Asparagus is a spring favourite. But the asparagus season is only short, so timing is everything. Here’s what you need to know.

Preparation

  • Gardeners usually start their asparagus beds with roots, not seeds, because a seed-planted bed requires another year's growing time. You can buy roots from a nursery or mail-order house. Allow 7 meters of row for every 12 plants, with rows spaced 60cm apart.
  • Asparagus can be grown in any well-drained, fertile soil. Test for pH - the soil should be slightly acid but not below pH 6. 
  • As soon as the ground can be worked, dig a trench 45cm wide and 25cm deep. Backfill the trench with 10cm of compost and sprinkle in 500g of organic fertiliser per 6 meters of row.
  • Fill the trench with this mixture to about 15cm below ground level. 

Planting

  • Tamp the trench down and place the roots on top, 60cm apart. For best results, cover with 5-8cm of soil. As the plants sprout, be sure to add more soil until the trench is full.
  • Feed the stand each spring and autumn by spreading 1-2cm of compost around and between the crowns. Top that with a 3cm layer of shredded leaves or pine needles. Watch for weeds. Hoe them out gently to avoid injuring the underground stems. 
  • Mulching around the plants will help keep weeds down and moisture in. In autumn, when the leaves have been killed by frost, cut off the top growth to ground level and mulch the bed again.
  • Over the first two years an extensive root system will grow to feed and support the stalks. The second spring after planting, you can pick a few shoots when they are about 15cm high but make sure that you restrict the harvesting to a month at most. 
  • From the third year after planting, cut all shoots except the very thin ones. Harvest shoots when they are about 12-20cm tall and buds are still tight; when buds open, the spears are past their prime.
  • Harvest by cutting about 2cm below the soil surface. The harvest season lasts six to eight weeks. After this, the stalks will grow into tall, fernlike branches that will feed the roots.

 

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