asparagus

Asked May 20, 2013, 8:31 PM EDT

I planted 50 jersey knight asparagus crowns. From what I've read jersey knight are all male plants and dont have berrys. About 90% of my plants have berrys. Does that mean these are not jerey knight? Thank You.

Barry County Michigan asparagus

4 Responses

Please find attached a picture of asparagus berries. Female plants typically don't produce berries until much later in the summer (late July/August), so, unless you are reporting an observation from last year, you may want to make sure your plants do in fact have berries (and are female). You are correct that modern hybrids (like Jersey Knight) are supposed to be primarily male, although a small percentage of crowns may be female. But 90% is far too high for a modern variety, unless there was major contamination. It is possible that, if you bought them via mail order, you received the wrong variety. Many of the crowns sold to home gardeners are Martha Washington, which is not "all-male." If you do in fact have mostly female plants, I would consider asking for new crowns or a refund if you are unhappy with the product. You will still obtain harvestable spears, just not as many as you would with an all-male variety.

I wanted to add an important addition. I expect what you are in fact seeing are not berries but flower buds, which develop on both male and female asparagus plants. The male flowers only contain anthers (pollen producing organs) and do not develop into fruit. The pollen from the male flowers is carried by bees to the female flowers which, when pollinated, develop into red berries in August (Female flowers only have pistils). If this is the case, you may have the right variety and a majority of male plants. These are now forming green flower buds which will open later (see picture attached). After some time, they will drop and you should see minimal plants with berries. It is unlikely if your crowns are truly Jersey Knight that you will have > 50% female plants, but there will likely be some.

My observations where from last season and looking at the pictures they where berries not flower buds. Is there enough of a differance between martha washington vs jersey knight to warrent replanting 50 crowns? If so how do I git rid of the existing plants? Thank You.

Given your answer, two potential explanations for the high percentage of female plants you obtained are (1) they aren't really Jersey Knight but are in fact another variety or (2) it is Jersey Knight but the seed lot used to grow the crowns had an unusually high percentage of female plants.

In terms of replanting, whether or not it's worth it depends on how important obtaining maximum yields are to you. Under either scenario above, you will still obtain harvestable spears to sell or consume, just not as many as you would with a newer variety or one with a majority of male plants. In fact, the 'Washington' varieties, including Mary, Martha or Waltham Washington, were standards for many years and will produce just fine, just not as much as newer ones.

To conclude, ask yourself if you are happy with the yields you've had given the demand you have at your market or for personal consumption. If your field is in it's 3rd year or more, by now you will have a good idea of it's annual yield potential (fields start hitting their stride in year 3, years 1-2 there are lower yields and most growers only pick 1-3 times to let the plants build roots). If you are unhappy with your yields, you could contact the seller and let them know your situation. Be aware that if you bought them from a local crown grower (a farmer, not a catalog) they may have little control over the quality of the seed that is sent them, so any fault could lie with the seed company not them. If you are unhappy with your yields, send me an email and I can put you in touch with one of our local crown growers, who typically produce a good product. If you are going to buy new crowns, consider your soil type. The new variety Millenium is better suited to heaver soils (e.g., sandy loam), while Jersey varieties are good on very sandy soils. You would likely need to wait until next year to obtain these crowns.,