Monday, August 31, 2009

Growing Rhubarb


The planting area should be thoroughly weeded prior to planting. Rhubarb is generally purchased as crowns, rather than propagated from seed. Planting Rhubarb seeds is not recommended, except in extremely southern areas of the United States. In addition Rhubarb is generally not propagated from seed since seedlings are not always true to type. Quality nursery stock for starting new plantings is recommended; this is due to freedom from virus, crown rots, root rots and weeds.

Rhubarb crowns can be purchased from seed catalogs or a local nursery, garden center. Plant the crowns as soon as possible so they don’t dry out.

Rhubarb is normally planted as early as possible in the spring since growth begins when soil temperatures are still well below 50ยบ F. Rhubarb can also be planted in the fall after dormancy has set in.

Plant with the crown bud 2 inches below the soil surface.
Space the roots 36 to 48 inches apart in rows approximately 4 feet apart. Work plenty of well-rotted manure or compost into the rhubarb bed before planting.

Since rhubarb is a perennial, it should be planted to one side or at the end of the garden so as not to interfere with planting and growing annual vegetables. The rhubarb plant has bold ornamental texture and size, and some gardeners find it suitable to include in a perennial flower border.

Plant (or divide) rhubarb roots in early spring while the plants are still dormant, in well drained soil

Old roots may be dug and divided to make new plantings by cutting the roots into no more than eight pieces. Each piece must have at least one strong bud.


Cultivation


Cultivate shallowly as often as necessary to remove weeds. Apply a complete garden fertilizer in early spring before growth begins and side-dress with a high-nitrogen fertilizer in late June. Except in poorly drained sites, organic mulches help moderate soil temperature and moisture. Do not cover the crowns. Flower stalks should be cut off as soon as they appear.

Fertilizer

Lime - should be applied to maintain the soil pH in a range of 6.0 to 6.8...ranges as low as 5.0 are tolerable but not recommended.

Nitrogen - rhubarb has a high nitrogen requirement. Apply as necessary in the first year; otherwise apply nitrogen at bud break along with the phosphorus and potash. Apply a side dressing of nitrogen after harvest

Fertilize with a handful of a 5-10-10 fertilizer in the spring. A modest midsummer application will also benefit these vigorous plants.

Harvest

Do not harvest rhubarb during the first year of planting. Newly set plants need all their foliage to build a strong root system. Stalks may be harvested for 1 or 2 weeks during the second year and for 8 to 10 weeks (a full harvest season) during the third and subsequent years. Harvest in the fall only when the plants are to be discarded the next season.

If seed stalks and flowers develop during the spring and summer, cut them from the base of the plant as soon as they appear and discard them. Rhubarb is an extremely hardy plant. It is a beautiful garden plant, with huge extravagant, lush green leaves and pink or red stalks. Rhubarb is an ancient plant as well.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Collard Greans


Easy Gardening...Collards
Sam Cotner and Jerry Parsons, Extension Horticulturists
Texas Agricultural Extension Service

Collards tolerate more heat and cold than most other vegetables grown in Texas. They are easy to grow, productive and well suited to either large or small gardens. Collards grow best in cool weather and need as much sunlight as possible. They also need a deep soil that is well drained and well prepared. Collards do not form heads and are grown for their leaves. They are a member of the cabbage family.

Soil Preparation and Fertilization

The roots of the collard plant easily reach depths of 2 feet of more. Dig the soil as deep as possible -- at least 10 inches. This loosens the soil so small feeder roots can grow more easily.
If the soil is mostly clay or light sand, add organic matter. A 3 inch layer of compost is adequate. Spread it over the planting area before digging.
Clear the soil of rocks and large sticks. Turn it to cover the plant material on the soil surface. Do this before planting to allow time for the material to begin rotting.

Just before planning, scatter a complete garden fertilizer such as 10-20-10 over the planting area. Use 2 or 3 pounds for each 100 square feet or about 1 cup for each 10 feet of row. Use a rake to mix the fertilizer 3 to 4 inches into the soil.
Work the soil into ridges 6 to 8 inches high and at least 36 inches apart. This brings the fertilizer under the row where the plants can reach it easily. The ridges also allow water to drain away from the plant roots (see Figure 1).
Planting

Collards can be started from transplants or from seed sown directly in the garden. Transplants usually are used for the spring crop. They add 4 to 5 weeks to the growing season since they can be grown indoors before the weather is warm enough to plant seeds outside. Collard seeds sprout when the soil temperature reaches 45 degrees F.

Plant the transplants into the garden as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring -- February or March in most of Texas. Set the plants in the soil about the same depth as they are grown indoors. Space them 18 to 24 inches apart in the row (see Figure 2). Be sure to water the plants after transplanting.
When planting seed, make a shallow furrow about 1/2 inch deep down the center of the bed. Scatter the seed lightly in the furrow. With a little practice the seed can be scattered easily by tapping the edge of the open seed packet lightly with your fingers. One teaspoon of seed plants about 30 feet of row. Cover the seed about 1/4 inch with loose soil or compost. Then sprinkle with water. The plants should come up in 6 to 12 days. However, the colder the soil, the slower the seeds will sprout.

Varieties
• Blue Max
• Georgia LS
• Georgia Southern
• Vates

After Planting

Keep the garden free of weeds. Pull the weeds or hoe them carefully to prevent damage to the collard plant's roots.
After the plants have sprouted, let them grow until they get about 4 to 6 inches tall or become crowded in the row. Then thin the plants gradually until about 18 inches remain between them. The young plants can be either transplanted to another spot or used as greens (see Figure 3). Crowding causes the leaves to be smaller and less green.

Water the plants well each week if it does not rain. When the plants are thinned to their final spacing or if they become pale green in color, add a little more fertilizer. Collards need plenty of nitrogen to develop their dark green leaf color. Scatter 1 cup of garden fertilizer beside the plants for each 30 feet of row (about 1 tablespoon per plant). This is called side dressing. Mix the fertilizer lightly with the soil and then water. The plants may need to be side-dressed again in 4 to 6 weeks if they become pale and there is no sign the change was caused by insects.
For a fall crop, plant seeds in the garden about 80 days before frost -- August or September in most areas. Seed them heavy and then thin.

Insects

Name and Description Control
1/8 inch long; softbodied;green, pink, red or brown; usually found on underside of leaf; sucks juices; often called "plant lice". Diazinon
inchworm that feed on foliage; light green, white or pale yellow; has three pairs of prolegs. Bacillus thuringiensis (Dipel, Thuricide, Biotrol)
Up to 3/8 inch long; sucks plant juices, causing plant to wilt and leaves to turn brown; black with red or yellow markings. Sevin
Before using a pesticide, read the label. Always follow cautions, warnings and directions.

Diseases

Collards are subject to some diseases. If the plants have spots on the leaves, you may need to use a fungicide. Ask your county Extension agent what to use.

Harvesting

Collards can be harvested two different ways. For small plants that need thinning, cut the entire plant about 4 inches above the ground (see Figure 4). Sometimes they sprout back from the side of the stem. Usually, only the lower leaves of collards are harvested. This allows the plant to keep growing and producing more leaves. In mild regions, such as South Texas and coastal areas, collards continue to produce all winter. Collards can stand temperatures of 20 degrees F or less in some cases. They taste sweeter after a light frost.

Serving

Collards are one of the most nutritious vegetables. They are high in protein, vitamins and minerals and low in calories. To prevent loss of nutrients, do not cook collards in too much water.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Growing Garlic


Early autumn is the best time to plant - usually summer finishes and autumn races towards winter and I often find me planting cloves on the colder end of this season. If you really want a successful harvest of these alliums then the cloves NEED to be in the ground at the start of autumn when the ground still has some warmth in it.

The soil needs to be deliciously friable - I know, I know. All we're ever recommended to grow in is friable soil and whoever has that? Well, in the case of growing garlic it's more a necessity than a luxury. Those with clay soils will struggle equally as much as those with sandy soils. The clay soil will restrict the growth of the bulbs in the same way as they encourage bifurcation of carrots. And sandy soils just won't be able to retain the moisture or nutrients that these precocious vegetables demand.
If you want to grow a good crop of garlic then your soil needs to be a welcoming mat. They love a soil that is slightly on the acidic side so pouring compost and manures into your bed before planting will please them beyond imagination.

Keep the soil moist - if your autumn and winters are fairly dry then keeping some irrigation on your young bulbs will prove invaluable. Otherwise, you might just want to mulch the beds. They don't need heaps of water but they don't appreciate drying out either.

Source quality bulbs for planting - most often you can buy bulbs of garlic to grow straight from the supermarket. However, increasingly it seems that many producers are spraying bulbs with growth inhibitors to protect their stock. Your best source for quality bulbs would be from someone who has already grown their own from a past season or from organic producers.

Plant the cloves the right way up! - Like any other bulb, if it's planted incorrectly they will never see the light of day - literally. The base of each clove should be pointing downwards while its peak should face the sun. Fairly obvious, one would assume, but the number of people who ask the question illustrates the need to make the point.

Once your cloves are in the ground you can easily engage the set-and-forget mindset. They will mostly take care of themselves and apart from a side dressing off liquid fertilizer once the foliage begins to show, they won't need much more attention.

Then in late spring, when the leaves begin to die down you can begin to harvest these wonderful veggies leaving them to dry out in the sun before storing. And the best way to store garlic is by braiding and hanging.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Save Your Seeds


Now is the time of year that we harvest our garden and enjoy the bounty that we have grown. But one thing is for sure you must leave some good stock in the ground to save for seed. Just be sure to let the plant mature and fully develop the seeds within it. When you harvest the seed be sure to lay them out on paper towels and let them dry for at least 3 weeks then store them in a cool dry place till next spring when you can germinate them into the next generation of food for the year. This is very important!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Growing Squash


Summer and winter squash are some of the most popular vegetables in the home garden. Summer squash can be eaten raw in salads, stir-fried, steamed, or cooked in various dishes. Winter squash can be baked, steamed, or boiled.

Summer squashes are large, bushy plants. The fruit of summer squash are harvested when they are immature and have soft skins. Fruit can be stored for 1 to 2 weeks. There are several types of summer squash. These include zucchini (cylindrical, club-shaped fruit), crookneck (long, tapered fruit with curved necks), straight neck (bottle-shaped fruit with straight necks), and scallop (flattened, roundish fruit with scalloped edges).

Most winter squashes are large, vining plants. (Several semi-bush varieties are available to individuals with small gardens.) Fruit are harvested when they are mature and have hard rinds. Winter squash fruit can be stored in a cool, dry location for 1 to 6 months. Various sizes, shapes, and colors of winter squash are available. These include acorn, buttercup, butternut, and hubbard.

Suggested Varieties

Summer Squash Winter Squash
Dixie - yellow crookneck Blue Hubbard
Elite - zucchini Burgess Buttercup
Goldfinger - golden zucchini Butternut Supreme
Jaguar - zucchini Sweet Mama - buttercup
Seneca Butterbar - yellow straightneck Table Ace - acorn
Spineless Beauty - zucchini Table Queen - acorn
Sunburst - yellow patty pan (scallop) Vegetable Spaghetti

Planting

Summer and winter squash perform best in fertile, well-drained soils containing high levels of organic matter. They also require full sun. Organic matter levels can be increased by incorporating well-rotted manure or compost into the soil. If a soil test has not been conducted, apply and incorporate 1 to 2 pounds of an all-purpose garden fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, per 100 square feet prior to planting.
Summer and winter squash are commonly planted in hills. Sow 4 to 5 seeds per hill at a depth of 1 inch in mid-May in central Iowa. Thin to 2 to 3 vigorous, well-spaced plants per hill when seedlings have 1 or 2 true leaves. The last practical planting date for summer squash is July 20. Winter squash must be planted by June 10.
For an early crop, start plants indoors 3 to 4 weeks prior to the anticipated outdoor planting date. Since squash seedlings don't tolerate root disturbances during transplanting, start seeds in peat pots, peat pellets (Jiffy 7's), or other plantable containers. Sow 3 to 4 seeds per container. Later, remove all but 2 seedlings. Harden the plants outdoors for a few days in a protected location prior to planting to lessen transplant stress.
Hills and rows of summer squash should be 3 to 4 feet apart. Hills of winter squash should be spaced 4 to 5 feet apart with 5 to 7 feet between rows.

Care

Control weeds with frequent, shallow cultivation and hand pulling. Water plants once a week during dry weather.
Squash bugs and squash vine borers can be serious pests. Squash bugs have piercing-sucking mouthparts. Heavy feeding causes entire leaves to wilt, turn brown, and die. Several methods can be used to control squash bugs in the garden. Adults and brick red egg masses on the undersides of leaves can be removed by hand. Adults can also be trapped under boards or shingles placed under the plants. Turn the objects over daily and collect and destroy the hiding squash bugs. Small, immature squash bugs (nymphs) can be controlled with insecticides, such as carbaryl (Sevin). In fall, remove and destroy plant debris to deprive squash bugs of overwintering sites.
Squash vine borer larvae bore into squash stems near ground level. Larvae feeding within the vines eventually cause the plants to wilt and die. Squash vine borers can be controlled with applications of insecticides (rotenone, permethrin, or marathon) at regular intervals beginning in mid-June. Apply the insecticide to the base of the vines. After the final harvest, remove and destroy the plant debris. Rototilling in fall or spring may destroy overwintering pupae in the soil.

Harvest

Harvest long-fruited summer squash varieties when they are about 2 inches in diameter and 6 to 12 inches long. Scalloped types are best when 3 to 5 inches in diameter. Fruit should have soft skins (rinds) that are easy to puncture with a fingernail. Seeds should be soft and edible.
Mature winter squash have very hard skins that can't be punctured with the thumbnail. Additionally, mature winter squash have dull-looking surfaces. When harvesting fruit, leave a 1-inch stem on winter squash. Store the fruit in a cool, dry, well-ventilated location.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Growing Lima Beans, one of my favorites




Lima Bean

When summer temperatures warms the soil beans can go from seed to table in about 60 days. Of the many types of beans, the two most frequently grown by home gardeners are snap beans and lima beans. Each of these can be divided into two types. Low growing plants and tall growing plants. The legume family also contains many delicious vegetables that have beanlike seeds but that only remotely resemble the familiar type of beans.

Both the bush and pole types of lima beans have larger and more spreading vines than their snap bean counter parts. Lima beans do best in areas where summers are long and rather warm. Limas are panted like snap beans except they need more space. Plant them 4 to 6 inches apart in a row. In clay soils plant them on edge to improve the chance of germination.

Planting

Plant beans from seeds sown in the ground as soon as the soil has warmed up. Beans are frost tender and require a soil temperature of 65 degrees to sprout reliably. Either check the soil temperature with a soil thermometer or wait until late leafing trees (oaks, hickories, and pecans) uncurl new spring foliage. Successive crops can be planted until midsummer. Plant seeds of bush beans 3 inches apart in rows 18 inches apart. Pole bean plants are much larger, requiring 3 feet between rows and 9 to 12 inches between plants. If you want to run the vines up tepee shaped supports, dig holes in the corners of a 3 foot square and plant three pole bean seeds in each. Cover seeds 1 inch deep in clay soils, 1 ½ inches in sandy soils.

Care

To avoid the spread of diseases from plant to plant, cultivate shallowly and only when the foliage is dry. Water frequently by soaking the soil instead of sprinkling. Moist foliage invites bacterial disease in humid areas. High nitrogen fertilizers and heavy application of compost will encourage more foliage growth than vegetable production. Use a fertilizer with a nitrogen phosphorus potassium ratio of 1:2:2, applying it every three to four weeks in a shallow furrow about 6 inches away from the plants. Cover the fertilizer band with soil. If you furrow irrigate apply the fertilizer in the furrows so water can carry it into the root zone of the bean plants.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Growing Cucumbers Continued

Care
Cucumber plants have shallow roots and require ample soil moisture at all stages of growth. When fruit begins setting and maturing, adequate moisture becomes especially critical. For best yields, incorporate compost or well-rotted manure before planting. Cucumbers respond to mulching with soil-warming plastic in early spring or organic materials in summer. Use of black plastic mulch warms the soil in the early season and can give significantly earlier yields, especially if combined with floating row covers.

Side-dress with nitrogen fertilizer when the plants begin to vine. Cucumber beetles should be controlled from the time that the young seedlings emerge from the soil.

In small gardens, the vines may be trained on a trellis or fence. When the long, burpless varieties are supported, the cucumbers hang free and develop straight fruits. Winds whipping the plants can make vertical training impractical. Wire cages also can be used for supporting the plants. Do not handle, harvest or work with the plants when they are wet.


Harvesting
Pick cucumbers at any stage of development before the seeds become hard. Cucumbers usually are eaten when immature. The best size depends upon the use and variety. They may be picked when they are no more than 2 inches long for pickles, 4 to 6 inches long for dills and 6 to 8 inches long for slicing varieties. A cucumber is of highest quality when it is uniformly green, firm and crisp. The large, burpless cucumbers should be 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter and up to 10 inches long. Some varieties can grow considerably larger. Do not allow cucumbers to turn yellow. Remove from the vine any missed fruits nearing ripeness so that the young fruits continue to develop. The cucumber fruit grows rapidly to harvest size and should be picked at least every other day.

Selection & Storage
There are two types of cucumbers common to the home gardener - pickling cucumbers and slicing cucumbers. The phrase "cool as a cucumber" is an apt one. Growing in a field on a hot summer day, the interior flesh is 20 degrees cooler than the outside air temperature.

Harvest cucumbers early in the morning (before have been heated by the afternoon sun) and refrigerate immediately. Store for up to 3 days in the refrigerator in loose or perforated plastic bags. Supermarket cucumbers are covered with an edible wax to protect them from moisture loss. The wax gives them an unnatural sheen. Fresh cucumbers are dull green in color.

Pickling cucumbers — Pickling cucumbers should be picked every day, since they can quickly grow too large for use. Do not leave over-mature, yellow cucumbers on the vine. If a single cucumber is left on the vine, the vine will stop producing altogether.

Slicing cucumbers — Slicing cucumbers should be harvested as needed. But there is no practical use for baseball bat size cucumbers. They are tough and the seeds are woody. Harvest when they are 8 inches long or smaller. As with pickling cucumbers, remove the over mature ones as soon as you see them or they will halt the growth of new cucumbers.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Growing Cucumbers


When to Plant Cucumbers

Cucumbers are usually started by planting seeds directly in the garden. Plant after the danger of frost has passed, and the soil has warmed in the spring. Warm soil is necessary for germination of seeds and proper growth of plants. With ample soil moisture, cucumbers thrive in warm summer weather. A second planting for fall harvest may be made in mid- to late summer.

Cucumbers may be transplanted for extra-early yields. Sow two or three seeds in peat pots, peat pellets or other containers 3 to 4 weeks before the frost-free date. Thin to one plant per container. Plant transplants 1 to 2 feet apart in rows 5 to 6 feet apart when they have two to four true leaves. Do not allow transplants to get too large in containers or they will not transplant well. Like other vine crops, cucumbers do not transplant successfully when pulled as bare-root plants.

Spacing & Depth

Plant seeds 1/2 to 1 inch deep and thin the seedlings to one plant every 12 inches in the row or to three plants every 36 inches in the hill system. If you use transplants, plant them carefully in warm soil 12 inches apart in the row.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Growing Radishs


Radish is a cool-season, fast-maturing, easy-to-grow vegetable. Garden radishes can be grown wherever there is sun and moist, fertile soil, even on the smallest city lot. Early varieties usually grow best in the cool days of early spring, but some later-maturing varieties can be planted for summer use. The variety French Breakfast holds up and grows better than most early types in summer heat if water is supplied regularly. Additional sowings of spring types can begin in late summer, to mature in the cooler, moister days of fall. Winter radishes are sown in midsummer to late summer, much as fall turnips. They are slower to develop than spring radishes; and they grow considerably larger, remain crisp longer, are usually more pungent and hold in the ground or store longer than spring varieties.

When to Plant

Spring radishes should be planted from as early as the soil can be worked until mid-spring. Make successive plantings of short rows every 10 to 14 days. Plant in spaces between slow-maturing vegetables (such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts) or in areas that will be used later for warm-season crops (peppers, tomatoes and squash). Spring radishes also can be planted in late winter in a protected cold frame, window box or container in the house or on the patio. Later-maturing varieties of radishes (Icicle or French Breakfast) usually withstand heat better than the early maturing varieties and are recommended for late-spring planting for summer harvest. Winter radishes require a much longer time to mature than spring radishes and are planted at the same time as late turnips (usually midsummer to late summer).

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bell Peppers (green peppers)


Peppers are best started from seeds indoors in late winter and then transplanted into the garden after the soil and air have warmed in the spring. The plants cannot tolerate frost and do not grow well in cold, wet soil. When night temperatures are below 50° to 55°F, the plants grow slowly, the leaves may turn yellow and the flowers drop off. Raised beds, black plastic mulch and floating row covers may be used to advantage with peppers to warm and drain the soil and enhance the microenvironment of the young pepper plants in spring, when cool weather may persist.
Set transplants 18 to 24 inches apart in the row, or 14 to 18 inches apart in all directions in beds. A dozen plants, including one or two salad and hot types, may provide enough peppers for most families; but with so many colors, flavors and types available, more may be necessary for truly devoted pepper lovers or for devotees of ethnic cuisines.

Peppers thrive in a well-drained, fertile soil that is well supplied with moisture. Use a starter fertilizer when transplanting. Apply supplemental fertilizer (side-dressing) after the first flush of peppers is set. Because a uniform moisture supply is essential with peppers, especially during the harvest season, irrigate during dry periods. Hot, dry winds and dry soil may prevent fruit set or cause abortion of small immature fruits.

Fruits may be harvested at any size desired. Green bell varieties, however, are usually picked when they are fully grown and mature—3 to 4 inches long, firm and green. When the fruits are mature, they break easily from the plant. Less damage is done to the plants, however, if the fruits are cut rather than pulled off. The new, colored bell pepper fruits may be left on the plant to develop full flavor and ripen fully to red, yellow, orange or brown; or they may be harvested green and immature. Some (including "white," light yellow, lilac and purple) are colors that develop in the immature fruit and that should be harvested before actually ripening, when they turn red.

People who use tobacco should wash their hands with soap and water before handling pepper plants to prevent spread of tobacco mosaic disease. Grow resistant varieties if possible

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Growing Asparagus


Asparagus grows in most any soil as long as it has good internal drainage. Asparagus roots do not like waterlogged soils that will lead to root rot. Till to a 6 inch depth before planting.

Buy one-year-old, healthy, disease-free crowns from a reputable crown grower. A crown is the root system of a one-year-old asparagus plant that is grown from seed. Each crown can produce 1/2 lb. of spears per year when fully established.
Asparagus is a long-lived perennial vegetable crop that is enjoyed by many gardeners. It can be productive for 15 or more years if given proper care.
Asparagus can be planted throughout the northeast from mid-April to late May after the soil has warmed up to about 50 degrees F. There is no advantage to planting the crowns in cold, wet soils. They will not grow until the soil warms and there is danger of the plants being more susceptible to Fusarium crown rot if crowns are exposed to cold, wet soils over a prolonged period. Plant the asparagus at either the west or north side of the garden so that it will not shade the other vegetables and will not be injured when the rest of the garden is tilled.

Dig a furrow no deeper than 5 to 6 inches. Research has shown that the deeper asparagus crowns are planted, the more the total yield is reduced. Apply about 1 lb. of 0-46-0 (triple superphosphate) or 2 lbs. of 0-20-0 (superphosphate) fertilizer per 50 feet of row in the bottom of the furrow before planting. This will make phosphorus immediately available to the crowns. Omitting this procedure will result in decreased yields and the spear production will not be as vigorous.

Toss the crowns into the furrow on top of the fertilizer. The fertilizer will not burn the crowns, and the plants will grow regardless of how they land so don't bother to spread the roots. Space the crowns 1-1/2 feet apart in the row. If more than one row is planted, space the rows five feet apart from center to center. Wide between-row spacing is necessary because the vigorously growing fern will fill in the space quickly. Wide spacing also promotes rapid drying of the fern to help prevent the onset of fungus diseases.

After planting, back fill the furrow to its original soil level. It isn't necessary to gradually cover the crowns with a few inches of soil until the furrow is filled in. However, do not compact the soil over the newly filled furrow or the emergence of the asparagus will be severely reduced. Spears should emerge within one week in moist soils.

Do not harvest the asparagus during the planting year. Spears will be produced from expanded buds on the crown. As the spears elongate and reach a height of about 8 to 9 inches, the tips will open. The spear will become woody to support the small branch lets that become ferns. The ferns produce food for the plant and then move it down to the crown for next year's spear production.
Asparagus is very drought tolerant and can usually grow without supplemental watering because it seeks moisture deep in the soil. However, if rainfall is insufficient when planting or afterwards, it is beneficial to irrigate the crowns. Otherwise the plants will become stressed and growth will be slowed.