One of my goals in keeping this blog is to be real with you all. I don’t ever want someone to come on Budding Homestead and be filled with self-doubt and feel like growing food is too hard, or they aren’t good enough. The reality is that I’m learning as I go along and that means lots of mistakes, lots of failures. (Plus I have kids so that means lots of things get left undone!) On that note, I’m going to share a really embarrassing photo with you all because it’s real and because it’s to be learned from.
BAH! What is that???
Oh my, it’s my asparagus patch! Yes, it really is. How can anything grow in there, you ask? Well…it can’t!
As I mentioned at this same exact time last year, I’m usually caught off guard when the asparagus starts poking up. It’s become pretty routine that on a nice Spring day, I’m gawking at the chaos and disorder of my yard following the snow’s melting, when I notice a spear out of the corner of my eye. “Poor asparagus!” I think to myself. How did it even manage to make it’s way through that mess? Then I scramble to clear and weed the asparagus patch, it takes off with gusto after that and we enjoy asparagus every day for three weeks.
What’s the big deal, then you say? It is not a very good situation for a gardener to find themselves in because it is much more difficult to weed the patch when lots of little spears are breaking earth. It’s impossible not to snap a little head off on accident when yanking at grass, dead leaves and creeping charlie. I think I snapped six or so this year. In those early Spring days, my body is so starved of fresh garden vegetables that truly, every spear counts! The spears that do begin to emerge while under a blanket of last year’s bushes will be wickedly white as they do not receive enough sunlight, or of an unappetizing hunched-over shape due to all the obstacles in their path.
Plus, the sooner the patch is receiving sunlight, the sooner you will have asparagus on your plate! So it’s my new goal to prepare my asparagus beds in the Fall, just as I do the other beds. I will weed out the patch, cut back the bushes, clear out all debris, add a good layer of compost or manure and a thick mulch that will protect the roots, hold moisture, and prevent the overgrowth of weeds.
This little bit of Fall TLC will reward you with a strong patch of asparagus for years to come! So worth it!
What chores get overlooked in your garden?
Ramon Sibley says
I just inherited this bed and the stalks are 4 or 5 feet tall, surrounded by weeds, and some stalks have fallen over and woven into weeds. What do I do to bring it back to health?
Hello! I apologize for my delay on your question. It’s not too late, though. Asparagus if VERY forgiving. It is very normal for the stalks to be 4 or 5 feet tall as the patch progresses through the season. The initial spear comes out of the ground, you either harvest it, or let it grow into a bush. I recommend leaving spears that are less than 1/4 inch thick to grow tall. You want the plants to grow this tall as they soak in the summers sun and expand their root mass to give you a greater Spring harvest the following year! It is also normal for the tall stalks to be falling over as they are not super sturdy fronds. At this time of year, the asparagus patch should be a somewhat untidy, feathery, bushy hedge. As for the weeds, I would just pull out any major ones (viney weeds can steal their sun, so remove those, or very large ones). Then, I would do a deeper and more thorough weeding in the Fall after the fronds have died back. At this point, you can remove the dead asparagus fronds, and you can remove all the weeds. Do not till or hoe too deep though as you want to leave the asparagus root mass intact and it is rather shallow. After weeding, put down a thick layer of compost, then a thick layer of natural mulch (straw, leaves from your trees, wood chips, etc.) This will provide a winter blanket, build soil fertility and then help to keep the Spring weeds down and give your patch the most possible sun to start producing spears as early as possible. Once you’re in a good position with weeds, try to regularly compost in the Fall and keep that layer of mulch thick enough to prevent weeds taking hold again. This was clearly my downfall! Mulch breaks down easily, which is fantastic because it builds beautiful soil, but we have to keep re-applying it to beat those weeds. I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any more questions 🙂