Tips for your Garden in April
as recommended by Mike Vidrine,
Brazos Valley Gardener, Orchardist and Apiarist
April can be a real transition month for the garden. The longer, warmer days are causing the cool season crops to complete their life cycle and at the same time are encouraging the warm season crops to faster growth and to begin to flower and fruit. Despite all this activity, the April harvest can be a bit less than exciting as we’ve begun to get a bit jaded by the winter vegetables and the summer crop has yet to really kick in. One bright spot this time of year is the asparagus harvest which begins in March and continues into April. It is a wonderful change of pace from what we’ve been harvesting and the harbinger of yummy things on the way.
Asparagus is a true perennial plant that in a good location can produce for 20 years or more. Although asparagus prefers a cooler climate than we have, it still produces a good crop for us. Asparagus can be started from seed but because the plants should be 3 or more years old to get a significant crop, it is most often started by purchasing 1 to 2 year old roots called crowns. Harvest increases each year as the plants mature with really healthy mature plants harvestable for up to 6 weeks. To harvest asparagus, cut the spears just below soil level or just snap them off. Harvest when the stems are really new at about 6 to 8 inches tall – left longer they will start getting woody. Stop harvesting when the spears start diminishing in diameter – pencil sized or smaller. At that point the plant is telling you it needs to feed itself and not you. Our best spears are often up to 1 inch in diameter and so tender I eat them raw right in the garden.
If you want to grow asparagus, plan your site selection carefully since they will be there for a long time. Moving mature asparagus is about as onerous as digging up a tree stump so don’t plan on it. I’ve moved a mature asparagus bed once (at my wife’s “encouragement”) and I do not intend a repeat performance. An asparagus planting will also make a nice backdrop in an ornamental bed. The fronds can grow up to 6 feet tall and resemble airy ferns. When ordering asparagus crowns, I recommend that you get an all male variety. The female asparagus plant is just as good to eat but produces a lot of red berries that birds really like so you will likely find many baby asparagus popping up in places you didn’t intend.
Master Gardener instructor and Messina Hof VIP