Friday, May 22, 2015

Update on Our New Asparagus Planting: Part II

Update on Our New Asparagus Planting: Part II 

May 2015,

From our last post you’ll recall that we planted a new bed of asparagus crowns at Johnny’s Research Farm in Albion on May 4th. Prior to planting, we dug an 8”-deep trench, but following planting did not fill the trench back up to the soil line. Now that the spears have started emerging from the soil, it’s time to add another layer of soil.


This is a fairly simple process. All you need to do is use some sort of gardening tool — a rake, a stirrup hoe, a small pitchfork — and gently add soil to the furrow. We used a collinear hoe (see image below). Do not cover the spears all of the way; leave the top of the bud still showing above the soil.

Do Not Totally Cover Spears

The furrow still won’t be completely filled in at this point; you are only adding one more layer of 2–3” of soil. In another week or so, after waiting for the spears to emerge again, you will need to add more soil back into the furrow. Repeat until the amount of soil in the furrow is even with the soil line. 

Collinear Hoe
Although you’ll be eager to begin harvesting, establishing an asparagus bed requires patience. It is not until a full year after planting that the spears will be of harvestable size. Even then, your first harvest will be short. The reward for waiting, if you maintain the asparagus bed properly, is it will continue to produce well for upwards of 15 years!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Putting in a New Bed of Asparagus Crowns — Part I

By Lindsay Spigel, R&D, 
Johnny’s Selected Seeds

May 2015 

Following the late arrival of spring here in Central Maine — and hopefully the last few weeks of frosts — we were able to put in a new bed of asparagus crowns for our Research trials. Many of you have likely already received your crowns and planted them, but for those still waiting on the weather to break, now’s a great time to prepare the bed. Here’s a walk-through, with some tips for success.

How we made our bed: 

May 2015 Asparagus Trial
The first step in planting asparagus is to ensure that the site you've chosen meets all the requirements
to keep the plants healthy for many years to come. If you chose a location that is less than ideal, there are workarounds to improve the site, but in the long run it will be more work.

Choose a location that receives full sun or part shade. As you can see in the pictures, our asparagus trial is out in the open, with little shade from nearby trees. It is best to check your soil pH the fall before you plant; you’ll be able to apply any amendments at that time so it can reach the ideal pH of 7.0 for spring. Proper bed preparation in the spring is key — it is much easier to rid the area of weeds before you have planted than to fight weeds throughout the life of the asparagus bed.

After you ensure that your planting location is weed free, dig a furrow 5–8” deep. If your soil is heavy, a shallow furrow is better, to prevent the crowns from becoming waterlogged. We have well-drained soil at our Research farm, and you can see here that our furrow is about 8” deep.


Planting our crowns 

The crowns will look dry when you pull them out of the box, but that is completely normal. Because we had our crowns before we were ready to plant, we opened the box and removed the band from the bundle of crowns to inspect them. Mold that sometimes forms during shipping is easily wiped off with a damp cloth, and shouldn't affect the health of the crowns. If they appear to have dried out during shipping, sprinkle the crowns with a bit of water. After inspecting the crowns, we placed them loosely in the box, then loosely closed the box and placed it in a standard refrigerator. We checked on them every few days to ensure they remained healthy until we were ready to plant.

Asparagus Trial Spacing
When the timing is right — 3–4 weeks before the last average frost — and your furrow is dug, it’s time to plant. Our planting date this year was May 4th. Place the crowns 12” apart in the furrow. If you’re planting Purple Passion (F1), the in-row spacing should be slightly closer, 6–8” apart, to avoid overly thick spears. Splay the roots out as best you can while keeping the crowns upright time to plant.

Although the furrow is deep, at this time you will only cover the crowns with 2–3” of soil. Water the crowns until the soil is damp, and keep them moderately moist throughout the establishment period.

Cover the Crowns with 2-3" of Soil
Gradually Fill in the Furrow

Now you wait — it can take a couple to a few weeks for the crowns to become established and start growing. As spears appear, you will gradually fill in the furrow as they grow — check back in a couple of weeks to see images of how our new asparagus bed is growing!

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An Update!