Tannenbaum grows asparagus and more in Milford
By Renae B. Vander Schaff
Date Modified: 05/21/2012 2:02 PM
MILFORD, Iowa — Asparagus is growing fast at Tannenbaum Trees and Berries, which requires David Stoever of Milford to begin harvesting a month earlier than normal. He has 500 asparagus plants to harvest, but that is going to multiply next week with 1,250 more.
"Four years ago I retired from my career with DNR where I mostly worked in state parks," said Stoever. "Growing fruits and vegetables has consistently been in the back of my mind to do when that retirement day came."
Stoever has always gardened, an interest he attributes to his father who was a big gardener. Growing things intrigue him. The challenge to produce one's own food and being outdoors draw him to this pursuit.
Stoever has strawberries and raspberries in addition to the asparagus and rhubarb. A multitude of vegetables will be grown outside and inside a newly constructed high tunnel.
He finishes the year with Christmas tree sales.
"There aren't a lot of people growing asparagus," said Stoever. "There are people who like asparagus and there are the people who are fanatic about asparagus. Homegrown asparagus has a totally different taste that what can be purchased in a store."
Stoever plants Rutger University Jersey hybrid varieties. They are an improved all-male version of asparagus Just as farmer's no long plants open-pollinated corns, asparagus has been bred to increase yield, develop thicker stalks and improve disease resistance, said Stoever.
He digs a 14 inch deep furrow to plant asparagus. The roots are covered with four inches of soil. Throughout summer, Stoever will continue to fill up the trench to cover the plants. Root development is important for good harvest.
"I do drip irrigate the asparagus, even the established stands," said Stoever. "It should increase yields and my soil has some sand in it."
Conventional wisdom is to harvest asparagus for just six weeks. The plant needs the rest of the year to photosynthesize. Plants store up the necessary energy and nutrients for next year's season during the rest period.
Stoever continually learns ways to improve gardening techniques. Stoever has learned of a method that allows him to harvest asparagus for much longer. Last year he continued into July.
"It is done in China," explained Stoever. "Let the first two spears grow to full size, they will put energy back into the roots. All other spears can be cut on a regular basis."
Stoever cuts asparagus with a knife just below the surface. He fertilizes in spring before the plants begin to grow and uses herbicides for weed control.
Much of his asparagus has been sold through the Spirit Lake Farmers Market, but because of the early harvest season this year, a good portion is being sold directly from the farm or at Buy Rite in Milford and Wilder Thymes Natural Foods in Spirit Lake.
In addition to being a charter member of the Little Sioux Cooperative Growers, he uses a website located at www.localdirt.com. The website connects buyers with sellers of locally grown fresh produce, meat and other products.
The Stoever household enjoys grilling asparagus. Simply marinate in a balsamic vinegar and olive oil for several hours, salt and pepper and thenput it on the grill alongside a meat choice.
Strawberries are just beginning to bloom. Once ripe the U-pick portion of Tannenbaum Trees and Berries begins. Just one mile west of the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Milford, his farm is well located for families to spend an hour or two picking fresh berries. The berries are also sold online and at the Spirit Lake Farmer's Market.
Before the strawberries are finishing, his raspberries begin a continual harvest. He has both summer and everbearing varieties.
Contact Renae B. Vander Schaaf at firstname.lastname@example.org