What is Asparagus?
Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is a herbaceous perennial that is a hardy rewarding vegetable that once established will produce it’s spears for many years to come. From the family Asparagaceae it is native to Northern Africa, Europe and Western Asia. The asparagus plant is tall with scale like leaves emerging from the underground crown and has stout stems and feathery foliage like a fern. The flowers are white to yellow bell shaped. There are male and female Asparagus plants. The male plant produces more spears; the female plant produces slightly larger spears and little red berries. These red berries are actually seed pods and are poisonous.
When planted you will need to allow the plant time to create a good strong root system. Asparagus plants must be in the ground for at least 18 months before the first very light harvest can be taken. Only pick a few of the very fattest spears, leaving the rest to grow on. Although it takes a few seasons for the plants to yield a productive crop, they are long-lived, and can be expected to produce for up to 25 years.
Harvest Asparagus spears from October to November and after November let spears grow out to allow the plant to regenerate and build strength for the following year. Asparagus prefers a full sun position, but will grow well in a lightly shaded spot. Ensure crowns are planted into a well prepared, well fertilised bed for optimum growth in the first few years. When harvesting spears cut them off near ground level with a sharp knife.
Benefits of Growing Asparagus
Asparagus are a great source of fiber, folate and vitamins such as A, C and K. It contains the minerals magnesium and iron. They have many known health benefits. In herbal medicine asparagus is considered to have a cleansing effect on both the liver and kidneys.
Asparagus’ fern like leaves can be used in floral arrangements.
How to Grow Asparagus
Cool to subtropical.
Height: 90cm- 1.5m, Width: 90cm-1.5m
When To Plant Asparagus
Plant in Winter and Spring.
Soil preparation is key for asparagus. Since is will be in the ground for a very long time advance soil preparation helps future production greatly. Choose your spot wisely as asparagus likes a well drained soil with full sun to part shade. Make sure you dig the soil well and add a good quantity of organic fertiliser prior to planting.
How To Plant Aparagus
Plant in full sun to part shade, 25-30cm apart. Dig a trench about 20cm deep and cover the crown with 5cm of soil. As the plant grows gradually add more soil, but never cover the tip.
Asparagus Plant Care
Regular watering is needed.
They are hungry feeders so after harvesting re fertilise in preparation for the new growing season. Add more well broken down manure and compost. Also regular topdressing in Winter will keep plants productive for many years.
Around Autumn the asparagus fronds will yellow when coming into dormancy for the Winter. They will need to be cut back to ground level. Also remove any unwanted spears before this.
Regular watch for snails and slugs in Spring.