This weekend seems to have all of us (gardeners) out and about - I'm out cleaning flower beds and the vegetable garden, along with most of my friends and neighbors. Did I have indoor things that needed to be done? Of course! But not today - at 60+ degrees and sunny, what gardener can resist being outside? To be able to work outside without hunching over to avoid the cold winds - ah!, my whole being is happy.
Today, I burned off the asparagus bed. Yes, I know that's not the same as carefully composting the remains (which I do with most of the post harvest garden foliage), but this method was given to me as a preventive for some of the fungi that can affect asparagus and which seemed to take out some of our spears last spring. My asparagus grows in a 4x8' raised bed, easy to control, and it took about 90 seconds to crisp off the remaining dead fronds. Nice hot little blaze that gave off little smoke and I suspect did a fine job of roasting any pathogens in the exposed debris. I'd rather do a quick, clean burnoff than drench the bed in fungicides, no? Now I can lay down a nice, thick mulch layer to keep the roots cool and moist through the spring. We love fresh-picked asparagus, snapped off from the base and eaten on the spot, crunchy all the way to the tip. Delicious!
Incidentally, asparagus roots generally show up for sale in the early spring, so check for the at Southern States, Virginia Beach Feed & Seed or any of the garden centers or catalogs. No matter how I try to get the "male only" varieties listed, there are females in the bunch - discernable by the lovely bright red berries in the fall. I'd "weed them out" but the little finches and such seem to love them, so I figure this way the bed feeds both me and the wild birds. Asparagus are long-lived perennials, so follow the many online instructions for planting (see links below) in rich, well-drained but moist soil. Takes a couple of years before you harvest them (the first growth is to supply the root system, don't get greedy) but, after that, wonderful harvests!
Even though this is out of our area, it's a wonderfully clear instruction set for asparagus:
Asparagus Culture in the Home Garden
The web community Home.com has an interesting set of articles on asparagus, including a photo of someone's asparagus hedge! Home.com on Asparagus