FatAlbert63
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What happened to my Asparagus bed??????

With May fast approaching I am almost certain that the time has past for my asparagus bed to be sending up its yearly bounty of green, tasty spears that I look forward to each year. I have a bed that I started about 9 years ago, and have had nice results every year after the third one up until this one. I have followed books and online suggestions for care, fertilizing, when to remove dead fern growth, etc. I have kept the bed free of weeds, and while I have quite a bit of volunteer seedlings sprout up (obviously I had female crowns mixed in with male crowns to start) I am about ready to give up and plan something else there this year, since it is past time to try to start a new bed here in SoCal. It is a raised bed with what I had believed was ample drainage, but could overly moist soil have rotted all the crowns and killed off EVERY one of the crowns in this bed? That is about the only possible thing that I can think of having heard folks on boards talk about beds lasting 25+ years. Any suggestions and do I plant something else in there this year, and use another raised bed for asparagus and start over at square one and have to wait 3 years for asparagus? Thanks in advance.

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They are more susceptible to a lot of different fungii in warmer areas...

[url]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_asparagus_diseases[/url]

so it is entirely possible they would all go...

Any gophers in the area? That would do it too...

HG
Scott Reil

FatAlbert63
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That would explain it, and I don't have a gopher problem, but imagine that they could easily decimate a bed from underground.

Another quick question then in relation to possible fungal problem:

Can I replant this bed with another vegetable now, or do I need to fix fungus issues first, and how does one go about it?

I will set up another bed next year for asparagus.

Thanks

FatAlbert63

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Sorry to hear about the loss, FA, but another crop other than asparagus might be a good idea there this year. I might think about solarizing the soil (putting down a black plastic sheet to bake the soil and dry it out some as nothing is a better sterilant than drying it out). When you uncover, in about two weeks, I would add compost and water it, and I might use corn gluten on that surface before planting. It's not only a good organic source of nitrogen; there is a common, fungally predatory fungus called Trichoderma that likes the corn and will even turn traditionally tough corn cobs into a glucose rich bacterial food (so it is decomposing high carbon sources, like wood). And corn gluten is rumored to help prevent seed germination, so no seed crops but less weeds... Not bad, right?

So let's get the soil healthy and then make healthy asparagus...

HG
Scott Reil

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Any preventative suggestions for ongoing aspargus beds or Albert's next asparagus bed?
IMHO

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!potatoes!
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albert, have you dug around a bit, just to make sure they aren't just slow for some reason?

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Dug around more than a little bit last evening! Man, was the root system in the bed extensive to say the least. One of the toughest jobs in gardening I think to remove dead asparagus crowns from a 9 year old bed. I only got a portion of it done.

I started very carefully to do exactly what you had suggested, to see if they were just late in growing, but it is obvious that every crown dug up and yanked out had absolutely no growth on it, although still firm and not mushy from rotting or anything like it.

It may take another couple evenings to get the bed completely decrowned, but I will get r done, and then follow up with the plastic drying out treatment suggested.

Thanks,

FA

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FA, I'm a little worried that you found no sign of rot at the crown (like dead tips) and wonder if there was any other triggers besides fungii that might have delayed sprouting. Any chemicals applied on or near? Did they dry out at any point?
Spear Dehydration. Occasionally, new spears emerging after recently established fern growth can dehydrate shortly after emerging. This is more prevalent in sandy soils which tend to dry out quickly during periods of drought in summer. These newly emerged, succulent spears start to shrivel at the tips and turn black at about 4 to 12 inches in length. These new spears do not have a tough cuticle formed, and are very vulnerable to moisture loss. The mature fern then withdraws moisture out of the new spears, causing them to dehydrate.
Good roots and no spears is wierd, but dehydration could explain it...but you said the bed was moist...

:? :? :?

HG
Scott Reil

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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.

Thanks,

FA

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FA,
Doesn't the instructions say plant every 18 inches, how close together did you plant yours?

FatAlbert63
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Well, I probably had them 8" on center, perhaps a little farther apart. Being that the bed is somewhat smaller, I figured that the SFG technique of bunching things together (although I haven't read up on it actually!) would work.

Do you think that having them so close together literally they grew and choked themselves off?

FA

P.S. If this caused my trouble, I will definitely plant crowns further apart!

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That is possible... :?:

Remember in the wild these want to be six foot plants with a big root system; I space mine 24" apart, but 16-18" is a general recommendation, so that was minimally twice as close as you should, maybe three times...

Still, just blanking on the whole crop seems strange to me; don't think we've hit the right answer yet...

HG
Scott Reil

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I have no insight into this mystery, but thought I'd check my Square Foot Gardening book re. planting advice (the following is from pp. 194-195 in the 2005 edition).

Mel recommends "1 or 4 [plants] per square." 1 per square = 12 inches on centers; 4 per square = 8 inches on centers.

He lists "Slugs, asparagus beetle, rust, Fusarium root rot" as the most common problems with asparagus plants.

I don't know whether this sheds light or further obfuscates the original problem. :?:

Cynthia H.
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Thanks for the additional data. I will be checking out or buying this book I think in the future on the SFG. It sounds though that I kind of lucked directly into their suggested planting using this system, however maybe it is not meant to be as long a term bed as those with normal spacing.

After I get the bed covered, dryed out, and ready to plant, we will at least see if something grows in there or not. Beyond overly wet soil as I was digging things up, I don't visually see anything that would have caused the entire bed to go south. A fungus I would have thought would have caused the dead crowns to rot, and I have found a few that would fit the rotten description, but less than 10%, and I almost have the bed totally cleaned out now.

I appreciate everyone's feedback, and will let you know what happens when I replant this bed in the next 3 weeks or so.

FA

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Re: What happened to my Asparagus bed??????

Fa did you ever find out what happened to your asparagus? Mine has suddenly gone missing!

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Re: What happened to my Asparagus bed??????

FA, commiserations on the loss of your asparagus. I understand your grief!

I too have a bed that was closely spaced and died after something like 10 years; maybe partly from neglect, but my conclusion was overcrowding. I relate to your comment about not being able to sink a spade through the root system! I was luckier than you in that the dying was progressive rather than happening all at once, so I've managed to slowly migrate my asparagus efforts to a new 6x3 ft raised bed containing 8 plants at about 18"; supposedly all-male Jersey Knight (from seed) but I think there were a few berries on one last year. If I see that this year the plant will be removed. 2018 should see my first harvest from this bed. By the way I found growing from seed as easy and no slower than planting mail-order "crowns" which turned out to be miserable puny little things. My seed-grown plants were sturdy by comparison.

Based strictly on my own untutored efforts, experience (& assumptions) I wouldn't recommend close planting for a new Asparagus bed. Good luck.
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Re: What happened to my Asparagus bed??????

Here in Northern Utah at 5000 ft elevation, I have seen asparagus last for many years. Gophers are about the only thing I have seen get it. They eat the roots . Roots gone, asparagus gone.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

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Re: What happened to my Asparagus bed??????

I have not gardened in So California, but here in Utah at 5000 ft elevation the asparagus does well. It even sometimes grows wild on the street edges. Gophers will eat the roots killing it. Oh, what I wanted to say is harvest the sprouts till the first of June, then you must let it grow up tall and let that growth stand all summer. Cut it down about September 10. The fronds need this time in the sun to send food down to the roots for next years crop. In the spring fertilize the area and water it well.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

etm567
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Re: What happened to my Asparagus bed??????

Same thing happened to me in West Orange, NJ. They were four years this spring, and we did not harvest last year and they looked great. They are spaced well. A few came up by they are so weak they cannot even stand up. I haven't dug up a crown entirely yet, so I can't say if it wasn't perhaps something like nematodes?

Could too much rain do it? Not planted deeply enough in a cold winter? (Our not very smart town redid the town garden plots and laid down huge gravel just about everywhere and made small plots. Part of mine is on gravel and cannot be deeply dug. I'm trying to raise it more each year, but that requires an investment I cannot necessarily make on my pitiful fixed income.)

And in my bed, all the plants in the center died. On the periphery, on both sides, a couple of plants came up. So there is a focal point for the damage, and out on the extreme edges are a couple of pitiful, spindly little plants. This is Jersey Knight, by the way.

Any other ideas? I haven't a clue what went wrong. When do asparagus beetles do their damage? Where do they attack? Any other deadly worm? I saw one very skinny brownish worm maybe an inch and a half running from my spade. Not a worm I am familiar with. Could that be it? I guess I have to dig up a crown first to get a good idea.

I'm new here. This topic is what brought me here. "My asparagus died" doesn't really get a lot of hits, which is also kind of interesting. A neighboring bed, which has been around for a long time, doesn't look as good as it usually does, but it did come up.

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Re: What happened to my Asparagus bed??????

etm; I can't say much except I don't think it could be weather. We get lots of rain and it isn't a problem. And, I've also seen the stuff growing wild in desert parts of the interior where summers are hot/dry and winters are co-o-old. Maybe some underground critter or insect is to blame in your case?

Asparagus beetles are easy to spot if you keep a lookout. They're active right now in my location, have been for maybe a couple of weeks. I don't imagine their schedule would be a lot different where you are. These are the ones that look like small ladybugs. I haven't seen the other type (so far, this year :)). I've stopped harvesting, the plants are all in fern and that's where I see the beetles. I guess they drink the sap (?) and they lay their eggs there. In the past if fronds had visible eggs I just pruned them off & discarded. I daily flick the beetles off hard with a fingernail and I don't think they survive. Sometimes there are two stuck together and I hate to spoil their fun but, well, you know ....

Maybe someone else has clues & information for you. It's disappointing to put 4 years of time into something, anticipating a treat, and have it fail to materialize!
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