How to Grow Asparaguscomments (10) July 31st, 2008
My family didn’t grow asparagus when I was a child. We found it. My dad had a sharp eye for the tender green spears that grew wild along roadsides near our home in Piqua, a wisp of a town in southeastern Kansas. He could spot even a single spear when he took the family on Sunday afternoon drives. He would stop our Plymouth Fury and gather the crop.
I developed a passion for asparagus, too. Only now, though I fondly remember those asparagus hunts, I find it much easier to simply step out the back door of my house and snap a few delicious spears from the bed in our garden. When I first planted asparagus, I was a little intimidated by all the folks who said it was hard to grow. Starting a bed does take more work for asparagus than for many other vegetables. But after 15 years, and expanding to 20 acres for commercial production on our farm in Lawrence, I know asparagus is one of the tastiest, easiest vegetables you can grow.
Long lives the bed of crowns
|Asparagus needs a big start
• Choose a sunny part of the garden with good drainage.
• Dig a trench and check the pH, which should be 6.5 to 7.5.
• Plant the crowns about 8 in. deep and 15 in. apart.
• Cover initially with 2 in. of dirt, and gradually fill the trench as the spears emerge.
Asparagus is a perennial crop, its long green fingers coming up year after year. So when you make your bed, do it carefully. Your asparagus may be growing in it for 20 years or more. A sunny, well-drained part of the garden will yield the best crop. Asparagus, a good candidate for raised beds, should be planted in soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7.5. I’m lucky my patch was once a cattle feed lot, so I rarely add fertilizer, but people with poor soil may want to fertilize lightly.
Consider weather in selecting a variety. New hybrid asparagus varieties abound. The old standard ‘Mary Washington’ has long been good, but research and breeding have produced some fine alternatives. California varieties tolerate the heat better and keep a nice, tight tip, even above 80˚F. I prefer ‘U.C. 157’, a University of California plant, because we can get many hot days in late spring. New Jersey breeders are offering “all male” plants, which yield more than female plants since they don’t use energy to produce flowers and seeds. In my garden, the ‘Jersey Giant’ tips tend to loosen if the temperature gets above 80˚F, resulting in many undesirable spears.
Sources for asparagus crowns
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