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Ruud Kleinpaste: Asparagus needs attention

Publish Date
Sat, 30 Jul 2022, 11:02am
Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

Ruud Kleinpaste: Asparagus needs attention

Publish Date
Sat, 30 Jul 2022, 11:02am

If you have established plants, make sure the beds are weed-free. It allows the asparagus roots to benefit from all the nutrients that are in the soil.  

In July, you cut off the old fern stalks and lay them flat on the asparagus bed – it makes a good cover. Next job is to hunt for some good sheep manure. I have plenty in the Halswell Quarry. I lay it out in a heap and go over it with the lawn mower to break it all up into fine bits of sheep poo, which will be worked into the top layers of the soil. (not too deep, as you may damage the asparagus roots) 

Next a nice layer of Agricultural Lime (not dolomite lime) to slightly raise the ph. If needed, a layer of good compost over the top (or some rotted sea-weed).  

You’re now getting the picture that asparagus likes a lot of organic matter and not much competition. 

When the plants start throwing up asparagus “spears” some regular liquid fertiliser (seafood soup/seaweed tea) keeps the plant producing till Christmas. If you want to COMMENCE growing asparagus, NOW is the time to start the project. 

Choose a variety; they’re in shops now: 

  • Jersey Giant: produces large spears; the flavour is sweet when the tips are small. 
  • Mary Washington: a popular early-season asparagus, widely grown throughout the country. 
  • Sweet Purple: a neat-looking dark red or purple variety with a sweet taste when young. Generally, only available as seed from catalogues. 

Prepare 

Choose a position in full sun. Create a nice, well-draining bed – at least 40 cm deep. The better the soil, the better your plants will grow. Cultivate the soil to a spade depth (or more) and add heaps of organic matter like compost or sheep’s poo and dags, ground up. Leave to settle for a month or so prior to planting. 

Plant when it’s not too warm in the day (morning or evening or cloudy, dull day) 

Mature crowns are available as dormant plants over winter, they are a much quicker option than growing asparagus from seed. 

If planting quite a few crowns dig trenches in the soil to plant in. Plant crowns with their roots facing down 15cm deep and 30cm apart. Rows should be spaced at least 50cm apart. Cover with good soil. 

Shoots will appear as the soil warms in spring. Don’t harvest any spears in the first year or two, to allow the plants to spread out and perfectly establish themselves; believe me: your patience will be rewarded with many, many years of good crops! 

Keep the soil moist but not wet as asparagus crowns will rot in waterlogged conditions. 

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