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Q: How do you use plastic to help control winter weeds in asparagus?

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ZoŽ in a field of flowering brassicas with her daughter Cleo up front

A: My good friend ZoŽ Bradbury who farms on the South Coast of Oregon as part of Valley Flora Farm grows asparagus and uses plastic to help control winter weeds. I usually just write about my own farm experience but ZoŽ is someone I know well and whose experience I trust so I'm passing on some notes of hers that she shared with me recently about how she does it. Not complicated at all, very simple. Here's what she wrote me:

I cover my patch with black plastic from about mid-late january until the first white spears start to tent up the plastic, usually at the end of march. it helps to knock back winter and perennial weeds a LOT, and gives us a head start on harvest in a clean field

 

She has also told me in the past that the first spears, which have been under the dark plastic, are harvested as white asparagus, but when she takes the plastic off then she harvests the remainder of the crop as green asparagus.When I asked if weed cloth would work she sent me this reply:

Weed mat would probably be fine on the asparagus, so long as you keep an eye on the first spears trying to pop up...and it would last longer than the black plastic. The only benefit to the black plastic is that it keeps the field a little drier underneath, which provides an opportunity to cultivate by hand of with a tractor as soon as you take it off..

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