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Cass County Extension

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Culture & Care

Asparagus Early Summer  Care Effects of Frost
Fall Cleanup Harvesting Vegetables Late Summer Care
Storing Vegetables Thinning Watering
Weed Control


Can asparagus be grown in this area?

Yes, the main thing you must have to grow your own asparagus is a lot of patience. After planting 2-3 year old crowns, you must wait until the third year to harvest.

Why must we wait three years to harvest?

It takes that amount of time for the roots to become well established and produce spears of good cutting size.

What variety of asparagus is recommended for our area?

Mary Washington is the commonly planted variety, but the new male hybrid varieties such as Jersey Centennial and Jersey Giant are more vigorous and do better in our area.

How is asparagus planted?

The crowns are planted 18" apart in a trench 3-4 inches deep in rows 4-5' apart. Cover the crowns with 2" of soil and as they grow, keep adding soil around the young shoots until the trench is filled.

Should asparagus be fertilized?

Asparagus responds very well to a liberal application of fertilizer. Use well rotted manure at the rate of 1 bushel/30 sq ft or 1-2 cups of 10-10-10 fertilizer for each 10 feet of row just after you stop harvesting.  Allow the tops to remain through the winter to catch snow and provide extra moisture for next year.

How long can we continue harvesting asparagus?

For established beds we recommend that harvest be stopped by July 4. This allows the tops to grow up and manufacture food which is stored in the roots for next springs harvest.

Why has it been so difficult to get asparagus started?

A few years back many gardeners lost their asparagus due to a soil fungus. New recommendations call for planting asparagus shallower (3-4" deep) and in well drained sites.

Fall Clean Up

What kind of things should we be doing in the fall get the garden ready for winter?

The first thing to do is to clean up all the plant debry and dispose of it either in the compost or garbage.

Is this a good time of year to add compost or organic matter to the garden?

Yes, applying compost or organic to the garden surface is a good idea. After you've applied the compost, work it into the soil if possible.

Can anything be done now to control or reduce the number of slugs for next year?

Slugs overwinter as adults or eggs. The adults will overwinter in plant debry. That's one of the reasons we recommend cleaning up all plant debry and working compost or organic matter into the soil.

Is it safe to put plant debry into the compost?

If the plants were diseased, I wouldn't put them into the compost.

Harvesting Vegetables

When do you harvest sweet corn?

Pick corn when the kernels are a nice golden yellow and exude a milky solution when the kernels are punctured. Corn should be picked and eaten as soon as possible to obtain maximum flavor and nutritional value.

How does a person know when the muskmelon and watermelons are ripe?

Muskmelons are easy because the stem separates easily from the melon when ripe. Watermelons are much more difficult. Check the tendril which is attached to the vine just next to the melon stem. If it's dry, take a chance on the melon. It usually is ripe.

How do you know if the pumpkins and squash are mature enough to harvest and store?

Three things to look for: the fruit should have lost its bright color and become dull; the ground spot should be gold in color and it should be hard to push your thumb nail into the fruit right next to the stem. I usually wait to harvest my pumpkins and squash until we have a frost which kills the vines.

When should the onions be harvested?

Onions can be harvested when most of the tops have fallen over and started to dry. Breaking over the tops of green onions to speed maturity isn't a good idea. Plants will just send up another growing point.

What effect does frost have on garden vegetables?

It will kill the tomato plants and all the vine crops but will not effect the root crops such as beets, carrots and onions.

Can the tender crops be protected from the frost?

Yes, they can be covered with burlap, blankets, etc. but be sure to remove the covering as soon as temperatures warm. If you decide not to protect these vegetables, pick some of the green tomatoes and ripen them in a warm room. Squash and pumpkin fruits are not damaged by the frost even though the vines are killed. After this occurs, they should be cured at 75-80 for 2 weeks before storage.

How long can the beets and carrots be left in the garden?

I can't give an absolute date, but they can endure several frosts without damage to the roots. They should be stored at 32-40 and in any container which prevents excessive shriveling.

Late Summer Garden Care

What types of care should we be giving the garden in late summer?

At this time of the year we should make sure to get rid of the last few weeds. If you let the last few weeds go to seed, you'll have offspring enough to last for years to come.

Should vegetables which have finished producing be removed?

Yes, once the peas, cauliflower and other early producing vegetables are finished pull them up and get rid of them. Other vegetables such as radishes which are way past their prime should also be pulled and tossed.

Storing Vegetables

What factors should be considered before storing vegetables?

The first thing is to be sure that the vegetables are well mature and good quality. Proper humidity and temperature are also critical factors. Certain vegetables must also be cured before being put into storage.

How should pumpkins and squash be stored?

They should be fully mature and cured before storing. They are cured for 2 weeks at normal home temperature which hardens the shell. Storage should be at 40-50 degrees with a 50-70% humidity.

How about onions?

They should be cured 3-4 weeks outdoors or in an airy shed or room. Place in storage at 32-36 degrees and at 70-75% humidity. Onions may be stored in mesh bags.

How can carrots and beets be stored?

They store very well in crocks or any container that will prevent excessive shriveling. Low storage temperatures between 32-40 degrees are important. Containers should be covered with burlap or cloth to keep the air moist.

Early Summer Garden Care

What type of things should we be doing in the garden in early summer?

Weeding and the thinning of vegetables should be done as soon as possible after the vegetables have come up. Both weeds and over crowded vegetables use the food and water needed by the garden plants to produce an abundance of good quality vegetables.

How much thinning of the vegetables needs to be done?

That depends on how thick the seeds were planted and which vegetables we are talking about. Thinning is almost always necessary with carrots, beets and radishes but is not necessary with transplants.

How often should the garden be weeded?

That's an easy question. Remove the weeds as soon as possible after they appear in the garden. The smaller they are the easier they are to kill.

Can chemicals be used to control weeds in the home garden?

Yes, if you're a large commercial grower, but for the home gardener they are impractical. I feel that the hoe is still the best method of garden weed control.

Watering the Garden

How much water does the average garden need?

We usually figure that a normal garden needs about 1"+ per week. Although rain is the best source of moisture, there usually are a few dry periods each year.  This should be applied in one or two deep watering per week, if it isn't provided by mother nature.

What time of the day is best for watering?

We recommend watering either early in the morning or early in the evening. Don't water in late evening. Any watering practice that wets the foliage increase disease problems, especially if the leaves remain wet overnight.

Is sprinkling or trench watering the best?

Trench watering is better because it doesn't wet the foliage. But in most cases it's not very practical.

Is tomato blight caused by watering with a sprinkler?

No, tomato blight is caused by a fungus disease but the organism needs wet leaves to develop on the tomato plant.

Todd Weinmann, Extension Horticulturist & Master Gardener Coordinator
Phone: (701) 241-5707

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