Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How to Grow and Care for Asparagus

I love picking asparagus straight from the garden and eating it fresh. It’s one of the best reminders of spring turning to summer. Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that can produce annual springtime harvests for up to 20 years, following an initial three-year period while the bed gets established after planting. It’s a popular vegetable, so I’m sure many of you are growing it in your gardens.
That’s why I’ve come up with some general facts and care tips about asparagus:
First and foremost, asparagus is a hungry plant. Keep it well fed and it will remain happy. This is the basic maintenance requirement, along with mulching and weeding. A slow-release fertilizer will work great, adding nutrients as needed; apply it in the spring and again after harvest.
Also, you’ll want to check the makeup of your fertilizer to be sure your asparagus gets plenty of phosphorus and potassium. You can provide those nutrients by adding bonemeal and wood ash to the soil. Pellet fertilizers are fine, but make sure you combine them with organic matter. A top dressing of these materials after harvest and in the fall will help ensure good growth. Asparagus grows best in a sandy loam with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
After harvest and through the fall, leave the plant alone. Let them just do what asparaguses (asparagi?) do naturally! If your asparagus turns yellow, don’t worry, that’s normal. Even as it yellows, the foliage is still feeding the plant, so don’t cut it back until it totally dies back. At that point, usually in early winter, remove all remaining foliage. This will protect your plant from pests and disease.
And speaking of pests, the most common asparagus pest is the appropriately named “asparagus beetle.” Cutting the foliage back in the winter should keep the buggers away, but if not, you can always pick them off and drop them in soapy water to kill them.
That about covers asparagus care. Just remember the best protection against pests and disease is to keep your plants healthy and strong through feeding, weeding and mulching!

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