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Good question

Jim Boxberger - Correspondent
Posted 4/9/21

Well the nice weather this week got everyone outside to enjoy some sunshine and I even had a few questions this week that I haven't had before.

One question, I had to research because I didn't …

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Good question


Well the nice weather this week got everyone outside to enjoy some sunshine and I even had a few questions this week that I haven't had before.

One question, I had to research because I didn't have the answer and that was how do forsythias propagate in the wild? They have their showy yellow blooms up and down their stems early every spring, but I can't say that I remember them going to seed afterwards.

Forsythia are easy to propagate by placing small cuttings usually less than twelve inches in a glass of water with some root stimulant in it. The lower portion under the water surface will usually start to form white hair-like roots in just a few days and then you can plant your cutting in a pot with a light growing mix.

So it is not like commercial growers would be planting fields of forsythia in rows like corn. Then I thought maybe some of the newer hybrid forsythias that have larger or brighter blooms may be sterile, like the new barberry bushes that we will be getting this spring. But as it turns out, forsythia do have seeds that form after the blossoms do fall, it is just that they are so unremarkable that they just get overlooked.

So the answer is they do have seeds and that is how they would propagate in the wild. And to that end, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway does have many forsythia seed varieties preserved for the future.

The other quandry a customer had this week, was the fact that her asparagus has a tendency to fall over as it is growing in the spring with the strong winds we sometimes get. Luckily this is a problem I have heard before, and the solution is pretty easy if you have the right materials.

The most popular way is to fence in your asparagus patch so that the asparagus can lean against the side of the fence as it grows and the wind blows. But a better way to do it is to make a grow through net system by placing four or more poles around the asparagus patch between one to two foot tall and then place netting or wire over the posts so that as the asparagus grows the spears grow up through the netting.

This way even if the asparagus sways in the wind it won't bunch up in one area and, as long as the netting is at least a foot off the ground, you will still be able to reach under to cut your asparagus spears for harvest. Of course this method works best if you have your asparagus in rows rather than a round or oval patch.

Asparagus is an easy vegetable to grow and because it is perennial it will keep producing for you for years. There are many varieties of asparagus to choose and the plants are either male or female. Male plants tend to provide better spear production than female plants. Because of this, many cultivars have been specifically bred to be all-male. Older heirloom varieties are still a mix of male and female plants.

If you want to select all-male plants, then look at your asparagus plants with a magnifying glass once flowers appear. Female plants will have pistils with 3 lobes, males will be larger and longer than females. Pull out all of the female plants and transplant the males to your permanent bed next spring.

Those who aren't as worried about high production should check out some of the more unusual heirloom varieties of asparagus. These heirlooms can produce incredibly beautiful plants, both male and female, but if you wish to harvest seed, you'll need some female plants to produce it.

Asparagus does well in sandy well-drained soil, so you might need to do some prep work before planting an asparagus bed as our heavy clay soil is not to its liking.

I can remember back when I was a kid, my grandparents in Liberty had a row of asparagus growing in the sand that accumulated on the side of the road after all the sanding over the course of the winters. But then through the seventies the village started using salt in with the sand and that caused the asparagus to die out, otherwise it would probably still be there today.

Well I hope to see you all soon and keep bringing in the questions. It makes it real easy to write this column after having some good conversations in the garden center on a beautiful day.


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