Asparagus - Asparagus Fern, Climbing Asparagus, Foxtail Fern, Smilax
DESCRIPTION: Asparagus plants are not only a delicious vegetable, but different species can also be lovely as houseplants. The Asparagus officinalis is the botanical name of the garden variety. It grows wild in southern Europe, southwestern England, and southern Ireland. Most of the greenhouse varieties come from South Africa. These are perennial plants with erect stems and tiny branches bearing inconspicuous flowers followed by reddish berries that contain black seeds. They can be grown outdoors in regions where there isn't much danger of frost; otherwise, they can be grown as houseplants. Asparagus meyeri is an erect plant with foxtail-like stems made up of thick, bright green foliage that grows up to two feet long. Actually, asparagus have no functional leaves, those little green things on the stems are really called cladodes. Asparagus plumosus is a climber with flat, fernlike "leaves" that grow horizontal on wiry stems. Asparagus Sprengeri is feathery and soft looking with many branching stems. This plant often has small, white flowers followed by red berries.
POTTING-Garden Variety: Any soil that is correctly cultivated will do, but it is to your advantage if the land is sandy and loamy. If you grow them in beds, a suitable size would be four to five feet and separated by a width of two feet. A bed this size will hold three rows. The outer rows being 9-12 inches from the edge and 18 inches on each side of the center row. It is beneficial to prepare your garden with rich, fertile, well-drained soil, as an asparagus bed can be working for at least twenty years. The ground should be dug up to a depth of 2 feet and if it has a lot of clay, stone or broken bricks should be put in. Partially decayed manure should be mixed in to the lower layer of soil and bone meal at the rate of 3 or 4 ounces per square yard should be mixed into the top layer. They can also be planted in rows. The rows should be 6 inches deep with the manure and bone meal added as above, and 3 feet apart. The plants should be 18 inches apart. The best time to plant is in early spring. They should be covered with 5 or 6 inches of soil. While the asparagus is out of the ground, the roots need to be kept moist. If one year old roots are planted, the asparagus shouldn’t be cut until the third year, if roots two years old are planted, they shouldn't be cut until the second year. Three year old roots can be cut the following year. The asparagus should be cut just under the ground. Your asparagus needs to be kept moist during hot, dry weather. The shoots shouldn't be cut after the third week in June. When the leaves have turned yellow, the stems need to be cut to the ground. After they have been cut down, you should add compost or manure to the topsoil. In spring, this mixture of fertilizer should be added and mixed into the ground at 3 ounces per square yard: 1 part sulphate of potash and 1 part sulphate of ammonia.
Greenhouse Variety: These plants prefer shady, moist conditions. They should be grown in a compost of loam and leaf mold with a bit of sand mixed in. The minimum winter temperature should be 50 degrees. They need a lot of water in the summer, but in the winter, their soil should become almost dry before watering. If they are over watered, they may lose their leaves. Well-rooted plants profit from dilute liquid fertilizer applied biweekly during the summer.
PROPAGATION-Garden Variety: The only way to raise Asparagus is from seed. Sow the seeds sparsely in a shallow trench in the springtime. When the seedlings are a few inches high, they should be thinned to 3 inches apart. They shouldn't require any further attention than to keep them free from weeds.
Greenhouse Variety: During February or March, these plants are sown in a greenhouse in 55- or 60-degree temperatures. When the seedlings are an inch or so high, they are potted in small pots filled with equal parts of sandy loam and leaf mold. If they are placed in partial shade and sprayed with water during nice weather, they will grow quickly. As soon as roots show through the soil, it's time to plant them in larger pots. You can also grow new plants by taking cuttings about 4 inches long from the side shoots on the old plants in April or May. Set them firmly in small pots filled with sandy loam and leaf mold and cover them with a bell jar. When they form roots in a couple of weeks, remove the jar. In March, you can also separate the old plants for repotting.
VARIETIES-Garden: A. officinalis
Greenhouse: A. plumosa (Asparagus Fern); A plumosus nanus (dwarf form of A. plumosa); A. crispus (decumbens); A. Sprengeri; A. scandens (Climbing Aparagus); A. sarmentosus meyeri; A. asparagoides (medeoloides) (The Smilax); A. verticillatus.
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