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Paul James, host of HGTV's Gardening by the Yard, shares tips on how to plant these two vegetables that begin life as rather ...
unattractive crowns and wind up as beautiful, tasty treats.
Tags:Tips for Growing Asparagus and Rhubarb,asparagus,diy gardening,gardening,gardening by the yard,gardening tips,hgtv,landscaping tips,paul james,rhubarb
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Most gardeners I know can’t wait to begin planting something, anything at the first sign of descent weather, whether in late winter or early spring. And I’m certainly no exception so today, I thought I’d plant two of the first and ugliest edibles to hit the stores namely asparagus and rhubarb.
Asparagus is an entity among vegetables largely because it’s one of the few true vegetables but it’s on for another reason. It starts out as an ugly odd looking mass of roots like this. These are asparagus crowns and these are what you’ll need if you want to grow and eat asparagus. Actually, you can grow asparagus from see but it takes a whole lot more time and a lot more effort. Anyway, you’ll need between 25 and 50 of these crowns for an asparagus loving family of four which means you’ll also need a lot of real estate in the garden.
One year old crowns are most commonly sold and they’re your best bet, they should be firm and not mushy with no apparent signs of disease or damage and an abundance of tentacle like roots. There are several different types of asparagus on the market these days from the old Mary Washington strains to the new hybrids like Jersey Knight and UC-157. Now I tend to like the new hybrids a lot more because they’re more productive, more disease resistant and like me, all male. You see, within the world of asparagus, males are more productive than females. These new hybrids can also be harvested the first year after planting. With some of the old restrains, you got away two or maybe even three years before you can begin the harvest but regardless of which asparagus variety you choose, make sure you prepare the soil well, after all, asparagus crowns can remain productive for over 20 years.
First, pick a spot in full sun that drains well and add a heating dose of compose and dig a trench one foot wide and eight inches deep. If preparing more than one row, space the trenches three to four feet apart. Create amounts roughly two feet apart in the trench and gently lay the asparagus crowns on the mounts spreading the roots as you go then top each crown with about two inches of soil. In two weeks, add another two inches of soil and continue doing that every two weeks until the soil is slightly mounted above the surface level to allow for settling and water run off.
One of the real keys to growing asparagus is a thick layer of mulch because weeds in asparagus, well, they don’t mix. Now I prefer straw or hay but shredded leaves even coursed compose will do. Another key is adequate moisture especially during the first two years so make sure you water well but don’t water all the soil. Within a few weeks, you’ll see a few tiny spears emerged from the soil and tempting though it maybe to harvest them, don’t. Instead, let the spears develop and in time they’ll produce lovely fern like foliage which you should allow growing and remaining throughout the summer and winter months and cut back only when new spears begin to emerge the following spring.
And when those new spears emerged, you can harvest at least half of them by snapping them off, at or just below ground level. Make sure you leave about half the spears in the ground to produce the foliage necessary for good root development during the current year and maximum spear production the following year. Oh and by the way if you prefer white asparagus then try this trick.
Blanch the spears as they develop by heaping soil or mulch around them. That way sunlight can get to them which mean they won’t produce chlorophyl which means they’ll stay white instead of turning green. Here is another asparagus growing tip, for a little salt on your beds, plain old sodium chloride in the form of rock or pickling salt will not only control the number of asparagus diseases but improve overall growth as well just make sure it’s none iodize salt and that it’s sodium and not calcium chloride. Add two and a half pounds per 100 feet of row either before the spears emerge in spring or around July 4, scattering the salt evenly over the row.
Now I could go on and on about asparagus but now it’s time to move on to our next ugly vegetable which also happens to be rhubarb. Rhubarb is also grown from ugly looking crowns and it too can go in the ground pretty early. Two or three crowns should be plenty for a family four. Rhubarb also needs full sun, well drained soil and plenty of room because it gets really big which means it also needs really big plenty hole. So grab a shovel and dig a hole three feet wide and three feet deep. It makes half the excavated soil with composed and fills the hole to it and two inches at the top. Set one crown in the center of the hole, top it off with the soil mix, tap down well and water thoroughly.
Once the plant begins to sprout, go ahead and apply a really thick layer of mulch and leave it on year around. If you notice any flower stalks emerging, go ahead and break those off because you want the plants energy to be directed toward leaves stalk production and after all it’s the stalks you’re after, the leaves are poisonous. In the first year, don’t harvest any of the stalks, the second year, and harvest only those that are say one inch in diameter and by the third year, you can harvest all you want. Well, what was that? It’s a mole.
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