When there is space there should always be an asparagus bed. There is trouble in making it, but once done it is there for years to come. For a family of eight, four rows twenty-five feet long and three feet apart will give an ample supply. But double the space can well be given to the asparagus bed. Make four trenches, each sixteen inches deep, three feet apart and twenty-five feet long; put six inches of well-rotted manure in the bottom and cover this with four inches of rich garden soil; then set the plants eighteen inches apart, spreading out the roots carefully, and fill up the trenches with good earth. It is a saving of time to buy the plants, and if two years old, they may bear the year after they are set. If one-year-old plants are used, the bed should not be cut for two years.
Asparagus should be set out in the Spring. Care must be taken to have the manure well packed down and the plants firmly set in the earth. In the very early Spring, the third week of March if not before, the Asparagus bed should receive a thick coating of stable manure, which must be well forked into the ground at once. In early Summer, as soon as the bed has ceased bearing, sow over the surface of the bed two bags each of bone meal and nitrate of soda which have been well mixed.
The crowns of the plant and the buds which form the stalks for the following year, make their growth during the Summer, which is, therefore, the time to feed them. The old practice of covering the bed with manure in November and forking it into the ground in Spring has been done away with, and instead the plants are stimulated at the time of growth. From time to time before sowing the nitrate of soda and bone meal, some of the earth should be removed from over the plants so that the tops of the crowns are not more than three inches below the surface. Formerly everyone sowed salt on the asparagus bed, but I have not found that it serves as a fertilizer, but rather to kill the weeds, which grow rapidly in the rich soil.
Because of its rich earth there is no better place than between the rows of the asparagus for cauliflower and egg-plants, and their cultivation will keep the bed free from weeds after it has ceased to bear.
An asparagus bed should never be cut too closely. Leave three or four stalks on each plant to mature, so that the roots may be better nourished.
Beans are easily injured by frost, so that it is not safe to sow the first crop before the 10th of May unless the season is very early. Make the drills two inches deep and eighteen inches apart, drop in the beans every three inches and cover them with about two inches of earth. Four crops can well be planted, and the rule in our garden is to plant the second crop when the first is about four inches high, and the third when the second planting has reached the same height. The last crop can be planted the first week in August.
Two quarts of seed will be sufficient for all the plantings for a family of eight. There are many varieties; each seedsman has some specialty, and the same variety often appears under different names, but the small, crisp, green-podded ones are infinitely the best.
Beans are so easy to produce, that gardeners are apt to raise a larger quantity of them than of any other vegetable. A friend who has a large garden and employs several men, told me recently a story of his experience last year with beans and gardeners. He had asked his head gardener in the spring about mid-April if he had begun the vegetable garden, and the man replied, "Not yet, it is too cold and wet." To a similar enquiry in mid-May the reply was, "It is too warm and dry." As a result, little else but the prolific bean was raised in that garden during the Summer, all the other vegetables being sent out from town; but beans large and beans small, in great quantities, were brought in daily by the gardener until finally not a member of the household would partake of them longer.
Lima Beans are among the most tender of the vegetables and must not be exposed to any frost; therefore in the locality of Central and Southern New York the last week in May is early enough to plant them. Make hills two feet apart in rows two and a half to three feet apart. Set poles eight feet or more in height firmly in the center of each hill and then plant the beans about five to a hill. As the plants grow they must be wound about the poles.
A quart of Lima beans will be enough for one family.