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Originally from the river banks and seashores of South East Europe, it has been cultivated from Greek and Roman times. As it takes up a lot of space (bed 1 m wide) for a small amount of edible vegetable, I am not sure that it is worth the effort. Likes well drained location. The new shoots are prone to attack from slugs and snails. Strong winds can snap off the full grown fronds. Therefore consider the use of wind protection (see photo). Shortly after eating asparagus you will find that your urine smells odd! This smell is nothing to worry about and will eventually go away.

Growing from seed is quite easy, though it will be three years before you can pick a crop. Start the seed off in individual cells in March and the young plants should be big enough to plant out into their final position in September. In the meantime, prepare the asparagus bed by choosing a well drained sheltered spot. The bed should be about 1 m wide, to allow for the spread of the roots. Dig in plenty of well rotted manure or compost when constructing the bed. In future years, use slow release fertilisers or add compost mulches to control the weeds. Because of the long time required to bring the seedlings to cropping size, asparagus “crowns” are frequently the starting point for forming a bed.

Asparagus crowns are usually planted in late Winter, by spreading the roots out and planting about 10 cm deep. They should be planted  45 cm apart. You should allow 2 years to pass before lightly cropping the plants. You may find it necessary to tie the new fronds to canes to prevent the fronds snapping off in Summer and Autumn gales. In exposed locations, consider erecting wind barriers made from semi-porous wind barrier fabric.

The asparagus spears are picked in late spring / early summer when they are about 15 to 20 cm long, using a sharp knife to cut the spear just below the soil surface. It is best not to harvest the plants for the first two years after planting to allow them to establish themselves. When harvesting them remember to leave at least a third of the spears on each root to grow to full height, to generate the energy for the plant to survive and crop the next year. It is sometimes possible to get a second light crop in October, by cutting spears which appear late in the Autumn. These spears are never going to grow to feed the plant before they die down for the Winter.

Pests and diseases. Slugs and snails can cause a great deal of damage by attacking the tips of the new shoots. Slug pellets or slug traps should be considered to control them.

Suggested Varieties of  Asparagus.

Connovers Colossal. Traditional, early, thick stemmed variety.

Purple varieties have now been bred to be extra tender and sweet.

ASPARAGUS  (asparagus officinalis)