A is for Asparagus and Artichoke

If some of my plants were animals I would have been reported to the SPCA! They are sorely neglected and are only just noticeable in among a thriving crop of weeds. But it’s not my fault – really…

Asparagus, Globe Artichoke and Rhubarb all have something in common in my garden.  Apart from the obvious in that they are a permanent feature and come back year after year and each time they show up I am always so excited to see them, especially as they are the first crops of the season. But then they slow down and eventually stop producing as the weather heats up and my attention  towards them suffers the same fate and by the middle of summer it is safe to say they are completely and utterly ignored.

Just one of last spring's artichoke harvests

This lack of due care and attention is only part of the problem but by reversing this seasonal trend of turning a blind eye, won’t actually solve the problem, so I can ease my conscious ever so slightly, however the major problem still requires my input so this still causes me feelings of guilt and gardening inadequacies.

You see the biggest part of this problem is the dirt!  We live in what was once a swamp and so the soil, while incredibly fertile has a high clay content.  When it’s wet it is wet – it can hold 20 times its weight in water, which is fantastic for reducing the daily chore of watering in the height of summer.  Just water once a week and water deep – job done!  But when it’s dry it is like concrete!

We have to wait a whole 8 months before we can eat these again!

There is a bit of a difference between the artichoke, asparagus and rhubarb beds and all the other 20 odd raised beds in my garden, in that the other beds are regularly dug over and have compost added, the roots of the short lived crops break up the soil and the weed population is dramatically reduced by the continual action, so I have soil in most of my beds that is really starting to be ideal growing conditions!  The artichoke, asparagus and rhubarb beds are never empty, they don’t get turned over, occasionally compost is added to the top, providing a lovely environment for weeds to grow strong and healthy.  In the winter the soil is too wet to weed as the mud sticks to the roots like they have been super glued and in the summer is way too hard to pull them out as using a pick axe may destroy the roots of the good plants!  As a result the soil becomes more and more compacted with the most stubborn weeds known to man!

Jerusalem Artichokes - I didn't realise just how tall it would grow!

In the early winter when I chop down the yellow fronds of the asparagus I have successfully mulched with newspaper to keep the winter weeds away, but once the tender spears start popping up it becomes tricky to maintain the weed free position as the soil hasn’t softened up any and so the problem remains!  Laying newspaper around the other two plants is logistically tricky but without making too many excuses I just haven’t tried it.

Because summer has been so awful, this artichoke thinks it's spring again!

So here is my dilemma, how do I keep the weeds at bay all year round, without compromising the health and wellbeing of my asparagus, rhubarb and artichoke?  Hmm – I need to think about this one…

Come again soon – we have just had the craziest adventure that wouldn’t have happened if we lived the city!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

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2 Comments on “A is for Asparagus and Artichoke

  1. Besides mulching like crazy, I’m not sure I have anything to offer. And as you say, that only works certain seasons of the year. My parents went with the old, “You’re a kid and need something to do… go weed!” approach, which I’ve used a time or three with some degree of success.

    I have discovered that if I have a large, unoccupied area that I want to make weed-free (or really, vegetation-free) for the rest of the summer and most of the next year, that pouring boiling water (after I’m done canning in it) over the area pretty much kills everything dead. I discovered this by accident, and had a lovely round dead spot in my lawn for two years before it began to recover. I use this to keep my fence lines and grass edging clear of weeds.

    I don’t think that will help you much with the asparagus beds, though…

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    • Thanks so much for your kind advice. I think effective mulch is probably the only way to go, so I’m going to spend a bit of time investigating the most cost effective and user friendly mulch, that hopefully will also be nice to look at. I have a few ideas, so stay tuned to see what happens. Cheers Sarah : o )

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