Features and Occasionals

Gardening: Yep, It’s Time

By Fred Montague

With an average temperature of only 31 degrees, Feburary doesn’t jump to the top of most people’s lists as a gardening month. If you’re planning on starting your vegetable plants from seed, though, this is the time to start many types of seeds indoors. Here’s a handy guide for when to start some common veggies.

Note: These data are based on an average last spring frost (LSF) of April 26. This is a general guide only: It’s important to pay attention to this year’s weather before putting out seeds. Plus, the Wasatch Front has many microclimates—we’ll talk more about this next month.

Gardening: An Ecological Approach by Fred Montague (Mountain Bear Ink) has everything you need to know to be a good gardener. Available for $48 at http://www.mountainbearink.com. We think it’s the only gardening book you’ll ever need; studied carefully, it might even net you an undergrad degree in botany.

About Asparagus

Asparagus is a tricky vegetable to grow, but can be one of the most rewarding. Once planted in the garden, it takes at least two years before spears can be harvested.

The most common way to start an asparagus garden is to buy crowns (the dormant roots of one-year-old plants), but asparagus can also be started from seed. Starting asparagus from seed holds two advantages: It’s much cheaper, and there are more varieties available (many nurseries will only stock a couple varieties of crowns, but seeds are easy to stock!).

Sow seeds directly as soon as the soil is above 60 degrees, but starting them indoors and transplanting in the garden works best. For our climate, asparagus should be started in mid-January, but February is definitely not too late.

Asparagus seeds can take up to a month to germinate, but there’s a trick to getting them to start faster: Soak seeds in 85 degree water or compost tea for 4-5 days before planting them in flats or pots (biodegradable paper or peat pots are preferred, as asparagus has sensitive roots when young, and planting the whole pot keeps them undisturbed). Kept at 70-75 degrees, they should sprout in 10-12 days. Harden them off for at least five days before planting outside. Asparagus can be planted out as soon as danger of frost has passed (ranging from April 26 to Mother’s Day in the Valley).

Asparagus likes rich, well-drained, sandy soil in full sun. Place plants 12 inches apart, in furrows 3-4 feet apart. Mulch heavily the first year; after that, asparagus competes well with weeds and grasses. Water frequently the first two years—drip irrigation works well with asparagus. Water heavily in the morning if not using drip irrigation.

Asparagus becomes fernlike in the fall. In spring of the third year, harvest all asparagus spears for four weeks. After the fifth year, you can harvest for six-eight weeks. Cut spears off slightly below soil level, before they flower. A mature plant can produce over half a pound of spears per year.

—Pax Rasmussen

For more information, go to http://tinyurl.com/asparagusguide. Also check out the Asparagus in the Garden info sheet from USU Extension: http://tinyurl.com/usuasparagus

This article was originally published on February 1, 2013.