A BED OF ASPARAGUS WILL DELIVER TASTY VEGETABLES FOR YEARS AND SAVE YOU LOTS OF MONEY AND EFFORT
Most of the vegetables we grow are annuals. They grow quickly, are ready for harvest in only a few months, and then we replace them.
But there are some perennial vegetables that will live and produce for years, and perhaps the most popular of these is asparagus. An asparagus plot can produce for more than 15 years once established.
Asparagus tastes delicious and because it can be expensive to buy, it’s a great crop to add to the home garden.
It’s incredibly easy to grow. Plenty of room and plenty of patience are the main requirements, as it takes a couple of years for an asparagus bed to become productive.
The best way to grow asparagus is by planting crowns, which are established root systems with dormant top growth. Crowns are available for a brief period each year, around about now.
Asparagus will also grow from seed, but crowns will produce more quickly, because they are already about two years old.
Because asparagus will remain productive for many years and doesn’t like to be disturbed, you must choose a position where it can be left alone. A sunny, well-drained position is essential.
Dig the soil deeply and add plenty of organic matter. Asparagus performs best when the soil pH is 6.5-7.5, so you may need to add some lime too.
Make a trench about 25cm deep and make a little mound at the bottom of the trench. Plant the asparagus crown on this mound, spreading the roots out. Plant the crowns about 40-50cm apart, each on its own little mound. Cover the crown with 5cm of soil. Fill in the trench gradually as the shoots emerge, taking care not to cover any foliage. In a few weeks the trench will be level with the surface of the soil. Asparagus is hungry stuff, so feed it regularly during the growing season.
To let your asparagus bed become really productive, don’t harvest any shoots in the first year, and pick only a few in the second. In the third year, cut the spears just below ground level when they are about 15-25cm high, for 2-4 weeks in spring. In subsequent years, take all the finger-size spears you want for about 10 weeks.
Stop harvesting when the shoots become thin, and let these grow into ferns to feed the crowns for next year’s crop, fertilising them every now and then with a complete organic plant food.