Question: I was talking to a gardener friend today and she said to weed asparagus beds and then spread a layer of rock salt. I have never heard of this before but she said it was from the Connecticut Experiment Station in Connecticut. Have you ever heard of doing this?
Yes, this is something which I am actually considering trying in my own asparagus
bed this year. No question that a superior method to keeping a weed-free bed would be weeding and then mulching with compost or a layer of newspapers covered with straw. But occasionally we gardeners need to find a quick trick, and this old time technique may be worth trying.
Asparagus can tolerate a saline soil, which is why the method seems to work. The salt kills the weeds without damaging the asparagus. The question is, however, how much damage is done to the soil? Opponents of the practice claim it breaks up the soil structure. Personally, I think I will divide my bed in half and try both the salt and mulch methods in a comparison test. According to what I have read, as much as 1 pound of rock salt can be used per sq. ft.! I am unwilling to go to that extreme. However I am going to follow Rodale's Organic Encyclopedia recommendations which talk of using salt, not for weed control, but for the health of the plant:
"For healthy asparagus, add sodium chloride rock salt (NaCl) to beds more than one year old. Apply 2.5 lb. per 100' row either before spears appear or around July 4. Research shows this treatment helps asparagus resist crown and root rot diseases caused by Fusarium fungi and also improves overall growth. Don't use iodized table salt or rock salt made of calcium chloride (CaCl). Pickling salt, however, is fine for the job."
If you decide to try this method, please let us know what your results are.
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