HOW TO PREPARE AND MAKE AN ASPARAGUS BED
Of all the edible crops you are likely to grow, asparagus will probably require the most preparation of any that you will come across. And for good reason too because you could be reaping the rewards of freshly cut asparagus tips for the next 15 or even up to 30 years. Not a bad return for what many believe to be the ultimate in gourmet vegetables. The first thing to consider before anything else is where to position your asparagus bed and it will need to be of a reasonable size too as the root system of each plant can extend out by as much as 1 sq/yard.. When planting in rows you will need to look at creating a bed about 4 ft wide and as long as you like so long as each plant is about 1½ft from the edge of the bed as well as between each subsequent plant. If you are short of space try planting them in a zigzag pattern to help use your space more efficiently.
You can also consider testing your soil’s nutrient levels and pH at this time as this will help you to determine what type and how much fertilizers your bed will require. Poor levels of nutrition can cause fibrous spears and weak growth while soils with an acidic pH of less than 6.5 can restrict growth or in severe cases even kill the crop itself. If your soil is too acidic, you’ll need to apply the appropriate amount of lime as indicated by your soil test. Conversely, if your soil is too alkaline then you can consider apply ‘flowers of sulfur’ or epsom salts. If that all seems a bit technical don’t worry, just dig the bed over as thoroughly as possible mixing in plenty of well-rotted farm manure as you do so. Again, dig over the ground thoroughly.
You may also wish to add general fertilizers at this point and possibly even apply specialized fertilizers high in micronutrients. When adding organic matter try not to go down further than eight inches, especially in clay soil. This can cause anaerobic decomposition within the soil which in turn can easily damage the root systems of your asparagus plants.
THE 'DEEP PLANTING' TECHNIQUE
Trying not to damage any part of the root system, carefully remove your new asparagus plants from their pots and settle them on the bottom of the trenches about 1½ ft apart. Backfill the trench until the roots are covered by a couple of inches soil – making sure that the green buds are still above the soil level - and give them a good watering in. Over the summer, continue to gradually back-fill the trenches as the new shoot grow above ground level, but be careful not to cover any of the asparagus foliage. When the trench is completely filled, mulch around the plants with another couple of inches of organic matter and continue to keep weeds away from the plants root systems.
Asparagus have a tendency to "rise" as the plants mature which allows the crowns to gradually grow closer to the soil surface. This ‘deep planting’ technique will encourage a not only a stronger root system, but it will also protect the slender shoots of young plants from damage by strong winds. During their first season, keep newly planted crowns damp and try to avoid them from drying out during hot weather. Although succulent spears may appear soon after they have been planted, try to avoid the temptation to harvest them as you will only weaken the crowns. During their first two years of growth, asparagus plants should really be left to produce as much ferny foliage as possible. Once these have been allowed to die back naturally in the autumn they can be cut down to a couple of inches above the soil level.
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE ROOTS!
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