There is nothing like having fresh asparagus from your own garden! Asparagus is just one of those crops that no matter how fresh it may look or feel in the supermarket - the taste of home
grown can't be beat!
Asparagus is different than most of the vegetable crops planted in the garden. Unlike annual varieties such as tomatoes, cucumber and peppers that need planted each year - asparagus is a perennial. Once established, they can provide a good crop for 20 to 25 years for you and your family to enjoy!
They also differ because plants are either male or female. The males are known to have larger and more abundant spear production, while the female varieties tend to be thinner and produce seeds in the fall for reproduction. Most prefer to plant only the male for the added production levels. Popular male varieties such as Jersey Giant and Jersey Knight are great choices for those looking for maximum yields.
Asparagus can be started from seed or from what are called crowns - which are nothing more than the roots of 1 to 2-year-old asparagus plants. Most, (including us) really prefer starting them with the crowns and not from seed. Growing from seed can take up to 2 to 3 years to have edible spears formed - while starting with crowns can give you a few spears to enjoy by the second year. It's also easier to start and maintain the crowns - as their growth is more defined early on, making it easier to keep weeded.
How To Plant :
With the long crop cycle of 20 or more years - it is important to prepare your bed space accordingly. Work in generous amounts of compost to the soil before planting to provide a good starting base for your crop. Asparagus will do best in a nice, sunny location. They can tolerate some partial shade, but grow and thrive much better with full sun.
To plant asparagus, you will want to dig a trench about 6" deep and about 8" wide. We like to space ours about 18" between crowns. Place the crown at the bottom of the trench, and cover with about 2" of topsoil. As the crown begins to grow through the soil, keep adding a few inches of soil until the soil level has filled in the trench over the course of a few weeks. This process allows the asparagus to develop a deep root system to provide for years of crop harvests.
For your first year, allow the plants to grow tall. Resist the temptation to cut a few spears - you want all of the growth to go to the plant and root structure. In the fall after they have died off, you can cut them off about 1" above the soil and place a little straw or compost mulch over them for the winter.
In year two, you will begin to see some small spears shoot through the earth in the spring. You can harvest the first week or two of spears, then allow the plants to once again grow tall and build up strength. The year 2 spears will be smaller, but still very tasty!
Year 3 is where the fun begins! You should be close to full harvest - enjoying fresh spears each and every spring for many years to come. After each spring harvest, let your asparagus grow tall in the beds and repeat the process of cutting back after they have died off in the fall.
Upkeep and Maintenance of Beds:
The biggest key to good productive asparagus is to keep your beds weed free. Weeds and grass compete for valuable nutrients, and a weedy bed will result in smaller, less productive harvests. We use either straw or compost mulch to keep ours weed-free throughout the year. It's also a good idea each fall to put on a two-inch covering of compost on top of your beds to give some added nutrients. Other than that - once established, your asparagus beds will provide you with years of fresh and amazing tasting crops each spring!
Happy Gardening! - Jim and Mary
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There are few things that can make your garden more successful than compost. Compost, or "Black Gold" as it is so often called, improves soil vitality and structure – and significantly
bolsters your plants health and yields. The best part of all – you can use your own coffee grounds, kitchen scraps, grass clippings, and leaves to make great compost right in your own backyard.
The market place is flooded with all kinds and type of compost making systems – from wood and plastic bins, to compost tumblers, barrels and buckets. Although they all work – they also can be expensive to buy. So here's a way to use a few a pallets and 2 x 4's to make a great looking double bin system for under $15.
The double-bin pallet composter is a simple structure that looks and works great! We built our 2 bin system from 3 free pallets and (5) 2 x 4 x 10' boards in just a couple of hours.
Here's how we did it:
3 or 4 pallets
5 ea. 2 x 4 x 10' lumber - cut into the following lengths : 2 ea. @ 72" long, 9 ea. @ 27" long, 6 ea. @ 30"
2 ½" screws or nails – approx. 40
1.5" screws or nails – approx. 50
Tools Needed : Reciprocating saw, screw gun, tape measure and hand saw or circular saw.
Building The Frame:
You will want to try to find 3 pallets that are in decent shape and similar length and size. First - disassemble the pallets to end up with about 30 or so slat boards. It's an easy process and can be accomplished in minutes with a reciprocating saw.
(Click Here to view our post : How to Easily Disassemble A Pallet In Minutes)
The frame is a simple assembly of 2 x 4 rectangles and squares. A 6' front rectangular frame, and 3 smaller square frames attached to it to make up the 2 bins. You will want to use regular framing 2 x 4's and not treated lumber. We get a lot of questions about using treated lumber – but we use standard everyday framing lumber. I don't like to use treated because we are making compost to put on our garden plants - and I don't like the thought of any chemical byproducts leaching into the soil and compost.
The front frame is made from 2 pieces of 2 x 4 that are each 72" long. They will lay flat and make up the top and bottom of the frame. In between we add three sandwich boards that are each 28" long. Simply screw the top board into the three sandwich boards on the top and bottom. When all assembled - your front frame will be 6' wide x 30" high.
Next – we need to make the three square frames for the two ends and the middle section. Once again – it is simple assembly. Using two (2) 30" boards for the top and bottom and two more 27" boards on each end. Assemble all 3 squares, and your ready to put your quick 2 bin compost bin together.
Simply assemble each of the 3 squares to the front frame with a few screws. One on the end of each side, and one directly in the middle attached to the middle support of the front frame. The flat 2 x 4's should be centered right on the middle of the vertical front board.
Now you have your compost bin carcass. The rest is easy. Starting on the front side - lay out your pallet boards all along the front – leaving about ¼" to a ½" space between boards. I lay all of mine out first so that I can get it to work out perfectly even on the ends. You want the spacing so that your compost can get air flow.
Once that is done – I lay out the boards for each side using the same method - and finish by putting up a double set of board in the middle section to separate the two bins. With a two bin system - you can make twice as much compost. Or, even better, you can have one side to store finished compost - and the other to keep "cooking" the next batch!
When finished - you can leave the compost bin completely natural and unstained and it will weather to an "old barn wood" grey.
To make it even more pleasing to the eye – you can paint or stain the outside of your pallet boards. We never stain anything inside – once again to not allow any paint or chemicals near the pile.
There you have it – an inexpensive yet beautiful 2 bin compost system that you can use for years and years – all for under $15!
If you would like to follow along through the coming year and receive our weekly DIY and Gardening Posts – be sure to sign up to follow our blog via email, Twitter or Facebook in the right column of our blog. - Jim and Mary