Saturday, May 2, 2009

Perennial Vegetable Profile: Asparagus

Asparagus may be one of the most popular perennial vegetables for home gardeners. Long lived, an asparagus patch can easily live in excess of fifteen years, producing delicious stems year after year.

If you are thinking about growing asparagus, you should put a lot of thought into site selection and preparation, as once the plants are in the ground, making changes and putting amendments into the soil can be difficult, and detrimental to the plants growth.

Site Selection:

First of all, asparagus is a perennial vegetable that needs an area with good drainage. Waterlogged sites will lead to root rot, destroying your plants. Also, asparagus grows best if the soil pH level is between 6.5-7.5, and will do poorly in the pH is any less than 6. Finally, dig in any soil amendments and fertilizer to a depth of at least six inches before you plant.

Since this is going to be a permanent patch, you will want to think about where the best location will be for your asparagus. Many gardeners prefer to locate their perennial vegetable patches toward the back of the garden, where they don't have to worry about stepping on plants while tending to their annual vegetable varieties. Do make sure the plants receive plenty of sun.

Plant Selection:

Generally it is best to start with healthy one-year old crowns. Many gardeners prefer to select the newer all male hybrid varieties since they have spectacular yields and are often disease resistant as well. Plant after the soil has warmed to at least fifty degrees.

You should plant your asparagus crowns in furrows, five to six inches deep and about eighteen inches apart. Adding a phosphorous source to the trench immediately before adding the crowns can help improve future yields. Cover the crowns with soil up to the original soil level.

Growing and Harvesting

It is important that you do not harvest any spears during the first year of growth, so the plant can put its energy into producing quality, healthy plants that will be vigorous in future years. During the second year, you should keep your harvesting minimal as well, only selecting well developed, thick spears to harvest. From the third year on, though, you should harvest the asparagus to your hearts delight!