Spring Cleaning

I usually clean out my asparagus bed in February. I don’t trim back the mature fronds in the fall as a lot of gardeners do, because I read that leaving them to grow until spring gives more energy to the roots, This year, because we didn’t get our typical February warm spell, the job did not get done. We had heavy snow cover until just a few weeks ago, and because of a hectic weekend show schedule, yesterday was my first real day in the garden.

It was a good thing that I got out yesterday, as the asparagus was sprouting. I would have had to deal with lots of the tender sprouts had I waited any longer. Trying to work around the delicate sprouts is not easy. It’s wiser to clean the bed before any shoots have popped through the surface. But wisdom does not trump reality, so we had to carefully clean the spent fronds and do some weeding at the same time. The first picture shows the bed after I got about a quarter of it cleaned out. The close up picture shows the first few sprouts that have broken through. The bed was planted in 1989 and originally contained 51 plants. A few didn’t make it but the rest have thrived and spread. We have the T-posts in the bed to make a corral to contain the fronds as they grow tall. They will want to fall into the paths, so if I tie them back it makes weeding in this bed, as well as working in the adjacent beds, much easier.

I use pruning loppers to cut off the old fronds. It’s much easier than trying to hack them off with any kind of knife type blade and I can cut easily right at ground level. Although this is not usually an issue, the loppers also made it easy for me to cut off the old fronds right next to any new shots that were poking up. I have to clean up the loppers, which can get quite muddy, but it does not seem to do them any harm.

I was able to get most of the larger weeds in the bed with my CobraHead. It was a perfect day for weeding, two days after a rain, and the roots lifted out easily. I had a lot of dandelion, as well as catmint and nettle and none of those were a problem. I had to leave behind some burdock root, which I know will grow back, but larger burdock and thistle are quite impossible to get out without digging a huge hole. The roots are usually too tender to pull out completely with a single motion, a technique that is easy with a CobraHead and dandelions. The only other weed that I didn’t try to clean out was chickweed. It was way too small to fool with. I’ll just occasionally scalp it off with the CobraHead Long Handle as the season progresses.

After I finished weeding the bed, I scalped and shaped the paths and sides of the bed with the long CobraHead. Then I raked everything clean and smoothed things out with an adjustable wire rake. Now I’m ready to pick asparagus. We will be eating asparagus everyday and giving it away for quite a few weeks. I can keep any weeds I missed under control with the long handled CobraHead. Cleaning out this messy bed was actually pretty easy.

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