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starting an asparagus bed in bindweed paradise  RSS feed

 
Gilbert Fritz
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Location: Denver, CO
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I want to start an asparagus bed in an area infested with bindweed. All my other gardening is being done with sheet mulch beds (cardboard, topped with wood chip, manure, and leaves) to slow (not stop) bindweed and quack grass. How would I start asparagus in a brand new sheet mulch bed? Dig up the soil, lay down cardboard, put the crowns on it, and pile on the mulch? Put the crowns under the cardboard with silts for them to emerge from (and for the weeds to emerge from?)

Any advice will be appreciated.
 
John Elliott
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Gilbert Fritz wrote: Dig up the soil, lay down cardboard, put the crowns on it, and pile on the mulch?


Yeah, that's the trick. I don't think you can throw too much mulch on top of asparagus; once those crowns are well established in the soil, they will poke up two or three feet to find sunlight. I have my asparagus next to the blackberry patch, and besides the mulch, they have a good 8-12" of blackberry bramble that they have to poke through. One thing I will not have to worry about is Br'er Fox coming in to steal my asparagus.

On edit: You know, I haven't seen any bindweed yet this year. The first year after I turned half of the back yard into vegetable garden, I had bindweed everywhere. But I keep working in wood chips and biochar and drywall (for the calcium), and each year there is less and less bindweed. Now the opportunistic "weeds" in my yard are arugula, crimson clover, lovage, chicory and gladiolus. I think if you keep yanking out what you really don't want, and replacing it with "invasives" that you like, the area takes on a whole different nature.
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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We used to have a bindweed/asparagus bed. It is pretty tough to manage because you can't really get in and disturb the roots to pull the bindweed out. It eventually got abandoned as too difficult to keep control of.

I think you might need a two stage process - get control of the bindweed then get the asparagus established.

I would deep mulch (like 6 inches or more) with wood chips WITHOUT cardboard - bindweed will run and run under cardboard layers. You want the bindweed to send up shoots through the loose mulch so you can easily pull it aside and lift out great long lengths of root system. Cardboard seems to make that process harder. I got control of a 15ft by 40ft raspberry patch this way, over the space of a spring/summer. A year later I'm getting just the odd little shoot which hand pulls easily. You don't want your asparagus in place while this is going on, because you will need to be able to turn and move the mulch and the top inch or so of soil.

Once you have it under control you can prepare the bed for asparagus - trenches, lots of nitrogen rich compost/manure, then re-mulch over the top.
 
Tim Malacarne
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Location: South central Illinois, USA
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Haven't had any experience with bindweed... I built our asparagus bed into a hillside that I was able to excavate about 6' - 7' deep. Refilled hole with good soil and manure. Asparagus doing well there.
 
Dayna Williams
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Location: Zone 8, Western Oregon
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So Michael, you managed to get rid of your bindweed problem in a raspberry patch? I have a patch of bare soil (it used to be invasive Himalayan blackberry + bindweed) that I was hoping to plant with asparagus. If you recommend waiting on the asparagus 'til the bindweed is under control, do you have any suggestions of what I could plant there for this year? I don't want to leave it as bare soil. Is there anything that I could plant there that would survive my bindweed eradication efforts? I was thinking of planting a 3 Sisters guild so that the squash could help shade out any stubborn blackberries.
I don't want to hijack Gilbert's original post, just thought any ideas you had might be helpful for both of us.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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A bunch of my gardens are bindweed abatement experiments. There are a number of tactics. I'll be ready to write a great article our maybe a book in a few years!

In an asparagus bed I would use the twist and tuck method. Have you got rocky soil or a source of stones, preferably about potato sized? Bricks work. When the bindweed sprouts come up you twist them up without breaking them and tuck them under a rock. I let then get a bit long sometimes and twist and tuck them under a centrally located stone. I find that plans like having the stones nearby .

It's a lot of work at first. Takes vigilance.

Yes to the mulch too! Sprouts can be tucked under mulchas well but it's easier for them to sneak back out. The idea is to starve the roots. Everytime you break the roots , a hormonal response causes the bindweed to grow faster . Ifyou can get almost every speck this will work but you don't want to mess with your asparagus crowns.

I'll try to remember to take some photos of what the twist and tuck method looks like in my gardens.
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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The "twist it under a stone" approach sounds interesting... you are just letting it grow out but restricting it's light yes? Flat sections of stone like paving slabs? I guess that you don't end up breaking the roots so you don't risk inducing so much proliferation from root fragments.

Regarding the patch I worked on last year... I had to be pretty brutal to it to get out as much root as possible. I was there every week through spring and summer hand digging through the mulch to pull out great long sections of root. The particular bed was in a shocking state because the previous people had put down black plastic sheeting - the bindweed was tangled under it like a sea of writhing snakes. This year the bindweed problem is definitely less, but a lot of my wood chips got turned into the soil and I'm seeing some signs of nitrogen deficiency in my raspberry canes. I'm spot fertilising the worst ones each time I go up there and it is making a difference.

I would definitely not have been able to nurse another crop through while I was rehabilitating this area, and even the well established raspberries took a bit of a beating.
 
Dayna Williams
Posts: 79
Location: Zone 8, Western Oregon
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Matu, does breaking the stems trigger the hormone response, or just breaking the roots?
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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Dayna Williams wrote:Matu, does breaking the stems trigger the hormone response, or just breaking the roots?


I don't know for sure, I would love to see some rigorous research on this topic! I suspect from my observations that breaking the roots is more of a problem, they are so brittle and snappy. Still, I try not to break it at all.

I have an infestation in zone 1 that I nearly completely eradicated with the ol twist and tuck. I've got photos from last year around somewhere. The vigor of the plant diminished visibly over the last two years. The zone 2 garden is bigger and doesn't get as much attention so it's still got a lot left but I'm starting to feel that I'm having some success. I use whatever stones I have on hand. I am in New England in the path of a glacier that dumped so many stones all around, so I'm well supplied. Farming by hand in rocky soil filled with bindweed is preferable to using a tractor!
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Location: Denver, CO
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Thanks Matu!

I have lots of rock and concrete to work with, since I have creek bottom soil (nice and black, but stuffed with rocks) and to add to that, the developers of nearby houses dumped concrete rubble in the field. And the owners brought in broken concrete for other projects. I am lining the beds with them, so they are already handy.

I think for the perennial beds, I will dig them up to shock the bindweed, and get out all the rubble. Then I will sheet mulch, overlapping the cardboard really well. Then any bindweed that comes back (it will!) will get the twist and rock trick.
 
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