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Asparagus is a perennial plant with erect, edible stems and tiny branches that bear even tinier flowers that become red berries that contain the black Asparagus seed.
Formerly in the Liliaceae family, botanists have realized that Asparagus is in a class by itself and have repositioned its 120 species in the Asparagaceae genus.
Asparagus is a high-end gourmet food item, but if you know how to grow asparagus, it becomes an inexpensive way to add a delicate flavor to your meals.
History of Asparagus
Knowing how to grow asparagus dates back 2500 years ago when it was first cultivated in Greece. In fact, asparagus is from the Greek word for stalk or shoot. Long before it was used as a food item, asparagus was lauded for its medicinal properties.
There are many reasons to grow asparagus. Once an asparagus bed is established, asparagus is the first vegetable that is table ready in the springtime and will provide your family with a firm and fresh vegetable treat for up to 20 years, each crown in your bed producing up to 1/2 pound of spears per year.
Although supermarkets stock both canned and frozen asparagus, neither compares to the unique flavor you get from freshly harvested and picked asparagus.
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As asparagus plants grow, they produce a mat of long, tubular roots that spreads horizontally rather than vertically. This one-year-old root system is called the asparagus crown. Although asparagus can be started from seed, it’s most often begun from transplanting crowns purchased from a reputable crown grower.
Those who wish to learn how to grow Asparagus must have an abundance of patience, since it takes an asparagus bed three years to be established from crowns. The second year of growth, asparagus ferns emerge with a few spindly spears.
At the third year, although your bed will produce thicker and more robust spears, they shouldn’t be harvested for more than one month to allow roots and crowns to become further established.
Plant asparagus crowns in a trench that is one to two feet wide. Set the crowns up to six inches deep and nine to twelve inches apart. Asparagus grows easily in any well-drained soil.
Found growing wild on English riverbanks, the delicate asparagus ferns were nicknamed “sparrow grass”. However, asparagus allowed to stand in water develops root rot, which can quickly destroy a complete bed.
Asparagus roots have a tendency to “rise” as the bed matures. Gardeners typically add soil to the rows of a mature asparagus bed to keep the crowns undercover.
Asparagus is also susceptible to late spring frosts, which kill emerging spears Take care to keep your asparagus bed covered until frost danger is past.