Asparagus

By | Cold Weather Crops

Asparagus is one of the all-time great perennial vegetables. A member of the lily family, asparagus is a sure sign of spring as soon as spears appear. The biggest keys to successful asparagus growing? Plenty of planting space and plenty of patience.

How to Grow Asparagus

 

Take time to think about where you want to place your permanent asparagus bed, because plants can live 10 years or more. Locate the bed in a sunny spot, assuring grown plants won’t block the sun from other parts of the garden.

You’ll also need to consider how much asparagus you’ll want to eat; plan for about 10 plants per person to make sure there’s enough of this vegetable to go around. Most asparagus varieties are green but there are white and purple varieties, too.

Prepare

  • Start in early spring and amend the asparagus bed with compost and dig in a high phosphorus and potassium fertilizer. Plants grow best in a well-drained, sandy loam.
  • Dig a flat-bottom trench that’s 12-15 inches wide and about 8 inches deep; rows should be at least 24 to 36 inches apart.
  • Select transplants that are 1 or 2 years old; each should have at least 2 clusters of buds.
  • If you decide to plant from seed, start asparagus seeds indoors 12 weeks before planting. Allow 3-4 weeks for seeds to germinate.

Plant

  • Wait to plant until the danger of frost has passed and the soil warms to 55-75 degrees.
  • Spread roots of transplants out radially like a wheel and cover with 1-3 inches of soil.
  • After shoots appear, cover with several more inches of soil.
  • Continue adding soil in small amounts as the shoots grow, until you’ve filled in the original trench.

Maintain

  • Help plants get established quickly over the first two seasons by watering regularly and deeply. Don’t let the asparagus bed dry completely.
  • Keep asparagus bed weed-free with a thick layer of organic mulch; handpick any weeds that show up.
  • Sidedress plants with fertilizer in early spring.

Harvest

  • Asparagus planted as transplants will be ready to harvest lightly the second year; started from seed wait until the third or fourth year.
  • Harvest slightly more spears each season to help extend the length of the harvest.
  • Cut spears at soil level when they’re about 8 inches long with tight tips.
  • It’s important to allow some spears to remain in the garden produce leaves and make food to store in the roots.  Pencil-thin spears are a signal to stop harvesting because food stores are almost exhausted.
  • Sidedress with fertilizer after the harvest to encourage good asparagus growth next season.  An added step is to top-dress the bed with well-aged manure.

Companion Plants

Plant asparagus with these companions:

  • Parsley
  • Basil
  • Coriander
  • Dill

Avoid planting garlic, onions or potatoes in close proximity to the asparagus bed.  

Materials for Success

  • High-quality compost or composted manure
  • 5-10-10 fertilizer
  • Companion plants
  • Drip irrigation tubing or soaker hose

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To learn more about growing artichokes or about growing your own edible vegetable garden, contact the pros at Nick’s Garden Center. 

Contact Nick's

Arugula

By | Cold Weather Crops

Arugula is an easy-to-grow salad green that adds a slightly peppery kick to salads and mesclun mixes. Arugula is known by other names such as Italian cress, rocket, roquette, rucola, rugula and garden rocket. Its leaves look like radish leaves because they’re also dark green and deeply lobed.

How to Grow Arugula

 

Planting and growing arugula is similar to growing leaf lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard, except arugula forms rosettes that can grow 10-12 inches wide and tall.

Plants grow best when they have plenty of moisture and can mature in cool weather. If temperatures turn too hot, arugula can bolt or go to seed prematurely. The small white flowers that form are edible, too.

You can plant arugula from seed or transplants. If you prefer to grow from transplants, either buy transplants from the Garden Center or start seeds indoors in early spring. Plants take about 4 weeks to reach transplant size. Time the planting before the last average frost date for a spring harvest. A fall harvest can be planted in mid-to-late summer.

Prepare

  • Arugula grows in amended and well-drained garden soil. Before planting either arugula seed or transplants, prepare the planting bed (or large container) by digging in compost or well-aged manure.
  • Plan to keep soil moist with drip irrigation or a soaker hose set up along the garden rows.

Plant

  • Wait for the garden soil to warm to at least 35 degrees before planting. The best weather for growing arugula is when days are warm and nights are cool. Hot daytime temperatures can cause arugula to become bitter or bolt (go to seed prematurely).
  • Plant arugula seeds about ¼ inch deep and several inches apart in rows. Other alternatives are to broadcast (spread seed alone) or mix with other salad green seeds or plant from transplants.
  • Thin plants to about 10-12 inches apart and use the thinnings to top early spring salads. After thinning, sidedress with a nitrogen fertilizer or add a water-soluble fertilizer to a watering can.
  • A layer of organic mulch placed around plants will reduce weeds and help keep soil moist.

Maintain

  • Make sure plants receive adequate water. For a continuous supply of arugula, continue planting seeds or transplants every 2-3 weeks. A fall crop can be started in mid-summer.
  • Arugula will continue to grow after leaves are trimmed.

Harvest

  • Baby arugula can be cut at any time they leaves reach several inches in size; snip just the outer leaves so the plant can continue to grow. Harvest leaves often until the weather turns hot or the plants sends up a flower stalk.
  • Wash, dry and store arugula in airtight bags in the refrigerator and use as quickly as possible, either fresh in salads or steamed like spinach.

Companion Plants

Plant  arugula with these companions:

  • Bush beans
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Dill
  • Lettuce
  • Onion
  • Spinach

Avoid planting where cabbage family crops have grown in the previous few seasons.

Materials for Success

  • Soil thermometer
  • Soaker hose or drip irrigation
  • High-quality compost and manure
  • Light-weight mulch
  • Dry fertilizer or water-soluble fertilizer
  • Small scissors for cutting arugula leaves

Read More

To learn more about growing artichokes or about growing your own edible vegetable garden, contact the pros at Nick’s Garden Center. 

Contact Nick's

Artichokes

By | Cold Weather Crops

You might be surprised to discover globe artichokes are an edible thistle. Ancient Roman nobility prized these vegetables, and when dipped in butter and lemon they’re still fit for a king. Globe artichokes are different from similar-sounding plants like Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), Chinese artichokes and Japanese artichokes.

How to Grow Artichokes

 

There may be as many as 50 different varieties of globe artichokes to choose from, including jumbo to baby size. The flower bud, with its tough petal-shaped leaves, is the most interesting – and delicious – part of the plant. The peak time for globe artichokes is March to May.

Prepare

  • Select annual varieties of globe artichokes for Colorado climates instead of perennial types. Look for short-season varieties (85-95 days).
  • Plan on harvesting at least 5 edible flower buds per plant.
  • Find a large area in the garden to ensure enough space for planting; plants grow 3-5 feet tall and wide. You could also add a few plants to a front-yard flower border to take up space with show-stopping plants.
  • Keep in mind artichoke plants need to spread their roots, so cultivate the soil deeply.
  • Amend soil with compost or composted manure to create a rich, fertile loam that’s well-drained.

Plant

  • Place artichoke transplants into the garden when the soil has warmed to between 45-65 degrees.
  • Space plants about 48 inches apart in rows; space rows at least 80 inches apart for best results.
  • Add a thick layer of organic mulch, like untreated grass clippings or straw, to prevent weeds from sprouting.

Maintain

  • Artichokes are heavy nitrogen feeders, so fertilize with fish emulsion or worm tea throughout the season.
  • Regular, deep watering is especially important while flower buds are forming.
    Watch for aphids by checking underneath the outer leaves (bud scales).
  • Remove older bud scales and wash away aphids with a blast of water from the garden hose.

Harvest

  • Smaller artichokes are typically more tender than larger globes. There will be a primary bud at the top of the stalk with 2-3 smaller buds on side shoots.
  • Harvest artichokes when the flower bud has a tight leaf formation, deep color and feels heavy for its size. Another way to tell if it’s time to harvest is by the old farmer’s test: leaves should squeak when pressed together.
  • Cut the artichoke stem straight across, leaving about 2 inches of stem below the flower bud’s base.
  • Enjoy as close to harvest as possible or store (unwashed) in plastic bags in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Companion Plants

Plant artichokes with these companions:

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Radishes

Materials for Success

  • Large quantity of high-quality compost and/or composted manure
  • Fish emulsion or worm tea fertilizer
  • Drip irrigation or soaker hose
  • Bug Blaster spray attachment to knock down aphids
  • Plenty of butter

Read More

To learn more about growing artichokes or about growing your own edible vegetable garden, contact the pros at Nick’s Garden Center. 

Contact Nick's