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BOTANICAL NAME: Asparagus officinalis
COMMON NAMES: asparagus
FAMILY: Liliaceae, the lily family

Asparagus is a herbaceous perennial, with both male and female plants. Asparagus plants are ferny and grow to 1.5 m. Plant in full sun in a well-drained soil. Thorough preparation of the soil is needed as asparagus crowns are long-lived. Dig deeply, or if possible double dig the trenches and incorporate generous amounts of compost and well-rotted manure into the soil. In heavy clay soils deep digging should be avoided as it will make drainage worse, in this case beds should be mounded and gypsum applied. The pH of the soil should be 6.5 - 7.0, lime if necessary. If more plants are required the crowns can be divided when 3 years old. This is done during winter dormancy. Asparagus is usually considered a temperate plant but it is easy to grow in a subtropical climate as it thrives on the rain and has no problems with pests or diseases. In fact, in old, abandoned gardens, asparagus can be seen growing years later amongst tall grass and weeds.

Asparagus is a delicacy and can be eaten raw or cooked.

Plant in winter or early spring, while the crowns are still dormant. Plant in furrows about 20 cm deep and 30 cm wide. Place the crowns onto a small mound in the centre of the furrow, so that the roots point down at about 45, spread the roots out carefully. Backfill with compost to a depth of 7.5 cm. Space the plants 45 cm apart, with 1.2 m between rows. Fill in the trench gradually as growth progresses.

After the first frost in winter or when the foliage browns off, cut off the old tops about 7.5 cm from the soil surface. Try to keep the berries from falling on the ground, as they will germinate and choke the bed. Apply a generous dressing of compost and well-rotted manure to feed the bed for its spring flush of growth. Then top with a thick hay mulch.

Care should be taken to harvest very lightly the first year after planting, to allow the crowns to build strength. In subsequent years in cool areas stop cutting spears in late spring; in subtropical areas it is usually possible to harvest a second time during the wet season. Cut the spears carefully to avoid injuring the crown. We harvest by a rule-of-thumb, if the spears are thicker than a pencil we cut them before the spears branch, usually at approximately 20 cm high, if they are skinnier, we leave them to develop and feed the crown.

Purple asparagus available as seed...

SORRY but due to quarantine restrictions between Australian States no plants at all can be ordered by residents of Norfolk Island, Tasmania and Western Australia. These restrictions are very important as they prevent the spread of plant pests and diseases. No potatoes, garlic, shallots, strawberries or tubestock can be sent to South Australia. No tubestock can be sent to Northern Territory.
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