This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
A "Farmer's wife" wishes to know if the large stalks of the pie plant are the result of cultivation or of selecting a large sort - the time for manuring - distance asunder in planting - and number of leaves to be left to each root. Also the time to transplant asparagus, and best mode of culture. An answer to these inquiries has been accidentally delayed a few months.
Rows four feet apart, and plants two feet in the row, is a suitable distance for the pie plant. If the sort is large and the soil deep and fertile, they will need all this space. The "large stalks" are the combined result of good cultivation and selecting such large varieties as "Giant," a green sort with round stalks, which sometimes grow to the thickness of a man's wrist;"' Victoria," red, equally large, earlier, and better in quality; and " Downing's Colossal," regarded by many as the best of all. There are some smaller and earlier varieties. The plantation should be covered with manure late in autumn, and this should be spaded in early in spring. All the leaves are usually allowed to grow.
Asparagus seed is sown in autumn or early in spring in drills about half an inch deep in heavy soil, and an inch in light soil, the ground being rich and highly manured. The seedlings should be set out at a year old, very early in spring or as soon as the ground can be worked, in soil which has been trenched or subsoiled and made very rich to a depth of nearly two feet. Set the plants two inches below the surface, in rows two feet apart and a foot asunder in the row. The next autumn cover the plants three inches with manure. For two years, let the stalks grow to strengthen the roots, keeping the beds clean, raking off the dead stalks in autumn and covering with manure, to be forked in early in the spring. Some earth will perhaps need an annual replacing, or the plants will come too near the surface by the dressing they get. The third or fourth year will give fine crops, which will continue for many years.
It is usual to make very rich beds two or three feet deep, an excellent practice; and to plant them very thickly with plants, a very poor one - for the stalks can never grow so large when crowded. We have seen as largo asparagus raised on ordinary corn ground, six inches deep, in drills three feet apart for horse cultivation, as in a bed three feet deep and half manure, with plants placed closely together. The finest stalks are always obtained by distance and depth combined. Asparagus, being usually increased by seed, runs somewhat into varieties, and a "Giant" variety is much lauded; but the size depends mainly, if not wholly, on the cultivation which is given. A bed of earth and manure well mixed, two feet deep, and with plants a foot by two feet, will convert any asparagus plants into giants. Salt is a good manure, which we have seen applied in sufficient quantities to kill the weeds without injuring the plants.