Preparation Of The Ground

Asparagus differs from most other vegetables in that it is a perennial, and when once planted properly, in suitable soil, it will continue to produce an annual crop for a generation if not for an indefinite period, while if the work is done

carelessly and without consideration for the plant's requirements the plantation will never prove satisfactory and will run out entirely in the course of a few years. The establishing of an asparagus bed is naturally more expensive than the planting and raising of annual vegetables. In addition to this, the plants have to be taken care of for three years before a crop can be harvested. On the other hand, an asparagus bed is an investment for a lifetime, and the dividends derived from it increase in proportion to the care and thoroughness bestowed upon the preparation of the land. It is at once apparent, then, that nothing should be neglected to bring the soil into the best possible condition before planting. This truth was fully recognized by the gardeners of former years who practiced most extraordinary methods in order to bring the land into the most favorable condition for asparagus. Even now in some European countries, where labor is cheap, the entire ground is trenched to a depth of three or four feet, turning in at the same time all the available manure, seaweed, and other fertilizing material. A famous old-time asparagus bed in England was made in this manner: "The land was trenched three feet deep in trenches three feet wide and cast up into rough ridges, after a crop of summer peas. All decaying vegetation in the rubbish yards and corners was at the same time well sorted and turned up. Early in autumn also were added some old mushroom, melon, and cucumber bed material, a lot of manure from piggeries, cow houses, and stables, a quantity of road-grit and sand, a quantity of ditch and drain parings, turfy loam and sods, quite three feet thick. These were all turned over four times and well incorporated together, between Michaelmas and Lady Day, as one would a dungheap, the whole being left in large ridges exposed to the frost. By April this compost was in a kindly state; it was, therefore, laid down and planted with good, clean one-year-old asparagus plants, which certainly grew in a most extraordinary way." Another elaborate way of making an asparagus bed, formerly practiced in France, is described by Dr. Maccullogh as follows: "A pit the size of the intended plantation is dug four feet in depth, and the mold taken from it must be sifted, taking care to reject all stones, even as low in size as a filbert nut. The best part of the mold must then be laid aside before making up the beds. The materials of the bed are then to be laid in the following proportions and order: Six inches of common dunghill manure, eight inches of turf, six inches of dung as before, six inches of sifted earth, eight inches of turf, six inches of very rotten dung, eight inches of the best of earth. The last layer of earth must then be well mixed with the last of dung. The compartment must now be divided into beds five feet wide by paths constructed of turf two feet in breadth and one foot in thickness." A bed prepared in this manner, and planted and cultivated with as much painstaking care, will no doubt produce asparagus of unsurpassed quality, and may last forever. Yet the use of modern implements and a better knowledge of the nature and requirements of the plant have demonstrated that first-class asparagus can be produced with far less expense and labor. While a deep and loose soil produces earlier and better crops than a heavy and shallow one, indiscriminate deepening of the soil by trenching or other means is not always desirable, even where the cost does not come into consideration. When the subsoil is very light and poor and deficient in humus, the placing of the better surface soil below and the infertile lower strata above, trenching would be a positive detriment. The same would be the case where the subsoil consists of heavy impervious clay. In the fall preceding planting the land should be plowed deeply and left in the rough state during the winter. Subsoiling has often been recommended, yet practical growers but rarely make use of the subsoil plow in the preparation of asparagus plantations, although the value of subsoiling where the subsoil is heavy can not be doubted. Where stable or barnyard manure can be had cheaply, and the soil is heavy, a liberal coat spread broadcast over the surface and left to the action of the weather during winter will ameliorate the ground considerably. In most cases, however, the same object may be obtained by applying the manure in spring. Joseph Harris mentions a case in which a bed was plowed and subsoiled in the fall and the soil filled with manure, while another bed near by was planted without manure, or extra preparation of any kind, relying entirely on artificial fertilizers after planting, and the latter was by far the better bed. As early in spring as the ground is in suitable condition to be worked it has to be plowed and harrowed and brought into as perfect condition as possible.

Previous: The Soil And Its Preparation
Next: Planting

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