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Toledo Farmers Market

May 18, 2012
By Dawn Troutner , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

The first market of the season was held on Friday, May 4. There were 13 vendors with an abundance of items to sell. Some of the items were asparagus, spinach, winter onions, radishes, rhubarb, chicken eggs, noodles, herbs, dry hot pepper, jams, jellies, snacks, bakery, homemade angel food cakes, duck eggs, plants, and crafts. There was a large crowd. Most stayed and listened to the live music and enjoyed a sandwich from the Tama County Beef Producers.

Even though the season started early, there is plenty of asparagus to be purchase.

According to the Michigan State University Extension, asparagus has been cultivated for thousands of years. The crop was brought to North America by English colonists. Jefferson cultivated it in his gardens.

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Asparagus needs a well-drained spot in full sun. Asparagus does not tolerate saturated soil conditions. Asparagus requires a high pH. You can use a pH of about 7.0 or a little higher. It will grow in a lower pH, but research shows that lower pHs are more conducive to the growth of the Fusarium fungi. This is what eventually kills asparagus plants.

If you have one of the Washington varieties planted in your garden, they are unimproved, non-hybrid varieties. Hybrid means "all-male" hybrids. In a non-hybrid bed you will have an equal number of male and female plants. You can only tell the difference between the plants when the berries appear on the female plants. It takes a fair amount of energy to grow the berries. A hybrid asparagus variety will have less than half female plants Female plants generally produce larger spears.

You can harvest from a newly planted bed the third year after planting. You ask how much can you harvest off a new bed?

Try to harvest 8 to 12 times the first year of harvest. You will need to harvest every day in warm weather or every four days in very cool weather. The second year of harvest you can pick the bed for about four weeks. The third year of harvest you can pick for the full season, which is 6-7 weeks.

If the number of spears in a harvest drops off dramatically beyond 15 pickings, or if the spear diameter drops you may want to consider ending harvest early. This yield drop tells you the crown is beginning to experience stress. Also, you should harvest all the spears that come up until the end of the harvest period.

After the end of the harvest season, the spears should be allowed to grow. When the mature fern appears it is re-charging the crown for the next season. Keep your green fern healthy throughout the post harvest season, this will increase your yield and quality for the next growing season.

See you at market.



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