Edible Gardening: Asparagus

The large, ferny growth that asparagus develops comes as quite a surprise to first-time growers who may have only seen tidy bunches of spears at the grocery store. Asparagus is a member of the lily family, and well established plants can last a lifetime, producing tasty spears every spring.

Features: Perennial, Editable Spring Shoots, Ferny Growth, Small White Summer Flowers, Decorative Red Fruit.

Height: 60cm – 1.5cm (2-5’)

Spread: 60cm – 1.2 m (2-4’)

Getting Started

Asparagus can be started from seed, or you can buy roots (also called crowns). A plant started from seed will be ready to start harvesting the third spring. A plant started from roots will be ready to begin harvesting in season.

Plant purchased roots into a well-prepared area. Work plenty of compost into the bed, then dig a trench or hole about 45cm (18inches) deel Lay the roots 45-60cm (18-24 inches) apart from each other or other plants. Cover the roots with 5-10 cm (2-4 inches) of soil and, as they sprout up, gradually cover them with more soil until the trench or hole is filled.

Water and mulch well.

Plant seeds indoors in flats or peat pots about 6-8 weeks before you will be planting them into the garden. Use larger pots if the seedlings get too big before the scheduled planting then you can move them outside for planting. The first year you should plant the seedlings at the solid level they are at in their pots. Keep them well watered and mulch them with compost. The second summer, they can be planted as for roots, described above.

Source: HGTV

“Asparagus has been a cultivated vegetable crop for over 2000 years. It is dioecious – male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. Male plants are reputed to produce the greatest number of spears.”

Growing Conditions

Asparagus grows well in full sun or partial shade with protection from the hot afternoon sun. The soil should be fertile, humus rich, moist and well drained. Apply a 10 cm (4 inches) layer of compost in spring and late summer. Weed regularly, because this plant is most productive if it doesn’t have a lot of competition from other plants.

Harvest Time

Rust can be a problem, so choose resistant cultivars.

Tips: This hardy perennial plant is a welcome treat in spring and a beautiful addition to the back of a border.

Recommendations

A. Officinalis forms an airy mound of ferny growth. It grows 60 cm – 1.5 m tall and spreads 60 cm or 1.2 m. Small white summer flowers are followed by bright red berries, which can be collected for starting new plants. “Jersey Giant,” “Martha Washington,” “Martha Washington,” and “Guelph Millennium” are all good cultivars that are readily available.

References: “The Canadian Edible Garden (Vegetable, Herbs, Fruits and Seeds)” by: Alison Beck. Pp. 60-63.

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