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Proper preparation is the key to growing asparagus

Posted: January 8, 2012 - 12:09am  |  Updated: January 8, 2012 - 4:12am

When most gardeners think of a vegetable garden, they are thinking about the vegetables that grow in the spring, summer, fall and winter.

These are all annual plants that live and grow during one growing season and then die.

By having annual plants in the garden, gardeners are able to rotate the plants around to help reduce diseases and insects, and keep the vegetables from depleting specific minerals in the soil.

But there also are vegetables that are perennial, living for many seasons and years. One perennial vegetable is asparagus.

I know of a number of gardeners who have had great success growing asparagus.

Because asparagus is a perennial, some advance planning is needed. There is just one time that things can be done properly and that is in the planning stage.

Don’t skimp or cut corners when planting or the harvest and longevity of the asparagus will suffer.

The first thing that is critical is the location of the asparagus bed. Choose a location that receives full sun. As with most vegetables, asparagus needs at least eight hours of sunlight each day.

Also, plan to place them in a section of the garden where they will not be disturbed, and don’t forget where they are planted.

Next, take a soil sample. That will tell the pH of the soil and what nutrients are available. Remember, these are perennial plants, so the proper amount of nutrients and pH needs to be correct at the start. It is hard to change the pH of the soil in the root zone after planting.

The proper way to take a soil sample is to take 10 to 15 individual samples from throughout the garden and mix these samples together. Remove about a pint of soil from the mixture for the sample. The local County Extension Office can test it for $8.

Now that a spot has been picked and the soil has been tested, the next step is to choose a variety of asparagus.

There are many different varieties on the market, including both green and white varieties.

In Georgia, the varieties that seem to do best are the Jersey varieties.

There are two ways to start growing asparagus. The first is from seed, but these take a lot longer to get established. The second way is to plant asparagus crowns, which can be found locally or ordered from different companies.

The number of crowns needed will be based on how many people will be fed out of the asparagus bed. Ten to 12 crowns will feed a family of four.

To prepare the asparagus bed, till or break up the area that has been chosen for the bed. Dig a trench 14 to 16 inches deep and add compost, soil and fertilizer based on the soil sample. Fill in the trench until it is 6 to 8 inches deep, then place the asparagus crowns in the trench 12 to 14 inches apart. Finish by filling in the trench with a compost and soil mix.

The next step is to add 3 to 4 inches of mulch to help conserve soil moisture and reduce the amount of weeds. The best mulch is one that will break down and add organic matter back to the soil. It is best to apply mulch every year.

January is the recommended time for starting your asparagus bed.

The first year, leave the asparagus alone so they can store up energy and produce a larger root system.

The second year, a few spears can be harvested but it is best to wait until the third year to harvest.

To keep the plants healthy, apply fertilizer based on the recommendations on the soil sample. For best results, sample the soil every two years.

Asparagus can be enjoyed for many years by planting properly, fertilizing properly, and harvesting at the right time.

 

Charles Phillips is a retired Columbia County Extension Service agent and operates Hort Consulting. He can be reached at cphillipshort@comcast.net, or at (706) 836-2152.

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