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Garden Help Desk: Asparagus problems a result of strange bedfellows

By USU Extension - | Aug 19, 2023
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Asparagus can be harvested until the spears are about as thin as a pencil, then the thin spears should be left to develop ferny growth that supplies the crowns with energy for the following year.
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Some vegetable plants, like these bush-type summer squash, can be tied up on a post as they grow to reduce the amount of space they need.
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Vining vegetables like cucumbers, melons and winter squash can be easily grown on sturdy posts or poles.

I have some asparagus that I planted in spring 2021. I’m planning to start harvesting next spring. The tallest, most healthy looking ferns have started to die out, which makes me suspect a pest problem. I haven’t seen anything above ground so far that would be a concern. Is it in the roots somehow?

It is not unusual to see some fern dieback. Taller ferns often gets blown about by strong winds and they sometimes break off and die back. The other fern in your photo looks good and because our growing season is long enough, you should be fine with the amount of growth you get with the rest of your plant.

In your follow-up email, you mentioned that your asparagus is growing in a deep raised bed along with some strawberry plants that you included as companion plants. There are also some raspberry and blackberry plants. The raised bed gets watered with drip irrigation twice a day, morning and evening, for about 10 minutes.

Your watering schedule is a problem, though. None of your plants need to be watered twice a day, or even once a day. Asparagus isn’t a very thirsty plant compared to other vegetables in a garden. Most of our vegetable plants need a deep soak about once every three to seven days during the summer, depending on the weather, the soil type and the size of the plants. The berry plants in the raised bed only need a deep soak about once every five days or so. Your asparagus only needs a deep watering about once every two to three weeks. The twice-daily watering can be very harmful as it encourages root rots, contributes to nutrient problems, poor rooting and shortens the life of your asparagus.

You are trying to use companion planting, but you must have plants with compatible needs. For example, you can plant a veggie that doesn’t like the heat on the east side of a taller sun-lover, and they can both do fine if they have the same nutrient and watering needs. But if you combine plants with different water needs, like your berries and your asparagus, they won’t do well sharing the same garden space.

Transition to less frequent but much deeper watering and consider moving your berry plants away from your asparagus in the late winter or very early spring.

Our squash is growing everywhere … out of the garden, into our walkways and onto our lawn. Can we trim it back without affecting the “fruit” (the long banana squash)?

Your banana squash is “solar powered” and the leaves on your plant are the solar panels — collecting sunshine and turning it into carbohydrates for the squash. You can try to control the spread of the plant by cutting the ends off the vines and stop some of the new growth. But if you start removing too many leaves by trimming the vines back too far, you’ll reduce amount of carbohydrates available for the squash fruits.

If you’re out in your garden at least two or three times a week, you can simply reposition the vines that are headed in the wrong direction. Do this every few days, as many cucurbit plants (squash, melons, pumpkins and cucumbers) will root at the nodes if given enough time.

You can save space in your garden by next year by growing your vining vegetables vertically. Most vining vegetables like your squash will weave their way up through a fence, trellis or netting. Or they can be tied to a sturdy post as they grow. This can also be helpful with “bush-type” squash and pumpkins that tend to get too large for the space you’ve given them, even though they don’t send out long, vining branches.

Cucurbits can be vigorous growers. Check them about every other day or so if you want to tie them to a support. Use a soft fabric or plastic material to tie the stems or vines loosely as they grow.


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