Plant No-Pamper Perennial Crops

Plant perennial crops such as asparagus, rhubard, dandelions, bamboo, jerusalem artichokes, Egyptian onions and day lilies.

| March/April 1978

Thanks to today's escalating food costs, shortages and the growing concern over the multitude of chemical additives now found in supermarket produce, gardening is booming as never before. Perhaps you've joined the "homegrown is better" movement yourself.

But have you graduated yet from a total preoccupation with annual vegetables — carrots, corn, radishes, beans, etc. — that must be planted and laboriously tended every year? If not, it's time you moved on up to some perennial crops such as asparagus, rhubarb, dandelions, bamboo, Jerusalem artichokes, Egyptian onions and other lilies (onions, you know, belong to the lily family) such as the day lily itself.

Growing Asparagus

Asparagus, in the opinion of many people, is the "choicest of the choice" of all the spring vegetables. I'll agree with that. But what I really like about the plant is the fact that — once established — an asparagus bed will just keep on filling your plate with its early spring spears for 20 years or more!

This perennial thrives best when grown in areas where the winters are cold enough to freeze the ground to a depth of at least 5 inches. Roughly, that means anywhere in the continent from upper Georgia north.

Plant asparagus in sandy soil that receives six to eight hours of direct daily sunlight during the summer. A 20-foot-square bed away from trees and shrubs will feed a family of five, and if care is taken to get the patch off to a good start, it'll feed that family for the next two decades.

Of the three methods of planting asparagus — bed, row or trench — the last seems to be preferred by most gardeners. Dig your trench at least 15 inches deep and preferably in the fall for a spring planting. Then line the bottom of the ditch with manure and other natural fertilizers to tease the asparagus roots downward, and cover with 4 to 6 inches of rich garden loam that has been mixed with sand, compost, bone meal and some lime. (Asparagus prefers a slightly acid soil with, say, a pH between 6.4 and 6.8.)

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