Flying Blue Dog
Farm & Nursery
Willow Creek, Ca
This is the dawning of the age of asparagus, the age of asparagus, aspar-a-gus, A-Spar-A-Gus!
My alarm clock this past week has been the lovely, fluting, triple trill of the male Robin Redbreast singing his heart out hoping to attract a mate. He may not be as flashy as some but he sure sings a pretty tune. He’s not bothered by the rain and doesn’t let it distract him from what time it is getting to be, neither do the forsythia, lilacs, tulips and daffodil, all blooming their heads off. Nature doesn’t wait for anybody or anything it just keeps evolving.
As soon as the rain abates for a while everything is going to explode in a profusion of growth seemingly coming from nowhere. While we were huddled in our houses keeping warm and dry nature was out there continuing its journey into spring. All that is needed is bit of warmth to set the explosion off. Are you and your garden ready?
If you have used mulch on your garden beds over the winter to keep the weeds down it would be a good idea now to scrape it off so that the soil gets a chance to dry out and warm up. The old mulch material is perfect for the compost pile or give it to your chickens to scratch around in, there are bound to be lots of slugs and snails for them to chow on.
It’s the perfect time to chop down and incorporate cover crop or green manures. If you brew compost tea, spray the cover crop first, then cut it down and chop it into your soil. The microbes in the tea will speed up the decomposition and make the area ready to plant sooner. In general it’s a good idea to let the cover crop decompose for 4 to 6 weeks before planting. If you don’t brew tea yet you can buy it freshly brewed. Just be sure to use it as soon as you get it home, for that matter, make sure the tea is fresh and has been constantly aerated. This ensures that the microbes are healthy and numerous.
Have you finished pruning your fruit trees? There is still time but it is a good idea to get on it in the next few weeks. With the large amounts of rain this spring you can be sure that we are in for some fungal issues especially on the cherries and peaches. We are going to take the next opportunity we have to get a good fungicidal spray on. What we are looking for is at least a 2-day window of weather so that the spray sticks to and dries on the trees and won’t be washed off. Organic sprays that are appropriate are sulfur and copper. Copper is more powerful and also more toxic to the soil so we like to use it only when absolutely needed, I think this spring might be one of those times. Caution: Don’t spray during bloom and read the directions and cautions of the containers!
Ok so asparagus…Yes, it too is coming up. I ventured into the garden during a lull in the rain and the first purple tinged shoots were just poking up. The next few weeks are truly going to be the age of asparagus. We will be eating it raw, steamed, sautéed and baked, every which way including up. With a little preparation now you too could join the age of asparagus.
Asparagus is another perennial vegetable and like rhubarb, which we talked about a few weeks ago, will come back year after glorious year with just a little bit of care and maintenance. Locate a spot in the yard or garden that has full sun exposure and rich well drained soil. Remember the area you choose will be home to asparagus for years to come so plan wisely. Remove all the weeds and work the bed to a nice smooth texture. Asparagus is moderate feeder so mixing in some well rotted and compost of manure will give good nutrition. Mixing in a good all-purpose organic fertilizer works too.
Buy bare root crowns or seed grown transplants. To plant crowns dig a trench 8-12 inches deep the length of the bed and place a plant in the bottom of the trench every 15-18 inches down the length topping them with just enough soil to cover them by about 2 inches. As the shoots grow continue adding a few inches of soil so that 3 or 4 inches of the shoot are above the soil. Continue until you are at surface level. If you have bought transplants you do the same except you want to make sure 3 or 4 inches of shoot are above the soil.
We use old straw to mulch around the plants to keep the weeds down. Asparagus does not like weed competition and we have found that a nice thick layer of mulch is the easiest way to stay weed free…or nearly so. Once the bed is established the only maintenance we do is re-mulching and pulling a few weeds. Then once in spring and once in the fall we scatter chicken manure over the beds. That is not much work for a whole lot of delicious fresh food!
Flying Blue Dog has asparagus transplants!
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