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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Asparagus time

Monday, April 18, 2011

Asparagus is one of those vegetables where freshness is incredibly important. If you have never eaten asparagus fresh out of the garden, try it. It may convince you to grow some of your own.

For those who have an asparagus patch, the new spears are starting to emerge or are close to doing so. The first asparagus that comes through the ground always seems to take a long time to reach harvest size. That is because asparagus growth is temperature dependent. The higher the day and nighttime temperatures, the faster it grows. Also, the longer the spear, the quicker the growth. As the season progresses and spears get longer, the growth rate increases.

Harvest asparagus by snapping or cutting. Snapping is quick and easy. Simply bend the stalk near the base until it breaks. Snapped ends dry quickly so refrigerate or use soon after harvest. If you cut asparagus, use a sharp knife to detach the spears slightly below ground level. This base is woodier than snapped asparagus, so it doesn't lose water as quickly. Woody ends should be cut off before cooking.

Controlling Weeds in Home Garden Asparagus Beds

The best time to control weeds in asparagus is early spring before the asparagus emerges. A light tilling (or hoeing) that is shallow enough to avoid the crowns will eliminate existing weeds. Many gardeners like to mix in organic matter during the same operation. To keep weeds out, apply mulch.

Herbicides can also be used before asparagus emerges. Glyphosate (Roundup, Killzall) will kill weeds that are actively growing, and the preemergence herbicide trifluralin can be used to kill weed seeds as they germinate. Trifluralin is found in several products but not all of them list asparagus on the label. Those that do include Miracle -- Gro Weed Preventer Granules and Monterey Vegetable and Ornamental Weeder.

No herbicides can be used during harvest. However, the end of harvest presents another opportunity. Remove all fern and spears, lightly till the bed, and mulch. You may also apply Roundup after the top growth has been removed to control virtually all of the weeds present.

Past the harvest season and after regrowth of the asparagus, options are limited. Products that contain sethoxydim can be applied to asparagus to kill grassy weeds. Sethoxydim has no effect on broadleaves. The two sethoxydim products I've found available to homeowners that are labeled for asparagus are Monterey Grass Getter and Hi -- Yield Grass Killer. As with any chemical please read and follow the label instructions for the most effective control of weeds. So what about broadleaves? Really, your only option is to pull them and look forward to next year.

I have heard several people using salt to control weeds in there asparagus beds. Salt is not a good idea as it can inhibit water penetration in the soil and damage the asparagus plants. Also salt has a tendency to move in the soil and can damage to other parts of the garden or landscape.

An organic alternative to using chemicals is to use last years' autumn leaves to mulch the asparagus beds. The leaves can form a mat to suppress weeds. Don't layer the leaves to thick or the mulch can also suppress the asparagus spears too.

For more information about growing Asparagus in the home garden http://www.ag.purdue.edu/counties/putnam...

Events:

April 20 -- Extension Board Meeting 7 p.m. at Extension Office

April 21 -- Specialty Food Workshop -- Indianapolis

April 23 -- 4-H Dairy Feed Steer Weigh-in, Fairgrounds, 8 to 10 a.m.

April 28 -- Extension Homemakers Spring Dessert -- Fairgrounds 6:30 p.m.

April 29 -- Wine Grape Workshop -- Buck Creek Winery 9 a.m.

May 9 -- Junior Pork Quality Assurance, Fairgrounds, 7 p.m.

May 9 -- Extension Homemaker Lesson " Healthy Women, Living Well," 7 p.m. at Extension Office

May 12 Extension Homemaker County Council 7 p.m. at Fairgrounds (Dues are due)

May 14 -- 4-H Sheep Tagging & Retinal Scan, Fairgrounds, 8 a.m. to noon

May 16 -- All remaining 4-H livestock and animal enrollment forms due

May 16 Tree Marking and Marketing Workshop -- Ivy Tech Marion Campus 6 p.m.