14 tips to get­ting a great as­para­gus crop… some­time

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Jane's Garden Diary -

1. As­para­gus crowns can be planted now in rich, sandy, well-drained soil in full sun.

2. Avoid sites that re­tain pools of wa­ter af­ter heavy rain, or the crowns will rot. If in doubt, plant in raised beds that have a depth of at least 25cm.

3. If you live in an area of hot sum­mers, a partly-shaded spot where the soil stays cooler is ben­e­fi­cial.

4. Add coarse sand for bet­ter drainage.

5. For suc­cess­ful crop­ping, good soil prepa­ra­tion is es­sen­tial. Any­thing you can do to raise the or­ganic mat­ter will pay enor­mous div­i­dends. Com­post and aged ma­nure is ideal. Add the or­ganic mat­ter and dig your soil over to a depth of 20cm to make it loose and fri­able.

6. For a fam­ily of four as­para­gus lovers, 25 crowns will pro­duce 4-6 spears per per­son ev­ery day in the pick­ing sea­son.

7. Each crown should be planted about 40cm apart, or one 10m-long row.

8. When it comes to plant­ing, dig a trench 15cm deep. Throw in some phos­phate fer­tiliser, which is ben­e­fi­cial for root growth, es­pe­cially dur­ing the plant’s estab­lish­ment. Plant your crowns, then back­fill the trenches with­out com­pact­ing the soil. 9. An oc­ca­sional feed with a di­lute sea­weed tea can be ben­e­fi­cial while crowns are es­tab­lish­ing, oth­er­wise sit back and re­lax.

10. It’s es­sen­tial that you don’t pick any spears in the first year oth­er­wise you can weaken your plants. Let the spears open up into the feath­ery fern stage. While they’re still green, they are feed­ing their crowns and strong crowns are the se­cret to suc­cess. In the sec­ond year, only har­vest a few spears to en­able the crowns to con­tinue build­ing up strength.

11. Proper har­vest­ing can be­gin in the third year. Pick spears once they’re about 15-20cm long and be­fore the tips open up. Cut them with a sharp knife at ground level.

12. Pick daily or spears will be­come tough. Har­vest­ing runs for 6-8 weeks.

13. When crop­ping be­gins to slow down and the spears thin down (less than 1cm in di­am­e­ter), stop pick­ing al­to­gether. You will still have spears, but re­sist the temp­ta­tion to pick them. These are best left on the plant to re­plen­ish nu­tri­ents to the crowns.

14. Ap­ply a layer of com­post around your plants and leave them be. Don’t cut back the ferny fronds un­til they be­gin to die back. Your sig­nal for do­ing this is when they start to turn yel­low in au­tumn or early win­ter. Cut them back, then add an­other layer of com­post and feed with liq­uid sea­weed, or cover with a mulch of sea­weed gath­ered from a nearby beach.

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