Treat yourself to a new asparagus bed!
An asparagus bed is one of life’s luxuries; an area of ground dedicated solely to the production of one glorious vegetable! It may seem an extravagance, but I can assure you that an asparagus bed is 100% worth the investment, as freshly harvested asparagus is a true delicacy. Home-grown asparagus, cooked a short while after harvesting, is a vastly superior vegetable to shop-bought stuff, its sweet flavour is utterly delectable!
Asparagus planting time!
Spring is the perfect time to plant asparagus, so make the most of this opportunity, for the sooner you start an asparagus bed, the sooner you can enjoy your first harvest! Asparagus growers do not receive instant gratification. Asparagus can be raised from seeds: an economical, but lengthy process. A far better option is to order one-year old asparagus plants, known as crowns, which produce their first harvest in the third year after planting. This might seem an age away, but once established, an asparagus bed will produce a delicious harvest every year, from April until mid-June. Asparagus beds can be productive for 20 years, or more.
Asparagus site and soil
Asparagus flourishes on sandy soils. Avoid shade; choose a sunny or partially shaded area, in a location where asparagus has not been grown before. Asparagus won’t grow well in waterlogged soil, so if your soil tends to be damp, consider creating a raised bed to improve the drainage. Avoid planting asparagus in areas that have recently grown potatoes or Jerusalem artichokes, as unplanned, leftover plants can pop up unexpectedly.
Asparagus doesn’t appreciate competition from weeds, or other plants, so it’s vital to thoroughly weed the area as many times as possible before planting, and at regular intervals afterwards.
Asparagus plants are monecious: plants are either male or female. Male asparagus plants are more productive, as they don’t produce seeds, so the plants have more energy to produce a harvest. You could grow green, purple, and white asparagus. Purple asparagus varieties have a sweeter flavour, with less fibre, they require better growing conditions and need more staking than green asparagus. For white asparagus: cover plants with a deep layer of soil, which keeps the plants in darkness, thereby preventing the development of chlorophyll, (which creates green pigment), so plants produce white spears. ‘Gijnlim’ is an F1 all male, green hybrid, that’s early and productive. ‘Stewarts Purple’ is a disease resistant, mid to late season asparagus.
Soak asparagus crowns in a bucket of water overnight, to rehydrate the plants. Thoroughly weed the bed, then create a central ridge, place the centre of the crown at the top of the ridge, with the plant’s roots draped at either side. Plant each crown 30cm (12inch) apart. I use a good quality nutrient rich compost as a mulch to cover the crowns after planting; you could use home-made compost, just ensure that it is free of weed seeds.
I insert stout, tall hazel sticks or bamboo canes, at regular intervals, to form a rectangular shape of support around my asparagus plants. Then, take a good quality twine and secure it to the supports, stretching a length of twine around the canes at three different heights, to form a buffer around the asparagus.
This article was first published in the March 2019 edition of Vantage Point Magazine.
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