Asparagus turning golden in Autumn

Simple winter maintenance for Asparagus

We have shown you how to plant asparagus, and after 5 years, how to divide asparagus, but for most winters, maintenance and getting them ready for sleep is all you need to do, and it is very simple.

>> Fronds turn golden brown in winter <<

The summer fronds that you have left to grow out to restore strength and energy to the crowns are now dying back, turning yellow and then brown.

asparagus turns golden brown in winter
Fronds have returned energy to the crown, and are dying down for winter.

>> Cut to ground <<

When died down, cut off at ground level, Please don’t be tempted to cut green fronds, as it will starve the crown and affect plant strength. Remove other weeds or competition like volunteer plants and generally clean up the bed.

>> Feed ready for winter sleep <<

Time to feed by spreading Blood and Bone over the bed (about a trowel full sprinkled around each plant) or compost or manure if you have it (about a shovelful around each plant) . With winter rain, this will give your asparagus extra va-va-voom to punch out lots of tasty shoots in Spring.

Blood and Bone to feed asparagus
Blood and Bone sprinkled over the bed.

>> Straw blanket and kiss goodnight <<

Time to blanket the bed with 5-10cm overage of straw to keep the feed in, the crowns well covered and protected from the elements, and weeds out – I chose pea straw but any type is fine – Sugarcane mulch is a popular choice, or local hay.

Pea straw mulch tuck in the asparagus for winter. There are a few stalks left, as I had just replanted these. They will be cut off.

Look wide; grow well, folks 🌿

Level Zero Asparagus

Asparagus is a Level Zero garden treasure.

It isn’t fussy, will likely grow without attention and pop up every Spring to remind you that you are still kicking goals.

>> Good for at least 5 years <<

THE GOOD NEWS: Asparagus is a perennial plant, which is different to the annual plants we grow that shoot, fruit, seed and die each year. Asparagus will live on and survive on very little, but if you want great harvests and do nix for it for a full five years, you can plan now to give these babies enough food and entertainment to last all that time, with just minor topup snacks in winter if you choose.

{psst.. if you are curious as to what happens after 5 years, then jump over to see Dividing Asparagus.}

>> Step 1: Make space <<

This step depends on where you intend to plant your asparagus. If it is in a new raised bed, then start with it mostly empty, or dig the row space down by about 30cm to start. In open ground, dig a trench about 1-2 feet wide and as long as you want the crowns to go, given they are planted about 40cm apart. Even just one plant in a pot on a balcony will use this method.

Plenty of space for hungry asparagus to thrive over at least 5 years.

>> Step 2: Think lasagne <<

THE BOTTOM LINE: We need a deep super-thick bed of organic material that these plants can stick their toes in and feast on for five years straight, but still keep the crown up higher than the roots so that water doesn’t soak and rot them.

Enter the asparagus lasagne – not the eating kind – the garden kind. It is a bit different to what most folks do but we find for beginner gardeners, it packs a punch and lasts the whole five years with no more fuss.

If you are super keen of course, there are always more ‘Level-Up’ options like incorporating Hugelkultur or Bandicoot Trenching but those stories are for another day.

The ideal planting plan for asparagus
The ideal 5 year planting lasagne for Asparagus.

BOTTOM LAYER: πŸ’©πŸ¦¨πŸ¦΄

The bottom layer of the trench is the rich stuff – manure of any kind πŸ’© or pelletised Dynamic Lifter 🦨 or Blood n Bone 🦴.

MIDDLE LAYER: πŸπŸ‚πŸŒΏ πŸ₯‘πŸ’πŸ„

The middle layer is the thickest – 30cm + of as much organic STUFF as you can pack in – we mostly use fallen leaves because we have so many after Autumn (⚠️NOT eucalyptus or pine needles), but you can also use garden scraps (⚠️NOT lawn clippings), kitchen scraps, old flowers, twigs, mushroom compost. This is what the crowns will eat for the next five years, so be generous. It will look like a lot but remember that it will all decompose and compact so really pack it in there. If you have access to fresh woodfire ash, then do add some of that and mix in too, or otherwise some garden lime, so that all that organic bulk doesn’t end up too acidic. Just a few handfuls per plant space. It’s not vital, but helpful.

TOP LAYER: πŸ—»πŸ‘‘πŸ€ŽπŸŒΎ

This requires a mound of soil on top of the organics, so that the crown sits up above the roots, which have their toes down in the good stuff. Even when the whole lot compacts, the drainage will still work for us. Back fill over that with soil so that the crown is covered, and water the whole lot in to remove any large air pockets. This will be the last time you water them before they sprout in Spring. Top dress with a fist depth-ish of straw (any kind) and say goodnight. That’s it.

Crowns sitting on top of the soil mound, with leaves beneath.

NOTE THAT THE CROWNS ABOVE SEEM PLANTED UP QUITE HIGH
but all those organics underneath will decompose and compact, and the whole bed height will reduce sink. Each year, we top dress with more organics and straw, which effectively buries the crowns deeper each year.

>> Step 3: No Touchy!<<

There is just one down side to this delicious perennial marathon, and that is the asparagus have taken a hit and been disrupted in the planting, and whether freshly divided, or bought from a nursery and hence still very young, they will need a rest. This coming Spring they WILL sprout, but please just let them grow their fronds fully this year, to settle, grow new roots, and get one growing cycle in before we harvest. In Autumn, the fronds will turn golden again, and can be cut off ready to tuck in for another sleep.

When you are ready to Level Up, see more of our
>> Asparagus stories, here <<

Look wide; grow well, folks 🌿
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Dividing Asparagus

Nearly winter – Time to Divide Asparagus

This may seem back to front if you are not already growing asparagus, so if you are just starting out, then jump over to Planting Asparagus and start there. This is a cycle, so you’ll be back here in about 5 years when you are ready to divide your asparagus plants… after a shiptonne of delicious green spears. πŸ˜‰

>> Winter Golden fronds mean nap time <<

Asparagus fronds turn golden in Autumn
Asparagus fronds turning golden during Autumn

Asparagus is herbaceous, meaning it becomes dormant over winter. In Autumn, the asparagus fronds that are left have turned from green to golden lace. They are just about to sleep for the winter. Usually, we would now cut off the fronds so they don’t rot and attract pests, do some top dressing or trenching between or beside the rows to give them something to snack on when they wake, then tuck up the asparagus crowns with a blanket of straw mulch to keep them toasty, and say goodnight til early Spring.

>> This winter is different <<

The crowns have been in the ground for five years, with each year a great harvest except this last one slowing down. Though you may read that they last 20 years plus, they won’t stay productive if crowded. They’ve been multiplying under the ground, filling out the bed and are now competing for space and food. Time to lift and divide.

Digging up Asparagus to divide
Digging massive asparagus clumps can be hard going, no way round it. A volunteer stevia plant also has to come out.

>> Let’s get dividing <<

We cut the remaining fronds down to sticks, mainly so we can still see where the crowns are. There are five massive clumps in this bed. A fork is the best tool, with a spade to remove excess soil from the bed (more on that in the Planting Asparagus story..)

This clump of 13 crowns came from one small plant in five years. Wowsers.

This one clump is 2 foot wide and very heavy. Use a jet hose to get soil off clumps and see how many crowns there are and where to cut between them. 13 crowns – woohoo.

crowns are separated.
Left: crowded crowns in a clump, Right: separated crowns to replant

We say ‘divide’ but really, we are separating these fresh budding ‘crowns’ which are connected underneath by the darker mature part of the rhizome (underground branching stem). Cut down between the crowns. The roots have fleshy coatings that are very forgiving and resilient, so don’t be precious. I use my Fiskars knife, which is years old, or a Japanese Hori knife would be perfect if you have one. Shove it down between the crowns, like cutting a pumpkin open. Really get in there. From 5 clumps, we got 70 crowns. You little ripper.

NOTE: Rookie error (ask me how I know πŸ€ͺ) – Feel free to remove any dead roots that are clearly mushy or hollow, but don’t take off root or rhizome just because it is dark in colour. It is the more mature part of the root structure and is still feeding the plant.

Leave any stems that were still a bit green as they will a)mark where you planted the crowns, and b) still have energy returning to the crown. With crowns now apart and tidied up, we are ready to replant. That is another story, and my method differs from most, but it works very well for us. πŸ˜‰πŸ‘

Read all about planting Asparagus, here.

>> Next is planting them out. Let’s go <<

Look wide; grow well, folks🌿
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