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Growing Asparagus




Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is a long-lived perennial vegetable crop that is enjoyed by many gardeners. It can be productive for 15 or more years if given proper care. It’s a perennial, in the lily family and it lives for up to 30 years. You often see it in abandoned farmhouses; and it just keeps growing and producing.
Asparagus is one of the healthiest and tastiest veggies: A 5-ounce serving provides 60 percent of your daily needs for folic acid, a B vitamin linked to lower risk of birth defects and heart disease. It’s a good source of fiber, low in calories (20 per serving) and contains glutathione, a powerful cancer-fighting antioxidant.
Asparagus grows in almost any soil as long as it has good internal drainage. Asparagus roots do not like waterlogged soils that will lead to root rot. It prefers a soil pH of 6.5-7.5., and will not do well if the pH is less than 6.0. Have the soil tested to determine phosphorus and potassium needs; or add 20 lbs of a 10-20-10 or similar analysis fertilizer per 1,000 square feet, tilled to a 6 inch depth before planting.
Asparagus is very hungry and needs plenty of organic matter such as cow manure, or sheep manure. Scatter it thickly down the bottom of the trench because they will absolutely lap that up. Choose a site with good drainage and full sun. The tall ferns of asparagus may shade other plants, so plan accordingly. Prepare the bed as early as possible and enrich it with additions of manure, compost, bone or blood meal, leaf mold, wood ashes, or a combination of several of these.
To double-dig, remove the top foot of soil from the planting area. Then, with a spading fork or spade, break up the subsoil by pushing the tool into the next 10 to 12 inches of soil and rocking it back and forth. Do this every 6 inches or so. Double digging is ideal for the trench method of planting asparagus since a 12-inch-deep trench is usually dug anyway. The extra work of breaking up the subsoil will be well worth the effort, especially in heavy soil.
An economical way to grow Asparagus is by seed, or with seedlings. If you do grow them that way then after planting leave for about two or three years for a strong root system to develop. Don’t pick any of the crop, just let it grow naturally. Another way to grow them is by using the Asparagus crown, with its long, fleshy roots. As asparagus plants grow, they produce a mat of long, tubular roots that spreads horizontally rather than vertically. This one-year-old root system is called the asparagus crown. Choose rust resistant varieties like “Mary Washington” and the “Jersey” varieties, Crowns should be of a grayish-brown color, plump and healthy-looking. Remove any rotted roots before planting. The crown of the Asparagus is where the spears will grow.
Asparagus requires lots of space. Crowns should be planted every foot or so in rows 4to 5 feet apart. Asparagus roots spread a long way so leave free an area of 75cm (2ft 6in) around the edge of planted bed. Water regularly, especially while young. Top dress annually with compost or mulch. Keep the patch free of competing weeds. Hand weeding is best. With this in mind it may be best to mulch the area to stop weeds. Asparagus is also susceptible to late spring frosts, which kill emerging spears Take care to keep your asparagus bed covered until frost danger is past.
Though they look luscious, don’t harvest any asparagus spears the first year you plant, or you’ll exhaust the food supply in the crowns. Be patient and wait till year two, then harvest judiciously. Your patience and willpower will help your crowns produce even more spears in subsequent years. As the weather warms up, you may be picking twice a day.
In the third year, begin harvesting spears that are finger-sized and about 8″ long. You can either snap off the spears are cut them with a knife. Harvest for about 4 weeks the first year. In subsequent years you can harvest until the weather warms and the spears look spindly. Then allow the foliage to grow and feed the plants.





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