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Longevity and Taste Make Asparagus a Garden Favorite
Missouri Ag Connection - 06/11/2018

Asparagus is a perennial that provides one of the first vegetables harvested from the garden each season. Best of all, once a planting is established, it will last for many years, perhaps a lifetime.

That longevity is why variety selection and careful bed preparation are important according to Kelly McGowan, horticulture educator, University of Missouri Extension.

"Asparagus is a dioecious plant, meaning the sexes are on separate plants. The female plant produces larger spears but also produces seeds which become 'weeds' in the garden," said McGowan. "In general, all male varieties are superior and produce lots of thick stalks.

Because of research and breeding programs, there are several improved varieties of asparagus from which to choose now.

Examples of older varieties such as Mary Washington, Waltham or Roberts once were good but have since been replaced by improved and more productive all male varieties such as Apollo, Jersey Knight, Jersey Giant, Jersey Queen, Jersey Deluxe and Jersey Gem.

"The Jersey series, Jersey Giant, Jersey Knight, and UC 157 are good varieties for the Ozarks. Purple asparagus varieties are also available, I'd recommend trying Purple Passion," said McGowan.

Asparagus grows best in fertile, well-drained soil that is high in organic matter.

"I recommend putting asparagus at the edge or side of the garden where it won't be in the way of garden activities. Be sure to loosen the soil about a foot deep and incorporate well-rotted manure or compost to increase the drainage and organic matter," said McGowan.

Large, one-year-old crowns are recommended for planting.

Prepare a shallow trench no deeper than six inches and space the crowns 12 to 18 inches apart in the row. Then lightly cover the crown with soil and gradually fill in the furrow as shoots emerge. Never completely bury the developing asparagus fern.

MU Extension guide sheet G6405, "Growing Home Garden Asparagus" is available online at http://extension.missouri.edu.

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