fact sheet
Liliaceae



Asparagus - Asparagus officinalis

Description

Aside from day lilies, asparagus is the only member of the liliaceae family that is cultivated for food. It is a perennial vegetable lasting up to 20 years and is grown for its young shoots, or spears, which are harvested mid April to early June. Growing up to 1.5 metres tall this ferny plant is dioecious, the male plants producing more spears than the females. The plant is usually spread by dividing at least 3 year old crowns of the plants in the winter. Find the leafless rootballs, remove from the ground and gently pull apart then plant in well weeded soil at approximately 40cm spacing. If planting from seed, leave for a few years to allow the plant to build up strength before you start harvesting.

Pollination

The plant is dioecious and relies on insects for pollination. If you are growing the plant for seed, leave the best looking female plants with at least one male nearby. Female flowers are smaller and less obvious than the male ones which are greenish and bell shaped.

Isolation distance

Isolate for up to 2 miles. Alternate day caging works for different species within the same garden.

Harvesting

If you choose to save the seed, you should protect the berries from birds and collect them before they drop from the plant in autumn. Rub fruits over a screen or squash them, then wash the remaining 6 seeds per berry in water and leave to dry for a few days.

Storage

Asparagus seeds store reasonably well and will last 5 years with 50% germination if stored in ideal conditions.