Friday, January 6, 2012

How to Grow Asparagus

Name: Asparagus   
**Planting asparagus is a wonderful investment for a gardener, though it also requires a lot of patience since you have to wait 2-3 whole years before you can harvest your first full crop. However, since it is one of very few veggie perennials, it means your future looks bright –and green- from so much delicious asparagus.

**In order to grow enough asparagus for a family of four, you need about 50 plants and thus about 250 square feet of land. If possible, the site should be sunny, though they will tolerate some shade (but then be more susceptible to disease).

**It should be grown in its’ own plot section in the garden because the plants are so tall that it can easily shade plants growing next to them. However, in the first year, the ferns are not very tall yet, so you could plant some crops between the asparagus rows. In the other years, if necessary, you could grow early crops such as radishes and lettuce there as well since they will be harvested before the ferns get too tall.

**Most gardeners grow asparagus from one-year old roots or crowns, from either a local nursery or a mail-order supplier. Try to plant them as soon as possible after purchasing.

**If you live in a warm climate, plant your asparagus in the fall or winter, if possible. In cooler climates, plant them in the early spring, about four weeks before the last average frost date. It is best to prepare the soil the previous fall so have healthier plants.

**Try to plant asparagus in rows that are spaced four feet apart because these plants have deep running and far-spreading roots that need plenty of space.

**You can also grow asparagus from seed, though this will take four years to produce a harvest instead of three. However, they will be, in general, more healthy and produce higher yields of crops. It also costs less. Seeds should be started indoors 3-5 months before planting and plant after all danger of frost has passed.

**Remember that asparagus is a perennial, so choose its’ site carefully because it will be permanent.

**This is a hungry plant, so give the soil plenty of compost/manure before planting your crop.

**This plant prefers a soil pH os 6.5-7.5

**Keep a new bed well watered and keep away weeds (which can get their roots tangled in with the asparagus and ruin your crop). Mulching the crop helps keep down weeds and also keeps the soil moist.

**In the first year of planting, a few small asparagus spears will pop up. DO NOT PICK THEM! These spears will grow into the foliage needed to make food for the roots to store that will give you years of large harvests in the future. Do not cut the foliage down in the winter, just let it naturally die down by itself. Only when the color fades completely from the plant should you consider cutting down the old stems to prevent diseases. In the second spring, there will be more spears than the year before. You may pick a few of the ones that are as thick as your finger, but leave most of them once again. Just keep watering and waiting patiently and keep the mulch fresh. You should also give it a fresh dose of compost/manure once a year, most likely in the fall or winter season. A spring feeding with liquid fertilizer (such as fish emulsion)_ will also help out your plants.

**The worst pest/disease problem for asparagus is the asparagus beetle. You can control them simply by picking them off as they appear. If beetles continue to be a problem, destroy the dead stalks in the fall.

**In the third spring, there will be many more spears. You may pick any that are finger-size, but stop after a month or six weeks. You can either snap or cut off the spears for harvest, just be careful not to harm new shoots. Spears are the tastiest and most tender when the scales are flat against the stalk and have not yet begun to open.

**Always leave a few spears on the plant to allow the plant to recover and gain strength for next year.

**You usually harvest from late April until approx. June 21

**Asparagus does not keep its flavor long after cutting, but it freezes well.

For additional information, see: references and warnings

Asparagus with its' fern leaves

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