Spring is here! The asparagus is starting to come up! And my asparagus bed looks pitiful. I am so far behind on my gardening chores…as in I didn’t get the weeds pulled last fall! And then, it’s been such a cold and wet spring so far this year, that I have not been able to get outside to clean out the asparagus bed to prepare for this year’s crop. It’s a vicious cycle between the weather, the weeds and my motivation.
Our 16-year-old asparagus bed is 20′ by 4′, with about 26 plants. A bed can easily produce for 20-30 years or more, so it’s important to get it cleaned out soon. I don’t have the stamina to weed with a hoe, so I just crawl along on my hands and knees, up one side and back down the other. It usually takes me 3 – 4 hours. But I don’t mind, because it looks so good afterwards.
We usually mulch with hay or straw. I prefer hay, because as it breaks down and decomposes, it adds more nitrogen to the soil. Hay does tend to have a lot of weed seeds. However, I find that the persistent weeds that do grow through the mulch, are shallow rooted in the hay and are easily pulled. Mulch also helps to maintain a more constant soil temperature and retains moisture.
We neglected to mulch last summer. It’s kind of pointless with free-range chickens. They love scratching under the mulch for bugs and worms, scattering the mulch everywhere. But they are so stinking cute and funny, so it’s kind of a trade-off.
This will be my reward for all of my hard work!
Steps to revive a neglected asparagus bed
- Wait for a good rain to soften the soil, or water the bed well. It makes pulling roots out easier.
- Using a large sharp knife to cut out thick weed stems below the soil surface. I use a big, old sturdy kitchen knife that I keep in my tool caddy.
- Hand pull small weeds around the asparagus plants.
- Rake the soil surface smooth.
- Watch for the new weeds to appear. Pull them 2 -3 times the first couple of weeks to stay on top of the weeds. Or treat with a weed killer. See note below.
- If it hasn’t rained, water the bed well.
- Feed plants with an all-purpose fertilizer now and every 3 months during the growing season, following the directions on the label.
- Apply 3-4″ of mulch!
- Pull weeds as they appear. Only the strong will survive and they will be super easy to pull.
- Asparagus spears will have no problem growing through the mulch.
Note: We really try to grow our food naturally. However, there are times that we do resort to a glyphosate product, such as Round-Up. If the weeds have gotten the best of your garden, our retired County Agriculture Agent, suggested using a 5 gallon bucket with a gallon or two of the diluted weed killer (per package directions) and a paint roller on a broom stick to carefully roll the glyphosate solution onto the broad-leaf weeds between the rows, and then hand weed close to the plants. Be extra careful not to get the weed killer on the asparagus plants.
Asparagus grows so fast, that it needs to be check daily and can be harvested for 6 to 8 weeks. Stand the spears up in a jar with a 1/2″ of water and store in the fridge, until there is enough to cook.
Check out these Amazing Asparagus Recipes for some yummy ideas!
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