How to Prepare Your Asparagus Bed for Spring
A well maintained asparagus bed may produce for 25 years!Posted Mar 4, 2014
Asparagus is a gardener’s favorite crop since it is one of only a few perennial vegetables available for growing in North America. An early spring crop, the asparagus bed is left to go to fern during summer, and receives little attention from the gardener for the rest of the year. And since it’s a perennial, it’s easy to assume it’ll just reappear in spring. But like any other crop, asparagus needs its share of attention and feeding.
If you haven’t yet planted an asparagus bed, ask neighbor gardeners if they have spare crowns, or get some from the garden center. Clear the bed well and deeply, enrich with compost and the amendments listed below, then follow planting instructions from the package.
Planting and maintaining an asparagus bed is worth the effort – a well maintained asparagus bed may produce for 25 years. Besides the few annual chores shown below, there is little effort needed to enjoy the first vegetables to appear in many early spring gardens.
- cut down the dried fern stalks
The dried fern stalks from last season can be cut down any time from fall to late winter. Using a sharp set of clippers, chop the dried stalks close to the soil. Set them aside for use as mulch once the bed is prepared. Work from the side if possible, it’s best not to step on the bed.
- weed and till
Pull any weeds that are showing in the bed and throw them in a bucket for taking to the compost. Clear any rocks that may have emerged and rake the bed clear of debris. Keep in mind where the rows of crowns are located, and till the soil alongside the crowns, taking care not to cut into the crowns with the hoe. If the soil is just crusted over, a light tilling will do. If the bed has been stepped on the soil will be more compact so deeper tilling may be needed.
- add amendments
Amendments are now added to the tilled soil. A nitrogen source such as manure should be applied liberally. Add equal amounts of lime and rock phosphate to the asparagus bed each year. Bonemeal will help if you don’t have rock phosphate.
Gather the pile of ferns you have set aside and place them on the bed covering the amendments. More mulch will be needed. Leaves collected in the fall are ideal for this purpose. Straw is also a good mulch, as long as it has no seeds. Apply the mulch thickly over the areas which were tilled, and thinly over the crowns.
Your asparagus bed is now ready for spring! The mulch will decompose and incorporate into the soil, so be in the habit of collecting and saving mulch materials to be added once the asparagus sprouts emerge.