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Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

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Experimental Asparagus Bed

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Post  OhioGardener 6/3/2020, 5:10 pm

Against my better judgement, I am the gifted of a bunch of Asparagus roots from a friend that decided to thin his bed. I am thinking about making a new experimental asparagus bed using Bocking 14 Comfrey as a grass barrier. I have an abundance of Comfrey, so getting enough root cuttings create the border would not be a problem. I have used Comfrey spaced at 1.5' spacing, with an additional plant offset in the middle of each set of plants to block grass from entering the wood chip covering around trees, and it has totally blocked the grass from spreading.

My plan is to create a 4'x6' bed by removing the sod and filling the new bed with compost and rotted cow manure, then plant Comfrey around all sides of the bed at 1.5' spacing so that it will block all new weed and grass growth between them (drawing below is what the bed would look like with Comfrey spaced around it). My hope is that the Comfrey will not only enrich the soil in the bed, but will keep it grass free. My concern is that the Comfrey may grow so dense and so high that it shades the Asparagus plants and stunt its growth. Anyone done anything like this? Thoughts on the likelihood of success with a bed like this?

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Post  mollyhespra 6/3/2020, 7:30 pm

Good thinking outside the box, OG...I can see how it could work on paper but what would prevent the Comfrey from both invading the center asparagus bed part and competing with the asparagus for nutrients?
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Post  OhioGardener 6/3/2020, 8:28 pm

mollyhespra wrote:Good thinking outside the box, OG...I can see how it could work on paper but what would prevent the Comfrey from both invading the center asparagus bed part and competing with the asparagus for nutrients?

That doesn't concern me to much because the Bocking 14 doesn't spread beyond where it is planted unless it is dug and the roots are cut - every place the roots are cut becomes a new plant. Rather than competing with the Asparagus for nutrients, Comfrey has very deep roots that pulls nutrients up out of the subsoil and stores them in the leaves where they can be made available to other plants.  I use the Comfrey leaves to mulch tomato plants to provide a supply of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to the plants. If I get enough Comfrey plants growing, I could use the leaves to mulch other plants such as the Asparagus and Rhubarb.

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Post  mollyhespra 6/3/2020, 8:40 pm

Yes, I'm aware of how deep comfrey roots feed, which is why I thought they'd be competition for the asparagus, whose roots also like to spread. Here's a link to an article: https://soilandhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/01aglibrary/010137veg.roots/010137ch6.html which goes over the matter in good detail.

Maybe if you plant the comfrey further out...or keep them really cut back...I dunno. Like I said before, it looks good on paper. What does your gut tell you to do?
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Post  OhioGardener 6/3/2020, 8:52 pm

mollyhespra wrote: Like I said before, it looks good on paper.  What does your gut tell you to do?

At my age, my gut these days mostly tells me to quit eating so much spicy food! LOL   The DW tells me I should help a neighbor start an asparagus bed with them.... 

I have some Comfrey growing in the corner of a fence row, with 10' of plants on each wing of the corner.  I might just dig out the sod in that corner and make a 10'x10' bed with the Comfrey on the two sides. That would be easier and faster, and the Comfrey is already growing there without me having to start more.

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Post  mollyhespra 6/3/2020, 9:03 pm

No spicy food! Razz

DW's got a point.  

How about this...maybe do both:  plant a few crowns in that corner where you've got the comfrey growing already and then plant a few others in a similar location that has no comfrey.

Then you can be generous and give your neighbor the rest while also having fun with an interesting little experiment!  Experimental Asparagus Bed 3170584802
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Post  plantoid 6/4/2020, 4:09 pm

Getting decent asparagus takes several years of composted manure mulching , dressings of dried blood ,fish & bone meal . Always weeding it as well as givings  light early spring dressing of cooking salt to a kill weeds , the asparagus is tolerant of the salt  . 
 They don't like cold wet soil around their roots  ...light free draining stuff is the ticket .

Initially put  as much decent composted manure in the ground as you can and get it deep down  by " double digging " sprinkling the manure over the turned soil as you go .

 You set the crown on a 3 inch ridge along an eight inch deep trench so the roots can naturally run down the ridge .
 I made the mistake of not making the trench deep enough or putting the small ridge in the trench Embarassed .
It was only 6 inches deep and as a result not many spears grew in the first two years . I solved it  by putting a 9 inch layer of composted manure & home made MM over the bed .  This years crop the fifth year has been phenomenal .......my auto watering set up has helped no end.   

Do a soil test ,  lime the ground if it's acidic which it might be if you are using animal dung & urine soaked bedding that's been composted  .  It likes sunny areas out of strong wind so planting the Bocking might hinder it . 

 Ideally you grow the asparagus in a raised ridged bed about 3 foot wide by 15 inches high . That way in the third year when it comes to harvesting you harvest from either side of the bed using a long handled inverted sharpened Vee  on the end of a 20"  or so long handled rod . Using one of these rods allow you to gently run the inverted V down the stem and sever it six inches below ground at an angle .  They are  much better than using the old fashioned asparagus knife,   where you could often sever sub surface spears without knowing it .  Don't walk over the crowns /bed either they don't like it another reason for  long narrow raised ridged beds . 

 At one of my homes I brick built on a holed foundation a series of 30 inch x 30 inch x 30 inch  individual raised beds around the leisure garden specifically for growing the asparagus in . Planted at two crowns  per bed . They made an amazing  display of ferns when they were left to go to seed .

If you can  carefully note  where the  crowns are planted by using a stake .  Those that produce berries are female and produce about 1/3 of what the males do , dig out these females and split the males to get an all male producing bed to give you maximum crops .
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