Cultivating Asparagus

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No vegetable is held in higher esteem than asparagus. The false impression that its culture involves considerable expense is perhaps the only reason why it is not more extensively grown in small gardens. That such an idea is erroneous is obvious when it is considered that a well-made bed, properly maintained, will yield good crops for a period of twenty years and more. The edible varieties are all descended from Asparagus officinalis. The greenhouse species popularly known as asparagus fern and smilax are amongst the most decorative of foliage plants. Asparagus Sprengeri is a favourite for hanging baskets, while Asparagus plumosus and its varieties nanus and tenuis-simus are chiefly esteemed for cutting. Smilax is botanically known as Asparagus medeolioides. Both of the last-named species are useful for clothing greenhouse walls.

The first essential for the edible asparagus is thorough preparation of the bed in the initial stages. Drainage is an important point, and on heavy land it is advisable to raise it 1 foot. above the general level, trenching the ground 3 feet. deep in the autumn and adding a good dressing of sand, burnt earth, and old mortar rubble, together with a generous portion of well-decayed manure. The bed should be about 4 feet in width and will be ready for planting about the beginning of April.

If plants are purchased they must be planted immediately on arrival, as the less time that elapses between lifting and planting the better. A bed 4 feet in width will take three rows, allowing 15 inches between the plants in the row.

No heads must be cut until the second year after planting. During the first season an ample supply of water should be given during dry weather and also a dressing of a good artificial fertiliser to encourage free growth. About the first week in November the old growths can be cut down and the bed covered over to a depth of 3 in. with well-decayed manure.

The following spring the roughest of the material may be raked off into the alleys and a good dressing of agricultural salt applied. Cutting may commence in the second year, but should not be continued after early June. Sufficient growth to maintain the plants in sturdy health must always be allowed to remain. Annual top-dressings with good manure and fertiliser will maintain continuous growth in later years.

The greenhouse species will thrive in a compost of two parts loam and one-third part each of leaf-mould, peat, and silver sand. Asparagus plumosus and Asparagus medeo-lioides can be grown in pots or planted out in a bed and trained to wires running up to the roof of the house. Asparagus Sprengeri is best grown in pots suspended from the roof. Pot or plant in March and maintain a minimum temperature of 50 degrees to 55 degrees. During the growing period water and syringe frequently.

Plants are easily raised from seeds sown in the bed or in a nursery bed of light soil. Sow thinly in drills 1 inch deep and about 1 foot apart in early April. The seedlings must be ultimately thinned to 1 foot apart, and if raised in a nursery bed will be ready for planting in their permanent quarters in the following year. The green�house species can be increased by means of seeds sown in light compost in a temperature of 70 degrees in spring.

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Author: Ian SG Smith
Ian has a great interest in gardening and writes occasional articles. Come and visit his newest website at, and look particularly at

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