement such as Excelerite an organic source.

I take cuttings until mid-july then let it go to fern. I do not cut the fern down until it yellows, then remove and burn it. You may find a small red bug on it, pick those off of the fern and destroy. If you get fern with seed pods on them, I do harvest seed, and start new plants. You will lose some plants from time to time, I use the new ones to fill in or expand the bed. I am in a mountainous zone 5-6, so I mulch my bed with 4-6" of straw every winter, removing it in March before things start to come up. You may not have to do that where you live.

But keeping the bed weed free is critical because you cannot till or turn the soil once planted, in my experience. I do grow some lettuce in the bed as mulch from time to time. My first bed is now 10 yrs old and continues to be very productive, the others will be producing this year. I wait for the 3rd year before taking any spears to allow the plant to mature. This is my experience, I am not an expert by any means, hope it is helpful to you

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gardening_momma
southwest, OH

January 1, 2013
2:53 PM

Post #9372585

Thank you, it is helpful. I remember the bugs--we sold a lot of what we picked to our local canning factory, which was in the same small town where we lived. We had to check for bugs and the stalks we sold them could be no more than 7".

I'll have to ask my dad what he remembers about the plowing/turning. I know it was done, but I don't know what equipment was used or why it worked. It definitely did, though. Dad would think we were done with picking and could have let them go to fern, but then the guy would plow again, and we'd pick some more. Of course we could quit anytime, but I guess if it's growing we might as well pick more. We were on a tight budget, so any little bit more helped.

This message was edited Jan 1, 2013 5:54 PM
gardening_momma
southwest, OH

January 1, 2013
4:17 PM

Post #9372627

Well, my dad says he doesn't remember anything about someone plowing or turning the field. Guess we'll never know. ;-)

He does remember spraying for bugs so we could sell to the canning factory.

This message was edited Jan 1, 2013 7:18 PM
nancynursez637
Madras, OR

January 2, 2013
9:35 AM

Post #9373167

I almost think to turn the asparagus bed would disturb and damage the root, and I know from watching the asparagus fields down south int he winter, the only thing they did once harvest was over, was to burn the fern. I suppose that also destroyed bugs. We do not use any checmical sprays in the garden so i pick the bugs and drown them in a jar with a lid.

I hate squashing bugs lol; Good luck to you, and enjoy. I actually put a little tent over the bed in early March so we get some early spears

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 2, 2013
8:22 PM

Post #9373729

just follow nancy's plan ,you'll do fine. she is correct, do not plow up the bed after it is planted.
hoodat
San Diego, CA

January 8, 2013
11:51 AM

Post #9379193

Just one point that is often overlooked. You can harvest as long as the new shoots have good size but stop when they start to look thin. It weakens the plant if you keep harvesting after that. Remember; next years crop depends on how much food was stored in the roots this year. If you harvest the thin shoots less food will be stored so you will have a smaller crop next year..
rgladney
Mer Rouge, LA

January 9, 2013
6:04 PM

Post #9380534

I also am wanting to start a asparagas plot. I do not even know if its possible in LosEana. I got excellent soil and plenty of sunshine any similars out there?
nancynursez637
Madras, OR

January 14, 2013
6:33 PM

Post #9385211

rgladney

asparagus needs fertile soil, well drained, and you need to quit cutting it in mid july here in Oregon, so not sure about LA. But you should be able to grow it there.

http://www.lsuagcenter.com/NR/rdonlyres/DCDD9E92-2DE6-4297-BD54-7B4FD5F4E2DE/88937/FAQs.pdf
Gypsi
Fort Worth, TX

January 15, 2013
10:06 PM

Post #9386710

I have seen asparagus growing wild on a back lot in sandy soil in northeastern New Mexico. They get really cold winters, very little rain, I moved in and said, darn, that fern, that looks like asparagus.

The main who owned the house 20 years before had planted and harvested it. No one had really touched it since.
It didn't like my black clay soil at my old house, so I put it in sandy soil here. Next spring I get to harvest a bit (3rd spring) I put some compost under it and figured on topdressing. My compost is super high in nitrogen, so I'll probably have to add magnesium (epsom salts) and potash as well.
terri_emory
Alba, TX
(Zone 8a)

January 17, 2013
9:04 AM

Post #9388125

Another asparagus newbie here so thanks for asking gardening_momma. I'm taking notes. I think asparagus looks more intimidating that it really is.

I've got my crowns ordered from Territorial Seeds, the bed is ready. All I need now is delivery and for the rains stop for just a few days so the bed can dry out and I can plant. Then it can rain again! Always happy for rain here in NE Texas.

kittriana

kittriana
Magnolia, TX
(Zone 8b)

January 17, 2013
9:09 AM

Post #9388128

Mer Rouge is far enough north ( of Monroe) you shouldn' t have any problems with asparagus plants- Mary Washingtons do well in this area if you wonder what to plant...mine like some shade and more water than they warn you about though.
Gypsi
Fort Worth, TX

January 17, 2013
11:57 AM

Post #9388280

Since I do irrigation "islands" surrounded by black pondliner paths (to hold moisture in and not have it evaporate)
I surrounded my asparagus raised bed (in full sun) with strawberries and tomatoes, and sweet potatoes and water melon last year. And it did well. But I bought these plants 20 years ago - when I lived with black gumbo and bermudagrass surround.

If I wanted to add more any suggestion on variety? I have no idea what these are. My ex dug them up and I picked them up and replanted, losing most to the winter drought of 2010-2011 The survivors were nice and thick last year. with all the new plantings around them reminding me to water.
nancynursez637
Madras, OR

January 20, 2013
10:41 PM

Post #9391989

Gypsi I have used Martha Washington asparagus plants, and have even grown some from seed over the years, they work out well for Central Oregon, I don;t know if there is a better variety for Texas
skyhacienda
Sucre
Bolivia

January 22, 2013
2:54 AM

Post #9393314

I planted 6 asparagus plants from seed 2 years ago as an experiment. I live in Bolivia at 2,500 metres with long dry season with around 3 months of heavy rain. They are doing great with spears popping up before turning into ferns. My problem is that as I live in a country with an eternal spring climate, there is little or no dying back or browning of ferns, so very little to cut back in the autumn. I have an abundance of fern which is permanent!
I am hoping to harvest the spears next year and would appreciate any advice as to how to prepare my plants for winter, which is actually hotter in the daytime but with lower temperatures at night.
thanks in advance.
nancynursez637
Madras, OR

January 22, 2013
2:07 PM

Post #9393920

Then I would be sure to fertilize regularly, and cut down green fern after it has started to yellow. You should let the bed go from spears to fern, the fern picks up light and energy to keep the root healthy. So if it does not die down, I would give the plants a break from harvest, let the fern come on and after a couple months cut it down, fertilize then go again. The root does need time to restore itself
Gypsi
Fort Worth, TX

January 23, 2013
7:44 AM

Post #9394606

Recommend a fertilizer please?
nancynursez637
Madras, OR

January 23, 2013
12:49 PM

Post #9395003

I put down two inches of compost every fall, other than that, I have not amended with other materials annually. About every 2-3 years I add a mineral replacement supplement, used to use green sand but now use Excelerite. I have not seen any deficiencies, but the beds often last 15-20 years, so I assume some depletion

kittriana

kittriana
Magnolia, TX
(Zone 8b)

January 23, 2013
9:06 PM

Post #9395553

I use a general slo release Vegetable and flower shake feed in a heavy dose since I am gone so much, but I DON'T know the specific asparagus fertilizer they might prefer. Mine recieve a lot of neglect, but they flowered this year which surprised me. no seed pods tho.
skyhacienda
Sucre
Bolivia

January 24, 2013
3:36 AM

Post #9395631

Thanks Nancy. Just to clarify I should let the fern continue to grow until winter comes (when the nights get colder) then cut the ferns down and apply fertilizer?

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