Asparagus is not like other vegetables

Asparagus spears can be hard to notice when they emerge in February. To harvest, cut the stem at ground level. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Asparagus spears can be hard to notice when they emerge in February. To harvest, cut the stem at ground level. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Walter Reeves

Credit: Walter Reeves

Q: I planted asparagus seed several years ago but I’ve never gotten any asparagus. All I get is a big green feathery bush. Leslie Swain, email

A: Asparagus is a unique vegetable. First, it is a perennial plant. Unlike tomatoes or squash, asparagus roots persist in the soil for many years. Second, you harvest asparagus before the plant’s leaves and stems appear. In contrast, for most vegetables, the first harvest comes after the plant has grown for several weeks. Asparagus spears emerge from the ground above the plant’s root system in February. You cut them off at ground level when they are 8 inches tall. After taking the spears for a couple of weeks, you stop and allow subsequent spears to grow into tall ferny bushes. They gather the sun’s energy until fall and then turn yellow and collapse to the ground. Next January, clear all of the weeds and debris from your asparagus plot. Visit the spot daily in February and look for the green spears to emerge. Harvest them as noted above. Fertilize the area regularly in summer to encourage strong growth, which will result in more spears next spring.

Q: Every year my donut peaches turn brown and rot when they get about the size of a quarter. I apply fruit spray every 7-10 days from bloom until late May and the same thing happens. Calvin Cain, email

A: You’re right to start early because brown rot fruit disease starts in the flowers of the peach tree. It takes a combination of cultural and chemical practices to manage this disease. Be sure to remove infected and injured fruit during and following each growing season. Prune out any cankered or dead stems and branches. Improve air circulation by thinning fruit so that ripening fruit do not touch each other. Do not leave thinned fruit on the ground. Several fungicides are labeled for brown rot control, including Captan, azoxystrobin, Daconil, and myclobutanil. Read your ingredient labels and consider alternating chemicals each time you spray.

Q: I have pepper plants growing in a large planter on my deck. Would you recommend vermiculite or perlite as soil improvement? Roy Smith, Stockbridge

A: It depends on what problems you’re observing. If the soil you have now drains poorly, mixing with inert perlite is better. If it is draining too fast and doesn’t hold much water on summer afternoons, then water-absorbent vermiculite is the answer.

Walter’s email address is georgiagardener@yahoo.com. Listen to his comments at 6:35 a.m. on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, or join his Facebook Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener.

In Other News