By John Yeo

  Today I will focus on our Asparagus beds on the allotment The photograph above was snapped earlier today after I had spent a couple of hours weeding and manuring the beds with compost. 

 The compost I’ve used is a mixture of well-rotted horse manure and some of our waste kitchen vegetable matter. There’s also a good portion of grass cuttings and some shredded paper. A good combination of nutrition for these greedy feeders. Over the past 25 years of growing Asparagus on allotments, I find this is a potent mixture indeed. In my opinion it’s wise to feed the plants twice a year. I choose to feed them in the early Spring and again when I’ve finished cutting the spears. 

   The nutritional benefits of eating Asparagus are many and this makes the effort of persevering with growing these attractive plants, worthwhile. Asparagus is a low calorie vegetable that is an excellent source of essential vitamins and minerals especially folate and vitamins A C and K. 

 The cutting season for me lasts about eight weeks, from the moment the spears first appear in the middle of April until the 15 June. This cut-off date is extremely important as the spears have time to develop into the attractive Asparagus fern. The ferns soak up the sunshine during the remainder of the Summer, which swells the roots to encourage a good crop of Asparagus spears the following year. 

 The most important threat to Asparagus is an infestation of the dreaded Asparagus beetle that lays its eggs on the emerging spears. They eat the spears as they lay their eggs, they also excrete a substance that is unsightly on the spears and the plants. The larvae eat the centres of the red Asparagus seeds and strip the leaves of the fern.

  Over the years I find frequent cutting during the harvest season keeps this pest from laying eggs in the early part of the season. However the danger of infestation for me lies in the period directly after I’ve stopped harvesting, when the spears first appear before they transform into the impressive ferns. On the neighbouring allotment gardens there are many small patches of Asparagus plants growing and as the Asparagus beetle is a flying pest there’s a good chance of infestation from these sources. The only organic cure for the Asparagus beetle appears to be physically  plucking the beetles and their eggs off the plants by hand and immersing them in soapy water.

  At the end of the season the ferns turn yellow. This is the time to burn them, as opposed to composting them, to prevent any further infestation of the Asparagus beetle.

 When first planting Asparagus crowns its best not to cut and harvest the spears for the first two years. Once they’re established Asparagus plants will continue to crop for over 20 years, if they are well looked after.

  ‘In mythology, Asparagus has been renowned since ancient times both as an aphrodisiac and medicinally, for its healing properties. … With its active compound asparagin stimulating the kidneys, bladder and liver, Asparagus is a powerful detoxifier.’

(Myth information from a Google snippet)

© Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “PERFECT ASPARAGUS

  1. Enjoyed reading the handy tried-and-true tips, vicariously mulching and fighting off the attack of the enemy beetle. Must note your advice next time we’re able to garden. Right now I’m hungry for asparagus!

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