Thursday, March 23, 2017

How To Grow Asparagus

Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that can successfully thrive in a garden for decades if properly planted and maintained. Asparagus is actually one of the very first springtime crops to yield harvest, so when properly planted and cared for; you can enjoy an abundant crop of spears for up to 30 years!

A favorite in North American diets, perky green asparagus stalks can add a delicious bright crunch to daily meals, in addition to B and C vitamins, iron and plenty of calcium. Even though maintenance isn’t difficult, planting asparagus does have its delicate intricacies, which we’ll outline below so you can plan accordingly!

Growing Asparagus

First, you’ll want to get your hands on asparagus crowns. While growing asparagus from seeds is possible, it becomes more difficult because of their extreme delicacy and overall stubbornness to take root. Instead, opt for one-year-old crowns. This gives you a head start over seeds. Crowns are actually just dormant roots and are available at local garden centers and reputable nurseries in early spring. We recommend an all-male asparagus variety if your primary goal is to have a high yield. Since female plants produce seeds, much of their energy is expended there.
Next, you’ll want to prepare your new asparagus bed. Whether you’re isolating asparagus on a raised bed or digging a trench in the ground, ensure the removal of any signs of weeds or potentially harmful grasses. Asparagus does not compete well with others for growing space and unfortunately, it won’t survive at the first sign of competition.

Prepping the Soil

To ensure long-term fertility, you’ll want to create non-acidic soil that is well drained and nutrient-rich. You can fortify the soil with compost, a vegetable fertilizer, rock phosphate or organic greensand.

Planting Asparagus From Roots

To plant the crowns, you’ll want to dig trenches approximately a foot wide and six inches deep. If you’re utilizing a sandier soil, dig down eight inches. Place the crowns two feet apart and cover them with an additional two to three inches of soil—approximately two rows of asparagus crowns will nicely fit into a 4-foot wide bed. You want to space your crowns to produce larger spears. Water them deeply right after covering them.

Maintaining Asparagus – 1st Growing Season

You’ll want to keep your asparagus bed moist through its first growing season. To ensure moisture conservation, you can spread a light layer of mulch over top. As your asparagus grows, you’ll want to fill furrows with soil. Overall, maintain wet soil for the first eight inches. Be gentle since you want your asparagus to develop a strong root system.

Maintaining Asparagus – 2nd Growing Season

You won’t want to harvest the asparagus the following year after planting. Instead, allow them to grow into a small bush. If it’s brown, you’ll want to remove the old stalks and any new signs of weeds. Periodically check the pH level of the soil with a soil test kit and squeeze some lime to maintain proper levels. You’ll also want to water biweekly through any dry weather.

Maintaining Asparagus – 3rd and 4th Growing Seasons

If you see spears larger than four inches, you’ll want to harvest them. Utilize a knife and while holding the spear in one, cut it off about one inch below the soil line. Avoid deep cuts because you’ll end up damaging the crown. Follow a two, four and 6-week harvest sequence. You’ll want to harvest stalks every two weeks in the second year, four weeks the third growing season, and finally six weeks after the fourth growing season. Every fall season that follows, remember to remove any brown brush.

Asparagus needs a whole lot of love to get started, but the annual rewards make it worthwhile!

Have you had any luck growing asparagus? Leave any additional helpful tips below!
Thursday, March 9, 2017

Tips for Deciding What to Plant in Your Garden

Small, stubborn sprouts and pitiful produce can be discouraging – especially for beginners. Even if you’re cultivating crops correctly, it’s possible the variety of seed you’re planting is hindering your success. If you want your buds to blossom and your harvest to be plentiful, it’s important that seed selection is approached strategically.

To help you understand the complex considerations that drive a well-informed plot planning process, we’ve outlined the major factors that should influence your decision. Read on to discover the impact smart seed selection can have on the vibrancy of your garden!

Assess Your Skill Level

Before getting your hands dirty, you need to objectively analyze your gardening expertise and be cognizant of your own limitations. Successful gardeners with green thumbs should be significantly more ambitious with their seed selection than beginners who are still a bit “green” when it comes to cultivation. Each variety of vegetation requires a unique level of tender care, and it can be easy for inexperienced planters to struggle with stubborn seeds.

This frustration can be highly discouraging to beginners—it’s much more reaffirming to start simple and achieve immediate results. We recommend beginning with basic crops that are relatively low-maintenance and that won’t leave you demoralized. Examples of a few vegetables and herbs that are among the easiest crops to grow include: carrots, chard, beans, basil, cucumbers and radishes. Our favorite flowers that are guaranteed to flourish in any garden include: Sunflowers, Marigolds, Poppies, Cosmos and Zinnias.

If you’ve proven your ability to sow seeds and reap a hearty harvest, consider advancing to more demanding and time-consuming plants. When it comes to fruits and veggies, experts should try planting cauliflower, artichokes, head lettuce and melons. These crops may be stressful to cultivate, but the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel from picking ripe produce off the vine is unforgettable. To test your skill, try planting azaleas in your garden. Azaleas are arguably the hardest flower to grow and will wither if the temperature ever rises above 65 degrees.

Access to Sunlight

When you’re choosing plants to include in your plot, you should definitely take the amount of available sunlight into account. Without sufficient sun, plants aren’t able to use photosynthesis to produce the fuel necessary to survive. The amount of light that a plant needs, however, is variable and depends upon its species. If part of your garden is obscured by shade, it’s important to place sun-loving plants elsewhere. Some vibrant flowers that thrive in the shade and are easy to maintain include Hydrangea, Geranium and Impatiens.

Soil Quality

Nutrient-rich soil is the foundation from which beautiful gardens are grown. Unfortunately, some regions (like the American Northeast) have rockier, less flower-friendly soil than others. While hauling in new top soil and adding fertilizer is an option, you should consider growing tough plants that can withstand the limited nutrients offered by your native soil. For gardeners in rocky regions with shallow soil, we recommend planting seeds like: Perennials, common Sage, Lamb’s Ears and Black-eyed Susan.

Climate Considerations

Conduct research before selecting your seeds to ensure your climate is conducive to success and suitable for cultivation. There are four major categories of climates: tropical, mild, continental and arid. A plant that thrives in a wet, tropical climate will obviously suffer when exposed to the debilitating dryness of a desert. Growers looking for fast results and satisfying returns should try sticking with varieties of plants that are indigenous to their region. If the seeds you plant occur naturally in the wild, it means they’ll require less attention when placed in your garden.

If you’re itching to get a jump-start on spring and start planting, take a step back and strategically plan your seed selection first. The seeds you choose should reflect your expertise, climate and growing conditions. To get yourself started, be sure to check out Paris Farmers Union’s wide selection of garden supplies. Leave a comment below if you have additional tips for choosing what to plant in your garden.

With the help of these basic supplies, you can begin carefully cultivating seeds before the onset of spring and receive unparalleled satisfaction from watching your seedlings sprout. If you’d like to try seed starting for yourself, be sure to check out our full selection of seed and plant starting accessories and if you are interested in purchasing your garden seeds in bulk, download our 2018 Bulk Seed Order Form.