Growing asparagus is a rewarding — and tasty — pursuit

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This time of the gardening season, many of us are enjoying harvesting fresh asparagus from the garden. Asparagus is a perennial crop (comes back year after year) and takes about 3 years to establish in a garden bed.

Asparagus is known to produce good yields for 12 to 15 years or more. Cornell recommended varieties for New York State include: Jersey Giant, Jersey Kin, Jersey Knight, Viking KB3, and Purple Passion. For a complete listing of recommended vegetable varieties can be found at Cornell Garden Based Learning website:http://gardening.cals.cornell.edu/garden-guidance/foodgarden/

Asparagus crowns with the roots are planted in the spring. They grow best in full sun and well drained soil. Sandy soils with a mixture of organic matter added to garden bed is a plus. Organic matter (humus) can be obtained from well-rotted cow, horse, rabbit, or sheep manure, leaf mold and compost. The crowns should be planted in a bed first by digging a trench at lest 10 inches wide and six- to eight-inches deep. Crowns should be spaced 18 inches apart.

Once the asparagus plants are established in the garden, start harvesting a few spears during the third season. Cut/snap spears when they are six- to eight- inches tall over three- week period. The fourth season harvest the spears over four to six weeks. Stop harvesting when the spear’s diameter decreases to a size smaller than a lead pencil.

Plants will continue to grow producing fern like leaves. Allow the ferns tops to remain over the winter. The next spring cut them at ground level before new growth resumes.

To help suppress weeds in the garden bed, place four- to six-inch-deep organic mulch (weed-free straw, and/or sawdust) around the plants. A hoe or weeding tool can be used to knock down any stray weeds.

Asparagus is a vegetable that is low in calories, provides a good source of fiber and vitamins A and C. It can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, grilled, roasted or added to salads and culinary dishes.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County also has a wonderful Home and Garden section on its website at cceoneida.com. If you have gardening questions call our office at 315-736-3394 and leave a message at ext. 100. Be sure to like and follow us on Facebook and check out our Youtube channel for great garden training videos.

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