[Pg 15]In the course of time the olderroots become hollow and inactive without becomingdetached from the rootstock. The young root formationalways takes place a little above the old roots,which circumstance explains why the asparagus plantsgradually rise above the original level, thus necessitatingthe annual hilling up or the covering of thecrowns with additional soil.
"Those included within a brace have little or no differenceof season. The numbers mark their rank[Pg 25]with regard to yield, 1 being the highest. Theground occupied by this plantation is a rather lowbottom-land, being built up of a clay silt from theformer overflow of two creeks, mixed with vegetablemold. It is rather too compact for the best growth ofasparagus, as it contains very little sand."
Growing asparagus without transplanting is graduallyfinding many advocates among those who raiseonly the green article. It is not only a cheaper butin some respects a better method than the raising ofthe plants in a special seed-bed, from which they aretransplanted after a year or two. "The plan is verysimple," wrote Peter Henderson in American Agriculturist,"and can be followed by any one having even aslight knowledge of farming or gardening work. In thefall prepare the land by manuring, deep plowing, andharrowing, making it as level and smooth as possible forthe reception of the seed. Strike out lines three feetapart and about two to three inches deep, in whichsow the seed by hand or seed-drill, as is most convenient,using from five to seven pounds of seed toeach acre. After sowing, and before covering, treaddown the seed in the rows with the feet evenly; thendraw the back of the rake lengthwise over the rows,after which roll the whole surface.
"When the stems die down (but not before) cutthem off close to the ground, and cover the lines forfive or six inches on each side with two or three inchesof rough manure. The following spring renew cultivation,and keep down the weeds the second year exactlyas was done during the first, and so on to thespring of the fourth year, when a crop will be producedthat will well reward all the labor that has beenexpended. Sometimes, if the land is particularly suitable,a marketable crop may be secured the third year,but as a rule it will be better to wait until the fourthyear before cutting much, as this would weaken theplants. To compensate for the loss of a year's timein thus growing asparagus from seed, cabbage, lettuce,onions, beets, spinach or similar crops that will bemarketable before the asparagus has grown highenough to interfere with them, may be planted be[Pg 34]tweenthe rows of asparagus the first year of itsgrowth with but little injury to it."
"When the asparagus is two or three inches highthin out to one foot apart, being very careful not todisturb the plants left. A piece of a stick cut to theshape of a table-knife is an ideal tool for thinning outthe young plants. It will be necessary to weed therows by hand, while the plants are very small, for adistance of six inches on each side, as the cultivator,if run too close, will cover up the young plants. Keepthe horse cultivator at work as often as possible tomaintain moisture for the young roots.
"By fall you will be surprised to learn how far theyoung roots have traveled and the crowns prepared fornext year's crop. Cover the rows with stable manurefor the winter, and in spring give a dressing of onepound of nitrate of soda to one hundred feet of drill,and you will be well repaid for the extra labor andoutlay by being able to cut asparagus of extra size intwo years from the time of sowing the seed, doingaway with the transplanting of two-year-old roots,and then waiting two more years before the first cropcan be cut."
"These young plants should first be put in smallpots and moved into larger ones as soon as they arewell rooted. They may need to be shifted twice beforethey are planted out-of-doors, which should be donewhen danger of frost is over. Started in this waythey continue to grow from the time they are plantedout and reach very large size the first season. In the[Pg 37]case of nursery-grown plants, where seeds are sowndirectly out-of-doors, the young seedlings start veryslowly, are very tender during their early growth, andif the weather is unfavorable they hardly become wellestablished before autumn."
Equally important is a careful selection of the individualplants to be set out. A crown with four or fivestrong, well-developed buds is far better than onewith a dozen or more of weak and sickly ones, as thelatter will always produce thin and poor spears of poorquality. It is therefore highly to be recommended toselect only plants with not over six buds and discardall others. The roots should be strong and of uniformthickness, succulent and not too fibrous. Dry orwithered roots have to be cut off, and plants withmany bruised or otherwise damaged roots should berejected entirely. The best roots are the cheapest.
"This shows a gain of the male over the femaleplants of seventy-six per cent. for the first period, anda fraction less than fifty per cent. for the whole season.Reversing the standard of comparison, it will be seenthat the female plants fall below the male forty-threeper cent. for the first period, and a little more thanthirty-three per cent. in the total. In no case did thefemale plants produce equally with the male.
"If comparative earliness is determined by the dateof first cutting alone, there is no difference betweenthe male and female plants, since the first cutting wasmade on both at the same date; but taking quantityof product into consideration, which is the proper[Pg 42]method, there is a decided difference, the gain ofthe male over the female plants being seventy-six,fifty-two, sixty-three, and thirty-one per cent. for thefour periods respectively. The difference in yieldbetween the two was greatest at first, and diminishedtoward the last, which practically amounts to the samething as the male being earlier than the female. Thereis a still further difference between the two in qualityof product, the shoots of the female plant beingsmaller and inferior to those of the male.
A famous old-time asparagus bed in England wasmade in this manner: "The land was trenched threefeet deep in trenches three feet wide and cast upinto rough ridges, after a crop of summer peas. Alldecaying vegetation in the rubbish yards and cornerswas at the same time well sorted and turned up. Earlyin autumn also were added some old mushroom, melon,and cucumber bed material, a lot of manure frompiggeries, cow houses, and stables, a quantity of road-gritand sand, a quantity of ditch and drain parings,turfy loam and sods, quite three feet thick. Thesewere all turned over four times and well incorporatedtogether, between Michaelmas and Lady Day, as onewould a dungheap, the whole being left in largeridges exposed to the frost. By April this compostwas in a kindly state; it was, therefore, laid down andplanted with good, clean one-year-old asparagus plants,which certainly grew in a most extraordinary way."
In the fall preceding planting the land should beplowed deeply and left in the rough state during thewinter. Subsoiling has often been recommended, yetpractical growers but rarely make use of the subsoilplow in the preparation of asparagus plantations,although the value of subsoiling where the subsoil is[Pg 48]heavy can not be doubted. Where stable or barnyardmanure can be had cheaply, and the soil is heavy, aliberal coat spread broadcast over the surface and leftto the action of the weather during winter willameliorate the ground considerably. In most cases,however, the same object may be obtained by applyingthe manure in spring. Joseph Harris mentions a casein which a bed was plowed and subsoiled in the falland the soil filled with manure, while another bednear by was planted without manure, or extra preparationof any kind, relying entirely on artificial fertilizersafter planting, and the latter was by far the better bed.As early in spring as the ground is in suitable conditionto be worked it has to be plowed and harrowedand brought into as perfect condition as possible.
After the ground has been plowed and harrowed,or spaded and raked over, and brought into as mellowa condition as possible, the rows for planting are to belaid out. It is usually recommended to have the rowsrun north and south, so as to readily admit the sunlight.When this is not practicable, however, it neednot deter any one from making an asparagus bed, asit is more important to have the rows run with theslope of the land than in any particular directionof the compass, in order to provide ready surfacedrainage.[Pg 50]
"The plants must not be placed flat in the bottomof the trench, but nearly upright against the back ofit, and so that the crown of the plants must also standupright, and two or three inches below the surface ofthe ground, spreading their roots somewhat regularlyagainst the back of the trench, and at the same timedrawing a little earth up against them with thehand as you place them, just to fix the plants in theirdue position until the row is planted; when one rowis thus placed, with a rake or hoe draw the earth intothe trench over the plants, and then proceed to openanother drill or trench, as before directed, and fill andcover it in the same manner, and so on until the whole[Pg 56]is planted; then let the surface of the beds be rakedsmooth and clear from stones, etc.
In diametrical contradistinction, and as an exampleof the very plainest and simplest of modern methods,Joseph Harris wrote: "If you are going to plant asmall bed in the garden, stretch a line not less thanfour feet from any other plant, and with a hoe makeholes along the line, eighteen inches or three feetapart, four inches deep, and large enough to hold theplants when the roots are spread out horizontally.Do not make deep holes straight down in the groundand stick the roots in as you would a cabbage, butspread out the roots. After the roots are set out coverthem with fine soil, and that is all there is to it. Thenmove the line three feet from the first row and repeatthe planting until the bed is finished. In the fieldmake the rows with a common corn-marker, three feetapart each way, and set out a plant where the rowscross. It is but little more work to plant an acre ofasparagus than an acre of potatoes." 2b1af7f3a8