Sunday, August 24, 2008
The promise of spring which seemed so eminent has rapidly dissipated. The snow and sleet we have been experiencing among the thunderous storms has certainly changed people’s minds about how much work they can do in the garden.
It is a funny time of the year in many ways. The first of the blossom trees are out and the early bulbs have already been and gone, but it is far from spring yet, and care has to be taken in the garden.
If you are itching to get out into the vegetable garden, check the state of the soil before you start doing anything too vigorous. Working sodden soil is not a good idea – it is hard work for a start, but it is also very damaging to the soil. If your soil is waterlogged, give it a chance to dry out before you start doing anything major.
If your soil is not too wet, and if you have grown a winter green crop, it is probably a good idea to get in turned into the soil as soon as you can. That will give the vegetable matter a chance to break down a bit before the spring and summer planting season
As mentioned last week, it is time to get started on planting asparagus. Despite being a fanatic for this wonderful perennial vegetable, I do not grow them in my garden. They are a long-term crop and my kitchen garden area is too small, and I am too fickle in my growing desires, to commit to having such a long term crop.
If you want to grow this aristocrat of the vege world, make sure you get in and get your crowns as soon as possible. They do not need planting straight away though. I think it probably pays to get the crowns off to a head start by planting them in a pot first, and placing it in a nice warm, well-lit spot. At the same time, you can prepare the eventual planting space.
Firstly, choice a well-drained sunny spot, and start digging! Old books always stresses the importance of double digging, and getting down two spades deep when preparing beds. Today we are much more likely to use a no-dig technique, with lots of compost, which works for most crops, but for asparagus and rhubarb it is better to put the hard yards in.
As you are digging, mix in some blood and bone, and a good general purpose fertiliser, as well as some compost. It probably also pays to throw in some lime too.
If planting directly and not from pots, excavate a trench in the bed, and plant each of the clumps on a small mound of soil, lightly covering each crown when it is placed. Once planted, fill the trench with a good layer of organic mulch.
Now comes the difficult part.
When the luscious and succulent spears force their way through the soil, grab your knife – and leave them alone. The plant needs time to grow and will need all the time you can allow it to grow, so the leaves can photosynthesise and feed the plant. I hate to say it, but it is best if you leave them for a second year, if you can resist.
After that, you can harvest each year. Do not forget to leave some spears to grow through the season though, and do not get worried when they die down for the winter. They will come back for the next spring.