Asparagus and rhubarb are popular varieties. Asparagus is best grown in rows, where it can be cultivated and kept weed free. One-or two-year-old plants should be planted in early spring. Make a trench about 8 inches deep. Work organic matter and a fertilizer high in phosphorus into the bottom of the trench. Asparagus plants are heavy feeders and will stay in the same soil for many years, so the time to get phosphorus into the root zone is right before planting. Space the plants about 18 inches apart in the row. Cover the crowns with soil, and water to settle the soil and eliminate air spaces. Gradually fill in the trench as the young plants grow. Do not harvest any spears the first year after planting. A light harvest of good-sized spears can be made the second and third years. In subsequent years the harvesting period should end about July 1 to allow time for vegetative growth and food storage. The 'Martha Washington' has long been the standard variety to plant, but plant breeders are now developing a number of promising new varieties. It has been shown that male plants produce heavier yields than female plants; moreover, since male plants produce no seeds, volunteer seedlings are eliminated. Hybrid strains are being developed in which all the plants will be male.
The asaparagus beetle and the asparagus aphid are two insect pests that can cause losses. Use Sevin to control the beetle and Malathion for the aphid. The beetles seem to congregate on tall vegetative plants. If you allow a few spears to develop into vegetative shoots and then spray these shoots, effective control can be achieved. Do not harvest asparagus for 48 hours after spraying with either Sevin or Malathion.
Rhubarb can be grown in a row in the vegetable or fruit garden, or it can be grown in the flower border. Fall and early spring are the best times to start plants. Like asparagus, rhubarb should not be harvested the first year after planting. A light harvest can be made the second and third years if the stalks are large enough. In subsequent years harvesting can start in the spring as soon as the stalks are large enough and can continue until about July 1. The reason for stopping July 1 is to allow time for vegetative growth and food storage. It is best to pull the stalks rather than cut them. Discard the blade portion since it contains calcium oxalate crystals, which are poisonous. Remove all flower stalks.
Asparagus and rhubarb should be fertilized each year. Applying topdressing with well-rotted manure in the fall and then a side dressing of a complete fertilizer in the spring should be adequate.
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