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GROWING ASPARAGUS

Growing Asparagus

An apple is an edible perennial vegetable produced by an asparagus crown (Asparagus officinalis). A distant cousin of the onion, ts history goes back as far as that of the leek and has been consumed for over 2000 years. This garden plant originated in the eastern Mediterranean countries and traces of wild varieties have been discovered in Africa. Archaeologists believe that it was also cultivated in Egypt.




 

Preparing the Soil

Asparagus needs special preparation to grow well. Typically an asparagus bed consists of 3 trenches 12”-18” deep that have been backfilled and amended with organic matter and/or manure. Loose, fertile, soils are required for asparagus to thrive and create the shoots we eat. Properly prepared an asparagus bed will function with care for 20 years.

 

Double Digging

One technique used traditionally for preparing soil for asparagus is called double digging. Double digging involves removing the top layer of soil, usually 6-8”, and loosening the remaining depth with a garden fork. While the top layer is removed you may choose to add compost or manure to amend the deeper soil. Mix the top layer of soil with amendment and back fill into the trench. The benefits of double digging are better soil texture and more available organic matter for your asparagus to grow with.

 

Tilling

Tilling is another option for soil preparation. Tilling involves the use of a machine to break up the soil to a specific depth. Due to the depth necessary for proper soil preparation a larger rear tine machine is suggested. The benefits of tilling are quicker preparation and less labor, but at the cost of good soil quality. It is suggested that tilling be done twice in and area to ensure the soil does not compact and harden.

 


USDA Hardiness Zone

Apple trees are hardy to USDA zones 4-9, unless otherwise noted . This rating tells you the minimum winter temperature the plants typically survive when properly hardened off. On our web site you will find a USDA Hardiness Maps which provides information on the average minimum winter temperature in your location, by zip code.

 

 

 


Chill Hours

Many plants native to locations that have cold winters have a Chill Hour requirement to ensure uniform waking up of flower and leaf buds in the spring. The chill hour requirement of plants varies by species, by cultivar, and sometimes by the level of dormancy achieved.

 


 

Raised Beds

Raised beds of 12-18 inches are a popular option for the creation of an asparagus bed. Raised beds can be constructed with pressure treated wood to prevent decay and a good quality top soil from a reputable landscape materials vendor. The benefits of using a raised bed system are the ease of preparation and lower labor, but at a significantly higher cost for new materials and soil.

 

Harvesting Asparagus

When the spears appear in spring, harvest them when they are 6 to 10 inches above the soil line, but before the flower buds are open. Simply cut or snap off the spears at ground level. Continue harvesting for six to eight weeks, but no later than July 1. Store in plastic bag or jar with water to prevent spears from drying out. Cut ferns to ground level after the first frost.

 

 

 


Care and Maintenance

Watering Your Asparagus

This is the most important and often the most difficult part of successfully growing plants. There are many factors, including the humidity, temperature, soil type, wind, and amount of direct sun that affect how much and how often water should be applied.

A general rule of thumb for plants in the ground is to ensure they receive an inch of water per week over the root zone. An inch of water is equivalent to about ¾ to one gallon per square foot of soil surface area. The typical three foot diameter planting hole would need 7 ½ to 10 gallons of water per week provided by rainfall or by the gardener.

Apply this water once a week, two times per week if soil is fast draining. This will of course depend on your own conditions and the plants you are growing! DO NOT water lightly each day because this results in a wet surface and dry root zone area. The soil should be moist but not soggy to a depth of about a foot for most growing plants. The top inch or two can feel dry, and the plant still be well watered. The trick is to have the water available where the roots are. In hotter and sunnier areas, a mulch of straw, bark, etc. can greatly ease the burden of summer watering.

For plants in containers, water until the soil is saturated and water comes out of the drainage holes. Let the container dry until the soil is dry to the touch 1-2 inches down (more deep with deeper pots) and the container is lighter in weight. A plant that has wilted can be receiving either too much or too little water.

In rainy areas like the Pacific Northwest most of the plants that we offer will need relatively little supplemental irrigation ONCE THEY ARE WELL ESTABLISHED in the ground and have had a chance to develop a good root system. However even here it is important to make sure plants have regular, deep watering during the first couple of growing seasons, and the first summer is especially critical. In drier areas, or where soils do not retain water well, permanent irrigation is required. Remember that you don’t want your trees to just survive, but rather to thrive. Make sure they get the water where they need it, starting at the drip line and extending away from the tree up to several feet ( for older trees) where the feeder roots will be.

 


Fertilization

For good steady growth and high productivity, your trees need to have adequate amounts of various mineral nutrients. Some people are fortunate and have naturally rich fertile soil. Many soils, however, are deficient in some nutrient or another and use of fertilizers, organic or chemical, can be highly beneficial if you want your trees to grow well.

Use an all-purpose or balanced fertilizer like the organic fruit tree and shrub fertilizer.  A couple of inches of well-rotted compost on the root zone can also be an effective fertilizer. A generous leaf or straw mulch around your trees will not only conserve moisture and help in weed control, but also keeps your soil healthy by building up humus, attracting earthworms, and supporting beneficial fungal organisms. This encourages young trees to be strong, healthy and productive.

Use of concentrated products like chemical fertilizers or strong organics (for instance blood meal) is usually done from late winter through early summer. Applying fertilizer after early summer can encourage lots of soft new growth that is much more likely to be damaged by winter cold. Excessive use of fertilizer can increase disease problems on your plants and can even kill them.

As a general guide, if your tree is producing about one foot of new growth or more a year and has healthy looking foliage, it may not need much or any fertilizer.

 


Pests and Diseases

Find out what insects and diseases are typical in your area. Ask your local co-operative extension professional what the typical insect and disease issues are in your area.