Old Asparagus bed full of grass, Till, Mulch?

wertach zone 7-B SCMarch 1, 2011

I have a small, old, neglected Asparagus bed that is covered with Bermuda grass. It produces spears but not enough at one time for a meal for two.

Can I shallow till it and mulch it while its dormant? If so how deep should the mulch be? The plants are healthy. After I quit picking them and let them grow they get very big.

Any other suggestions for rejuvenating it?

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I would not till it. I would mulch the sides of where the spears are coming up, then after they are done, thickly mulch the whole area.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 3:58PM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

Tilling Bermuda doesn't do much except burn gas and anger the Bermuda. Much more must be done to exclude it, most involve efforts associated with the word 'Herculean'.

And the last thing you want to do to an asparagus bed is till it, unless you want to remove it.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 4:22PM
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jollyrd(Richmond VA)

dont forget to fertilize asparagus about now - cut down all brown stems, and put nitrogen rich fertilizer

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 4:46PM
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you can till the surface of an asparagus bed while it's dormant with no ill effects... we do it every year...

it's not going to help with the bermuda grass though...

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 10:45AM
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Agree with others. Tilling the bermuda grass may shred it to pieces, many of which will happily grow independently and make your problem even worse. A one-time application of (I know, I know) RoundUp, followed by eternal vigilance might do the trick. Although I would first check and see if RoundUp will kill bermuda grass completely. A totally light-blocking mulch sounds like a better idea though. I would try something like wet leaves that would mat down, stay put and smother. Asparagus spears should be able to poke their way thru it.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 11:44AM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

is there someway you can pull the grass back from the asparagus and then use paper as well as mulch to mulch between the asparagus plants? maybe the asparagus needs a little more help, and mulching might be a good thing?

other than that knock it all down with a whipper snipper and using paper and mulch treat the whole area.

i've seen an asparagus patch and what i saw they didn't get a lot of spears to harvest at anyone time, the comment from the gardener was as soon as a spear is long enough it gets picked and eaten fresh and raw.

one day i'll give it a try growing some hey might be a lesson or 2 in that for me.


Here is a link that might be useful: lens garden page

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 1:20PM
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the answer is simple you spray grass with salt water. asparagus is salt tolerant. With not be effected by the salt water.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 2:10PM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

Bermuda grass won't be effected by salt water, either.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 2:51PM
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You could try spraying the bed with Grass B Gone. It claims to kill bermuda.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 5:44PM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

Why on earth someone would recommend applying a poison on edibles is beyond me.

Bad ideas notwithstanding, there are dozens of threads on this board about problems in killing Bermuda. There is no easy way. Its tillers and rhizomes can travel many yards to get where they want. I once did a landscape job where the rhizomes got under the house slab and popped up in the middle of the bedroom under the carpet pad. It was still moist, sitting there waiting for light. Truly a remarkable plant as long as it is not in your yard. My best advice is do not make it angry and keep at it. Forever.


    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 6:32PM
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I partially agree with Dan, and note that Bermuda comes up relatively late, and so one would spray when the spears are coming up too. The solution is to PAINT Roundup on the grass, in May or June, with a large paint brush, taking care of not touching the spears. Then cover with cardboard and wood chips, and finish the survivors manually. Fungal activity in decaying wood chips will degrade Roundup over time.

This will work only if the bed is protected by a rhizome barrier, and kept mulched forever. If not, don't bother.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 6:53PM
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dott22(z8a SC)

Another option would be to dig the crowns, till the bed, rake the bermuda, and replant the crowns.

Many nurseries ship the root crowns to people all over the country and they will be out of the ground for a few days or more. If you keep yours moist for a day or less and replant, you should have no problem keeping them healthy.

I'm not sure about this, but I think you can divide the crowns when you have them dug and expand your bed if needed.

With the plants out of the way, getting rid of the Bermuda should be manageable.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 11:18AM
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Everything has a life span. If it is an old bed with old plants why not start a new bed with new plants in another location? Keep the old bed until the new one is established then till it, kill it, and cover it with carpet or thick mulch for a few years until maybe reestablishing it for a rotational schedule between the two beds.

I use two beds in rotation. I harvest from one while the other is being re-established. I then have a few years when I get a double harvest until I start over with the oldest bed. But I understand not everyone has the time or space to do this. I guess it all depends how much you enjoy a certain vegetable.

Then, as mentioned previously, maintain your beds. :-) It is far easier maintaining a bed than trying to restore it. My constant fight is against quack grass but it only takes a couple minutes a week and a bulk hour or two every year to knock it back and re-edge my asparagus beds. I know if I blow off this maintenance just one season my beds are toast.

Best of Luck!

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 12:13PM
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I agree with dott22. If it's a really old bed, likely it has female plants (do you get red berries?) and the crowns need to be dug up and separated anyway. If it's truly ancient, you may end up damaging the crowns too much separating them, but since the bed is producing poorly anyway this wouldn't be a huge loss.

Shouldn't your asparagus be producing spears already? If so, I think you should wait until late fall before digging up crowns.

Anyway, bermuda laughs at mulch and weed block, so mulch if you like but don't expect it to knock the grass back. Other than repeatedly and painstakingly pulling out as much root structure as I can, the only effective thing I have found is a late fall application of Round-Up, and even then it just slows it down. Neither would work in an asparagus bed, though.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 10:35PM
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wertach, go to the organic garden forum, there are two threads on removing grass. You do not have to be an organic gardener to use the tricks.
Dig up Asparagus crowns-Blaspheming.I have not heard of removing crown over 4 years of age in my 40 something years of gardening. Can they live though the shock?
I mulch my asparagus beds with oak leaves & weed by hand.
You can pile the mulch on all Spring (after you stop harvesting) & summer. You just have to pull it back off of the plants in early Spring.
I agree with jollyrd, but I remove the stems in late fall after they are dead, so the asparagus beetle can not lay eggs on the base of the dead stems.Some tomatoes & garlic plants will help confuse them too. Plant the tomatoes between the asparagus & the garlic.

Here is a link that might be useful: Asparagus beds

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 12:39AM
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You should hand pull all the weeds, tilling will spread the problem. After all the grass is pulled, run the tiller over your asparagus bed, keep the tines on a shallow setting so they only do down about 3-4 inches. Doing this is an old gardeners trick to make the asparagus plants spread out and create more plants. You should have around 20 plants growing in order to get enough at one time for a meal. If all that work sounds like too much, simple till the bed up and start over with new crowns.

Here is a link that might be useful: asparagus plants

    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 10:52AM
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I'm about to tackle the same kind of problem in our not so old asparagus bed. Have spoken with a friend who has much more experience in this climate, with Bermuda and with growing asparagus with this problem. If you care to, you can drop in on the Oklahoma Gardening forum and look up Mulberryknob, as she and her husband have been successfully beating Bermuda in their asparagus bed for years. Essentially one has to get as much ahead of the stuff as possible (the real problem). I intend to use a spading fork and a couple of hand tools to dig it out (carefully) around the asparagus. Then, one mulches, as mentioned above. The real key, however, is what one does this fall. After things get cold our friends dump more than a foot of leaves on top of the bed; more if possible. It's important to maintain the thick mulch, year round. The very thick mat of leaves suppresses the Bermuda as much as one can suppress the stuff. Plus, in the coming spring, what does make it through can more easily be pulled by hand. After a couple of years of this treatment they have a Bermuda free asparagus bed. It's just not going to be easy to get started. Though I won't use Roundup, I can fully understand why someone would.

Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 8:53AM
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Last fall I tried dividing my asparagus plants and have a modest amount of success; I since read that its best to divide them in early spring before the spears appear. So propagating from your existing plants is over for this season.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 1:09AM
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Every year in late winter or very early spring I burn off my asparagus beds. If I haven't already cut down the ferns, I first cut them and pile them on the beds. I've got one of those weed burning torches that I bought very cheaply at Harbor Freight and it does a fine job of getting the ferns going and burning anything else left over. I then lay a heavy layer of compost on the beds.

OK. That's what I mean to do every year. In fact, when I do that I have very good results. This year I slipped and didn't put down the compost and now have weeds and grass in my beds. If I would follow my own advice I'd be much better off.


    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 1:50PM
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