Monday, April 12, 2010

How shall I plant asparagus & rhubarb in my garden

I had a couple of great questions asked and I thought you'd all like to hear how to use rhubarb and Asparagus in your garden.

First Rhubarb.

This is a two year old plant in my garden. It started as a tiny piece. It grows fast and does well it seems to double each year. Everyone in my neighborhood loves that I have it. I share tons of it as it produces so much. I asked a friend if she had more starts and she does so in a month I should have some plants for you if you'd like to plant these.

Rhubarb stalks are good for jam, pies, punch and they can well. (pretty pink stuff in jars!) The leaves are great to pour a special cement in and make those lovely cement leaves to place around the yard and catch rain in. I made tons of these basins with friends from our leaves. Keep in mind the leaves are poisonous slightly DO NOT EAT.

This plant likes cool weather and does well with cold winters as it needs a dormant period. Plant crowns in early spring or fall. They need 3 feet between them. They like to take up space! See my photos above just taken an hour ago. Give the plant plenty of water, no problem here but slow way down in midsummer and let the plant rest and it will start up a fall crop. No kidding! Never harvest all the canes, leave some for the plant crown.

Watch for slugs they will get in the crown and live there. To harvest wait for a lovely pink color with very little or no green in the main part of the stem, Pull straight up on the stock holding onto the bottom of the stem and it will pop off, straight up!

It will grow in the sun or partial shade.


Next we have asparagus.
We will now be covering the 2nd of 3 garden perennials. Artichoke, rhubarb and asparagus. Once these are in your gardening they are coming back each year so choose your spot carefully.

Asparagus takes up space and in a grand way. Tall, graceful ornamental frond must be put where they won't block the sun of smaller plants. This is a cool season crop that produces from march to June. It is often fence high, so remember I warned you.

Grow from crowns not seed as the crowns take three years to produce. Buy healthy crowns with lots of roots and no wilting. I've heard they will produce beautifully for 15 years but I moved to Seattle before I got to test that out with my patch of Asparagus.

It likes good drainage which mels mix will give it. You will need to work in more compost carefully each year. You will want to cover this area to keep the heavy rains off it in winter.

Don't harvest anything your first year as the plant needs to get settled in. In the 2nd year only cut for 4 to 6 weeks then let the plant grow more. With the third year you can harvest a normal 8-10 week period. There are tricks to harvest which will keep the plant healthy so learn about these.

When the foliage turns brown cut the plants to the ground in late fall or early winter. Don't do this too soon as the plant need to collect from that foliage.

Plant in early spring in ditches as wide as the crown and deep enough to have the crown with 6 to 8 inches of soil over the top. Mel says 1 to 4 plants per square. Mel has some good planting directions in his book and he likes a 4X4 box for plenty to eat.


Planting companion plants and plants to deter bugs will be covered in our next meeting on Friday. I have 37 years of experience with bugs and companion planting and I will share what I have found. But for those of you who want to plant onions all over do it just for the space filler and to enjoy eating. Many companion planters believe onions will stunt bean and pea growth. I'm not willing to test this out. I just don't plant them next to one another.


Jessica said...

Thanks so much for your help, Fonnell. This is such great information.

Kevin said...

I found a site that might be useful regarding companion planting. It contains a chart with which plants are good companions, and which plants are incompatible.

Fonnell/Grammie/mom said...

Good information. The site clearly shows how many different ways there are to look at this. I will hand out a list at the Friday meeting to supplement this thinking but if you are a new gardener I wouldn't wear myself out thinking about this. You can add this to your thinking as you know your garden better. Try it to solve problems you can't figure out. Thanks for sharing!