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Vegetable Gardening: I need your help with asparagus, please

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Debsroots
Northwest, MO
(Zone 5a)

April 19, 2005
1:02 PM

Post #1412528

I have tried to get asparagus to grow two times. I have just received 40 roots of Mary Washington and will now try for the third time. The first question...do I need to get these in the ground right away...or can I wait awhile? Can you provide me with detailed directions...I would really like to succeed this time.

Thanks for any and all help you can provide.

Deb
VGMKY
Louisville, KY

April 19, 2005
3:04 PM

Post #1412696

I hope this information is helpful...
Growing Asparagus
Family: Liliaceae
Genus and Species: Asparagus officinalis
Asparagus is a perennial crop that will be in the ground for at least 10 to 15 years. Asparagus does not do well if summers are extremely hot and long and winters are mild.


Climate
Asparagus produces the best in areas where freezing temperatures or drought terminates plant growth and provides a rest period. Without this rest period the asparagus plants experience reduced yields. Asparagus is very tolerant to large temperature variations and therefore well suited to a variety of Zones.

Asparagus can be grown in a wide range of soils and under various climatic conditions, but it thrives in fertile well-drained soils in moist temperate regions that have long growing seasons and sufficient light for maximum photosynthesis. Asparagus likes full sun or at worse, partial sun.

Soil
Attention to selection and preparation of the planting site is especially important. Asparagus performs best if the soil pH is within a range of 6.5 to 7.5. Phosphorous, potassium, and lime amendments - based on a soil test - should be incorporated prior to planting.

If perennial weeds are a problem, a sequence of tillage and cover cropping with sorghum-sudan or buckwheat at least a year in advance of planting will help control weeds. Green manure crops also improve soil structure and enhance soil fertility but be sure to till them in before they reach seed maturity.

Spacing
Plant asparagus with a spacing of 8"-14" between plants and 4' - 6' between rows. At 8" the spears will be more slender and at 14" the asparagus spears will be more robust.

Direct Seeding
Direct seeding is not normally practiced.

Seeding For Transplants
Plant asparagus seeds " deep in a cell trays, soil blocks, or 4" pots of potting mix. Soak the seeds in water overnight before planting.

Germination
seeds germinate best in soils around 60F - 85F. Germination will take about 21 days.

Planting Root Stock
Plant the asparagus crowns 2-4 weeks before last spring frost. Asparagus crowns can be purchased from a nursery. Soak the crowns in lukewarm water for a few hours before planting. Plant asparagus in furrows with a spacing of 8"-14" between plants and 4' - 6' between rows. At 8" the spears will be more slender and at 14" the asparagus spears will be more robust.

Transplanting Into the Garden
Transplant asparagus to the garden at 12-14 weeks.

Watering
Asparagus roots can penetrate up to 10 feet to obtain soil water but their greatest water uptake will occur within top 6 to 24 inches of rooting zone. It is very important to ensure the asparagus plants have adequate soil moisture in this zone during the fern stage. Inadequate soil moisture during fern development can cause significant reduction in next spring's spear production. Dry soil conditions during spear growth can also affect quality and yield. Adequate soil moisture is also necessary for newly planted crowns to establish good root development and fern growth. Asparagus planted in sandy soils require frequent irrigation.

Light, frequent irrigation applications should be avoided during fern growth to minimize foliage disease development.

Harvesting
Asparagus planted from seed will take 2-3 years to establish and produce significant yields. Asparagus planted as crowns will begin producing between 1-2 years.

Harvest is done by hand when the spears reach approximately 9". Diameter is not a good indicator of
maturity.

Fresh, high quality asparagus will be dark green and firm with tightly closed, compact tips.
Asparagus stalks will be straight, tender and glossy in appearance. The harvest period in a mature
asparagus planting lasts about eight to nine weeks. Spears are hand picked by snapping or cutting them just
above the ground. Most commercial growers build their own harvest aids to increase harvest efficiency.
These low-lying platforms can either be attached to the front or rear end of a tractor, or are
self-propelled. Once harvest begins, picking takes place every other day in cool weather, and every day
later in the season.

Be aware that asparagus spears grow more rapidly as temperature increases. Asparagus will grow 7" in a
day when the temperatures reach 90. Also taller spears grow more rapidly than shorter ones.

Post-Harvest Handling
Fresh asparagus is highly perishable and deteriorates rapidly above 41F and therefore some method of cooling the asparagus after harvest is necessary. Pre-cooling to remove field heat prior to shipment is commonly practiced via hydro cooling. Hydro cooling is the process of spraying or immersing vegetables in chilled water.

Storage
Asparagus can be kept successfully for about 3 weeks at 35F. High relative humidity (95% to 100%) should be maintained, with good ventilation to reduce carbon dioxide and ethylene buildup. Do not store asparagus in a plastic bag or other non-breathable container. A lack of ventilation will allow the build up of ethylene gas which will cause the asparagus spears to toughen. Asparagus is commonly stored
standing on end, bound with a rubber band, and with the butt ends on a wet pad.

Diseases
Fusarium, Asparagus Rust, Needle Blight, Purple Spot

Pests
Asparagus Beetle, Spotted Asparagus Beetle, and Asparagus Aphid

Comments
Allow the ferns to grow naturally for the remainder of the season. Don't cut them back until they die naturally. Apply compost or well-aged manure in the fall or spring.

Keep asparagus bed weeded to reduce the possibility of disease and competition for water.

White asparagus has a milder flavor than green asparagus. To create white asparagus, deny the asparagus plant sunlight. Simply mound up soil or straw over the asparagus row and keep the spears covered.

References
Oregon State University, "Asparagus, Commercial Vegetable Production Guide", Last modified 2002-11-12, Oregon State University, http://www.orst.edu/Dept/NWREC/asparagu.html, Accessed 2002-12-30

Marr, C. & Tisserat, N., "Asparagus, Commercial Vegetable Production, Kansas State University",
http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/library/hort2/mf1093.pdf, Accessed 2002-12-30
Joan
Belfield, ND
(Zone 4a)



April 20, 2005
5:11 AM

Post #1414488

I would try to get them planted as soon as you can.

What I did when I started my first asparagus patch was to dig a trench 12 inches deep and 6 inches wide. I then put some compost in the bottom of the trench and planted the asparagus roots with the fingers fanned out. I only covered them by about 2 inches, then throughout the summer, kept filling in the trench until by fall it was level. Don't harvest any of the stalks until the third season. The following spring after planting, I sidedressed it with more compost, and have done the same every spring since. That is the best asparagus bed I have so far.

The one I started last spring isn't doing nearly as well, but I got in a hurry and tried to cut corners by not digging the trench out like I should have, and trying to crowd too many asparagus crowns in too closely. Live and learn. If any of those crowns show up alive this spring, I'm going to dig them out and re-plant them correctly.
joanlc
Perham, MN
(Zone 3b)

May 5, 2009
2:03 PM

Post #6506835

I got some seedlings on sale last summer, and sort of whacked them into a hastily-dug new garden (just for them, separate from the veg garden, because they're perennial and I want to be able to till my whole veg garden). They're sending up lots of little tiny shoots this spring. Everyone writes about trenches and deep planting for crowns - but what's best for these babies? Should I dig them up and re-plant them?
jjconcepts
Milford, CT
(Zone 6a)

May 5, 2009
2:17 PM

Post #6506912

I an not the guy for the science of it, I recieved crowns, wonderful ones from nourse farms. we have heavr clay.. just dragged a 4 or 5 inch trench, with the fat side od the pic axe. and threw in the aspararagus - roots spread end to end and filled it back to just over the crown took about 20 minuites for 40 ...2nd year and they are doing great.. Honestly I don't think asparagus really cares too much, it is very hardy.
darkmoondreamer
(Karen) Frankston, TX
(Zone 8a)

May 5, 2009
2:17 PM

Post #6506916

The reason people write about deep planting and trenches for asparagus is because asparagus loves to be kept weed free at all times...you plant deep so that frequent weeding doesn't disturb the roots. HTH, Karen

greenhouse_gal

greenhouse_gal
Southern NJ
United States
(Zone 7a)

May 5, 2009
6:39 PM

Post #6508214

We did a trench for ours, and keep the bed weed-free with cardboard mulch plus salt hay. It does very well that way. We also have a patch of asparagus down by the river that was here when we moved in many years ago, and that's quite happy in a border with lots of weeds, Virginia creeper, marsh mallows and the odd phragmite.
krowten
Greensburg, PA

May 5, 2009
10:41 PM

Post #6509272

A couple of other tips:
1) Don't be greedy in harvesting. If you see the size of the shoots start to decrease, then that is the time to stop picking,.
2) Don't cut back the ferns until well after the growing season. - I have seen people mow the fronds down routinely during the growing season. They need to be allowed to grow, to strengthen the plant for the next year. Around here that means they grow until after frost.
3) Water is important - I sometimes can trigger a second harvest just by increasing the water in mid summer. Of course you don't want to do this do a second harvest with stressed plants but a spurt of extra water can get you stronger plants for the next year.
KaperC
No. San Diego Co., CA
(Zone 10b)

May 7, 2009
1:11 AM

Post #6514748

Joanlc, I just got some 4-inch seedlings, too, and they seem so delicate I'm hesitant to put them in my raised bed, where something has been eating everything I plant (except the bok choy, which bolted in a recent heat wave). Apparently whatever it is likes garlic, because the spray I've been using only worked for a short time.

Would like to know how to handle seedlings re planting, watering, etc.

joanlc
Perham, MN
(Zone 3b)

May 18, 2009
2:29 PM

Post #6564606

I read somewhere here on Dave's Garden that rabbits don't care for asparagus, which certainly seems to be the case with my 15-year-old wild ("naturalized," ha ha!) pair of crowns. (Which are also growing just fine in a patch of quack grass, though if I had cared for them, the harvest would be huge by now.) I put my seedlings in a place where they'll get more sun and water and regular care, and the rabbits haven't touched them. I think, like greenhouse_gal said, they're pretty tough, even though they look delicate; and I don't think they'll get eaten by your varmint, whatever it is. But you could always put one or two out to check!

Many thanks to darkmoondreamer for the deep-planting info. I think I'll head out to my little guys with a brush and a bottle of Round-Up and paint the invaders.

If anyone can offer any advice to KaperC (and me and anyone who might be acquiring seedlings right now) about best planting depth for seedlings, that would be much appreciated!

Joan

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