Asparagus

I would love to have my own source of Asparagus. It is one of my favourite late spring/early summer vegetable, but it is so expensive that I only ever get it as a treat once in a while.

A few years ago (2014), I picked up some Asparagus seed (variety – ‘Viking’). I knew I didn’t have the proper place for it to live, so I didn’t sow them that year… But by the next year, I couldn’t help myself.

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I started the seeds, and they grew fantastic. I planted them out in the least sunny location in my yard. Big mistake, but I didn’t realise how little sun that area got until I planted something that I knew needed a lot of sun. It grew. Not well, but it grew. I didn’t have high hopes for it making it over winter. Much to my surprise, last spring, It poked its head out and grew all year again… Again, not well, but it grew.

So this year, I am hopeful that it survived again. And I am going to attempt to build a proper asparagus bed out at my parents house (if they agree of course).

In preparation of this project, I’ve been doing some research. A few of my notes below are things I already knew, but I wanted to include them if you are new to asparagus.

  • Long-term Perennial
  • Harvest is of the shoots coming up in the spring. You need to let these grow later in the season for the plant to regain enough energy to last overwinter and grow again the next spring.
  • The first 2-3 years of an asparagus bed should be focused on letting the plant establish itself in its new home. This means minimal harvesting. The plants need to establish their storage capabilities in their root systems.
  • Asparagus roots can penetrate around 6 feet deep.
  • When creating a new bed, it should be deeply dug, any rocks removed and then enriched with plenty of rich compost. You want to establish as much nutrition in the soil now, because you won’t be digging deep for 15-20+ years. Putting the work in now, will help the asparagus establish for a long life.
  • According to the University of Minnesota, “Production is most successful in areas where freezing temperatures or drought terminates plant growth and provides a rest period. Without this rest period, reduced yields are likely.”
  • When planting the crowns, you splay the roots out over a raised mound set in a deep trench.

 

So right now, my plan is to create a slightly raised bed (mostly just to distinguish the bed from the surrounding ground). About 2 feet wide, and 6 feet long. This won’t provide a huge supply of Asparagus in the future, but it will provide some, which is all we really want. I will dig as deep as I can to remove as many perennial weed roots as possible. This will also be in the NE end of the garden area, so if a garden is re-established in the future, the tall asparagus ferns will not shade out any of the other growing areas. Once planted, I will mulch deeply with leaf mould and probably some wood chips. This will help reduce the watering requirements and lower the amount of weeding. Adding some extra mulch on top of the bed over winter will also help the plants overwinter.

In addition to the one or two surviving asparagus plants I may have already in my garden, I would like to add in some crowns. Possibly the red/purple kind to add some diversity.

The problem with starting asparagus from seed, is that you are unable to distinguish the male from the female plants. Ideally, you want male plants, as they produce larger spears. That being said, it is worth mentioning the pride in growing something long-living straight from seed (For example, I’m much more proud of the delphiniums I grew from seed my grandma saved than I am of the plant I bought at the garden centre).

 

If you have any asparagus tips or tricks to share, add them in the comments. I’ll update when anything new happens on the Asparagus front.

 

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2016 Tomato Harvest

2016-tomato-harvest

This photo is all the tomatoes that I was able to harvest in 2016… with the exception of a few Tiny Tim’s that I ate straight off the plant.

There is a singular Black Cherry there. And I got one or two Yellow Pears. The rest in the photo are all Sub Arctic Plenty.

I sound like a broken record… but the damn squirrels stole all the rest.

If you remember, I had planned to grow a ton of the heirloom varieties I have seed for, to replenish my seed stash. I sowed 17 varieties, with at least 1 plant of each kind. For some varieties, I sowed up to 4. with at least 1 for me, the rest to share with friends. So to only get tomatoes from 4 of those I planted and tended was so disheartening.

Here is the list of tomatoes I grew last year:

  • Orange Wellington
  • Black Russian
  • Black Cherry
  • Beefsteak
  • Pink Brandywine
  • Rutgers
  • Cherokee Purple
  • Yellow Pear
  • Boxcar Willie
  • Golden Cherry
  • Chadwick’s Cherry
  • Principe Borghese
  • Sub-Arctic Plenty
  • Tumbler
  • Tiny Tim
  • Manitoba
  • Green Envy

Even though the squirrels were the main problem, I am also chalking the poor season up to to the weird weather, and the fact that 2016 was the worst year of my life thus far. I also didn’t bother saving any seed.

Thoughts for 2017: I have yet to decide on the varieties for this year. I’m trying to keep my seeds out of sight so I don’t start too many, and too early. I think the tomatoes this year in the yard are going to look far different than in previous years. “Tomato Island” doesn’t quite work. There isn’t as much sun there as in other areas of the yard. And since we finally have the patio started (and will hopefully finish in early spring), I can dot the tomato containers around in the warmer areas on the patio. Other people have had some success spraying with aspirin, so I may try that. It causes a reaction in the tomato that makes it think it is being attacked, so the plant becomes stronger thinking that it was attacked, when it is really fine. However, in my plan to simplify things, I may just cut down on the amount of tomatoes and just provide them with what they need rather than getting in over my head with all the extra things that don’t NEED to happen. Time will only tell what ends up happening in the garden this year

Do you have any suggestions on what tomatoes to try?

 

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Clematis Dreams.

white and yelow finger stamen
Photo by Michael Palmer. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 

I think, this year, that I will try and grow clematis. This has been a garden dream I adopted from my mom. She has always wanted beautiful clematis trailing up the side of the house, and has never been able to have it. She has green thumbs somewhere, but no time or desire to really use them. So I grew up with the clematis dream implanted in my head.

BOTH of my grandma’s had/have beautiful and lush, deep purple (probably ‘jackamanii’) clematises in their yards. And asking them how to get them to grow like that was always answered with “It just grows like a weed”.Which never really helped us figure out why we couldn’t grow them. Investigations never really went farther than asking grandma though… Probably why we never figured it out… There are old pictures of both of their walls filled with clematis tucked away in photo albums, but I don’t have them with me right now.

Continue reading “Clematis Dreams.”

Lettuce & Pak Choi

Along with my home-grown Italian Seasoning, I am attempting to grow actual heads of lettuce this year.

It is a little early, but I started a few cells of “Little Gem”, “Cos or Romaine”, and some “Mei Qing Choi” Pak Choi on March 20th. Around April 3rd, I will probably do another sowing, so I have a succession of them.

   “Little Gem” is a romaine type lettuce. I had some as cut-and-come-again last year, because I forgot to thin them out intime, and it was a nice soft lettuce, so I’m looking forward to attempting to have a head of it this time. 

As for the “Cos or Romaine” type lettuce, I hope to be able to make a ceaser salad from it, IF it works out.

I also have some “Tom Thumb” lettuce to sow in a few weeks, which may be my saving grace in this goal of growing a head of lettuce, since they grow about tennis ball sized according to the seed packet. I think something the size of a tennis ball will be more attainable than something the size of a small volleyball.. Or something that is roughly the same size as a head of “Little Gem” lettuce?”

 The Pak Choi is actually a Brassica, so I will need to protect it from the cabbage white butterflies before they decide to make it a nursery for their caterpillar children.

The current plan in my head is to move the Veg-Trug planter that my fiancée built me last year, to a more shaded area by the shed, and then keep the lettuces and maybe the “Pixie” Cabbage there. It just got too hot last year and I couldn’t keep up with the watering. But I’ll keep you up to date on the plans as they progress. We also have a patio to build this year, so our backyard will be changing a lot this summer. I hope to have in-ground raised beds all around, and move away from JUST containers.