vegetable growing techniques
preparing an asparagus bed
July (Winter in the Southern hemisphere) is the ideal time to prepare your asparagus bed for spring.  Any earlier and the stalks would not have fully browned off (the process where nutrients are drawn back into the asparagus crowns), any later you run the risk of the first of the new season’s asparagus spears emerging before you have prepared the bed.  Here’s how I prepare my asparagus bed.  

Photo of gardener cutting asparagus stalks.
Removing last season's asparagus stalks.

Photo of gardener hoeing an asparagus bed.
Giving the bed a light hoe.

Photo of gardener apply manure to an asparagus bed.
Adding sheep manure.

Photo of gardener covering an asparagus bed with mulch
Covering the bed with mulch.
Removing the dead stalks
The first thing to do is remove the old asparagus stalks. This can be done using hand secateurs but I find it simpler and quicker to remove them with a brush cutter.
I cut the stalks off at the ground. Some gardening books recommend that you cut the stalks off at seven to ten centimetre above the ground but I prefer to cut them off at the ground, it doesn’t seem to effect the yield but it does make it easier to add manure and mulch to the bed. The stalks are quite soft so they can be chopped up and composted.
Hoeing and adding manure
Lightly hoe the bed to break up the soil. You should not dig deeper than three or four centimetres, any deeper and you run the risk of disturbing the crowns. Apply manure. The general rule of thumb for a standard vegetable bed is about a shovel full per square metre but when it comes to asparagus I double that amount as asparagus can handle a richer concentrate.
I prefer to use cow or sheep manure as it contains fewer weed seeds than horse manure but go with whatever is the cheapest and easiest to obtain. I also add a small amount of dynamic lifter or well crumbled dry chicken manure, some blood and bone and some rock dust (for essential minerals).
Adding a layer of mulch
Mulch can be added now or after you have finished harvesting the asparagus in late spring. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Mulch is an effective insulator so soil underneath mulch is always cooler than bare soil. Adding mulch in July means that the start of the asparagus season will be slightly later (only a few days) as it is the soil temperature that triggers the asparagus growth. But leaving the mulching until after the harvest means that weeds will find an easy foothold in the bare soil as the days warm up, plus when you finally add the mulch you will have to spread it around the growing asparagus.
Asparagus stalks are notoriously brittle, they can be easily broken as you work amongst them applying the mulch. For this reason I prefer to mulch the bed in July.

It also gets the job of preparing the asparagus bed out of the way in one hit.

PAGE CREATED 20th July, 2016