How to Grow Asparagus
(Page 5 of 6)
Cutting below or at the soil surface leaves the fibrous end attached to the spear, which must be removed before cooking. This butt-end helps the spear retain moisture so it can be stored for a longer period of time. For best quality, fresh asparagus should be kept refrigerated and used within two to three days. Wrapping a moist paper towel around the ends, or standing the spears upright in a container filled with a couple inches of water in the refrigerator, helps to maintain freshness. To preserve your harvest further, asparagus can either be canned or frozen after blanching.
Feed the future
Asparagus, as a perennial, requires a bit more work than most vegetables after harvest. After the end of the asparagus harvest season, post-harvest duties continue through summer and into autumn. The ferns should be allowed to grow throughout the season. They can get quite large – up to five feet tall. Resist the urge to prune them or, worse, cut them to the ground during summer. The asparagus fern feeds the crown and roots, supplying energy needed to produce next year’s crop. Keeping the fern healthy throughout the post-harvest growing season helps ensure an increased yield and better quality for the next season.
Keep the bed weeded, and control disease and insects. The most common disease problems with asparagus plantings are fungal. Because treatments aren’t typically 100 percent effective, prevention is crucial. Buying disease-free crowns, planting in a sunny, well-drained location and keeping beds well-maintained are the best forms of prevention. Rust is a fungal disease carried by the wind; the spores overwinter on asparagus plant debris and affect new growth the following season. Remove the ferns from the area in fall; if you have rust, don’t compost. Fusarium is a soilborne fungus. Control is directed at minimizing infection early in the bed by using good cultural practices. Some studies suggest the plants’ susceptibility to Fusarium may be reduced by adding mycorrhizal fungi, which feed and help protect plants from drought, to the soil when planting.
The biggest threat from insects comes from asparagus beetles. They feed on the shoots in spring and the foliage in summer. Removing them by hand is the best organic control, and removing the ferns in fall will eliminate the beetles from overwintering. Got chickens, ducks or geese? Turning them loose in your asparagus bed will help control the beetles.
Mulching asparagus plantings is a good practice. In summer, it helps control weeds and keeps moisture in the soil. In colder climates, it helps protect the crown during winter and stimulates the shoots so they emerge earlier. A generous application in fall – up to 1-foot thick – is not too much.
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