Asparagus, unlike most vegetables, is a perennial; the same plants grow and produce food year after year – 15 years or more, in some cases. It’s dioecious, meaning there are both female and male plants. Female plants usually produce larger spears, male plants a greater number of smaller, more – uniform spears.
New asparagus plantings needs two years to fill out, during which time they require periodic weeding and mulching. In the third year plants produce enough spears for picking, though its still important to leave behind enough fronds so that the plants become dense with foliage by midsummer.
HOW TO GROW ASPARAGUS
Asparagus is planted in beds in a row, with enough space between each plant to allow it to grow.The spears then burst through the soil, becoming green through photosynthesis, before they harvest. You don’t need a large garden to try growing the vegetable yourself though as they will also grow in pots or containers.
They should be planted in spring, and it is easiest to plant one-year- old dormant plants than seeds. Asparagus should be planted in a manure – covered trench, with plants staggered evenly with wide spaces in between adjacent rows.
Asparagus is eaten as a vegetable boiled, steamed, fried or raw in salads. It is also rich in Vitamins A,B6,C, E& K and also contains high levels of folate, calcium, iron and protein. Is said to help prevent kidney stones. Asparagus is also blanched and sold in cans.
Asparagus does best on sandy and sandy loam soils. It can be planted on soils with a pH of between 6 and 7.Soil preparation is very important. A month before planting soil should be ripped to a depth of at least 600mm to loosen the soil. If soil are too acid and the pH must be adjusted, then lime should be added to bring the pH to above 6.
The soil are now deep ploughed and turned to between 400mm and 500mm. Pre-plant organic fertilizer can now be worked into the soil as well as the lime. A month later when you are ready to plant, pre-plant chemical fertilizer and mix need to be applied into the top 20cm of soil with a disc plough. This also cleans and levels the planting area and get rid of any weeds that have taken hold. You are now ready to draw your planing furrows and start planting your asparagus crowns.
Freshly cut spears are washed, graded, bundled and cut into uniform lengths. Spear length may vary from 23cm to 25 cm. Bundles weighing approximately 250g are stood upright in cartons that sometimes contain water – absorbent pads. Asparagus is usually sold on the domestic market in 6kg cartons, or on the export market in 10kg wooden boxes. Pre – cooling is essential to maintain quality. Asparagus cooled to 0 degrees C will remain saleable for approximately 2 weeks if stored at that temperature.
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