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Asparagus is ancient crop that can be cultivated in gardens

Old records indicate that the Romans were cultivating asparagus 200 years before the birth of Christ. Emperor Augustus, during the first century, mentions several references to the characteristics of asparagus. A vegetable garden in Vermont has had the same producing asparagus bed for over 100 years.

Asparagus demonstrates what Mother Nature can do with a plant. First of all, the plant is dioecious in that the male flowers are on one plant and the female flowers are on separate plants. The green foliage is fern-like and produces excess food which is stored in the fleshy storage roots. The spears, which develop in early summer, are doing so at the expense of this stored food. For this reason, the harvest season should be regulated to permit sufficient time for the plant to replace this stored food which has been used up.

February is probably the best month for planting asparagus. Since asparagus is usually established by crowns instead of seed, you may want to check with the garden center early in case the crowns need to be ordered.

A soil test should be taken to determine fertilizer and lime needs. Any needed lime should be plowed in before the crop is planted. This is even more important for perennials like asparagus since the soil will not be disturbed again once the bed is established.

Asparagus crowns which are one year old are best to establish a bed. Be sure to add organic matter such as animal manure or compost. Adding the appropriate amount of commercial fertilizer will pay good dividends. Use 50 lbs. of 6-12-12 or 5-10-15 per 1000 square feet before setting crowns. Annual split applications of 6-12-12 or 5-10-15 at the rate of 1 to 2 lbs. per 100 square feet should be adequate to keep asparagus actively growing.

Web posted on Thursday, January 18, 2007

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