Manner Of Planting
As in other details of asparagus culture, the methods of planting have undergone very material changes. The formerly usual practice of digging deep trenches was not well founded–in the light of our present experience and knowledge–and could be useful only for drainage. How little regard was paid to the nature and requirements of the plant may readily be perceived by reading the following directions for making an asparagus bed, but little over half a century ago, in Bridgeman’s “Young Gardeners’ Assistant”: “The ground for the asparagus bed should have a large supply of well-rotted dung, three or four inches thick, and then be regularly trenched two spades deep, and the dung buried equally in each trench twelve or fifteen inches below the surface.
When this trenching is done, lay two or three inches of thoroughly rotted manure over the whole surface, and dig the ground over again eight or ten inches deep, mixing this top-dressing, and incorporating it well with the earth. “In family gardens it is customary to divide the ground thus prepared into beds, allowing four feet for every four rows of plants, with alleys two feet and a half wide between each bed. Strain your line along the bed six inches from the edge; then with a spade cut out a small trench or drill close to the line, about six inches deep, making that side next to the line nearly upright; when one trench is opened, plant that before you open another, placing the plants upright ten or twelve inches distance in the row, and let every row be twelve inches apart.
“The plants must not be placed flat in the bottom of the trench, but nearly upright against the back of it, and so that the crown of the plants must also stand upright, and two or three inches below the surface of the ground, spreading their roots somewhat regularly against the back of the trench, and at the same time drawing a little earth up against them with the hand as you place them, just to fix the plants in their due position until the row is planted; when one row is thus placed, with a rake or hoe draw the earth into the trench over the plants, and then proceed to open another drill or trench, as before directed, and fill and cover it in the same manner, and so on until the whole is planted; then let the surface of the beds be raked smooth and clear from stones, etc. “Some gardeners, with a view to having extra large heads, place their plants sixteen inches apart in the rows instead of twelve, and by planting them in the quincunx manner–that is, by commencing the second row eight inches from the end of the first and the fourth even with the second–the plants will form rhomboidal squares instead of rectangular ones, and every plant will thus have room to expand its roots and leaves luxuriantly.” In diametrical contradistinction, and as an example of the very plainest and simplest of modern methods, Joseph Harris wrote:
“If you are going to plant a small bed in the garden, stretch a line not less than four feet from any other plant, and with a hoe make holes along the line, eighteen inches or three feet apart, four inches deep, and large enough to hold the plants when the roots are spread out horizontally. Do not make deep holes straight down in the ground and stick the roots in as you would a cabbage, but spread out the roots. After the roots are set out cover them with fine soil, and that is all there is to it. Then move the line three feet from the first row and repeat the planting until the bed is finished. In the field make the rows with a common corn-marker, three feet apart each way, and set out a plant where the rows cross. It is but little more work to plant an acre of asparagus than an acre of potatoes.
” Between these extreme methods many different directions for planting asparagus have been given and practiced. Modern methods have not only greatly simplified the planting, but have also materially reduced the expense, increased the crop, and improved the quality of the product. After the ground has been properly prepared, it is marked off in parallel rows from three to five or more feet apart, according to the preferences of the grower. The easiest way to open these trenches is by plowing a furrow each way, and, if necessary, going over the ground a sufficient number of times to make the furrows from eight to ten inches deep. After this the loose soil is thrown out with a shovel or a wide hoe, so as to leave the trenches at a uniform depth of ten to twelve inches and of the same width at the bottom, as seen in Fig. 15. By rigging a piece of board on the mold-board of the plow more soil is thrown out, so that usually it will not be necessary to go over the ground oftener than twice.
The Messrs. Hudson & Son, of Long Island, have devised for their own use a “trencher” (Fig. 16), which with a good team opens the trench to the desired depth in one operation and at a great saving of labor. If the entire ground has been heavily fertilized, plowing manure in the trenches will not be necessary, yet many experienced asparagus growers think that it pays to scatter some fertilizing material into the trenches before planting. A favorite plan with Long Island growers is to mix half a ton of ground bone, or fish scrap, with one hundred pounds of nitrate of soda per acre, and thoroughly incorporate this mixture with the soil to a depth of three inches before setting the plants. Others prefer thoroughly decomposed manure spread over the bottom of the furrow, to a depth of about three inches, before setting the plants. Others prefer thoroughly decomposed manure spread over the bottom of the furrow, to a depth of about three inches, and covering it with two inches of fine soil. If the roots are to be planted four or more feet apart it will be sufficient to throw a shovelful of manure where the roots are to be placed. This is then spread out so as to make a layer of about three inches, which is then covered with soil.