Giving life to an old asparagus patch
We moved into our farm a few years ago and it came with a 50 foot asparagus patch. We have been picking it for a few years but it is overrun with bittersweet vine and other assorted weeds and grasses. Is it possible just to dig the whole patch up, remove all the vines and weeds, and then replant the asparagus roots? Can roots be stored safely over the winter in a bushel basket? Is the fall a good time to do this project? We need help. Thank you.
Ingham County Michigan
Asparagus is a plant that roots very deeply (often root systems extend over a meter into the soil), so moving these plants with minimal disturbance is very difficult. I would advise against storing crowns over the winter, instead I would aim to have this endeavor completed either this fall after the tops have died back or very early in the spring before tops emerge. I wouldn't expect the plants to be vigorous after being replanted as they re-establish their root systems.
If you go this route to clear the patch, mechanical weed control is probably your best bet, though products with the active ingredient glyphosate can also be used. For a summary of weed control options in asparagus, see this write-up from Iowa State University Extension: https://www.extension.iastate.edu/news/yard-and-garden-control-weeds-asparagus-and-berries. Note that even if you do a good job removing the weeds you can see, there is likely many weed seeds in the soil that will appear over time as conditions are right.
Because of the age of the plants (I'm assuming they are at least five years old, and potentially much older), another option would be to start a new patch all together. The weeds you are dealing with are perennials, and controlling a perennial weed in a perennial vegetable is very difficult. If you go the "new planting" route, you can purchase asparagus crowns from a variety of sources (there are newer varieties that are very productive). The best time to transplant is early in the spring, and don't expect much of a harvest/harvest to heavily the first year.
For more information on establishing a new asparagus patch, see these articles from MSU Extension:
Feel free to reach out if you have any follow-up questions!
Thank you for your help Marissa. At this time, I think I will make a concentrated effort on digging out the bittersweet vines (hellasius root system) and the milkweed. I will try to save my asparagus roots as is. Otherwise a whole new asparagus patch is the answer. Thanks Again. Gloria Strahan