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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Perennial Food Care in Fall

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sarah Denkler
In the fall you need to do a little extra to make sure your perennial food sources will be healthy once spring comes around again. Let's talk about the perennials asparagus, strawberry and rhubarb. In each case fall clean-up is a must before letting the plant go dormant in fall.

Asparagus -- Continue to keep asparagus plots weeded and mulched through summer and into fall. Once we get the first frost, any plant material left above ground will turn yellow and die. This material should be removed by cutting back to the ground to prevent any diseases or insects from overwintering. After the plants have been cut back and any dead plant material removed, apply about 4 inches of compost or mulch over the spears to help control weeds in the spring. This will also protect the roots from winter damage and add organic matter as it breaks down, helping to fertilize the roots. Compost can be left down in spring as spears will come up through the compost. Do not apply any fertilizer in fall, especially nitrogen as this will cause green growth that will be damaged by cool weather.

Strawberry - Berry patches should be renovated after plants stop producing fruit. At that time plants should be thinned, rows narrowed via tiller or hoe, weeds should be removed and all plant debris should be raked away. If these tasks have not been performed yet, do them now. Keep watering plants weekly to promote new growth.

Once plants go dormant, after frost, you can add 5 to 6 inches of mulch to the bed to insulate them from the cold winter air. This will help protect roots and soil. Use mulch that doesn't contain weed seeds such as straw or hay. Bark chips could also be used but stay away from leaves or grass and do not add fertilizer. Remove the mulch once the chance of frost has past in the spring.

Rhubarb -- While rhubarb can be harvested as late as September, once we have a freeze you want to remove the last stalks and discard them. Add straw, hay or leaves in a light layer to protect the crowns and roots from wind. Do not pile on more than 2 inches of mulch as rhubarb needs cold temperatures to trigger spring growth. The mulch should decompose by spring adding organic matter to the soil and helping to prevent weeds.

For horticulture questions please call 573-686-8064. The Extension office, open Monday -- Friday, is located in Kennett, Missouri at 101 South Main Street (the old bank) on the 2nd floor. University of Missouri Extension programs are open to all.

The University of Missouri Extension center is located in Kennett, Missouri at 101 South Main Street

(the old bank) on the 2nd floor. Open Monday -- Friday. University of Missouri Extension programs

are open to all.

Sarah Denkler is a horticulture specialist with University of Missouri Extension

in Dunklin County.

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