I have read so much about asparagus my head is spinning and I don't know what to believe, every source seems to have a different opinion. I planted 6 plants from crowns in spring 2012 (Zone 5, New England.) By the end of summer I had a few ferny looking plants and a few with big things that looked like berries on them. I left them all alone. I covered my garden for the winter with landscape fabric to keep the weeds away except for my row of asparagus. Just am getting the garden ready and those plants from last year are about 3 feet tall! I didn't expect that since I've read to snap them off at the soil level when they get to be 4-8 inches tall, I've read never to snap, always to cut, I've read leave them alone til the 3rd year, I've read harvest them the second year etc etc etc. Does anyone who's actually successfully grown asparagus from the beginning have any reliable advice I can go by? Thank you!!
It can't hurt to leave them alone to grow and and gain strength for another year. If the stalks are more than pencil thin I believe you can harvest but with only 6 plants I'd let them go. The berries carry the seeds for new plants. Make sure they have a lot of organic material around them. Feeding with a balanced fertilizer in the spring and liquid bonemeal monthly while they are growing makes a difference. They like to be fed and kept weed free. They will be fine!!
Aahh maybe this will answer my query about 3rd year problems. (see thread) Feed with calcium, and Is MiracleGro 'balanced'?
And those volunteer seedlings will be at least 4 years before large enough to harvest, Right?
I need help ,too. (lol)
I originally made an error in my above statement by saying use calcium when I meant bonemeal (don't know why I did that - senior moment, I guess) I tend to use organic fertilizers like fish emulsion. I like the Aggrand products which come in 4 different types. They include a regular balanced liquid fertilizer and liquid calcium. My first year they recommended feeding the asparagus the calcium every month while they were growing. I had fantastic asparagus the second year and even cut a couple of the thicker ones to taste. The regular one is the 4-3-3: http://www.aggrand.com/Store/Products/fertilizer.aspx and the Bonemeal is found at http://www.aggrand.com/Store/Products/bonemeal.aspx
I followed the plan religiously and was well rewarded the second year. Every year I feed the asparagus with both the 4-3-3 in the spring and then the bonemeal after I cut them and they start growing out again. I also mulch with straw and add rabbit manure in the fall as well. If you don't want to pursue the Aggrand there are other Bonemeal liquids on the market as well as good balanced fish fertilizers like Neptune's Harvest. Asparagus like to be fed so check into what might work for you.
Good luck and do report back how they turned out!!
Your plants can grow 4-5 ft or more and branch out like ferny trees. This helps the root system develop. In the fall you can cut them to about 8 inches above the ground and mulch with straw. In the spring the old stalks will pull out easily making way for the new ones. Once established they can grow a lot daily and if I forget to check for a few days may have to harvest them a couple of feet high. They are tender for only a short part of the stalk which is why it is good to snap them off where they snap naturally. After snapping them off the remaining stalk will also branch out. My husband likes to harvest them using a sharp knife but then there is some waste when I prepare them. I also find I have to run stakes with string along the rows to hold up these "trees" once they get large so they don't bend over too much.
By the way about 30 years ago my 4 year old son planted some of the red seeds he collected from old stalks in a new spot I prepared for him in the garden. To my surprise most germinated and form the basis even today of one of the beds. It is no longer quite as productive despite renewed feedings but I haven't the heart to replant it. Many of the stalks get nice and thick and juicy still! So don't worry if some of the seeds germinate. If you take care of them they will produce in no time!
Gardadore, you are the best! Thanks for the great advice. I had to make a joke about pouring milk on the asparagus, since they needed calcium! Lol!
So, I have not been feeding my 3rdyear plants, but do mulch in fall with homemadecompost and leaves. last year I had nice plump asparagus spears and lots of them the 1st week of May. I stopped harvesting at the middle of may and let them grow. They did get 4-5 feet tall and ferny,and flopped over. I use those funeral wreath holders to stake them and they seemed very happy and healthy. I was disappointed that what came up this year is so sparse and skinny. Not even worth snapping and eating. I will use the links you provided and read up.
I say these are 3 yrs old because I planted them 3 years ago. The crowns said they were 1 year old. So really they are 4yrs right? I still waited the extra year to harvest,(even though the package said I could lightly harvest that following spring) so they would get some growing energy and experience. this pic is from the 1st spring after fall planting. I was so excited! I passed the supermarket asparagus up with a smug little smile, thinking.."next year I will have my own asparagus and won't pay these exorbitant prices." Perhaps my thready spears this year are teaching me humility. haha : P
Sounds like you are doing all the right things, especially the compost. But you probably want to add some fertilizer as well. I let my asparagus go for a couple of years and they stopped returning such nice crops. Feeding helped renew the bed but I also planted some new beds a couple of years ago so there will always be some strong ones coming along. I can highly recommend the purple variety - they get strong fast!! We just had our first meal today - yummy!!!
I didn't get a chance to add Aggrand this spring as we were away until May 3 but after the picking time is past I will start with the bonemeal and some regular.
Another note about milk. I understand that spraying with a mixture of 9 parts water to one part milk is good on phlox and other plants against powdery mildew so there is a place for milk in the garden!! LOL! You can also add calcium to plants by crushing eggshells and either using them alone (very slow to give the calcium or put the in a gallon jug with water, let sit a couple of days and water with the mix. Supposed to to good for peppers and tomatoes!
Aha! There's lots off egg shells (and coffee grounds) in my compost, but I will try the water/eggshell infusion method.
When you planted your newer beds, did you buy crowns?
It is funny u mention the milk for mildew, I just read that yesterday! I have a bit of trouble with powdery mildew on my zinnias and bee balm, so I may try milk. Haha. I wonder why it works?
Never tried the milk treatment myself. There is obviously something in the milk that prevents the fungus from growing - what, I don't know! I always wait too long and then the mildew has struck! I swear each year I will be more alert but it always fails with so much else to do!! You can also make a mix using baking soda - I have tried that but again it was too late.
I don't drink coffee but have been meaning to check with my local McDonald's or other place to try to get some! Coffee grounds are fabulous in compost. I used to get them from friends where I volunteered but that has stopped.
Yes, I buy crowns. I recommend getting any of the Jersey varieties as they are supposed to be all male so more energy goes to producing the stalks rather than seeds. They say you may get a couple in a bunch that produce seed. My last bunch had a higher proportion than it should have so I need to find a more reliable grower for the crowns. Need to search that one. The purple do produce seeds but the stalks are so sweet and delicious - worth having a bed with them!
Well I bought Jersey Knight, the box said all male. I have many seed producers so I guess since it was only $1 for 5 one year old crowns, perhaps I was lucky it grew at all. I want to try thr purple varieties. I think i will add some this fall. Also, in the thread I started about 3 yr asparagus, I said that the tree is beginning to fill out over the asparagus. I know it will end up in shade in a couple more years, so What do you think about moving the whole bed this fall?
I have enjoyed reading your post. It has brought back some fond memories of child hood. ( along time ago) . My Grandfather was a farmer, and when I was 4-6 years old we would drive up and down the canals looking for asparagus. he tied a rope around my waist and let me down the ditch bank to cut fresh asparagus. Oh what a great meal. Thank you for bring back some old memories.
Txtea- Sounds nice! When I walk my dog around the neighborhood, we sometimes see the ferny growth and tromp through the field to check for spears. Many times, I end up noticing some other out of place plants, and realize that there was once a house in the spot. I guess it brings out a nostalgic feeling, because i wonder about the people and their lives.
There is a nice article on DG about a childhood asparagus hunt. You might enjoy it. I wish I knew how to reference /link but I know you could do a quick search of articles and find it here on DG.
Every fall, I add a couple inches of composted manures to the asparagus bed. then I mulch if with straw about 4 inches thick, to protect from freezing and thawing we commonly get here in Central Oregon. Early spring I pull the mulch off. I also cut asparagus, not snap. I cut the fern and the spears until Mid-July, then let them all go to fern. If you have red berries develop (green at first, then red), these are the seed heads, and I will put some seed into bare spots in the bed. The rest I harvest and plant the next spring in pots to add to my bed or to sell on their second year
I am a snapper. I have access to tons of composted horse manure,free. so, I will add this to the bed this fall. I have usually harvested from mid April to mid May and then just leave it alone til fall. This year I am just letting it grow, since it is so thready. Some of the seeds have germinated over the past 2 years, but still only send up tiny spears. Maybe I ought to consider moving the whole darn thing.
My asparagus, I snap at ground level to harvest to eat. I do this until mid july, when I quit harvesting and let the whole plant go to fern. Once the fern dies down in the fall, I cut it off, add any seed pods to vacant spots in the bed and then add a couple inches of compost to the bed. Since I am mountainous zone 5-6, I think mulch the bed with large sheafs of straw (non gmo straw), and leave the bed until late March. Then I removed the straw, and watch for spears to harvest.
I have been doing this for 30 years and am 5 years into my new bed. A bed can last 15-25 years. Keep it weed free.