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Asparagus and Strawberries

Posted by very_blessed_mom OKZ6 (My Page) on
Mon, Mar 3, 08 at 14:41

I'm thinking of putting in some asparagus and strawberry plants. I thought about building a new small raised bed or 2 just for them. I know next to nothing about them, so once again I'm asking for your wonderful advice.


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RE: Asparagus and Strawberries

Hi there,

You should surely wait to hear from the experts here but just to say I cut a dozen stalks of asparagus yesterday before the front came through. They were all 3-4 inches above the 6 inches of leaf mulch and I have no reason to waste! Might I add, yum!

I have small bed with dozen or so plants next to East side of my house so fairly sheltered. This is now third year (on 2 year old) plants so will be able to sneak a few more. Had serious beetle issues last year.

Also, I have purchased a triple tier to grow berries this year and have seen Oklahoma proven plants for sale at Horn here in Oklahoma City. Will get them in the ground soon.

Can't wait to hear from others.

Laura


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RE: Asparagus and Strawberries

ASPARAGUS: I think that Laura Lea could tell you all you need to know as she was very successful last year. Well, except for that asaragus beetle invasion, and you can't really do anything about the beetles except deal with them when they do show up.

BED PREPARATION: I'll assume you know all you need to know about soil preparation, so I'll skip that except to say this: get all the weeds and grass out before you plant the asparagus crowns. After that, do all you can to keep them out. The biggest problem most people have with asparagus is that they let grass (especially bermuda grass) invade and take over the beds. There is nothing chemical you can use to kill the grass that will not kill the asparagus, so it is best to keep it out to begin with.

A dedicated asparagus bed should be 3' to 4' wide with lots of organic material added. Once the crowns are planted and emerge from the soil, mulch heavily to conserve moisture and to keep the weeds out.

VARIETY SELECTION: Prepare the soil by removing grass, weeds, rocks, etc. and adding organic material as needed. Purchase your asparagus crowns (roots). There are many good varieties available. Some of the older ones are Mary Washington, Jersey Knight and UC157. Some of the newer ones are Jersey Giant, Jersey Gem and Purple Passion. Jersey Supreme is a pretty new one that is supposed to be ready to harvest a week or two earlier than some of the others. The newer ones tend to be all male, which allows them to put their energy into making stalks instead of flowers, so you get a higher yield per plant.

PLACEMENT: Asparagus is a perennial, and a bed of well-maintained plants can produce for 10 to 20 to 30 years and more. If you are going to plant your permanent aspargus bed in the same area as your regular veggie garden, consider that mature plants can reach 4' to 5' in height and might shade plants near them. Plan your plantings accordingly.

PLANTING: The quickest way to get an asparagus bed started is to purchase crowns (roots) which are usually one to two year old roots that are large, thick and fairly well developed. If you start from seed, you will not harvest anything for the first 3 to 4 years.

Dig a trench about 8 to 10 inches deep and plant your crowns about 18" apart. Cover them with a couple of inches of soil and water them. You can fit two rows of plants in a bed 4 to 5 feet wide, with the rows about 2' apart. Stagger the plants in the 2 (or more) rows so they are offset from one another instead of being paired up evenly. You then water them and let them grow. As the spears grow upward, you add a little more soil here and there, the same way that you do with potatoes. Eventually, you'll have the trench completely filled in and you'll have a bed of healthy plants off to a good start. (The reason you add dirt gradually is that crowns planted 8 to 10" down and completely covered with soil may rot before they reach sunlight.) Depending on how vigorous your crowns are, it can take weeks to months for them to grow tall enough that the trench is completely filled in. That's OK. They are going to be there a long time and getting them off to a good start is very important. Once the trench is completely filled in, mulch the ground with several inches of mulch to keep the weeds down. Keep it well weeded too. (The best time to plant is right about now, by the way.....late winter to early spring.)

WATERING AND FEEDING THE PLANTS: To get your plants off to a good start, try to ensure they get roughly 1" of water per week for the first year or two.

As far as feeding them, I prefer to enrich the soil with lots of organic material like compost and manure prior to planting and let them soil feed the plants. If you prefer to feed them with a chemical or organic fertilizer, you can do so....just give them one with lots of nitrogen.

DON'T HARVEST: For the first two years, do not harvest at all. I know that this will be very hard, but it will ensure that your plants will develop very strong root systems that lead to healthy, long-lived, high-performance plants. Finally, in year three you can ......

HARVEST: Beginning in early spring you can harvest spears when they are 6" to 8" tall. Cut them off diagonally just BELOW ground level. Why below instead of above? Because repeatedly cutting off above the ground will leave you with ugly woody stumps that will look horrible after a few years. In year three, only harvest for about 4 weeks. You don't want to sap the strength of your still relatively young plants by cutting too much. In subsequent years, the harvest can go on for up to 8 weeks. (If you get more asparagus than you can eat, you can freeze it or can it.)

FERTILIZATION: I prefer to let the mulch on top of the ground decompose and feed the plants naturally. I also like to topdress/mulch with composted cow manure, mushroom compost or homemade compost. Nutrition from these top dressings will work their way into the soil and feed the plants the natural way. If you prefer chemicals, use something that is 21-0-0 at the rate of about 0.25 lb. per 100 s.f. of bed.

PESTS: Asparagus plants that are grown in healthy soil and which receive adequate amounts of food and water are surprisingly resistant to disease and insects. Asparagus beetles tend to be a big problem some years, but you can deal with that when it and it is happens. Some asparagus varieties are susceptible to a fungal disease called cercospora leaf spot (and other minor fungal infections as well). If that occurs, you can apply an organic or chemical fungicide.

Once your plants are well-established, you ought to be able to harvest about one dozen spears per crown per year. You may get even higher production from the newer all-male plants.

I would think asparagus would grow well anywhere in Oklahoma, except for the hottest, driest parts of western Oklahoma, where the summer heat and dryness might be too much for it.

There are ways to manipulate your asparagus to get blanched, white spears, but it is a lot of work.

STRAWBERRIES: Lots of people grow strawberries quite well and quite happily here in Oklahoma. I am not one of them.

I have grown them in the past, but just think it requires more work than I am willing to do in comparison to the yield of ripe fruit that I get per plant. I also stay away from plants that I think are high maintenance. Finally, living in a rural area with oodles of wildlife, I have to fight the wild things (turtles, birds, rabbits, deer, and lesser pests like roly-poly bugs, snails and slugs) for every single berry. It just isn't worth it to me.

We've had several threads on growing strawberries here on this forum in the last year. If you can't find one by searching this forum, let me know and I'll try to find one and link it. Sometimes the search features works lately, and sometimes it doesn't.

Hope this info helps.

Dawn


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RE: Asparagus and Strawberries

I gave up on strawberries for the same reasons Dawn did, but I have a large asparagus planting--6 100 ft rows--that is 20-25 years old. I planted Martha Washington from purchased crowns and then a few years later bought a pound of UC157 seed and started them in a bed. In my experience planting from seed is superior because the plants don't undergo as much stress as those you buy which may spend considerable time between being dug and replanted. I transplanted my crowns at one year old, in the spring and watered them well the first year. They made as much growth in the next year as the purchased plants did in two. (Of course UC 157 is a mostly male hybrid so that may have been a factor.) In the matter of first picking, the rule is look at spear size. When the newly emerging spears reach the thickness of your little finger--first year after transplanting for us--you can pick only those spears, leaving anything smaller. Of course if you wait an extra year you'll have an even more vigorous crown. We mulched with sawdust for years until our supply ran out. Then for a couple years we weeded--a real pain--until it occurred to us to mulch with our own oak leaves. That has worked very well. To offset the acidity of the leaves we sprinkle cold wood ashes over the rows all winter. Asparagus likes to be in neutral to alkaline soil. We clean pick until the first of June each year allowing the spears to grow after that. Clean picking--leaving no spears--seems to cut down on those durn asparagus beetles. They emerge expecting to find spears to lay their eggs on, but are disappointed. Our spears make fronds that reach over 6 feet tall. We don't water during the summer, just ignore the patch until after the first frost when we run over the bed with the riding lawn mower and pile on more leaves. You do NOT want to have to weed asparagus after it gets tall. Nasty itchy job.


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RE: Asparagus and Strawberries

Thank you for the information. I will strongly consider raising some from seed; I may put a few crowns in this year to get me started though. I'm not really sure how much I want to grow which is another thing for me to decide. I think I might have a source for inexpensive sawdust, I'll have to check. I'm guessing you recommend the UC157 over Martha Washington.

I haven't given up on strawberries, but I'm not overly optimistic either. I'll give them a try and see how it goes, I'm a sucker for challenges.

Thanks again :)


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RE: Asparagus and Strawberries

Dorothy,

You grow an amazing amount of asparagus!

Jill,

I think that growing strawberries is just one of those alluring ideas that appeals so very much to newer gardeners. I mean, it seems irresistable....imagine going outside and picking your own fresh, juicy, beautiful berries. It is just that the reality doesn't come close to matching the fantasy.

I'm not going to try to talk you out of it, but want you to consider two things. (1) Growing strawberries organically is incredibly hard in commercial agriculture, which is why organically-raised strawberries cost so much more than conventionally-raised ones. In the conventional world, strawberries have more chemicals applied to them than almost any other crop. They are VERY prone to disease. (2) There is a reason that Oklahoma is not a state in which a large number of strawberries are grown commercially.

If you want to give it a try, check out the research done by the Ardmore-based Noble Foundation. If I ever were to try strawberries again, I'd grow them in a hoophouse using plasticulture as studied by the foundation. I've linked one article from their website about their method. If you want to read more, just use the search feature on their website to find the other articles.

Dawn

Here is a link that might be useful: Nobel Foundation--Strawberry Fields Forever


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RE: Asparagus and Strawberries

I've only grown Martha Washington from purchased crowns and UC157 from seed and yes, of those two definitely UC157 is superior to MW. The spears are bigger, and the crowns have produced longer--I took out two 50 ft rows of MW that were 25 years old a couple years ago, because of falling production. But some of the newer ones Dawn mentioned might be even better. My UC157 is mostly male plants but there are a few females and I have saved seed and started a few new plants over the years.


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RE: Asparagus and Strawberries

Anyone had much success with strawberry pots after the first year? I know in the past I have grown strawberries this way, but can't remember if I killed them (not watering) or what. Do you have to pull out the plants every year & give them fresh compost or do you feed from the top or what? Also, I assume you would use the runners by starting them in adjacent pots or soil until they root & you cut them off. I've tried the "growing on the ground" approach & the turtles, rolly-pollys, and mice eat them. I'm pretty sure the pots work, at least the first season, just wondering if anyone has used this method consistently & if so, what the labour is.


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