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Growing Asparagus

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tom LeRoy

Asparagus, although not the best adapted plant for the area, is one of the few vegetables that you plant once and harvest for from 15 to 25 years. Because the plants stay in the same location for years you must spend more time preparing the soil before planting. Asparagus plants require a well drained, highly organic soil. They must be planted in raised beds, mainly because the crowns must be planted deep. Plant one or two year old asparagus plants or crowns in the late fall or early spring. Some nurseries sell one to two year old plants in the spring or plants can be ordered from mail order catalogs. It requires about three years before the plant is in full production. Hybrid varieties seem to produce the best. Some of the better varieties include: US-157, Atlas, Apollo, Viking or DelMonte 361. Although, not the best performer you may also try Jersey Knight or Jersey Giant. Select a bed that gets at least eight hours of full sun. Work the soil to a depth of 12 to 18 inches incorporating as much organic matter as possible at this time. Eight to ten inches of organic matter is not too much. Dig a trench in the prepared soil four inches wide and six to eight inches deep. Lay the crowns in the trench and cover them with two to three inches of soil Plant the crowns twelve to fourteen inches apart. As the shoots grow out of the soil cover them with additional soil until the trenches are filled. Allow the plants to grow the first year without removing any of the spears. Fertilizer should be used in early spring and again in May. Use two pounds of a complete fertilizer like 15-5-10 per 100 square feet in early spring and then apply one pound of ammonium nitrate per 100 square feet in May. You may substitute manure for the above in the amount of 10-15 pounds per 100 square feet. Weeds can be controlled by mulching with compost or some other type of organic matter. The second season the spears can be harvested in the spring and again in the fall for one to two weeks, three to four weeks each year from the third season on. After the production period is passed you should let the shoots grow and produce the ferns. This growth is what stores the nutrients for next season's production. You should plant approximately ten plants for each person you intend to feed. This will assure enough to eat and freeze. If you really like asparagus then of course plant more. For more information on growing asparagus contact your County Extension Office and ask for publication "Easy Gardening Asparagus” or print it off the internet at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/publications/easygardening/E-503_asparagus.pdf . Don’t forget to send your garden questions to Plant Answers at 9020 FM 1484, Conroe TX 77303 or e-mail me at t-leroy@tamu.edu . For a schedule of our educational programs and events go to our Master Gardener website at: http://www.montgomerycountymastergardeners.org/ . Educational programs of Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age or national origin.

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