Asparagus question...

sheepco(MN z4)April 19, 2006

Wrong forum I know, but I like you guys and value your opinions.

My asparagus bed is about 12 years old. About 25 roots originally, plenty of space. About 3 years ago production declined a bit, then the next year it went down to about 1/2 of normal. We had had a dry year, so I attributed it to lack of water, but I also put in another 10 new roots (trench method), in case it was just age. Last year the new growth was good (didn't pick any), the older plants did so-so. I fertilize spring and fall with a regular vegetable garden fertilizer. I tried mulching heavily with sheep manure once about 5 years ago, but felt I had smothered any new shoots. I do have a lot of weeds in the bed, which I pull - have not been able to wage chemical warfare due to our spring weather, and would prefer not to anyway.

I have consulted my local master gardeners (who admit asparagus is not their specialty but have spent a HUGE amount of time trying to help me)and have narrowed it down to moisture and fertilizer.

So my question, what fertilizer do use for your asparagus?



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chickadeedeedee(z 6-7 ish Ohio)

Compost. Compost. Rah! Rah!! Rah!!!

Well aged compost that has gone through the heating cycle to kill any seeds every spring and fall seems to do the trick for us.


    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 10:41PM
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Here is a link to asapargus growing you might find useful.

Here is a link that might be useful: USDA Extension

    Bookmark   April 20, 2006 at 9:32AM
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Sheepco - some of the things I think might be contributing are mentioned in the link:

1. Weeds will reduce production
2. You beds are 12 years old and most beds last 15 to 25 years with close management, so your bed is getting up there in years.
3. Fertilizer timing/type/application
4. Maybe overproduction of spears?

You might want to start a new bed and consider using some of the newer hybrid all male plants, if you are already not using them. Replanting asparagus in the same place requires fumigation of the old field for latent disease.


    Bookmark   April 20, 2006 at 9:42AM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

I have to agree with the others. All the publications I trust say asparagus beds need to be totally replaced every 15 to 20 years and to start a new bed 5 years before you can expect full production. So don't get rid of the old bed yet. Let the old bed lie fallow for a year or so before planting asparagus there again. Weeds can be controlled with a salt application although I haven't actually done that. If your plants are producing seeds you have female plants which don't produce spears or at least not many, and those plants should be removed entirely and replaced with good quality hybrids that guarantee all male plants. Sandy

    Bookmark   April 20, 2006 at 1:16PM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

I asked for any new info today when I got to the Phone Response room today. The only additional weed control would be vinegar. Your best result is from pulling the weeds by hand. That means you will want to cook the compost really well to kill weed seeds before using it on the asparagus bed. It might be possible to apply Roundup if it can be done before any growing tips appear. The timing would be critical since Round up works at temps that in most cases would be after the tips appear. You could paint it on the weeds with a brush. Sandy

    Bookmark   April 21, 2006 at 2:55AM
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sheepco(MN z4)

Thanks to all,

I guess I knew my bed was getting on in folks have a bed 25 years old, but they have better conditions - I will certainly pass on all this info, they will need to start a replacement program in the near future!

cometose, thanks for the good info. I really try not to over pick the patch, and quit the last week of June, leaving the spears to mature, spread, etc. I have no idea what sex my plants are - I'll certainly research any new plants I get, 'cause I do have some that produce seeds. And weeds are a problem for me, Unfortunately once I'm done picking I tend to ignore the bed - but if I start a whole new bed I may just be doubly lazy!

Sandy, I have never been able to get the timing right to Round-Up the weeds, the first week we have that's warm enough for the weeds to pop up is the same week the asparagus emerges! I recall reading about the salt method, I'll search it. And vinegar huh? I'll search that too.

And Mike - I'm into compost big time, I have BIG piles of 1, 2, and 3 year old stuff and always use to oldest 1st. No weeds from that.

Barring any new great insight I guess it's time to start a new bed and keep the old one going for a few more years with TLC, water, and MORE fertilizer!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2006 at 11:30PM
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jeffahayes(8a Upstate SC)

I have NO EXPERIENCE growing asparagus, but from all I've previously read, it looks like you're getting good advice, Sarah.

The primary reason I'm posting, however, is because although I'm generally not much into veggie gardening, I just MIGHT have to start an asparagus bed after my experience this evening... My neighbor across the street has an off-site garden somewhere and gave me some fresh asparagus he had grown yesterday... I'd bought "fresh" asparagus at the supermarket before and steamed it, and it was "OK," but NOTHING like this... I'm used to just eating the Green Giant canned stuff, but this was PHENOMENAL... I just steamed it for about 30 minutes, after cutting the spears to a size where they'd fit in the steamer, and MAN, I've NEVER tasted asparagus like that!

The bottom half of the stalks were all still kind of tough, but the top halves with the spears were enough for a serving for everyone, so that's what I served at supper, and it was so darned good, I turned the steamer back on to see if I could soften up the remaining stalks, and ended up eating all but a couple of the absolute toughest ones (one I chewed for about 10 minutes before I finally gave up and spit it in the trash can -- still tasted good after all that time, too!)

Even my mom, who usually just sort of "puts up" with the Green Giant stuff and fussed at me when I bought the "fresh" and steamed it RAVED about this... So any of you who ARE growing asparagus beds... now I REALLY GET IT!

Happy Gardening! :)

    Bookmark   May 14, 2006 at 1:13AM
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LOL! Jeff, about the tough parts...a rule of thumb I've used is to hold the stalk at the bottom with one hand, and with the other hand holding the stalk about halfway down, start bending. Wherever it snaps, you're just about guaranteed tender shoots. :) Oh, also, if the stems are really thick, you can peel them a bit.

I only steam it for about 5-10 minutes, though. Maybe you over-cooked it! Not that I've ever done that before. :D


    Bookmark   May 14, 2006 at 1:03PM
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norah_s(Z5 NH)

Jeff, you are now in on the secret! I had never tasted REAL fresh asparagus until I started my own bed. It's ambrosia.

Tough stems on store-bought asparagus I break off and compost, but often with my fresh stuff I will bother to use a potato peeler and cook the stems into a cream of asparagus soup that gets pureed in the blender. Lots of work, but wonderful soup!


    Bookmark   May 14, 2006 at 8:59PM
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sheepco(MN z4)

Ah, another addiction! There's nothing like the real thing, fresh picked 1/2 an hour before supper, steamed for 5 minutes (or prepared any number of other ways). And yes the tougher spears make great soup! And after freezing plenty for the winter months, there's always pickled asparagus.

PS: The patch is doing ok - I picked 4# last night :)


    Bookmark   May 15, 2006 at 9:27PM
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hey sarah, slightly off topic! obviously, since you are eating asparagus, minnesota is starting the growing season. but, are wildflowers up yet there? i found a dormant plant sale from a place in minnesota- of which i am curious- dormant, or dead? ya know?

first i thought, minnesota, probably sleeping still. what do you think?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2006 at 9:53PM
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sheepco(MN z4)


Most everything here in midwest MN is up though it's been cool and rainy here. My purple cone flowers are 6" tall, Prairie Smoke should be blooming next week. Wild 'black-eyed' susan's are up as well as Columbine, Violets, etc.

That said, it snowed last weekend in Duluth.


    Bookmark   May 18, 2006 at 11:15AM
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thanks, sarah!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2006 at 11:25PM
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sheepco, do a search on this site for "asparagus" & you will find this tip as I did.
If your GUS bed is over 1 year old then add Sodium Chloride Rock salt(NaCI) pickling salt, apply 2.5 LBS per 100ft row.
Do NOT use any other salt.
Mulch with leaves, at least 6".

Here is a link that might be useful: How to plant

    Bookmark   January 29, 2011 at 2:54AM
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