Anticipation of Asparagus

This article originally appeared in the March 28, 2016 issue of The Journal-Leader.

Asparagus is one of the first spring vegetables ready to harvest in Ohio. The enticing green stalks begin to pop out of the ground in early April and asparagus lovers start to get excited. Harvest time typically stretches through June. Did you know that a successful patch of asparagus can produce a crop for up to (and beyond) 20 years? However, getting it established can be tricky.

Asparagus is picky about the soil it grows in. It does not tolerate soils that are acidic and it prefers well-drained sites. Planting crowns (which are segments of plant roots and emerging stems) in your garden is quicker and easier than starting asparagus from seed. It is important to give the crowns or seedlings time to establish before harvesting the stalks. One-year old crowns should not be harvested until they have been in the garden bed for at least a year and seedlings need two years. The reason they need this time is that the stalks, which we eat, will grow out into a fern and make energy to send down to the roots. When you harvest the stalks, energy is lost from the roots and if this happens too early the asparagus will not produce in subsequent years.

Asparagus is diecious (which means it has separate male and female plants). After the female plants growing out into a fern they will produce flowers and eventually seeds. Removing the seed stalks from the plant before the seeds form helps save energy in the roots for the next year. Seed production can be avoided by specifically purchasing crowns of only male plants.

After the asparagus has had time to get used to its new home and harvest time comes, pick it when the stalks are about the length of your hand (7-9 in). You can snap the stalks off at the soil, or to avoid cutting the tough part of the stalk off later, leave an inch or two sticking out. Harvest every week or two until 75% of the stalks are about the circumference of a pencil. To store fresh asparagus, place the ends upright in a shallow tray of water to keep them sweet and tender (if you buy fresh asparagus at a market, look for bunches that have been stored this way to get the best taste and texture). Once the harvest period has passed, let the remaining stalks grow out into ferns again to store energy for next year.

If you’re not a fan of asparagus (like me), maybe it is time to give it another try. The spring issue of OSU Extension’s Chop Chop Magazine features a recipe for Cheesy Roasted Asparagus that I plan to make with dinner sometime this month:

Ingredients: 1 bunch of fresh asparagus, 2 tbs. olive oil, ¼ tsp. salt, ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, and ½ of a lemon

Directions: Preheat oven to 450°F. Spread asparagus on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt, coating the asparagus. Roast in the oven for 5-10 minutes, until bright green. Sprinkle asparagus evenly with cheese and return to the oven until the cheese melts and turns golden (about 2 min). Remove from the oven, squeeze the lemon juice over the roasted asparagus, and serve.

Happy Tasting!

Have You Checked into Raising Chicks?

This article originally appeared in the March 21, 2016 edition of The Journal Leader.


Easter is right around the corner and in the past couple weeks, I have seen multiple advertisements with chicks for sale. Often people will purchase chicks as temporary pets to entertain children as a part of celebrating Easter, but before long, these adorable little balls of fluff begin to hit puberty and turn into ragamuffin teenage birds. At this point they often lose their appeal and those who bought these cuties begin looking for a way out of keeping them.

“If only more buyers would be investors!” I have thought to myself. Raising an animal is a great way to teach a child responsibility and get a return on your investment (eggs or meat). Of all the types of livestock to undertake as a starter project, poultry is one of the easiest. In addition, the initial investments and maintenance costs are low compared to those for larger types of livestock. From my point of view, one of the most appealing aspects of raising poultry is that you can have a marketable product very quickly. Market broiler chicks can reach ready to eat weight in 5-6 weeks. At 20-24 weeks roosters reach maturity and hens begin laying eggs. You can even have a market ready turkey at 22 weeks.

If you find yourself considering purchasing chicks, here is some important information to be aware of before you buy:

  • You will need to check local ordinances, zoning laws, and property association rules to make sure raising and keeping poultry is permitted in your area.
  • Check if you are buying market birds or layers. Also check if they have been sexed (gender identified) or not. Birds sold in a straight run have not been sexed and your ratio of males to females is luck of the draw.
  • Baby chicks need to be kept warm and dry. Without a mother hen, you will need to supply a safe, warm, and confined area to keep the chicks for the first few weeks. This area should include clean bedding, access to clean water and feed, and a heating lamp.
  • Some of your chicks may die. There are many reasons why you may lose a percentage of your chicks (in these conditions, 20% is common). When mortality occurs, remove and dispose of the bird immediately and ensure that everything within the chicks’ environment is clean.
  • As the birds mature they will need different types of feed (starter feed, then grower feed, then layer feed) and additional space. There are many systems you can use to house the birds depending on your preferences. Research these systems and construct a plan before you buy your birds.

These are just a few important tips. Call, click, or stop by the Noble County Extension Office if you are interested in starting poultry. There is a wealth of information available on this subject and I would be happy to help you find it.

If you are curious about what types of poultry are available and/or are interested in buying, try contacting Meyer Hatchery of Polk, OH ( or Mt. Healthy Hatchery ( of Cincinnati, OH. Both hatcheries are reputable suppliers, locally owned and operated, and offer a wide selection of birds for purchase.

The New Kid on the Block

This article originally appeared in the March 14, 2016 edition of The Journal-Leader.

Salutations! My name is Christine Gelley. I am the new Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educator for Noble County. I am a native of Ashland County, Ohio and a graduate of The Ohio State University. For the past couple years I called Knoxville, TN “home” while attending the University of Tennessee for graduate school. My husband, daughter, and I are delighted to be back in the Buckeye State and excited to join the Noble County community.

Why did I join Extension? Well, Extension workers have a creed that can answer that very question and I whole heartedly believe in these statements originally prepared by W.A. Lloyd in 1922:

Extension Workers Creed

I BELIEVE in people and their hopes, their aspirations, and their faith; in their right to make their own plans and arrive at their own decisions; in their ability and power to enlarge their lives and plan for the happiness of those they love.

I BELIEVE that education, of which Extension is an essential part, is basic in stimulating individual initiative, self-determination, and leadership; that these are the keys to democracy and that people, when given facts they understand, will act not only in their self-interest but also in the interest of society.

I BELIEVE that education is a lifelong process and the greatest university is the home; that my success as a teacher is proportional to those qualities of mind and spirit that give me welcome entrance to the homes of families I serve.

I BELIEVE in intellectual freedom to search for and present the truth without bias and with courteous tolerance toward the views of others.

I BELIEVE that Extension is a link between the people and the ever-changing discoveries in the laboratories.

I BELIEVE in the public institutions of which I am a part.

I BELIEVE in my own work and in the opportunity I have to make my life useful to humanity.

Because I BELIEVE these things, I am an extension professional.

I am looking forward to assisting in your quests for information about topics in agriculture and natural resources! Look for me out in the community or at the extension office.

Call, click, or stop by. I will be happy to chat with you about plant and animal agricultural systems, gardening, insects, weeds, and more.

Noble County Extension Office
46049 Marietta Rd. Suite 2

Caldwell, OH 43724

Office Phone: (740) 732-5681



Small planting window – early spring vegetables

The ten day forecast has us looking at warm wet weather.  Normally in March I would say wait a few weeks before planting much outside, but this is an opportunity to get some seed or transplants if you have them in the ground.  Don’t get crazy with planting right now, but if you have a few square feet in your garden you can put seed in that if you are successful will give you an early vegetable harvest.  I would still follow with another planting or two in a few weeks to stay on a normal rotation.

I plan on putting some transplants in that I started when I did a Seed Starting Program for the Four Seasons Garden Club in Logan.


They will go under cover in my kitchen garden.  I am not really worried about the cold, but the squirrels and bunnies will eat them if I don’t.  Deer would be a problem as well.  There is very little food out there for wildlife right now, so don’t plant any for them.


This is also a great time to take a look at your compost pile and think about giving it a mix.  If your compost pile looks like this:


Stir it up and let Mother Nature water it for you.  I am definately a cold compost pile person, but even a little bit of improvement will go a long way towards finished compost later in spring.


Producing High Quality Fruit at Home

Pruning- Pruning the fruit tree is an important step in improving fruit quality. Fire blight, powdery Fruit treemildew and summer rots can be reduced by carefully pruning out limbs harboring disease inoculum. Pruning trees should be done according to the desired structural shape of the tree.

Prune out all broken and dead branches and any sucker growth around the bottom of the tree trunk. Once the dead and broken material has been removed, the general shape of the healthy tree can be seen. Correct pruning helps improve overall air movement and sunlight penetration into the canopy. It also helps reduce disease and insect pressure. A rule of thumb I often use when pruning fruit trees is, “When in doubt, prune it out”. All pruning should be completed no later than mid-March for best results here in Ohio.

If trees have been neglected for several years, they may need to be rejuvenated. A second step is to decide how big/tall the tree should be. A tree with dwarfing rootstock can be maintained at about 8 to 10 feet tall, semi-dwarf rootstock at about 12 to 16 feet and a standard rootstock at about 16 to 20 feet tall. If your trees have not been pruned in many years, you should not cut them to the desired height in one year.

Your plan should be to reduce the tree height over a period of about 3 years by removing no more than one-third of the height each year (ex. 25’ tree to a final height of 16’— lower at a rate of about 3’ each year). Do not cut all the limbs in half or “Top” the tree, like some people and or tree trimming companies do with shade trees, to reduce their height. Pick and choose limbs that can be cut back to the approximate desired length, at a lateral branch, and make the cut there. “Work” the tree height down systematically over the time period rather topping.

When working with neglected trees do not feed the tree with nitrogen after pruning. Nitrogen applications would stimulate growth and compound the problem you are trying to fix. Water sprouts will likely develop around or below pruned areas during the spring and summer. Removal of this vegetative growth should be frequently done by rubbing off or pulling off the shoot while it is still short and green around the bottom (<10-12 inches in length). Pulling is recommended rather than cutting so you remove the entire shoot and not have a short stub remaining. If the shoots become brown and woody at the base, pulling may no longer be an option because you may cause unwanted tearing into the bark. Cutting is then preferred.

Disease Control- Early spring is the best time to apply sprays to control certain insects and diseases. Gardeners who have had problems in the past years should consider applying early season sprays to prevent or minimize pest damage to the leaves and fruit of the trees. Additional applications of fungicide and insecticide sprays during the growing season may be necessary to control specific pests. Early application of the proper sprays should minimize the use of pesticides during the remainder of the growing season.

Dormant oil sprays are intended to be used before the leaf or fruit buds open in the spring. This can effectively control many scale insects, European red mite eggs and aphids. Be sure to check the label, for temperature restrictions before applying dormant oils. Early season fungicide sprays should be applied at the green tip through pink or white bud growth stages. These sprays will help minimize diseases. Application of fungicides while trees are blooming may be made, but insecticide sprays should not be made during the flower blooming stage to protect pollinating bees. Additional applications of fungicides or insecticides may be needed to insure high quality fruit later in the season.

For more information about pruning specific trees or applying sprays correctly, contact Mark at the Monroe County Extension office at 740-472-0810. Bulletins and factsheets are available which contain pruning information. Also available are spray guides to help you produce high quality fruit your trees are capable of producing.