Usually I start off the gardening season doing nothing more strenuous than preparing a bit of soil and planting some seeds.
This year, I decided I'd better attack the asparagus bed before any of the new shoots appeared.
I had left the ferns, which were close to six feet tall in the fall, standing and covered the whole bed with a light mulch of straw. Now was the time for the spring clean-up.
Yesterday I started by crawling down the rows and into the maze of topped over and intertwined debris and cutting off the dead fern stalks with hand pruners. That in itself was a challenge. (I took my cell phone in there with me in case I got lost and couldn't cut my way out.)
I tossed the stalks off to the side and Papa Pea came along to gather them up and haul them away.
Then I spent a little time in an upright position with rake and pitchfork getting all of the mulch off the area. I made several trips hauling it in a wheelbarrow down to a pile of "reusable" straw at the end of the main garden.
Back down onto my hands and knees again with a hand spade to dig out all the weeds that had already started to take hold. Most of them were big dandelions (not yet blossomed) spread out flat on the ground with roots two feet down into the ground. (Slight exaggeration.) As seems typical, most of them (no foolin') were growing right in the center of an asparagus plant. How to remove them without damaging the asparagus? Very carefully.
Next I put a sprinkling of canning salt around each plant as they need sodium chloride rock salt (NaCl). This improves overall growth and helps resist crown and root rot diseases. (Don't use iodized table salt for this supplement as that's a whole 'nother thing.)
Again, Papa Pea helped by going to our saved stash of wood ashes and spreading a dusting of them over the whole bed which helps to raise the pH level ( which should be 7.2 or higher) required for optimum asparagus growth.
Revving up my little Mantis tiller (vroom-vroom, love that thing), I tilled in the wood ashes and maybe even eradicated any weeds under the surface that were thinking of emerging once I turned my back. Then I raked up several inches of soil into a mound on the rows in which the asparagus is planted. It's believed this helps prolong the abundance of the crop as sometimes the roots can slowly work their way upwards from where planted which may, in turn, produce thinner and tougher stalks. So adding some soil in this way each year assures the roots stay as deeply covered as they're supposed to be.
Lastly, I ran the tiller around the edge of the patch a couple of times to let the sod know I'm serious again this year about not letting it creep into the patch.
In a couple of weeks, I'll lay mulch down between the rows and up near the plants. Unfortunately, our straw used for mulch over winter had a lot of seeds left in it, and I'm expecting many of them to germinate so I'll use the tiller to beat them back a couple of times before applying the mulch.
I did, also, manage to get my Sweet Pea seeds (which I had soaked over night) planted on either side of the trellis in one of the raised beds close to the house.
Oh, yes, I was feeling the pain at the end of the day yesterday, but a couple of doses of Arnica pellets during the day and one before bed last night and I don't feel too bad this morning. Not too bad.
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