Growing asparagus in Perth

HOW TO GROW ME WELL -  by Alan the Asparagus.

I consider myself a fairly generous and adaptable fellow, who can produce in cold or warm climates for up to 30 years if the conditions suit me. Pretty good effort, eh?

I am happy to give you delicious spears over spring and early summer but in order for me to do this, you gardeners need to do a good job on my soil preparation as this is where I will call home for many years. Look, I can be grown for a few years in large pots (65cm+ diameter) but am better in the ground, preferably contained as I've been told I can get a bit feral with no boundaries.

I love a nutrient rich friable soil of at least 30-80cm depth, preferably with homemade compost, Charlie Charcoal and kaolin clay. Plant me about 40cm apart, less in a pot. I'm pretty water wise and very tough (my roots can go down to 2m!), but of course, if you want me to produce fat juicy spears for you you'll need to treat me well. I'm pretty relaxed about soil pH - anywhere between 6-8 suits me fine. Enriched sandy soil is perfect. It's best to buy established crowns in winter from a good garden centre which will help me to produce for you in a couple of years. Once established, my rhizomes/crowns can be gently teased out from around each other and planted somewhere else (told you I was generous!). 

Feed me in late winter with a mix of pelletised chicken poo (90%) and sulphate of potash (10%)  or an organic rock dust mineral fertiliser mixed through a 2-3cm layer of compost or worm castings. A bit of liquid fertiliser while I'm spearing is much appreciated too. My favourite mulch is spoiled straw mixed with seagrass or leaves as this enables me to push my spears through without getting all crooked. A light layer of tree mulch is also okay as long as I can still push through easily. Some humans like to grow dwarf snow peas or sweet peas in between me as a ground cover which gives me extra shade on my roots and also a light nitrogen feed from their roots. Between you and me, I don't mind sharing my bed with a few strawberries either.

If you want thicker spears, it's best to discourage my female bits (the ferns with the red seeds) unless you want to propagate me.  This will also help me stop being a bit weedy. Or remove my female crowns completely. My female bits will still produce, just not as much as the males. I think my ferny bits are quite pretty. You'll probably want to plant a few of my crowns as I give about 12 spears per crown. How many humans in your family? How much do you love to eat asparagus?

Harvest me when I'm as thick as your finger. Unless you have a very skinny finger. The usual is 1cm diameter or more - any skinnier and it exhausts me a bit too much. Cut me off at or just below soil level and on a slight angle if possible. This helps to prevent my crown rotting. As soon as you stop harvesting, my spears, I will take that as a given that I should start ferning up, gathering goodies to get ready for next spring's harvest. In autumn, my foliage starts to go a little yellow and I always appreciate a bit of liquid fertiliser every couple of weeks until my ferns are brown or fall off. Just like a bulb, a bit of extra goodness gives me the nutrients for next year. 

I can take a fair beating from the sun but in a hot climate like Perth, I do like a little shade if possible and even though i'm water wise, I like to be kept moist during my growing season. I'm not so keen on having my roots disturbed but I gotta say, I WILL NOT tolerate poor drainage. Not. At. All!

So, all in all I'm a pretty relaxed guy who will give you an abundant source of yummy and healthy food for many years. The only down side perhaps is a sulphurous compound inside me called mercaptan which makes some humans have smelly urine within 30 minutes of eating my spears. I'm a bit like boronia in that way, in that some have got the genes to make and smell this odour, others don't. But don't let that put you off growing me - I'm delicious!

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