Asparagus

Now before you skip this newsletter because you are too far south to grow asparagus. Let me say that this is an absolute myth. Asparagus can grow almost anywhere. It is true that your bed may not last the 20-30 years that mine will, you may get only 10 years or so. But one of your most nasty pests, the root-knot nematode, won't even bother your asparagus. So get out the catalogs! First, you want nice healthy crowns. Those are the roots and they kinda look like spidery things that spiral out from a central bud. You want them plump and not dried out. The buds should be swollen but firm. There is one school of thought that you should plant all male varieties and then all the plants energy will go in to producing spears. I can't vouch for this method. I have chosen to populate my bed with boys and girls and I like getting the new seedlings. The birds seem to like the berries. You can plant the berries, but if you want to be eating some spears a year sooner, you'll need to start with one or two year old crowns. Now is the time to order, although they won't be dug and shipped until late winter. I have also ordered in summer for late fall planting, but my Oregon weather did not cooperate and I wound up getting the crowns when there was two feet of snow on the ground. If you can, try to have the bed all ready before your crowns arrive. Making a bed that will last 20 years is hard work, but it is the most important part of growing asparagus. For long lasting asparagus beds dig deep-about one foot (more if drainage is poor). You want good light exposure and air circulation, so choose a good site. After you have removed the top foot of soil and set it aside. Dig deeper to loosen the subsoil as much as possible. If your soil is heavy clay, mix in some sand to improve drainage. Next line your trench with a three inch layer of compost. Then dump in about two inches of that top soil and mix well. If your soil is acid, mix in some lime at this point. Asparagus likes a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. Keep adding soil and compost until the trench is half filled. Next set your crowns bud side up and spread out the roots. Cover with soil to a depth of about two inches. Keep the rest of your soil handy and sprinkle it on a little at a time as the stems grow until the roots are about four inches deep. Try to have this done by the end of the summer. But don't stress if they are a little shallow, they'll gradually work themselves down to the right depth depending on your soil and climate. In cold climates, dont harvest any spears until the second year. In mild climates, harvest lightly the first year. Cut the spears just below the soil line and if a late frost threatens, cut every thing that's up.

Stop picking when the diameter of the largest spears drops to less than 1/2 inch. The harvest should last 6-8 weeks and then you have to let the remaining spears fern out and produce energy for next years crop. Water is critical all through the growing season and your bed should not dry out. But it should not be a bog either. Lots of organic material in the soil will help hold moisture, and a thick layer of mulch will keep it from evaporating. Asparagus is not a heavy feeder of nitrogen, but it does need plenty of potassium and phosphorus. Both of which are supplied by well rotted manure. If asparagus beetles are a problem where you live, clean up the bed in the fall and compost the stems. I cover my bed with a thick layer of straw to insulate the crowns from winter injury. In warm climates, asparagus ferns will be green in early winter. Cut them anyway, clean out any weak seedlings and fertilize. A month or so later when the soil warms, new spears will start poking through. I would like to tell you how to preserve your harvest, but to be honest, all of mine gets eaten while fresh. Early in the season when the growth is slow, I may have to save up the spears to get enough for a meal. Put them in a glass jar, with the cut ends in water, and place in the frig and it should keep them for several days. It can be pressure canned or pickled if you ever have enough left over. I'm lucky if the spears make it into the house before someone eats them raw!

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Never throw away the water that eggs have been boiled in. This water, although not suitable for humans to drink, is full of minerals. Allow it to cool completely and then feed your houseplants with it.

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I really like the idea of using only open pollinated, non hybrid seeds in our gardens. I would like to see this continue in the home garden. The protection of heirloom varieties is most important to the health of our planet and the survival of the human race. Perhaps we could do some seed swapping, if anyone is interested, let me know.

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Companion planting

Plant hyssop against cabbage moth, plant nasturtiums against aphids and squash bugs. Plant summer savory against bean beetles. Potatoes do well with celery, but beans dislike onions, garlic or gladiolus.

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Jerusalem artichokes are very easy to grow. They are related to sunflowers. But you eat the roots. They are high in food value and rich in vitamins. They can be cooked or eaten raw in salads. They are also called sun chokes. Try:  

http://www.gurneys.com/

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Brandie

"Flowers are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world."  

 

 

 

 

 
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