How to Grow Asparagus

How to Grow Asparagus

Taking veggies straight from the garden to the grill is the best. Whether you grow it yourself or purchase from a locally grown source, we can all agree that fresh asparagus is absolutely the best tasting spear around. Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that once established produces a plentiful harvest for several weeks each season.

Where to plant asparagus

Asparagus does well in mineral soils with plenty of lime and bone meal to sweeten the soil. If an asparagus bed is made up of organic matter, it is best to install the bed a few months prior to planting. Installing the bed in the fall and planting in the spring would be ideal, but is not essential.

Planting asparagus

The most efficient way to grow asparagus is to plant in rows 4-6ft apart. Dig trenches one foot wide and 8-10 inches deep. Fill the trench with 2-4 inches of organic matter. This can be ground bark, decomposed leaves, or well-rotted manure. Cultivate the organic matter into the bottom of the trench. Fill the trench with water to soak the soil thoroughly. When the trench is no longer muddy, set the roots so that the tops (crowns) are 6-8 inches below ground level and not touching. Cover the crowns with 2 inches of loose soil. Be sure to water well in order to dampen new soil and roots.

In the spring when growth starts and skinny shoots (spears) appear, gradually fill in the trench until the shoots are at ground level. Never cover the tops of theses shoots.

If you have an area with slow drainage, there is a danger that that roots may rot. In this case, work organic material into the soil about a foot deep and plant the roots 1-2 inches deep. Next fall, cover with 2 inches of soil and do the same the following year. The roots will then be covered with 5-6 inches of soil. Using this method, you will have to put boards or build raised beds around the rows, or gently slope soil up to make mounded rows.

When to Plant Asparagus

Feed with a complete fertilizer high in nitrogen when the plants put on a growth spurt in mid-summer. Don’t harvest the first year. The second spring you can harvest for 2-3 weeks until the spears become skinny. It is important to leave some spears on so they can become ferny stalks. These encourage the roots to build up a supply of food for next year. Keep watering after harvest until fall when the top growth browns, then cut back to ground. Third year harvest can last 8-12 weeks. Always cut asparagus below ground level but at least two inches above the crown. The stalk should easily snap off in the prime location for harvest.

How to Grow Asparagus from Seed

For many people, it’s much easier to buy an established asparagus plant. When you purchase your asparagus already started, you benefit from lessened time to populate your garden. That said, there are good reasons to want to grow your asparagus from seed, too. Namely, seeds are much more affordable. You also theoretically benefit from having plants that have started in your soil, and don’t run any risks of accidentally losing starts in the transplanting process. The downsides to growing asparagus from seed are that it’ll take much longer to grow them.

Some Great Ways to Enjoy Asparagus

asparagus-on-barbecue

Have you tried it grilled on the barbecue? One of the easiest and most delicious ways to enjoy asparagus takes just a couple of minutes and a few ingredients.

Grilled Asparagus

Simply wash and pat your spears dry. Coat with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Grill on the barbecue for 5-7 minutes until they reach desired tenderness. Pair with a nice grilled steak or salmon and you have a fantastic fancy home cooked meal!

How about an awesome appetizer? Like peanut butter and jelly, bacon and asparagus are a perfect pair!

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus

  • 1 pkg bacon (unprocessed, nitrate free)
  • Asparagus
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Bake bacon on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350 for 5 minutes. Take it out and wrap each piece of asparagus (or a small bunch of 3-5) with strips of bacon as desired (careful, it’s warm).

Drizzle a little olive oil over the top and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Return to oven for 10 more minutes, turning once or twice until bacon is crispy. Serve immediately.

Growing Artichokes

Growing Artichokes

If you’re looking for information on growing artichokes at home, this is the place for you. We aim to cover all of the necessary information one needs to grow delicious artichokes to be enjoyed straight from your home garden.

Preparing a Site for Growing Artichokes

Artichokes need to be able to grow quickly to become edible. Artichokes need partial to full sun and a lot of room. Do not plant artichokes in containers. Watering is key and the soil needs to be very good with excellent drainage. Artichokes prefer additions of compost and/ or manure in generous amounts each season. Slightly acidic soil will help with production.

Planting Artichokes

Place the plant in a 12”x 12” hole. You want the depth of the hole to be the same depth as the nursery container you bought the plant in. Fill the hole with rich compost. It is important to make sure the soil around the plants is well fertilized and loose. Keep the plant moist at all times. For highest production, fertilize the plants every 6-8 weeks with a balanced fertilizer. Allow five feet of growing room for each plant.

Caring for an Artichoke Plant

Here are some basic rules to achieve success:

  • Water well to encourage production.
  • Flowering too early will stress the new plant so stalks should be cut back.
  • When summer temperatures pass the mid-70s reduce the water and feeding.
  • After the first killing frost, cut off the big leaves and stems and mound earth around each plant. This will keep your plant healthy for next season.
  • One fourth of the plants should be replaced each year to keep production steady.

Harvesting Artichokes

Artichokes are perfect for eating when they reach a good size but before they begin to open. The bud is the edible part and can keep up to one month in the refrigerator.

Live in the Portland or Vancouver Metro area and looking for a place to buy artichokes? Don’t forget to call us at our Portland garden center today!

Growing a Currant Bush

Growing a Currant Bush

If you’re interested in growing a currant bush in your Pacific Northwest home, then you’re in luck. We wrote this guide specifically for you. We are always here to help.

Choosing A Site for Growing Your Currant Plant

Currants and gooseberries both prefer a sunny location but can tolerate part shade. The soil needs to be well drained and contain organic matter. It is ideal for the pH to range between 5.5-7.0. This is the typical pH range of the Willamette Valley naturally. Since currants and gooseberries are hosts to White Pine Blister Rust, it is not wise to plant these if you have five-needled pines in your landscape.

Currant Planting

Amend the soil with compost. Space the gooseberries and red or white currants 3-4 feet apart in rows. Black currants are more vigorous so spacing them 4-5 feet apart would be wise. Rows can be 7-10 feet apart. Dig a hole large enough to fit the spread of roots. Add a well-balanced slow release fertilizer to the fill soil. Press down on the soil around the plants to avoid air bubbles and water thoroughly. At planting time, prune all branches to a length of 4-6 inches. This will stimulate new growth. Mulch around the plants before the summer arrives with 2 inches of compost, sawdust or other organic materials.

Growing Currants

Remove all the blossoms the first year after planting. This will allow your plant to become more stable. Fertilizer should be applied each February and again in the late spring each year. Currants and gooseberries can also be trained as a fan shape on a trellis. This is attractive and will help with small spaces.

Pruning a Currant Bush

Pruning is best done in the winter months when the plants are dormant.

Red and white currants and gooseberries produce their fruit on 2-3 year old wood. Remove any stems that are older than 4 years old. Black currants produce best on 1 year old wood. Strong 1 year old canes and 2-3 year old canes that have an abundance of strong 1 year old branches are the most productive. When you prune, keep a total of 10-12 canes per mature bush- about half should be 1 year old shoots. Make your pruning cuts close to the ground.

Harvesting Currants

Pick black and white currants as well as gooseberries as an individual fruit. If you try to do this with red currants, you will ruin the fruit, so it is best to pick these in clusters.

Looking for where to get a currant bush? If you live in the Portland or Vancouver Metropolitan area, be sure to stop by our Portland garden center. We’ll always be available to answer your questions.

Rhubarb Plant Guide

Rhubarb Plant Guide

What is Rhubarb?

A rhubarb plant is a confusing plant for many people. Here are some common questions:

Q: What does it look like?

A: Rhubarb looks like a beautiful cross between kale and celery.

Q: Is it a fruit or vegetable?

A: Rhubarb is a vegetable, though it is often paired with fruits.

Q: What does it taste like on its own?

A: Rhubarb has a bitter taste, and is usually eaten by boiling it down with sugar or is served with strawberries to counter that. 

It grows very well in our Pacific Northwest climate, and is a welcome addition to many gardens in our area. If you’re interested in growing it in YOUR yard, then this guide is for you.

Choosing a Site for Growing Rhubarb

A deep, rich, well drained sandy loam is ideal for rhubarb production. A slight to medium acid soil is best. Due to rhubarb’s high water requirement, the soil needs to have plenty of organic matter to help hold moisture for growing plants.

Planting Rhubarb

Rhubarb crowns need to be very shallow. At least ¼ to 1/3 of the crown surface should be above ground level. If the bud itself is below ground it may rot. Fertilizer should be applied in the mid to late spring. Fertilizers used should be well balanced, slow release fertilizers and/or compost or aged manure.

Harvesting Rhubarb

Wait until the second year after planting to harvest your first stalks. Pull the stalks by grasping the stalk down near the crown. A slight twist and side pull loosens the stalk without breaking or injuring the primary bud. It’s important to avoid bud damage as each bud will produce several stalks.

Give us a call or drop by our Portland garden center to learn more.

How to Grow Blackberries

How to Grow Blackberries

It may seem odd to talk about intentionally growing this often aggressive and painful plant. But maybe you are someone who believes that the fruit is worth the pain. There are also varieties of blackberry which grow great fruit and are thorn-free. Either way, growing your own blackberries assures that you’ll have an easy source of this fruit close to home. Just be sure you’re prepared for the work that comes with cultivating these vines!

Choosing a Site for Growing Blackberries

Blackberries produce best in full sun, but can tolerate partial shade. Blackberries can grow in just about any type of soil as long as it is well-drained. If the soil drains slowly or is too wet, adding organic matter will help reduce the chance of root rot. Blackberries would prefer to have the pH between 5.5 and 7.5. If your pH is below 5.5, add lime.

Planting Blackberries

Dig a shallow hole large enough to accommodate the roots of starts. Prune off any damaged root parts. Spread the root mass and set the plant in the ground at the same soil level as it was in the nursery pot. Cover the roots and press the soil down firmly to remove air pockets. If you have soil low in fertility, add a well balanced all purpose fertilizer to the hole. Space plants 4-10 feet apart in a row. It is wise to trellis all blackberries. A simple trellis system 6’ tall of wire supports strung between posts is preferred.

How to Care for Blackberries

Each spring, add a well balanced fertilizer to the soil. Control weeds between the plants but cultivate no deeper than 1-2 inches to prevent root damage. You may apply mulch once plants become established. Sawdust (not cedar), compost, or bark mulch can be applied in a three inch layer over the row.

Pruning Blackberries

Pruning should be done in winter or early spring. Blackberries bear fruit on canes that grew the previous season. The canes that produced fruit last year should be pruned away. The new canes can be tied to on a trellis or a fence. This will allow better air circulation and higher quality berries.

When to Harvest Blackberries

Berries should be harvested every 3 to 6 days depending on weather and cultivation. When ripe, berries come right off the vine. To extend shelf life, pick berries when they are dry and refrigerate as soon as possible. 

Growing Horseradish

Growing Horseradish

Horseradish may seem like an odd plant to grow, but this unique root is delectable when turned into purees, sauces, or served with a savory steak. The horseradish plant has a distinguishable large green leaf that will add a lot of color to your garden.

Choosing a Site for Growing Horseradish:

Horseradish would love to have full sun. Partial shade works, but the rate of growth will decrease. Horseradish will grow in a deep container, like a barrel, very easily. The soil needed to grow horseradish needs to be well drained and have a pH of 5.5 to 7. To achieve this pH range, add some acidic planting mix to the native soil when planting.

Planting Horseradish

If you bought the plant in the “bare root” form, you should plant it as soon as you are able to work the ground. If you are unable to do this, keep the root in the fridge in a loosely wrapped plastic bag. Dig a hole 1 foot across and as deep as your shovel. Loosen the soil in the bottom of the hole. Place roots on a 45 degree angle, around 6 inches deep for the small end, keeping the top of the root just below the surface. Refill the hole with compost and mound up a couple of inches because the dirt will settle with time and watering.

If you bought a horseradish plant, dig a hole twice as wide and deep as the roots of the plant. Add some soil back in the hole. The hole should be the same depth as the roots. Place the plant in the hole and pile the remaining soil around the plant. The base of the leaves should be at ground level. Water the plant well. It is normal for horseradish to wilt for a few days after the initial planting. You should see new leaves appear very soon.

horseradish-plant

Caring for the Horseradish Plant

There are no specific watering issues associated with horseradish. Keep the soil evenly moist, just the same as any other plant. If you added compost to your soil when you initially planted, it should give enough nutrients for the plant during the first year. After that, a slow released well balanced fertilizer will work. This should be applied in the early spring.

When to Harvest Horseradish

For the best flavor do not harvest until the leaves have seen frost. One year old plants have the best flavor, so it is common to replant new plants every season.