This section of the book is from the Guide To Hardy Fruits And Ornamentals book, by Thomas Joseph Dwyer, published in 1903.
This is one of the choicest and most desirable of all the fruits and vegetables, and one of the simplest to grow. A bed once established will, with proper care, last for fifteen to twenty years without resetting.
The Asparagus is one of the best and most healthful products of the garden; one of the first of the many fruits and vegetables that we can enjoy in the early Spring. With the average season it is ready for table use -- in this section about the middle of April and continues to produce edible stalks until July first. We can therefore hope to have this luscious, health imparting vegetable every day for ten weeks. We might add that we have for several years past enjoyed this excellent dish here at the writer's home for this length of time, and very often use it at two of the meals each day. If for want of land we were restricted to the growing of one vegetable, it would be the Asparagus. No garden plot can be considered a well provided one without a good portion of it is planted with this desirable vegetable.
We are often asked, "how many plants do we need for our family?" This is a hard question to answer intelligently without first knowing something about the existing conditions. In a general way, however, and with a thorough knowledge of the requirements of our own family in this respect, we feel pretty safe in advising two hundred and fifty plants for a family of five persons; five hundred plants for a family of ten. Boys and girls from seven to twelve years of age will eat as much of this vegetable as adults, and they ought to have all they want of it, too. It is good for all. The plants are inexpensive, easily cultivated, and a bed once properly established will last for many years.
The above remarks are, of course, intended more especially for the amateur gardener. We want to say, however, and without fear of just criticism, too, that when the conditions are reasonably favorable there is no single vegetable or fruit that from year to year will be a source of more profit to the commercial market gardener than an acre or two or more of the Asparagus. Here is a product of the garden always in demand. Plants comparatively cheap, requiring no special skill to plant and cultivate, an easy and pleasant crop to prepare for market and above all one that brings the first income from the garden in the early Spring.
* Preparation of the Soil
-- The author has grown the Asparagus successfully on a variety of soils. Most any land will do, providing it is well drained, naturally or otherwise, and the land is loose and mellow. No one should try to grow this vegetable on hard ground or land liable to bake. The top soil should have a body of at least ten to twelve inches -- if more, so much the better. The ground should have been in cultivation a year or more; under no circumstances should you plant in new plowed sod ground. Use stable manure or the other fertilizers in tao same quantities as advised for Strawberries on page 50. It is also beneficial to use stable manure directly over the rows during the Winter months, as a protection to the roots, on the same principle as covering the Strawberry, except that the covering for the Asparagus need not be so heavy. It would be better to have the manure more thoroughly rotted. After your trenches have been made with the team and plow, if you are planting largely, or by the spade for the small garden bed, you should apply in the bottom of these trenches a liberal dressing of well rotted stable manure, or in its stead wood ashes or some complete fertilizer. This can be readily and easily incorporated with the soil in the bottom of the trench directly before the plants are set. The ground should be thoroughly prepared and the soil finely pulverized, freed from all stones, roots or rubbish. Perhaps in the planting of no other fruit or vegetable is it of such supreme importance and necessity that the land should be worked and brought into the best possible condition as in the establishing of the Asparagus bed, be it large or small, the great cost and labor is in the beginning and it must be well done for best results.
* How the Roots Should be Planted
-- Plant for garden culture, three feet apart between the rows and one foot apart in the row; for field culture set the plants four feet apart between the rows and eighteen inches apart in the rows. In either case be sure to set them, if possible, one foot below the surface of the ground. Where the virgin soil is shallow, of course, this cannot be done, but be sure always to plant as deep as possible and never work into the sub-soil more than two or three inches. Spread the roots out, covering them not more than three inches deep; every ten days or so after, or as the leader shows above the soil, fill in again, and use this method of covering until the leader is above the surface of the ground. We have in the past observed many failures of plants to grow, that have wrongfully been charged to the inferiority of the plants, that were caused by the planting in these deep trenches and filling in over the plants level with the surface ground at the time of the planting, the plants decaying in the ground for want of air, because of this deep covering; then let it be remembered that while it is of the first importance to get the roots deep in the ground, it should be done in the manner described.
* When to Plant
-- The plants may be set in the Spring during tho months of March, April and May, the earlier the better after the ground is fit to work to get it into proper condition. As a matter of fact May is, in early climates, too late. We must always study the condition of the plant; when too far advanced it is more or less risky to transplant it. Plant while stock is dormant and all will be well if other things are equal. The writer has had good results on several occasions and in different seasons with plantings made during the months of September and October, in the Autumn, and feels safe in recommending these as good months in. which to plant the Asparagus.
-- This is very simple and easily done. Aim to do most of the work with the horse plow and cultivator. Keep the ground mellow, loose and free of weeds. In the Autumn it is desirable to bank up the rows slightly with the soil from the middle between the rows. This can be readily done with the mould board plow. Be sure to keep the rows under control, that the bed can be tilled at all times when the necessity requires it. If you use strong, well developed, three year old plants and set them early in the Spring or the Fall previous, you can make a few early cuttings of stalks the following Spring; the next year you can cut during the entire season. It is best to cut away and remove the top growth from the plantation each Autumn before the seed matures. A liberal application of salt each Spring, or at least every two years, is very desirable and beneficial. This salt has of itself but little available plant food, but it unlocks and sets in motion elements that exist in the soil. It sweetens the ground and is destructive to weeds, and more valuable than all else it attracts moisture, which is very necessary for the successful growing of this luscious vegetable.
* The Asparagus Worm
-- This has the same general characteristics of the Currant Worm, only that it is somewhat smaller. It is a small green worm about one-half inch in length. It is, like the Currant Worm, easily eradicated. As soon as it appears use the Paris Green mixture as recommended on page 11. If necessary, make a second application in a few days after the first. For Rust use the Bordeaux mixture (without the Paris Green), or the Ammoniacal Copper Carbonate Solution, both on page 12. Use whichever one is the most convenient, but be sure to keep this rust under control, even if you have to repeat the spraying several times, as it is very injurious to the plants, and when left unchecked it weakens their vitality, causing a poor, indifferent crop the following season.