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Welcome to the Paul Parent Garden Club 2014 Newsletter

This gourmet food has been prized since the Romans and is still regarded as one of the great delicacies of the vegetable garden. In the spring, the asparagus is the first to emerge from the ground and much better tasting when grown in your garden and fresh picked than what you buy in the store. Growing asparagus is a long-term project for your garden, as it will take 2 to 3 years after planting before you can harvest those delicate and tasty shoots. On the positive side, once established the plants continue to produce for 25 years or more, and sometimes up to 50 years. The harvest season is also quite short: six weeks and the plant is not very productive for the amount of space it takes in your garden. That is why it is the most expensive vegetable to buy.

Plant asparagus roots in a sunny location. The soil should be well drained, light, rich in organic matter and deep. The pH should be as close to neutral as possible. The better the soil, the better the production will be. Set out roots at the end of the garden so they are not bothered in the future when working in the garden. Wet spots can rot the roots of the plants and if this is your problem, use a raised bed to grow the roots. It is important to prepare the soil before planting as this vegetable is in the ground for a long time and you will not get a second chance to mend the soil later. Compost and animal manure are the best fertilizers for this crop and should be applied to the garden each spring prior to the new shoots coming to the surface. Mycorrhizae fertilizers are best when added to the soil in the spring and fall, so look for the new Vegetable Thrive fertilizer. Mycorrhizea will help make a bigger and stronger root system. Asparagus plants grow tall so be sure to keep them out of the wind.

When you plant asparagus, purchase 2 year-old roots from your garden center and look for male roots. Male roots are more productive and larger shoots will develop from those roots. One year-old roots will save you money but you will have to wait one additional year to pick. The spring is the best time to plant asparagus and I suggest that you call your local garden center and have them call you as soon as the roots arrive. Roots in a poly bag that have been in a heated building tend to dry up fast and take longer to get established. A bundle of fresh root packed in peat moss is better and less likely to have a mold problem like plants in a poly bag. This is the time when paying more for a product is worth the investment. You will have this plant in your garden for a long time, so begin with quality.

Dig a trench 18 inches wide and 12 inches deep. Make a small mound of soil that you have conditioned in the center of the trench every 18 inches. Spread the roots around the mound of soil so the crown is 2 inches higher than the roots. Now cover the roots and crown with 2 to 3 inches of conditioned soil, firm them in place and water well. As the plants begin to grow slowly, fill in the rest of the trench until even with the rest of the garden. Fertilize spring and fall with Dr Earth vegetable food with probiotic, Bio-Tone fertilizer or Converted organics garden fertilizer. Use limestone, wood ash or Mag-I-Cal to keep the soil sweet and neutral. Once the shoots are up and growing I like to spread 2 inches of compost over the entire planting bed for weed control and to help prevent moisture loss during the summer. Water 2 times a week to keep soil moist but NEVER wet. You will enjoy the foliage in your garden and remember the foliage makes energy for the plant to make it stronger and more productive for next year.





The first time I fed my children spinach, it came in a baby food jar labeled "Strained Spinach."They did not like it and I do not blame them, as I would not eat it myself in that form. It tasted like green plaster but I had to eat some, to show them that Dad liked it and it must be good. As the kids grew, they never acquired a taste for it because of this first experience. Then one day in the spring, I took the kids out into the garden to plant. We planted tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers and salad greens -- the things they liked -- except that year we also planted some spinach as a test. That first year we picked the spinach as a green for the salad and they liked it (two points for Dad). At Thanksgiving, we picked the last of the spinach from the garden and cooked it for the dinner. There were strange looks from the kids but the deal was, "Try a little bit and if you do not like it, you do not have to eat it". I think back now and remember seeing more butter, salt and pepper with a little white vinegar on the spinach than was needed, but they ate it and enjoyed it for the most part. It is still not a favorite when cooked but they love it in salads.

Spinach comes from Persia originally, then moved to China and then Spain. Spinach was a very popular crop in Colonial New England as it grew in the garden when the weather was still cold for most other vegetables and everyone was looking for fresh vegetables. Today spinach is grown all over the world, but the United States is the number one producer of this spring vegetable. When planted in April, spinach will be ready in late May and last until late June. If you plant a crop every 2 weeks, you will have fresh salad greens until the hot days of summer arrive. I always buy double the seeds required so I can plant a fall crop in mid August for September and October. When the weather get hot the plant grows very fast and "bolts" which means going to seed rather than making foliage. The leaves at that time also become bitter tasting, so pick and enjoy while the weather is cool. During July and August plant Swiss chard for fresh greens.

Plant spinach in a rich garden soil. Condition the soil with compost, animal manure or peat moss. The better the soil, the more foliage it will produce; if you can keep the plants watered regularly and fed with a vegetable fertilizer once a month, you will have enough to give away to neighbors and friends. Plant the seeds 1inch deep in rows and 2 inches apart between seeds. I like to plant a double row 12 inches apart and 3 feet long. In two weeks, plant another 3 feet until the space is filled up. The seeds will germinate in 7 to 10 days and must be kept wet during that time, so water every day for the best germination. If the garden soil gets dry, the plant will stop producing foliage and go to seed, so water regularly to keep it productive. Plant Bloomsdale or Melody Spinach for early crops and switch to New Zealand Spinach for crops that will mature when the heat arrives, as this variety is more heat tolerant.

For salad greens, pick when the leaves are small and young. The plant will keep producing as you pick the leaves as long as you feed with a liquid fertilizer like Miracle-Grow. For cooked spinach, cut the plant to the ground, wash, and pull off the individual leaves along with the buds for cooking. Pick, wash and store in a zip lock bag in the refrigerator to toughen the leaves for salads. No matter how you use it, fresh picked will have a much better flavor than what you purchase at the supermarket. One last thing, "Popeye the Sailor Man" was right, because spinach has over 20 minerals and vitamins in the foliage, making spinach a real power house green vegetable from your spring garden. Plant some today for yourself and your kids!

The most grown fruit tree is the apple! Apples are believed to have originated in the mountains of Kazakhstan in central Asia. Pears, plums, peaches, and cherries are also popular but the apple has one characteristic the others do not have: the ability to be stored during the winter. Apples can be eaten when ripe in September and October but, when stored properly, will last well into the winter months. Not long ago, when fresh fruit was nearly impossible to find during the winter months, apples were king. Today, with modern shipping, any fruit is available at anytime of the year from around the world. But for the home gardener, this is still the best fruit for ease of winter storage.

It does not matter what type of fruit tree you plant; just follow these steps and all types of fruits will provide you with a nice crop of fresh fruit in the late summer to late fall. Begin by selecting a location with full sunshine. This location should be sheltered from the wind when possible and warm during the day. Try to avoid frost pockets and, when possible, plant on the side of a hill rather than at the bottom of a hill, because cold always slides down the hill and collects at the bottom. This is most important in the early spring when the fruit trees are in bloom, as a frosty morning could kill all your flowers and no fruit will form.

All fruit trees prefer a soil that is well drained and rich in organic matter. When planting fruit trees, be sure to add plenty of compost to help get them off to a great start. A slightly acidic soil is preferred; pH 6.0 to 6.5 is recommended. In a wet location on flat ground, the tree will struggle. If you have a clay-type soil plant something else, because your trees will never do well. Newly planted fruit trees must be watered regularly during the first year, and I recommend it be twice a week, 5 to 10 gallons each time. If the summer gets hot and dry, water more!

Fertilizing in the spring is best--before the foliage appears on the tree--with an organic slow release fertilizer such as Tree-Tone, Milorganite or Dr Earth Fruit Tree Food. Lime is necessary when you see moss growing on the ground around the trees. No moss growing--no lime needed. Mulch piled around the base of the tree will help the tree in many ways. Mulch or compost should be 2 to 3 inches deep and 3 to 4 feet wide around the tree. This will keep the weeds away, keep the soil cooler during the summer and hold surface water longer around the tree during the summer. This planting bed also prevents YOU from hitting the trunk of the tree with the lawn mower or weed whacker when maintaining the yard. Compost around the base will slowly feed the young roots every time it rains, to encourage a good root development and a better tree.

At the time you plant your fruit trees, use a single stake driven into the ground to support the tree for the first couple of years and tie down the tree with wire and a hose sleeve to prevent damage to the tree. This will help create a straight growing tree. Wrap the trunk of the tree with a circular ring of hardware cloth wire to protect the bark of the tree for the first 5 years from mice and rabbits. The wire ring should be 3 inches away from the trunk of the tree and pushed into the soil 2 inches deep. The height of the wire should be 24 inches. (Remember to remove the supports before the tree grows into them!)

In February or March, prune your tree to control size and create a better shape on the tree. When the outdoor temperature is above 40 degrees, spray your fruit trees with dormant or horticultural oil to kill eggs laid on the tree last fall by insects. This will really help with insect problems during the year. Also spray your trees with Liquid Copper Fungicide to help eliminate disease spores left on the plant last fall. These two sprayings should always be done before the foliage develops on the tree. When the tree is in bloom, "DO NOTHING" to the tree or you could cause all the flowers to drop, resulting in no fruiting on the tree. Once the flowers fall from the fruit tree, develop an every-other-week spraying program to control disease and insect problems. For organic control use Organocide fruit tree spray from Organic Labs, or the new liquid Fruit Tree Spray from Bonide Lawn and Garden. Do this until 2 weeks before harvest.

Join The Paul Parent Garden Club for The Grand Tour Of France July 31 through August 12, 2014. With special 70th Anniversary tours of the Beaches of Normandy and Monet's Garden.

Featured Recipe Of The Week
Make this with the kids, it's simple and they will love it!
What You Will Need:

3\4 Cup of granulated sugar
1/4 cup of lime juice
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup of cold water
4 cups of frsh or frozen raspberries 'fresh have more flavor'
1/4 teaspoon of salt

Mix sugar, lime juice, corn syrup and water in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Cook and stirunitl the sugar dissolves and the mixture becomes clear.  Remove from the heat and cool for five minutes.  Pour the mixture in your blender.  Add raspberries and salt.  Process until smooth.  If you do not like the seeds, pour mixture into a strainer above a large freezer.  Container and discard the seeds, I like the seeds it gives it texture.  cover the mixture and refrigerate at least 2 hours so flavor can work together in the mixture.  Now move the container to the freezer until firm.  This is a fun project for the kids on a rainy or cold snowy day and when spring arrives they will help you plant raspberries.  In the garden to eat fresh or make their own sorbet!  Enjoy!!!!  

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