DE­LI­CIOUS SPEARS

A BED OF ASPARAGUS WILL DE­LIVER TASTY VEG­ETA­BLES FOR YEARS AND SAVE YOU LOTS OF MONEY AND EF­FORT

Central and North Burnett Times - - WEEKEND - GREEN THUMB WORDS: MAREE CURRAN Got a gar­den­ing ques­tion? Email maree@ede­nat­by­ron.com.au

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.

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