Recent storms have not only limited gardening time; they have played havoc with our power supply and phone lines. Consequently, computer work and posting on the internet has been difficult. However, I did find time after the Full Moon to get the asparagus bed ready for spring.
I always wait until our asparagus foliage has developed a yellowish-brown colour before cutting back the plants to several centimetres above ground level. Asparagus plants withdraw nutrients and carbohydrates from the foliage and store them in the roots during their period of dormancy; in the same way that bulbs store nutrients to provide spring growth. Cutting back asparagus (and spring bulbs) while foliage is green will weaken the plants.
After cutting back the plants, I remove any weeds and test the pH of the bed, as asparagus prefer a soil pH of 6.5 for good growth. The soil pH in our bed was 7.0 so it will not be necessary to add any dolomite to the bed this year. Then I give the bed a thorough watering and a good drink of seaweed extract tea (see post on Seaweed tea). This delicious vegetable and medicinal herb originated along coastal areas and riverbanks, and will appreciate the full range of trace elements that seaweed provides. They are also salt-resistant plants and are one of the vegetables that will do well where soils or water supplies are saline. However, they don’t particularly like heavy clay soils, and mixing some well-washed river sand through the topsoil before planting crowns will assist spear production.
Asparagus are fairly heavy feeders with a high nitrogen requirement. I fed mine with some organic poultry complete fertiliser, some semi-mature compost to provide food for the large family of earthworms in the bed, and some not too fresh horse manure. Manures are slightly acidic and will help bring the pH back a little. I then covered the bed with 5-7 cm of fluffed-up organic mulch. Apart from an occasional watering to keep the bed just damp, the asparagus will not require any attention until spears start to appear in spring.