Yeah, I was sort of surprised to see this too. Now the top of the crown had what I would call pieces of dead wood, meaning the part of the fern that died back during fall/winter, but the roots and crowns seemed to be in good shape. No chemicals used at all, except Miracle Grow fertilizer, which I have used on this bed now for 9 years.
What I am now thinking, and maybe you can toss in your two cents here as well, is, could my bed have been too heavily planted in year 1, and the crowns have grown and so filled the bed that they went south that way?
Having never dug up a bed before, I am finding MASSIVE crowns, most the size of softballs or larger, and literally not a shovel one that can penetrate the ground. I spent another hour after work tonight, exhaustingly hacking and digging and pulling up a tremendous amount of growth, and have about 2/3 of the bed cleaned out. The dimensions of this bed are 5'x8'.
I don't do anything much different on the other 7 raised beds in the yard, and all other beds are showing no signs of trouble, and in fact, things are growing extremely well this year. Raspberries, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. are all growing like weeds. I put an organic mulch in the beds every spring before planting, and where I have existing crop (asparagus and raspberries, blackberries, etc) I dress the top soil and lightly till in where possible.
I certainly appreciate everyone's suggestions and advice.