See you later asparagus

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This is the last week we’ll pick the asparagus.  Even though it’s still coming in pretty, to keep the plants healthy we have to stop picking now and allow them to fern out.  So no more asparagus until next April.

Asparagus is a very popular item at the market and we always sell out quickly.  We haven’t had a chance to put away any this year so everything we pick this week is going to our freezer rather than to our customers.

The season got off to a rocky start.  The asparagus was very late coming in.  Sometimes it starts coming as early as March but this year it didn’t emerge until May.

Standard practice is to cut down all the stalks in February, rake them into a pile and burn them. Doing so helps keep down the asparagus beetles, which overwinter in the dead fronds.  But this year I had the brilliant idea not to burn them.  Why not just leave them there to serve as a mulch and help keep down the weeds, I thought.  So I mowed them and left all the residue on the garden. It did suppress the weeds. But when the asparagus finally started coming it, it was assaulted full force by asparagus beetles.

The beetles were doing so much damage I worried that we might not have a crop.  According to the “experts” the solution was to spray our garden with malathion, carbaryl, methomyl or some other combination of pesticides.  Instead, I battled them by hand and hoped for the best.  After a few weeks the asparagus overcame the beetles and we ended up with a beautiful crop.  Once again, no poisons necessary.

But you can be sure that next year I will burn the residue.

14 comments on “See you later asparagus

  1. shoreacres says:

    That’s really interesting about needing to burn the old plants. It’s another reminder of how much there is to know about farming, and why it’s so easy for people to get stymied when they take a notion to plant a garden. As I heard someone say last week, “How hard can it be?” Seems to me the physical labor — hard as it may be — may be eclipsed by the importance of knowledge!

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    • Bill says:

      We didn’t raise asparagus when I was growing up so it was new to me. I used to worry that burning it would damage the asparagus roots so I’d drag the stuff over to another garden to burn. Now I know that’s not a concern (the industrial guys spray Roundup on their asparagus fields without killing the roots). I’ll be learning until I’m too old to do it anymore.

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  2. Buffy says:

    I didn’t know there were asparagus beetles! Oh my! I will surely cut and burn old wood in Spring. Thanks for the tip! Next year will be my first big harvest year, hopefully!

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  3. We’ve been enjoying the asparagus season here too, but we don’t grow it ourselves. My parents used to though – I don’t remember them burning the residue, but perhaps – back in the ’70s, so much was burned instead of composted.

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    • Bill says:

      Putting it in a good hot compost pile would be another way to cook the beetles, but if the compost isn’t good and hot in the winter I’d be afraid it wouldn’t do them in. Burning the residue in the garden still returns the organic matter to the soil.

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  4. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, fire has always been a cleanser and purifier. They don’t burn much any more here in Nebraska. Most do just one pass trash planting with fertilizer, pesticide, and herbicide all done at once. Then kick back and wait for the harvest. Live better chemically. Just being sarcastic. It’s difficult to finds folks that grow like you do. Our roadsides are littered with produce stands in the summer but I really suspect the picture perfect produce has been laced with chemicals to make them blemish free. I rarely compost any foliage from the garden.

    Have a great bug burning day.

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  5. Willow says:

    Glad to hear the asparagus triumphed over the beetle barrage !

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  6. I grew about 200 asparagus plants from seed in my propagation room earlier this year. My plan is to grow them in my raised beds here at home the first year and then transplant the crowns to the farm early spring. I fear I planted the starts out too soon (early April I think). Most of the little ferns died back I assume from a hasty hardening off (too much going on as usual). Anyhow, I have spot checked some of the roots and they are still going and have also noticed just this week that a few new ferns are popping up, so maybe not all is lost, but wondering if you have any sage asparagus advice for me on my plan. Thanks Bill!

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    • Bill says:

      We planted crowns. I’ve never started any from seed. Hopefully your root stock is healthy even if the ferns died down. I’m sorry but I don’t have any experience starting them that way. I’ll be looking forward to hearing how it turned out for you.

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