~ JUST WAITING ~ Picking Asparagus

After what seems like a very long winter, I get that anxious feeling waiting for tender green asparagus tips to peek through warm, dark soil. The garden is quiet except for the rhubarb trying to unfold and the asparagus pushing .

How many times have you thought of growing asparagus and put it off? You could be picking it already, but you thought a 3 year wait was too long. Considering that the plant can live for 25 years with little assistance and that you have already put it off 2 years, maybe not.

Asparagus can be started by seed or by root. It is dioecious, that is plants carry reproductive parts of the male and female. In the 80’s all male (Jersey) varieties were introduced to dominate the female (Washington) varieties. Female plants spend part of their season producing fruit (red berries) whereas male plants produce larger, longer, and bigger yields. Sources differ on which gender produces the larger and most spears.

Asparagus beds can last for decades with no need for tedious transplanting. All they need is a well prepared bed (think 25 years, 5-6 feet deep and almost as wide), full sun, well-drained soil, and a soil test for NPK nutrients and PH (as close to neutral 7 is best).

You can plant asparagus in the garden, raised beds or flower beds as long as they are not shaded. Actually, in the garden they can be used to shade some of the shade lovers like lettuce. Keep weeds at bay and pull those dandelions when small. Remember half of your asparagus supply is below the surface. In the spring rake off any leaves and debris.

Be aware that an asparagus spotted beetle has a reddish body with dark spots. The common asparagus beetle has a dull, blue-black body with six orange-yellow spots. asparagus beetle 1Both larvae are a white caterpillar about ½ inch long. Long black eggs are laid in a row. Both adult and larvae feed on developed plantsasparagus beetle 2 and can cause crooked shoots. Remove leaves and weeds from around the bed to keep hibernating spots to a minimum. Beetles can be hand-picked early in the morning when it is tooasparagus beetle eggs cool to fly.

Harvest [asparagus] by cutting or snapping spears when 5-10”tall, cutting at ground level or before the heads start to open. Take care not to injure buds below. Spears can grow 10” in a day in an ideal crown. The first picking season, usually season two, pick only a few. The second year pick for about 4 weeks, the third year about 6 weeks and after that time you can pick for about 8 weeks. There is no real limit to the number of spears cut. It depends on the health of the plant. Be aware of space, moisture, and nutrients. After the cutting season, mulch with non-acidic materials.

In the fall, leave all the foliage (like bulbs they need the foliage to feed the roots) until it has dried to soil level, then CUT off and put down the second fertilizer of 10-10-10. Your soil sample will determine if you need bone meal, wood ash, green sand, cotton seed meal, rock phosphate or dolomite lime.

Are you ready to try growing asparagus? Or will you wait again?

For more information- https://bonnieplants.com/growing/growing-asparagus/
https://www.gardeners.com/how-to/growing-asparagus/7343.html
http://labs.russell.wisc.edu/vegento/pests/asparagus-beetle/

Submitted by Sheri Kisch

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THE OTHER FARMERS’ MARKET

Thinking about planning your garden for the summer? Consider planting a little extra to sell at the Healthy By Design Gardeners’ Market.

The Healthy By Design Gardeners’ Market is a community market held Thursdays, the 2nd week in June through the first week of October, 4:30-6:30 pm at South Park (Intersection of S. 28th Street and 6th Avenue S.).

The goal of the Gardeners’ Market is to provide an outlet for consumers to purchase fresh, healthy, local and affordable produce and eggs, as well as provide a place for local gardeners and farmers to directly sell their produce. The market is also a social meeting place to celebrate health and nutrition in the community.

The environment is relaxed and social with lots of educational activities for children as well as adults. There isn’t a vendor fee, we just ask that vendors reflect the savings in the price charged for produce, and there is no commitment that you need to be at every market.

If you have questions or would like to consider this opportunity contact Maia Dickerson, market@healthybydesignyellowstone.org or 406-651-6403 and she will put you on the contact list for vendor updates and May training!

By Maia Dickerson