Asparagus is a hardy perennial plant. It rises to the height of five feet and up, with a vertical, branching stem, short slender tube like leaves, and greenish sagging flowers. The seeds, which are produced in spherical, scarlet berries, are black, somewhat triangular, and retain their germination powers four years.
It is indigenous to the shores of various countries of Europe and Asia and since its introduction, has become domesticated to a considerable extent in this country.
Propagation- Asparagus is propagated from seed, which may be sown either in autumn, just before the closing-up of the ground, or in spring as soon as the soil is in good working condition. The seed-bed should be thoroughly spaded over, or tilled up so the soil is fine. Level and raked the surface smooth.
Plant seeds 1/2 inch deep and 2 inches apart in the row. Start the seeds in the spring when the soil temperatures have reached 60°F. Asparagus prefer a soil pH of 6.5-7.5, and will not do well if the pH is less than 6.0. In the following spring remove the plants before growth begins and transplant them to a permanent bed as soon as the garden can be worked. Growing your own plants delay the establishment of your bed an additional year, but it will ensure that you are starting with freshly dug crowns that have not lost vigor by being dug, stored and shipped.
If you chose to start with transplants you can start planting whenever you can work the soil. Asparagus should be planted about 9-12 inches apart. The root will grow out horizontally instead of vertically and as the plant gets older the stems will become thicker. They should be fertilized as you would the rest of your home garden.
When the plants are up and established, thin them to three inches apart, they will be much stronger if grown apart than if allowed to stand closely together. Cultivate in the usual manner during the summer, and give the plants a light covering of mulch during the winter.
During the summer, nothing will be necessary but to keep the plants free of weeds. In the autumn, when the tops have completely withered, they should be cut down nearly level with the surface of the ground. The beds should then be lightly dug over, and three or four inches of rich loam, intermixed with well-digested compost, and salt at the rate of one quart to 15 square yards, should be applied; which will leave the crowns of the roots about five inches below the surface.
Second Year- Early in spring as soon as the frost leaves the ground, dig over the Asparagus beds taking care not to disturb the roots. Rake the surface smooth and during the summer, cultivate as you normally would. None of the shoots should be cut for use. In the autumn, after the stalks have entirely withered, cut down as in the previous year. Rake the surface of the bed and add an inch of soil and compost, which will bring the crowns six or seven inches below ground.
Third Year- Early in spring, rake up the ground as directed for the two previous years. Some gardeners make a slight cutting during this season; but the future strength of the plants will be increased by allowing the Asparagus to grow naturally as during the first and second years. In autumn, cut as before and dig over the surface. Add a dressing of compost and in the spring the beds may be cut freely for use.
In general, transplanted Asparagus comes up quite slender the first year; is larger the second, and in the third year a few shoots may be fit for cutting. It is nearly in perfection the fourth year and if properly managed will annually give an abundant supply during the life of the bed in your home garden.
Cutting- The shoots should be cut at an angle, from two to three inches below the surface of the ground, taking care not to wound the younger buds. It is in the best condition for cutting when the shoots are four or five inches above ground and while the head, or bud remains close and firm.
If the plants are weak, they should be allowed to grow up as early as possible to make foliage and consequently fresh roots and to acquire more vigor for the upcoming year. It is also advisable to avoid the cutting of some of the best of the beds in order that the buds may be well matured early in autumn, and then they will be prepared to push up vigorously early in spring.
Asparagus-beds will continue to produce from twenty to thirty years, and there are instances of beds being regularly cut and remaining in good condition for more than fifty years.
Mary Washington Asparagus- is an old American favorite that has high yields. Produces long spears in June and is somewhat rust resistant.
Jersey Supreme Hybrid Asparagus- Delicious, large spears are ready earlier than other varieties.
Jersey Knight Hybrid Asparagus- Prolific all-male strain. Spear tips stay tight past the harvest, for weeks of delectable eating.
Purple Passion Asparagus -Larger, sweeter and tastier spears than green types. Stalks turn green when cooked.
Uses- Only young asparagus shoots are commonly eaten and are served in a number of ways, as an appetizeror a vegetable side dish. In Asian-style cooking, asparagus is often stir-fried. Asparagus may also be quickly grilled over charcoal or hardwood fires. It is also used as an ingredient in some stews and soups. In recent years asparagus has regained its popularity eaten uncooked and as ingredients for salads.
Asparagus Nutritional value per 100 g or 3.5 oz. Carbohydrates 3.88 g Sugars 1.88 g Dietary fiber 2.1 g Fat 0.12 g Protein 2.20 g Thiamine (vitamin B1) 0.143 mg Riboflavin (vitamin B2) 0.141 mg Niacin (vitamin B3) 0.978 mg Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.274 mg Vitamin B6 0.091 mg Folate (vitamin B9) 52 mg Vitamin C 5.6 mg Vitamin E 1.1 mg Vitamin K 41.6 mg Calcium 24 mg Iron 2.14 mg Magnesium 14 mg Manganese 0.2 mg Phosphorus 52 mg Potassium 202 mg Zinc 0.54 mg.