On the winter solstice on December 21, the 2018 gardening year died and the 2019 season was born. That’s why your mailbox is chock-a-block with gardening catalogs, the seed displays will be refreshed in the nurseries, and bare-root fruits and vegetables will be available at garden centers and over the internet.
Most of the bare-root vegetables are perennial crops, except for members of onion family. You can take potluck in terms of varieties with onion sets you’ll find at garden centers, but there’s a wider and better selection at mail order suppliers. One I’ve used successfully for years is Dixondale Farms in Texas.
Right now they’ll be shipping starts to our part of the country. These aren’t the dry tiny bulbs sold as sets.
Starts are small onion plants that you slip into holes in the soil made with a little finger or pencil, and that swell into full-size onions as the sun waxes toward the June equinox.
Strawberries are sold as bare-root plants now, too. They’ll come as a bundle. Disentangle each plant and spread out its roots. Trim any broken roots or broken ends.
Dig a hole in good garden soil about six to eight inches deep and make a mound of soil in the center. Place the plant on top of the mound and spread its roots out down all the sides of the mound.
The crown — the growing point — should just be at our just slightly above the soil surface. Fill the hole with compost and soil and firm it down, then water the plants in.
Make two rows three feet apart of plants a foot apart. As the plants grow in the spring, guide the strawberry runners into the three-foot empty space and pin them to the bare soil with clothes pins or a bit of broken branch.
They’ll take root there. The two rows you planted will produce berries this year, while the center area of runners will be new plants for next season’s berries.
At this time of year next January, dig up those previous older two rows and toss the plants on the compost pile. The center area where you placed the runners will bear the new year’s berries.
And as they in turn produce runners, you can guide them to the empty spaces where your original rows were planted. In this way you keep your berry patch young and fresh, which gives you the most berries.
Asparagus can be an expensive purchase at the supermarket, so why not put in an asparagus patch? They’re perennial and will return year after year if you treat them right.
What you’re after with asparagus is large, thick spears. Each asparagus spear has the same amount of tough fibers running its length, so the slenderer the spear, the more tightly the fibers are packed and the tougher it is.
Plant scientists have shown that the larger the spear, the farther apart the fibers are spaced, and the interstices are filled with tender flesh.
So, how do we get large spears? Again, plant scientists tell us that plants should be placed in trenches a foot deep and two feet across.
Soil should be mounded in a ridge down the center of each trench two inches high. Bare root plants should be placed on this ridge so their roots run down each side of the ridge in a spread-out pattern.