April 29, 2017
I have a seven year old asparagus bed that I did not harvest until the third year. Since then I have enjoyed lots of yummy asparagus. Last year's harvest was a bit disappointing and so far this year it has been downright pitiful: not one fat spear, some skinny spears and lots of skinny spears ferning out way too soon (too short to be doing this). I noticed last year that some areas had skinny spears and not the nice fat ones from previous years. Now it seems to be the entire bed. Could the last two mild winters have anything to do with this? I have spent a lot of time congratulating myself on this asparagus bed and perhaps not enough time doing what?
While it is true that high temperatures in the fall can impact the quality of the spring asparagus harvest, I have seen some outstanding asparagus this spring, so I don't think our weather had anything to do with this. Have you been fertilizing your beds every year? Asparagus likes a rich site. Some gardeners add a layer of compost or well-rotted manure every spring while others simply fertilize. Fertilization is something you should do every year. Most gardeners fertilize once a year after harvest, while others divide the application into two and fertilize after harvest and again 6-8 weeks later. Are you watering when dry in the summer? If your plants are struggling to grow it can impact the harvest. If there are neighboring trees with competing roots, or if you overharvest in later years this can also impact the plants. Try to get them healthy and happy this year and hope for a better season next year. With proper care, asparagus can be productive for twenty years or more.
My husband and I planted a bed of asparagus this year from roots. We have a lot of ferns and a lot of seed. In fact, they have grown 4 to 5 feet tall. We would like to know how to put this asparagus bed to sleep for the winter. Do we leave it alone and wait until they die? Do we cut them down? Can we get seeds from them to start another bed, and if so how? They make a wonderful display of ferns and we know that it will be a few years before we can enjoy them. We just wanted to make sure we do right by them until then.
Allow the ferns to grow until we have a killing frost, and then cut them back. Some gardeners leave the old ferns until mid-winter before taking them off, to prevent winter weeds, but either option will work. If you planted one year old crowns, you will need to wait another year before harvesting. You should be in full production by the time the plants are four years old. You can grow plants from the seeds, but the production time is delayed even longer--add an additional year to the process. Plant the seeds ½ inch deep in the spring when the soil warms up. I think it is easier and quicker to propagate them vegetatively.
I salvaged several asparagus crowns while tearing down raised beds at my 90 year old aunt’s yard. They have thick healthy roots and I am keeping them moist. But where and when should I plant them? Where can I store them until we have a spot to plant them?
Plant them now. Work up the soil to incorporate as much organic matter as you can—compost, well-rotted manure, etc. They need a spot where they can grow for years—since they are a perennial. Rich, well-drained soil in full sun is best. Water them well all summer and lightly fertilize. Next year, if you harvest at all, do so for a short period. Make sure you don’t harvest anything smaller than a pencil in diameter. You don’t want to wear them out until they are well established again in your garden. With proper care, asparagus can continue to give you weeks of wonderful edible spears in the spring for many years to come. If you don’t have a spot, then at least pot them up so they continue to grow and produce foliage. The foliage feeds the roots and helps them grow stronger each year.
This is the first year that I grew asparagus with two year old crowns. I did not harvest any this year as directed. What or how do I take care of them this winter? When I harvest next year how much and how often; I have 10 plants? How do I take care of my garden spot for the winter as I have never had a designated garden spot before?
Asparagus is a great perennial vegetable. You can begin a small harvest next spring, but don’t overdo it. Harvest until the size of the spears is smaller than a pencil in diameter. If you continue to harvest really small spears, you can wear the plant out, which will impact your harvest for years to come. By the following year, you should be in full production. As to winter care, simply let the ferny fronds grow until a killing frost and then cut them back. Some folks leave the fronds out for the bulk of the winter to cut down on weed issues, but you should remove the spent tops by mid January at the latest, to get the spot ready for spring harvest. For the general garden, fall sanitation—removing spent debris and either mulching or planting a fall cover crop can help keep weeds at bay and start your season cleaner. Some choices for fall cover crops include clovers, vetches, rye, and field peas.
I have an established asparagus patch that I have had for several years. I normally quit harvesting on June 1st every year. I have done this in the past in another state, and I would like to know if this is correct for Arkansas. Also, is it ok to treat with salt to keep the grass down, and when is the proper time to do this treatment?
I don't usually give a date to stop harvesting. You will usually harvest for six to eight weeks, but really strong plants can produce longer. The key is to stop harvesting when the spears are smaller than a pencil in diameter. If you continue to harvest as the spears get smaller, you can deplete the energy of the plant, resulting in weaker harvests in years to come. Salt is an old-fashioned remedy for weed control in asparagus beds. Asparagus is more tolerant of salt than most other vegetables, but I hesitate to recommend it. Salt stays in the soil for a long time and can build up if you use it every year. If there is any slope in your garden the salt can leach into surrounding soil where other vegetables are less tolerant. I would prefer light cultivation and mulching to keep grass and weeds out.