The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Asparagus alley six months later

Asparagus alley

Half a year after planting, asparagus alley already has a major success and a major failure under its belt.
Male asparagus flower
What worked?  The seeds I saved from the one female in my "all-male" asparagus planting do seem to be producing nearly all male plants.  Only about half the asparagus seedlings got big enough to bloom this year, but every flower I picked apart is full of stamens with no pistils.

On the downside, I think locating a row of asparagus against the pasture fence wasn't the best idea.  Yes, the plants will probably provide some much-needed summer shade for our chickens, and the chickens will likely eat up any asparagus beetles that come to call.  But it's hard to weed the side of the bed against the fence, so grasses seem to be taking over.

I've dug out roots and kill-mulched once already this year and think I might have to do something more drastic, like put some kind of root barrier between the asparagus and the fence.  Ideas?

Our chicken waterer provides POOP-free water to keep our hens healthy.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I've had similar problems with my asparagus this year. However my raised bed is up against the house, so I get grasses growing between the foundation and the wood of the bed. Almost impossible to get it all, I just end up pulling what I can (my bed isn't very wide so I can reach across fairly easy.)
Comment by Mamahomesteader Mon Oct 15 10:03:09 2012
Mamahomestader --- That's actually why I stopped using sides to my raised beds --- it's just so much hassle trying to root out weeds that grow right under the sides. Frameless beds have made our lives much easier, until I made the mistake of putting this one up against the fence. :-)
Comment by anna Mon Oct 15 12:19:31 2012

I read in my Gia's Gardening book that 100% wool rugs could be used as a weed barrier. It is biodegradable and allows water to filter through. So you may want to advertise for old wool rugs that people are throwing away.

I use straw on my asperagus piles and it keeps the weeds down. I do have green straw coming up during spring. I just pull those up and feed them to the goose.

Comment by Mona Mon Oct 15 13:04:53 2012

You could always grow 1 crop of white asparagus each year like they do in Europe

Basically cover the asparagus with black plastic in the spring before any comes out once the grass is dead pull it all back and let them grow like normal

Comment by BW Mon Oct 15 14:03:06 2012
What timing - I just came from pulling weeds growing through fences, and also pondering what to do with my asparagus berries :-) The weeds thru the fence thing drives me crazy - we've resorted at times to (gasp) roundup when nothing was growing in the garden. We're in the process of making our fruit tree fences bigger, to have a kill mulch area around the perimeter. Weedeating along the other side of the fence helps some, but doesn't keep out the creeping grasses. Maybe a thick stand of comfrey or daffodils or something would keep grasses out?
Comment by De Mon Oct 15 15:38:07 2012

Mona --- Cardboard does the trick very well too, but unfortunately running weeds can sometimes become problematic, especially if they have a reservoir you can't get to, like a fenceline.

BW --- Interesting solution. That's definitely thinking outside the box!

De --- Our chicken pasture fences have been problematic in several spots. I was actually just thinking yesterday that it might be worth pulling the bottoms up, laying down a heavy kill mulch, and then planting comfrey. Great minds think alike. :-)

Comment by anna Mon Oct 15 16:33:27 2012
So, I've never actually grown comfrey - just read about it, do you think it could keep back those nasty creeping grasses? It's on my must-have plants for next year to experiment with...
Comment by De Mon Oct 15 17:36:06 2012
De --- We have scads of it. You might just buy one little plant and put it somewhere --- in a few years, it will be ready to be divided and moved everywhere. I suspect it would keep back the creeping grass, but it's possible it might take over the asparagus itself. But if you've just got a fenceline with nothing you love along it and want to keep the vines and weeds down, I'll bet comfrey would work.
Comment by anna Mon Oct 15 18:07:57 2012
you can use a flame weeder! maybe soak the mulch first so you aren't igniting it or just keep a hose handy. we have several acres of asparaugs and use fire to help with weeds. either a hand-held torch or a red dragon weeder is handy and fast.
Comment by molly Sun Jun 23 21:57:35 2013

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