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How to grow Asparagus

GARDENING - GROW YOUR OWN VEG

Asparagus tipsIn late April, when winter has waned, the asparagus season will be tantalisingly close. Taste buds across the country will be waiting in eager anticipation of the annual feast. But some asparagus aficionados may have limited understanding of how their flavour-packed spears arrive on their plates.

British asparagus is the best, tastiest and most nutritious available, however, few people currently grow asparagus despite the current national obsession with grow your own. Imagine the satisfaction of serving a sumptuous dish of home-grown asparagus to friends or family.

The question is, why don’t we grow our own asparagus? Perhaps it is because asparagus growing commands respect and is a labour of love. Investment of time and patience is required, combined with the acceptance of a high quality but low yield - this is precisely why it is not the cheapest vegetable to buy in the shops. But the results and rewards paid back by this delicious vegetable are hugely satisfying on arrival in the kitchen, ready to be popped in to a host of divine dishes.

You do not need acres of land or huge experience to grow asparagus, just a genuine passion for the plant, commitment, a few essential items and this step-by-step ‘how to grow guide’ written by the asparagus growers of www.british-asparagus.co.uk.

The Guide to Growing Asparagus

What you will need

  • Dormant asparagus one-year-old crowns

  • Prepared beds for planting the crowns

  • Spade for digging over and preparing the planting site

  • Supply of well-rotted garden compost

  • General fertiliser

  • Watering can for watering the plants

  • Secateurs for cutting down the old stems in the autumn

  • An asparagus knife for harvesting the spears

Importance of preparation

Asparagus will grow well if you set up the right conditions from the outset – it is worth it as the plants will crop for up to twenty years once established. Find a sheltered and sunny spot where the soil is reasonably fertile and well-drained.

Thoroughly prepare the ground. Ideally it should be excavated to a depth of 60cm. If the soil has clay content put a layer of stone or broken bricks in the bottom to help with drainage. It is also an advantage with heavier clay soils to end up with the top of your beds 30cm above natural ground level. As the soil is put back into the trench add either some well rotted animal manure or compost to improve the soil organic matter and help build fertility. If possible, take soil samples for analysis as the soil ph should be 6.4 to 6.8 and in addition to any manure or compost you have incorporated you may need to add phosphate and potash but follow the soil test suggestions. This will need addressing annually and a small amount of nitrogen will need to be applied as well.

A bed 1.5m wide will allow the planting of three rows with 45cm between the rows and approximately 25cm between the plants. If space is more limited a bed 1m wide will accommodate two rows spaced as above.

Bed them in correctly

Asparagus can be grown from seed, although it is easier and more rewarding for those who are less patient to grow asparagus from a one year old ‘crown’ - a ready-grown plant which you can buy from a garden centre or nursery. Crowns weighing a minimum of 60gms each should be planted in April.

Just prior to planting immerse the crowns in water to re-hydrate them. Excavate small trenches along the proposed line of planting, with the base being 15cm below original ground level, lay the moist crowns in the trench, spaced as suggested above and cover with soil. The soil surface across the bed will be level with 13 to 15cm of soil above all of the crowns. As a rough guide, when the beds are in full production, each crown should produce 250gms during the season.

Rising Crowns

Keep the growing area well weeded - hand weed rather than use a hoe to avoid damaging the emerging plants. In early spring gently remove soil from above one or two crowns and check the depth of soil over them. This needs to be maintained at 14 to 15cm and as the crowns slowly grow higher in the soil year on year, after 3 to 4 years additional soil may need importing from another area of the garden to maintain this essential soil cover.

Asparagus growing Asparagus fern

When and how to harvest

Do not harvest asparagus the first year after planting but let the spears develop to fern and allow the plant time to grow and increase its root system which in turn will play a vital role in storing adequate levels of carbohydrates, the fuel needed to produce the harvestable spears in future years.

In the second year after planting harvest for a short period, not exceeding two weeks and from year three harvest for 6 to 8 weeks. Harvesting beyond mid-summer will shorten the life of the bed.

Top tips from the growers

  • Frost can be a killer! Late spring frosts can be dangers, so cover the bed with some garden fleece if a frost is predicted

  • As asparagus matures it has a tendency to rise out of the soil, so keep covering the crowns with soil

  • A complete fertiliser will need applying annually, with a 5-10-10 being adequate for the first three years and after that a 5-5-10

  • Allow the fern to grow right through to the end of the year by which time it will have turned brown. Then cut all the stems at ground level and remove, either composting or destroying. Do not leave it lying on or near the beds as this will increase the risk of carrying over disease to the following year
Cutting asparagus Asparagus ready to eat

Article provided by www.british-asparagus.co.uk

ASPARAGUS WITH CHORIZO AND POACHED EGG

Asparagus with Chorizo and Poached EggIngredients

250g asparagus
1 tbsp olive oil
110g chorizo, sliced
2 eggs
Handful chives, chopped

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 210°C

  • Place your British asparagus into a roasting dish, add the olive oil and place in the oven for 10 - 12 minutes.

  • In a hot frying pan add the slices of chorizo. Cook on both sides for 2 minutes until the paprika oil oozing out of the slices.

  • Meanwhile place a pan of boiling water on the hob and bring to a fast rolling boil. When you have 3 minutes to go before serving crack your 2 eggs into the boiling water and immediately lower the heat to low-medium for 2 minutes. Then turn the heat off completely.

  • Remove the British Asparagus from the oven and place on a serving dish, sprinkle over the hot chorizo slices, and with a slotted spoon add the 2 poached eggs.

  • Finally drizzle over the paprika oil and finish with the chives.

Serves 2

Recipe provided by www.british-asparagus.co.uk

Email Hub-UK : info@hub-uk.com