The Soil And Its Preparation

As asparagus in its wild state is usually found growing in light and sandy soils along or near the seashore, it has long been supposed that it could not be cultivated in other localities and soils. While it is true that asparagus succeeds

best in a sandy, rich, and friable loam, naturally underdrained and yet not too dry, there is not another vegetable which accommodates itself more readily to as varying soils and conditions. There is hardly a State in the United States in which at present asparagus is not grown more or less extensively and profitably, and the most famous asparagus districts of France and Germany are situated at great distances from the seashore. The question of what soil to use is, as a rule, already settled; we have to use the soil we have. Any good garden soil is suitable for asparagus, and if it is not in the most favorable condition, under existing circumstances, it can easily be made so. The soil should be free from roots, stones, or any material that will not readily disintegrate, or that will interfere with the growth of the spears, and with the knife in cutting. Fruit or other trees, or high shrubs, must not be allowed in the asparagus bed, because of the shade they throw over the beds, and because their roots make heavy drafts upon the soil. Nor should high trees, hedges, hills, or buildings be so near as to shade the beds, because all the sunshine obtainable is needed to bring the spears quickly to the surface. Whenever practicable the asparagus bed should be protected from cold winds, and so slope that the full benefit of the sunshine will be obtained during the whole day. Brinckmeier, in his "Braunschweiger Spargelbuch," gives the following three rules for guidance in selecting a location for asparagus beds: "1. One should choose, in reference to ground characteristics, open, free-lying land, protected to the north and east [which, for American conditions, should be north and west], of gradual slope, free from trees or shrubbery. "2. The field should be exposed to the rays of the sun all day long; therefore, a southern exposure is desirable, or, if that is not obtainable, a southwesterly or southeasterly slope, because either east, west, or north exposure will cause shade during a greater or less portion of the day. "3. Standing, stagnant ground water, which cannot be drawn off by drainage, is to be avoided, the requirements of the plants indicating a somewhat damp subsoil, but not too high ground water." For commercial purposes on a large scale, and when the trucker has the choice of location, a well-drained, light, deep, sandy loam, with a light clay subsoil, is to be preferred to any other. Heavy clay soil, or land with a hard-pan subsoil, or, in fact, any soil that is cold and wet, is totally unfit for profitable asparagus growing, unless it is thoroughly underdrained and made lighter by a plentiful addition of sand and muck. Freedom from weeds is very desirable, even more so than great fertility, for the latter can be produced by heavy manuring, which the future cultivation will require; and to the end that weeds may be few, it is well that for a year or two previous to planting the land should have been occupied by some hoed crop, such as potatoes, beets, cabbage, etc. Land on which corn has been growing for two or three years is in excellent condition for an asparagus field, provided it has been heavily manured one year previous to the planting of the roots.

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Next: Preparation Of The Ground

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