Time to plot as­para­gus patch


plant­ing. Hoe down any weeds that pop up and dig out peren­nial weeds. You might want to add an in­su­lat­ing layer of weed­sup­press­ing mulch as well.

When you’re ready to plant, dig a hole 20cm wide and 20cm deep with a flat base for each crown. Al­low 20cm be­tween each – a di­ag­o­nal grid pat­tern makes ef­fi­cient use of space. Dig­ging 20cm wide trenches will speed things up if you have a lot of plants. A stag­gered dou­ble row al­lows you to pick the spears with­out walk­ing on the beds, but there’s room for more plants in large rec­tan­gu­lar beds and it’s much eas­ier to con­tain the ex­u­ber­ant but rather messy ferny fronds.

Dr Fallon rec­om­mends cov­er­ing as­para­gus crowns with 5cm of loose

soil. This will en­sure they get away to a strong start. Dur­ing the fol­low­ing sum­mer and au­tumn slowly fill the trench with soil as you hoe any weeds on the sides of the trench. By the fol­low­ing win­ter, the trench should be filled with soil and the sur­face should be flat again. Make sure you’ve got ev­ery­thing ready, even if you don’t ac­tu­ally start sow­ing un­til Au­gust. Sort out your seed stash and buy re­place­ments or try some new va­ri­eties. Clean pun­nets and seed trays. Buy fresh seed-rais­ing mix. Make some plant labels. Above all, work out how you are go­ing to keep your seed trays warm and shel­tered. Many seeds won’t ger­mi­nate if the soil is too cold. For ex­am­ple the op­ti­mum soil tem­per­a­ture for ger­mi­nat­ing toma­toes is 20-25ºC. Kings Seeds has the ger­mi­na­tion tem­per­a­tures for their seeds on­line and in their cat­a­logue. Heat pads with a ther­mo­stat are a bit pricey but last for years and are worth it if you are grow­ing a lot of plants from seed. To cut costs, look for sec­ond-hand ones on com­mu­nity sites such as www.neigh­bourly.co.nz. Homemade heat pads can be made from LED rope lights or re­cy­cled wa­terbed heaters. But be care­ful! Wa­ter and elec­tric­ity are not a good mix. Be sure they don’t over­heat and cook your plants. For smaller batches of seedlings think about the warm spots in your house like on the top of your fridge. At my place, the un­der­floor heat­ing works a treat but I imag­ine this wouldn’t work for house­holds with ei­ther pets or tod­dlers!

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