Growing Asparagus


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Growing and planting Asparagus

Asparagus, being a native of the seashore, thrives best in a soil containing a large proportion of sand. Although a maritime plant, it can be successfully grown a long distance from the sea. Rich alluvial river flat soils produce Asparagus of large size and good quality, and their composition should be imitated when preparing garden soil for its culture. The soil must be well drained, for although Asparagus can use a large quantity of water when growing, stagnant water in the soil will gradually kill the plants.

How to grow asparagus

The success of growing asparagus in an Asparagus bed depends to a great extent on the really thorough preparation of the soil. Asparagus grows on a variety of soils. It can be grown on any average garden loam. Only heavy clay and “pan” soils are unsuitable, and stony and gravelly land is undesirable. Open land in full sunlight is the first essential to happy asparagus plants

The main requirement in Asparagus culture is a deep, free and well-worked soil, into which a good supply of old manure has been dug during preparation. The ground must be deeply trenched, and a quantity of well-decayed natural manure thoroughly worked into the soil, with as much sand or soil added as may be necessary to render the surface soil of sufficient depth and the proper quality and consistence. Depth and porosity are as important as manuring, because manure can afterwards be applied to the surface.

Ensuring the ground has been dug over about 18 inches deep and the subsoil loosened. That can be done by inserting a pick or mattock through the top 9 inches after it has been finely broken. Only in obdurate subsoil is there need of manures to break and lighten. Deeper digging and trenching-down to 2 feet and more is now deemed quite unnecessary. As an Asparagus bed lasts a lifetime in good soil and if well tended, it pays to allow ample spacing-3 feet each way will do, with roots planted at the intersections. Otherwise allow 3 feet between rows and at least 2 feet 6 inches between plants. More if your space allows. Less if you think a few years of cutting will be enough for you.

A long-lasting phosphate fertiliser, such as Bone Dust, is a happy addition to the lower layers. Because Asparagus came originally from seashore sandy conditions, the myth of a need for salt grew around its cultivation. Sand or salt is not essential, but well­ drained soil and ample depth and easy pentation for the long fleshy roots are imperative, for quality asparagus stalks.

Trench the ground at least 2 feet deep and thoroughly break up the sub-soil below the bottom spit, at the same time mixing any added ingredients with the surf ace soil, then dig some well-decayed manure in lightly, and the ground will be ready to receive the plants.

Except for raising plants for commercial purposes, it is more economical and advantageous to procure the young plants from roots rather than to raise these from seed.

How to grow asparagus from seed

For those who are keen to raise their own plants from seed here are a few instructions:

Sow the seed in Spring, in rows 3 ft. apart, in a properly prepared seed bed; bring the ground to a fine tilth, and sow the seed thinly and evenly in the rows. When the seedlings are about 2 or 3 inches high, thin out to about 12 inches apart in the rows, which will allow ample room to develop into good, vigorous plants. The only treatment necessary is to keep the soil worked between the rows with a light hoe, and to pull out any weeds that may spring up amongst the plants in the rows. Do not cultivate Asparagus deeply, as you are then liable to injure the roots of the young plants. Should the Summer be dry, a light mulch of some partially decayed vegetable matter, with an occasional good watering, will materially benefit it.

When the seedlings are about ten or eleven months old they should be ready for transplanting to their permanent bed. If not well grown then, leave the seedlings in the seed rows for two years. Although three year-old plants may be safely lifted for transplanting, yearling or two-year-old plants are much preferable.

Planting Out Asparagus

Asparagus roots go deep and forage heavily to 4 feet or so if the soil allows it. It is on the adequate sustenance given to, and the vigor of the rootstock, that large, succulent shoots are obtained. Being a herbaceous plant, which is quiescent in Winter and grows vigorously in Spring (when sprouts appear) and Summer, the forcing of new shoots is the main objective.
For home use two-year-old roots are best. These are planted out in the prepared rows. Seeds can be sown in seed-beds or boxes in Springtime and selected crowns transplanted to the open rows.

When planting, see that the root system is spread out naturally outwards and downwards (claw-like) over a mound of soft soil. Firm and water well. After-treatment consists of keeping down weeds and frequent cultivation. When stems turn brown in Autumn, cut them down and dispose of them before the seeds fall.

When the bed has been made as previously instructed, make a trench or double drill, about six inches in depth, and of sufficient width to admit the roots at full length, with a slight ridge in the middle; the roots must then be carefully lifted and trimmed, and set in the trench saddlewise over the ridge, so that the points of the roots tend downwards, covered to a depth of three or four inches, and gently trodden. After planting, mulch the ground with a thick coating of good stable manure, and seaweed where obtainable. Bone Dust and Blood Manure are also recommended for Asparagus. To secure a good crop an abundance water is necessary during the dry weather. In exposed positions give some support to the stems to prevent them being broken by the wind. When the tops have died down and are cleared away, the mulch may be lightly forked in and a fresh coat of rich manure applied.

Feeding asparagus plants can be always carried out from the surface, especially after cut­ting, once the bed is in operation. Therefore, on rich river flats, and deep alluvials, there is little need for initial manuring.

When Green Asparagus is preferred, the beds may be treated year after year, as recommended. The general treatment during the season consists in an occasional light cultivation between the rows, and in keeping down the weeds. When yearling roots are planted make no cuttings the first year and unless the plants are of extra strength, take off only a few heads the second season. In the third season, when the plants are four years old, they are then well developed, and if grown as recommended, will stand ·fairly heavy cutting. All stalks, both large and small, may be cut for about seven or eight weeks, as required; after that time, however, allow all the stalks which have developed to mature.

As advised, a heavy dressing of farmyard manure is best given in Winter. Ten pounds to each square yard is not too much. When cutting of shoots is finished in Spring a ration of fertiliser along the rows is greatly helpful. Fork it in. From ¼ to ½lb. to the yard run can be given, according to soil. Asparagus is a heavy feeder. Watering to ensure Summer moisture must not be neglected.

White Asparagus

If long white asparagus stalks are required, soil or sand must be added to a depth of 6 inches over the crowns to blanch them. This final treatment of asparagus concerns cutting of shoots and their “blanching.” When “white Asparagus” is desired, the earth or sand is ridged over the crowns to a depth of 8 or 9 inches. Cutting is done as the tops show above this, by inserting a sharp knife at natural ground level. Care must be taken not to injure other ascending shoots, or the crown itself, during this operation. “Green” shoots are cut when they are about 7 inches high, cutting about 2 inches below surface.

White Asparagus

It all depends on the length of time the cutting is done how your Asparagus-bed’s life span is lengthened. Old roots can be cut for about ten weeks, before they are allowed to run to stem and leaf. Cut lightly the younger stuff. It is best not to cut it till the fourth Spring after sowing, or the second after planting 2-year-old roots. On this handling and care the longevity and success of Asparagus plants depend.

Following out this system from year to year will increase the bearing period of the bed. Asparagus plants are seldom given sufficient space for their development; at least three feet between the rows and two feet in the rows should be allowed when planting into the permanent bed.        .

Best asparagus varieties

The best all-round varieties are Conover’s Colossal, Palmetto and Argentine Purple. The first-named is the one recommended for the Home Gardener.

Read More

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